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Power Rankings

NBA Power Rankings: Week 1

by Jonas Nader
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

1.) Rockets (3-0)

 

Results: GSW (W, 107-91), SAC (W, 105-100), DAL (W, 107-91)

 

Not only did the Rockets beat the Warriors, they did so with Chris Paul hobbled by a knee injury and overcame a 17-point deficit and went on a 10-3 run in the final 3:45 of the game. The Rockets took care of business against the Kings and Mavs with CP3 watching from the sidelines, and James Harden will be able to keep them afloat with Paul rumored to be out for up to a month. They weren’t able to sign free agent Jameer Nelson, but look for them to address their point guard depth soon.  With a rising star in Clint Capela, the Rockets look like they have the pieces to challenge the Warriors and Cavaliers at the top. 

 

2.) Cavaliers (2-1)

 

Results: BOS (W, 102-99), MIL (W, 116-97), ORL (L, 93-114)

 

LeBron James looks as good as ever even though he’ll be 33 in December, and his Cavaliers look like they’re poised to reach their fourth straight finals despite a setback against the Magic. However, Isaiah Thomas can’t make his debut soon enough, as both Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose have struggled early on. Wade reportedly asked coach Ty Lue if he can anchor the second unit going forward, so we’ll see if that gets him going.

 

 

3.) Spurs (2-0)

 

Results: MIN (W, 107-99), CHI (W, 87-77)

 

Even without Kawhi Leonard (quad), the Spurs are off to a 2-0 start on the back of LaMarcus Aldridge’s impressive play — he’s averaging 26.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 blocks. We finally heard some good news in regards to Leonard, as beat reporter Jeff McDonald said he could be back “sooner rather than later.” According to coach Gregg Popovich, Leonard is “progressing,” but he refused to put a timetable on his return. 

 

4.) Warriors (1-2)

 

Results: HOU (L, 121-122), NOP (W, 128-120), MEM (L, 111-101)

 

The Warriors blew a 17-point lead against the Rockets and fell apart down the stretch despite Nick Young channeling his inner Black Mamba with 23 points and six 3-pointers. They were able to hold off the Pelicans, but dropped a game in Memphis and lost their cool in the process — both Curry and Durant were ejected and Curry even threw his mouthpiece at a ref. Coach Steve Kerr said his team isn’t in shape yet, and maybe the shortened preseason and trip to China is to blame. “We’re obviously not ready,” Kerr said. “We knew that. We’re not ready to put things together.”

 

5.) Raptors (2-0)

 

Results: CHI (W, 117-100), PHI (W, 128-94)

 

Jonas Valanciunas looks amazing, and the Raptors finally have some solid depth at small forward with the trio of Norman Powell, C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby playing well. It’s still early, but Delon Wright also looks more than capable of filling Cory Joseph’s role and might even be better at it. Toronto is first in offensive rating and second in defensive rating, and this season might be their best chance to advance out of the East in recent memory. 

 

6.) Wizards (2-0)

 

Results: PHI (W, 120-115), DET, (W, 115-111)

 

With Gordon Hayward out for the season, Washington should like their chances of reaching the Conference Finals this season. Their bench looks really strong with Jodie Meeks and Kelly Oubre playing well, while their top three players in John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are entering their prime. Speaking of Wall, he said he thinks he’s "going to have an even more crazy career year than last year” now that his knees are healthy. 

 

7.) Clippers (2-0)

 

Results: LAL (W, 108-92), PHX (W, 130-88)

 

The Clippers made the Lakers look like their JV team on opening night like they’ve done the past few years, then they embarrassed the Suns in a 42-point win. Blake Griffin is healthy and looks like an MVP candidate, but the Clippers got some bad news when they learned that Milos Teodosic is out indefinitely with a plantar fascia injury in his left foot. They have the top defensive rating in the NBA through two games, but they haven’t really been tested yet in two easy wins. 

 

8.) Thunder (1-2)

 

Results: NYK (W, 105-84), UTA (L, 87-96), MIN (L, 113-115)

 

The Thunder routed the Knicks on opening night, but fell short against the Jazz and lost to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Andrew Wiggins. Carmelo Anthony is off to a great start in OKC, but Paul George is having a tough time finding his shot — he’s hitting 37.1 percent from the field. PG-13 said he’s not concerned about his slump and knows hit shot will start falling soon, so OKC fans can expect some big lines in the near future.

 

9.) Bucks (2-1)

 

Results: BOS (W, 108-100), CLE (L, 97-116), POR (W, 113-110)

 

Is it too early to hand Giannis Antetokounmpo the MVP Award? The Eastern Conference Player of the Week has been borderline unfair in the opening three games, posting 38.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.7 steals and 0.7 blocks on 67.2(!) percent shooting. It won’t be long before he’s the best player in the NBA and he said he’s starting to take the game more seriously. "I think my rookie year I was just having fun,” he said in an interview with ESPN. "I was 18 and I was living the American dream. Now, I think it's like, it's time to like work hard and achieve goals and do whatever it takes for your team to win. So I think my mentality has changed since my rookie year."

 

10.) Wolves (2-1)

 

Results: SAS (L, 99-107), UTA (W, 100-97), OKC (W, 115-113)

 

After their season-opening loss to a Spurs team that was missing Kawhi Leonard, the Wolves bounced back with two impressive wins over the Jazz and Thunder. Andrew Wiggins looks like he’s worth every penny of his max deal, scoring 20+ points in all three games and hitting his second game-winning buzzer beater of his career against the Thunder (link).

 

11.) Jazz (2-1)

 

Results: DEN (W, 106-96), MIN (L, 97-100), OKC (W, 96-87)

 

The Jazz look like a well-oiled machine on both ends of the floor early on, and Ricky Rubio is fitting in really well with his new teammates. They are forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 19 percent of possessions which ranks second in the NBA and they rank sixth in defensive rating. Even after losing their best player over the summer, the Jazz definitely have the look of a playoff team. 

 

12.) Blazers (2-1)

 

Results: PHX (W, 124-76), IND (W, 114-96), MIL (L, 110-113)

 

The Blazers tied the second-largest margin of victory in franchise history with their 48-point win over the Suns, and they have outscored their opponents in 11 out of 12 fourth quarters so far. They rank second in offensive rating and fifth in defensive rating, and they also have the highest rebounding percentage in the NBA. 

 

 

13.) Grizzlies (2-0)

 

Results: NOP (W, 103-91), GSW (W, 111-101)

 

I wasn’t high on the Grizzlies entering the season and starting PF JaMychal Green is going to be out a while with an ankle injury, but this team still looks dangerous with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol playing out of their minds. The big concern for Memphis is that Chandler Parsons still looks washed, and he was even booed by his home crowd in the season opener. You think they want that contract back?

 

14.) Celtics (1-2)

 

Results: CLE, (L, 99-102), MIL (L, 100-108), PHI (W, 102-92)

 

It only took a few minutes for Boston’s optimism for the season to fade, as Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome leg injury that will sideline him for the year. Not all is lost though, as Jaylen Brown looks like a future stud with 17.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 triples through the first three games. Once Kyrie Irving finds his footing, this team still has the pieces to make life difficult for Cleveland.

 

15.) Nuggets (1-1)

 

Results: UTA (L, 96-106), SAC (W, 96-79)

 

Nikola Jokic is off to a slow start from the field with seven total points in two games, but he does have 21 rebounds and 15 assists in that span. It also looks like the Jokic-Millsap pairing could work, as the duo have a net rating of 9.0 so far. 

 

16.) Pelicans (1-2)

 

Results: MEM (L, 91-103), GSW (L, 120-128), LAL (W, 119-112)

 

The Pelicans got off to an 0-2 start and nearly threw away a huge lead against the Lakers, so coach Alvin Gentry’s seat is probably starting to feel a little warm. There’s no doubt that the pairing of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins can work, and they’ve become the first duo with 20+ points and 10+ rebounds in each of their first 3 games since Elgin Baylor and Jerry West in 1961 (h/t @jkubatko). Now it’s time for them to turn that production into actual wins. 

 

17.) Heat (1-1)

 

Results: ORL (L, 109-116), IND (W, 112-108)

 

The Heat were very disappointing in their season opener, but they were able to get a win against the Pacers with Hassan Whiteside (knee) watching from the sidelines. James Johnson was named a team captain after his breakout 2016-17 season, and he looks even better this time around. Oh, and he’s also the frontrunner for the dunk of the year (link).

 

18.) Pistons (2-1)

 

Results: CHA (W, 102-90), WAS (L, 111-115), NYK (W, 111-107)

 

After so many questions about his health, Reggie Jackson has looked pretty strong so far with 16.7 points and 6.7 assists. Andre Drummond is a perfect 6-of-6 from the line so far, and it may not be a fluke considering he hit 16-of-20 in the preseason. Stanley Johnson hasn’t found his shot yet but is playing good defense, but if there’s one thing that has really surprised me is the lack of Boban — he’s played just four minutes this season. So much for unleashing him…

 

19.) Hornets (1-1)

 

Results: DET (L, 90-102), ATL (W, 109-91)

 

After starting their season with a loss to Detroit, the Hornets overcame a 20-point deficit against the Hawks and ended up crushing them by 18 points. They got some good news when they learned that Nicolas Batum’s elbow won’t require surgery, meaning he could be back in as soon as six weeks. With Michael-Kidd Gilchrist (personal) due back this week and Dwight Howard finding new life in Charlotte, a return to the playoffs is within this team’s reach.

 

20.) Magic (2-1)

 

Results: MIA (W, 116-109), BKN (L, 121-126), CLE (W, 114-93)

 

The Magic have had some tough luck with Elfrid Payton (hamstring) and Aaron Gordon (ankle) picking up early injuries, but they’re still 2-1 with Nikola Vucevic putting the team on his back. He’s putting up 27.7 points per game so far, and his career-high of 41 points against the Nets helped him become the first Magic player with 40+ points and 10+ rebounds in a game since Dwight Howard in 2012. I’m also super high on rookie Jonathan Isaac and believe he has the potential to be the best player in this class. 

 

21.) Pacers (1-2)

 

Results: BKN (W, 140-131), POR (L, 96-114), MIA (L, 108-112)

 

The Pacers put up 140 points on opening night with Myles Turner leading the way, as the third-year big man put up 21 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. I think he’ll be an All-Star this season, and his absence was felt in Indiana’s following two games as he was sidelined with a neck injury and concussion. Victor Oladipo was a bust in Oklahoma City, but he has regained his confidence in Indiana with 22.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.7 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers. Domantas Sabonis is also playing well, so maybe that Paul George trade wasn’t too bad considering he was going to leave anyways. 

 

22.) Kings (1-2)

 

Results: HOU (L, 100-105), DAL (W, 93-88), DEN (L, 79-96)

 

The Kings aren’t going anywhere this season, but the future is bright with De’Aaron Fox looking like one of the top rookies so far. I’ve also been impressed by the growth of second-year big man Skal Labissiere, as he’s posting averages of 11.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks in just under 24 minutes. Bogdan Bogdanovic is expected to debut this week, so keep an eye out for that.

 

23.) Nets (2-1)

 

Results: IND (L, 131-140), ORL (W, 126-121), ATL (W, 116-104)

 

The season-ending injury to Jeremy Lin was such a buzzkill, as I was really interested to see how well he would mesh with D’Angelo Russell. Speaking of the former No. 2 overall pick, he’s been lights out and the Lakers are probably having second thoughts about trading him — through three games he’s averaging 21.0 points, 7.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.7 triples. His 30-point game in the opener was also tied with Nate Archibald (1976) for the most points by a Nets player in their debut in team history.

 

24.) 76ers (0-3)

 

Results: WAS (L, 115-120), BOS (L, 92-102), TOR (94-128)

 

After so much talk about the playoffs prior to the season, the 76ers have started 0-3. To be fair, they’ve actually played pretty well in close losses to the Wizards and Celtics, but they were expectedly blown out by Toronto with Joel Embiid resting on the sidelines. Markelle Fultz is playing on a bum shoulder which is messing up his shooting form, and his technique from the free throw line might be just as bad as Shaq’s was. The No. 1 pick will be more than fine once he’s healthy, and the 76ers should take comfort in the fact that Ben Simmons looks like the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year with 15.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.0 steals through three games. 

 

25.) Hawks (1-2)

 

Results: DAL (W, 117-111), CHA (L, 91-109), BKN (L, 104-116)

 

It’s no secret that the Hawks are tanking this season and that’s exactly why they let go of Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard and Tim Hardaway Jr. This team would be lucky to reach 30 wins this season and things are only going to get tougher with Dennis Schroder expected to miss time with an ankle injury. 

 

26.) Lakers (1-2)

 

Results: LAC (L, 92-108), PHX (W, 132-130), NOP (L, 112-119)

 

Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are struggling, Julius Randle is pouting about his bench role and the Lakers have to wonder if they made a mistake by trading D’Angelo Russell for a one-year rental in Brook Lopez — he’s going off in Brooklyn including a 30-point outing. If there’s been one bright spot, it’s that rookie Kyle Kuzma looks like a future star in this league and is coming off a 20-point game against the Pelicans. 

 

27.) Mavericks (0-3)

 

Results: ATL (111-117), SAC (L, 88-93), HOU (L, 91-107)

 

Let’s face it, the Mavericks aren’t making the playoffs this season and they know that, but I was just relieved to hear that Dennis Smith’s Jr. knee is fine after missing two games last week with swelling. Remember, he tore his left ACL his senior year of high school and he said he had a similar issue at N.C. State as well. 

 

 

28.) Knicks (0-2)

 

Results: OKC (L, 84-105), DET (L, 107-111)

 

The Knicks are just as bad as expected, but at least we know Kristaps Porzingis is ready to be the face of the franchise after putting up 31 and 33 points in the first two games. However, I have no idea what coach Jeff Hornacek is thinking, as two of their building blocks in Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez are buried on the depth chart while guys like Kyle O’Quinn, Ramon Sessions and Ron Baker are getting run. If you’re going to be bad and tank, at least play your young studs. 

 

 

29.) Bulls (0-2)

 

Results: TOR (L, 100-117), SAS (L, 77-87)

 

The Bulls are one of the most dysfunctional teams in the NBA and things only got worse when Bobby Portis treated Nikola Mirotic like Robin Lopez treats NBA mascots. The good news about this mess is that we’ve been able to get an extended look at rookie Lauri Markkanen, and the early returns have been positive with the big man averaging 15.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.5 triples. They might just be the worst team in the East, but at least Bulls fans can look forward to the loaded 2018 Draft. 

 

30.) Suns (0-3)

 

Results: POR (L, 76-124), LAL (L, 130-132), LAC (L, 88-130)

 

After three humiliating losses to open the season, the Suns fired coach Earl Watson and will replace him with Jay Triano for the rest of the campaign. After reports leaked about Eric Bledsoe requesting a trade before opening night, the Suns have started to engage teams in trade talks. In fact, it sounds like Bledsoe won’t play for the Suns ever again — he’s already been shut down for Monday’s game. I’d be surprised if they didn’t finish with the worst record in the NBA.