NBA Power Rankings: Rockets rising, Warriors gunning for top spot
What a fun and competitive first month of the season
The start to the NBA season has been more competitive than most expected. It started with the Warriors' opening night loss to the Spurs at Oracle, and has carried through this first month of play. The Warriors' offense is great, but part of why Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are putting up such crazy numbers is that Golden State is in close games late over and over, like its win against Milwaukee Saturday night.
Meanwhile, every division is competitive so far. No one has separated themselves in the Northwest or Southeast divisions, and the Southwest looks really tough still with the Spurs, Grizzlies and Rockets all in the top 10 of this week's rankings.
|1||Clippers||The most balanced team in the league, and after Monday's tilt against the Raptors (who are on a back-to-back), they have an easy stretch of games before the December 1 showdown with the mighty Cavaliers. Don't look now, though, the Warriors are tied and chasing down that No. 1 spot.||--||48-34|
|2||Cavaliers||Kevin Love is averaging 20-11, and shooting more free throws per game than he did the past two years. He's been playing like a real big this year, and that's made a huge difference with the Cavaliers. More amazing? The numbers are even better for the Cavaliers with Channing Frye. They are firing on every single cylinder right now.||--||19-63|
|3||Warriors||They are coming for that No. 1 spot. They are fascinating, more so than I thought they would be, for this reason. Their defense is so suspect, game after game, and it just doesn't matter. They are legitimately testing the idea of whether just always outscoring can make you a champion.||--||57-25|
|4||Spurs||The Spurs have six players playing more than 15 minutes per game shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. They have a really well-balanced team. Here's an odd one, though. A lot of Kawhi Leonard's defensive metrics are not good. Not just one or two that would make you think it's just a weird fluke thing. Multiple areas. Not proof, and in a small sample size. But very odd.||1||48-34|
|5||Rockets||This is undeniably the best basketball James Harden has ever played, on both ends of the floor. The same can be said for Eric Gordon, and Clint Capela. But they're still 22nd in defense.||4||53-29|
|6||Raptors||The Raptors have stumbled pretty far off the path of good defense, but they know their way back. They have to manage a West Coast road trip, but the difference this season is when one unit struggles, the rest are able to pick them up. They've had great balance.||2||58-24|
|7||Grizzlies||Not going to lie, the Grizzlies benefitted greatly from weekend losses by the Hawks, Bulls and Thunder. But they are now fourth in the West despite having the 24th-best offense, and being 27th in effective field-goal percentage. As always, just finding ways to wins.||9||33-49|
|8||Bulls||What a killer road trip for the Bulls. Wins over the Blazers, Jazz and Lakers, with a tough, competitive loss to the Clippers thrown in. Look, there's no getting around it: The Bulls are good.||6||22-60|
|9||Hawks||Just when you're ready to anoint them, they have a pair of losses with the Hornets and then the MSG Sunday outing -- a tough game to evaluate for any team. Still, they continue to have the second-best defense. There's way more right with this team than wrong.||3||29-53|
|10||Hornets||Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is having the kind of defensive impact you'd expect him to have on this team, and the Hornets' defensive identity gives them a chance in almost any game.||--||39-43|
|11||Thunder||I think we're starting to find the real identity of this squad. They play exactly to the level of their competition. They can play up and beat the Clippers, play down and lose to the Pacers. Everything's on the table with this squad.||3||49-33|
|12||Celtics||The defense has been creeping up, ranked eighth over the past five games. Al Horford's back, and with Jae Crowder returning, they're at full strength and ready to really start their season.||1||49-33|
|13||Jazz||Bad vibes. They can't stay healthy and the team's fight seems compromised. They need everyone back healthy but they've also got to find a rhythm.||6||50-32|
|14||Lakers||The luster is starting to slip now that they're facing good teams. They've lost three of four with the Thunder and a double-set vs. Golden State coming up. Something tells me they won't be sneaking up on the Warriors after blowing them out a few weeks back.||2||37-45|
|15||Timberwolves||Some good signs of progress as they start to move past an early slump. In case you haven't heard, this team is 30th in offense and 30th in defense in the third quarter. Tom Thibodeau must be giving them halftime speeches that read like economics lectures.||4||36-46|
|16||Trail Blazers||The win over Brooklyn Sunday shouldn't take the stink off how bad this team has been lately. They really are just C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard and ... that's pretty much it right now.||3||53-29|
|17||Pistons||Detroit's lost six of eight. Reggie Jackson would fix most of this, but there's still no timetable for his return. The Pistons are 28th in effective field-goal percentage, after being bottom-five last year. This team flat-out cannot shoot.||2||41-41|
|18||Bucks||Greg Monroe's barely playing despite his defensive effort having been the best of his career. Still, they'd likely be above .500 if they had Khris Middleton.||1||60-22|
|19||Pacers||Wins vs. the Cavaliers, Bulls and Thunder now. Which makes losses to the Suns, Sixers and Nets all the more confusing. This squad makes zero sense, night to night.||5||48-34|
|20||Knicks||There was a player's only meeting to "clear the air," and they responded the way teams do after those kind of things. However, they're bad at rebounding, have a low-assist rate and not great shooting numbers. Good news: Kristaps Porzingis is the Unicorn you can believe in.||1||17-65|
|21||Nuggets||The Nuggets have looked worlds better over the past four games, as they've figured out a frontcourt rotation with Nikola Jokic coming off the bench and Emmanuel Mudiay has just five turnovers in his last three games. There's a good team hidden somewhere deep beneath a team that has invented a cacophony of disasters in many close games this year.||2||54-28|
|22||Nets||They've given up over 120 points in each of their last four games, all losses. Brooklyn's still pesky, but it offers absolutely not resistance defensively.||2||42-40|
|23||Heat||They have two more easier opponents in the Sixers and Pistons before a stretch of playoff teams. It feels like the bottom is aching to fall out beneath this team.||5||39-43|
|24||Magic||They hired Frank Vogel to help them become a good defensive team, and they're well on their way. I'm waiting until we see them go through a tough stretch of schedule. Lot of smoke and mirrors, but wins are wins.||2||42-40|
|25||Pelicans||Jrue Holiday is like the magic beans to this team. Throw him in and all of a sudden they're an actual honest-to-God NBA team.||5||33-49|
|26||Kings||The rotation seems disgruntled, the losses have piled up, the plan seems in disarray. So of course they went out and nabbed their best win of the season against the Raptors Sunday.||--||39-43|
|27||Wizards||While all this is happening to Washington (lost six of its last eight), former Wizards JaVale McGee and Nick Young are playing key roles on West Coast teams. Life is cruel to Wizards fans.||--||32-50|
|28||76ers||This team looks like it might not be half-bad when they get Ben Simmons and Jerryd Bayless on the floor. Of course, the half that is bad will still be the Sixers, so ...||1||51-31|
|29||Suns||So much individual talent. Such terrible collective results.||4||19-63|
|30||Mavericks||I sang a song for Rick Carlisle, and it was bleak and sad. For though he's such a tremendous coach, indeed (finally) the Mavs are bad.||2||33-49|
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