NBA Power Rankings: Warriors reach the top as the East's expected elite crumble
The middle is packed with mediocrity
Everybody is bad, and nobody is good. That is what the beginning of this NBA season is telling these Power Rankings. Having a clog of teams in the middle early on is to be expected. However, the middle of the pack is so close and so large to this point that teams ranked toward the bottom feel slighted. They'll separate themselves eventually, but right now it makes differentiating between the good and bad extremely difficult.
In some ways this creates exciting basketball where the Lakers and Knicks look just as good as the Spurs and Grizzlies. However, is this universal mediocrity or simply a feeling-out process? It's too early to tell, but it makes the idea of an NBA with parity not as exciting.
Of course, there are still a small handful that have already separated themselves from the rest. The Warriors are dominant, the Celtics look incredible, and the Rockets are quietly hanging around with them. Those are the only three teams that can certifiably call themselves great right now. The Timberwolves are close to that and the Pistons have a chance to put their name in the conversation, but right now there's three established very good teams. Everybody else is just trying to show they aren't like the rest.
|1||Warriors||Well that didn't take long. The Warriors are back to their convincing dominant selves. Everybody knew this would happen eventually, but it was fun to see a little mortality in them for a very brief moment.||5||21-10|
|2||Celtics||Boston lost its first two games of the season and hasn't lost since. Kyrie Irving is playing like we've never seen him before in terms of defense, and he's pairing really nicely with Al Horford: Put them together, and the Celtics are beating opponents by 15.4 points per 100 possessions. Yet when one is off the floor, the other -- and the team -- suffers significantly.||8||18-11|
|3||Rockets||The Rockets are an average team in pace, which is weird, but they're starting to round more into the Rockets everybody was expecting them to be (albeit without Chris Paul). James Harden dropping 56 on a good Jazz defense was awesome television.||1||15-14|
|4||Pistons||Hacking Andre Drummond is no longer a viable strategy. He's making everything (well, 75 percent) from the stripe, providing hope that even the worst free throw shooters can maybe turn it around.||1||14-14|
|5||Timberwolves||With Jimmy Butler back, the Wolves' offense is beginning to look elite, but their defense is still an absolute mess. The exact opposite of what we expect from a Tom Thibodeau team.||8||14-16|
|6||Trail Blazers||Damian Lillard is playing absolutely out of his mind right now. He's scored 30-plus points in four straight games, hit a game winner to beat the Lakers and made the clutch shots needed to beat the Thunder late.||2||17-13|
|7||Grizzlies||The Grizzlies really need to stop losing to teams they're better than. They beat the Clippers but lost to the Magic and Lakers. In their defense, Mike Conley didn't play against the Magic, but this team frequently shoots themselves in the foot. It cost them playoff seeding last season, and they can't let that happen again.||6||16-14|
|8||Clippers||Blake Griffin is bombing away from 3-point range this season and it's really opening up the Los Angeles offense. It's fun watching him run the offense -- except when it stalled against Miami. That was weird.||5||17-13|
|9||76ers||Don't look now, but here comes the process. Philadelphia has won four straight and seem to be getting better as the season goes on. They're not going to have Markelle Fultz for awhile, which is a bummer, but Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are developing scary chemistry.||16||20-12|
|10||Spurs||There was some concern about San Antonio for a bit, but after the Warriors blowout, they fended off Charlotte and knocked around the Suns. They don't appear to be in danger of sinking their season without Kawhi Leonard.||1||16-15|
|11||Hornets||The stuff Kemba Walker is doing to defenders right now should be illegal. He's making Dwight Howard show flashes of what he used to do in Orlando, which has felt impossible at times over the past five years.||3||14-15|
|12||Jazz||Don't let DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard and James Harden's performances against it fool you. This team is not going to be easy to score on.||9||14-17|
|13||Magic||The Magic are starting to fall back to earth a bit. They're no longer hitting every single 3-pointer, and defenses are adjusting to their new fast paced five-out style. Boston's defense suffocated them.||5||14-15|
|14||Knicks||Kristaps Porzingis is stepping into that first-option role with ease, dropping in 30-point games with ease. He hit 40 in Sunday's victory vs. the Pacers, the Knicks' fifth in six games.||10||9-23|
|15||Nuggets||Denver is bouncing back well after the rough start. They knocked off a good Toronto team and held on against Miami. The Warriors was an expected schedule loss, but it's nice to see the offense regain their composure a bit.||7||21-9|
|16||Lakers||Teams that sleep on them (Grizzlies, Wizards, Pistons) are going to get punished for it. But the upcoming road trip should be a big test for the young roster.||7||18-13|
|17||Pacers||Come on, Pacers! You were playing so well and the offense was amazing. Sure the Rockets loss stung, but the Suns defense had no hopes. Then you lost to the Knicks -- not as grim a statement as it might have sounded previously, but this defense is a problem.||--||20-11|
|18||Raptors||The Raptors are an emotional rollercoaster. They beat the Blazers. YAY! They get blown out by Denver. BOO! They beat the Jazz. YAY! They get destroyed by the Wizards. BOO!||11||23-9|
|19||Heat||The Heat feel way too low, but the middle of the pack is bunched up right now and they drew the short straw. Miami has a chance to really make a statement with a West Coast road trip.||--||13-16|
|20||Wizards||Why is it that everytime the Wizards lose to a bad team they follow it up with comments about not taking their opponent seriously enough? It happened with the Lakers, then again with the Suns. Then they go on TV and call themselves the best team in the East only to have LeBron James score 57 on them.||8||12-19|
|21||Thunder||Oklahoma City is beating teams they should be better than. That's good! Anybody else they lose to -- including every Western Conference opponent so far. That's bad! A lot of this still feels like a star team trying to get used to each other.||6||19-10|
|22||Pelicans||Losses to the Magic and Wolves despite 30 point performances out of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins isn't good. The Pelicans haven't been able to beat a good or average team yet, but they're finishing off the bad ones which sometimes that's all that's needed.||6||15-16|
|23||Bucks||The worrying part is how often their struggles are the result of a lack of help for Giannis Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton is struggling early on, the NBA has figured out this defense and the offense is very basic.||12||20-9|
|24||Cavaliers||The defense is a train wreck and unlike last year they aren't out scoring everybody. Derrick Rose is a disaster. Dwyane Wade is calling out his new teammates, and he's been around less than a month. Just replace the logo with the "This is fine" dog meme.||6||8-23|
|25||Suns||The Suns definitely got a nice boost from the fired coach bump, but they still don't look like a complete disaster. It will be interesting to see what kind of return they get on a trade for Eric Bledsoe if they ever pull the trigger on that.||5||7-24|
|26||Bulls||Lauri Markannen is a really nice bright spot early on and a possible factor in the Rookie of the Year race.||2||7-24|
|27||Nets||Ah man, it was cool to think about the Nets being good for a while there. Four straight losses, all of them by at least eight, and it's only going to get worse since they're in the middle of a West Coast trip.||7||14-18|
|28||Hawks||So typically when someone beats LeBron James, that boosts them up in Power Rankings, but the Cavaliers are actually so bad right now that it only gave the Hawks a marginal increase.||1||7-23|
|29||Kings||Not only are the Kings losing, they're getting blown out a lot. This is going to be a very long season, but at least the young guys do something fun every once in awhile.||3||16-14|
|30||Mavericks||The Grizzlies losing to this Mavericks team gets funnier every game. Hold on to that one all season, Mavericks fans, because this isn't going to get any better soon.||3||15-14|
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