Author: Kurt Helin

Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry

PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Check out those Golden State Warriors


Sorry, but for this week only the PBT Power Rankings are coming out on Tuesday. I was in New York with my wife, who ran the marathon, and I could either go to the Chelsea Market and eat then take a walk on the High Line on a sunny day, or do the rankings. The rankings lost. Badly. But we’re back now on Tuesday and the Golden State Warriors have vaulted to the top with four teams still undefeated around the NBA.

source:  1. Warriors (3-0, Last Week No. 7). My question coming into the season was if Steve Kerr could keep the Warriors playing quality defense (they were top five last season). Well, it’s just three games but they have had the best defense in the NBA. Klay Thompson has looked like a guy deserving the max he just got. We’ll have a better picture of this team after a week against the Clippers, Rockets and Suns.

source:  2. Grizzlies (4-0, LW 10).  They are undefeated behind the combination of a strong defense (allowing 89.5 points per 100 possessions) and a whole lot of Marc Gasol — 22.5 points on a .606 true shooting percentage plus 8.5 boards a game so far. However, Courtney Lee’s injury hurts, as the lack of outside shooting eventually will catch up with this team.

source:  3. Heat (3-0, LW 17). LeBron who? The Heat offense has been impressive to start the season and they picked up wins over Toronto and a depleted Wizards team. Chris Bosh is averaging 25.7 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, reminding you he is a No. 1 offensive option. Interesting tests with the Rockets, Bobcats and Mavericks on the docket this week.

source:  4. Rockets (4-0, LW 8). Trevor Ariza has shot the ball well so far, 17.3 points a game plus hitting 59.3 from three. The Rockets play 7 of their first 11 on the road, but the first week was soft (Lakers, Jazz, Celtics, Sixers). That’s about to change — Heat, Spurs and Warriors are up this week.

source:  5. Spurs (1-1, LW 1). Not the most impressive first week for the champs, which nobody is reading anything into. What, you doubt this team will find a groove? They have Kawhi Leonard back, Tim Duncan has looked strong, and by the way Tony Parker is knocking down threes (6-of-6 this season so far). Houston ad New Orleans up this week.

source:  6. Mavericks (3-1, LW 6). Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki have quickly found their groove from last season while Chandler Parsons is averaging 18.8 a game and shooting 44.4 percent from three. Their only loss was a tight one on the road to the Spurs. Still questions about their defense, but they are winning.

source:  7. Clippers (3-1, LW 3). They haven’t really impressed so far. They have lapses of interest and effort (third quarter against the Jazz Monday for example). Do that in the showdown against Golden State on Wednesday and they will get crushed. That said good record to start as they have eight of their first nine games at Staples Center and don’t leave California until Nov. 19.

source:  8. Cavaliers (1-1 LW 2). One good, one bad game from LeBron, but the fact he has played 42.5 minutes a night early on catches your eye. That’s a lot of burn. Three games on the road this week, including an interesting one in Portland.

source:  9. Bulls (2-1, LW 4). Derrick Rose’s injury had his detractors saying “I told you so” but he came down on Kyrie Irving’s foot, a fluke thing, and he will be back playing on Tuesday. I don’t get why some in Chicago are so eager to hate their own best player. Soft schedule this week.

source:  10. Suns (2-1, LW 12). It may be a work in progress, but the Suns three-guard lineup — Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas — sparked the late run that gut them a win over the Spurs. Then they lost to Utah. Up and down team early.

source:  11. Raptors (2-1, LW 14). That loss to Miami should have the Raptors looking in the mirror — 15 missed free throws and defensive lapses down the stretch. This team is just not the same when Amir Johnson isn’t in the lineup (he missed against the Heat). Another showdown with Washington Friday night.

source:  12. Kings (3-1, LW 22). Three quality wins — the Clippers, the Trail Blazers, and in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back — has people thinking the Kings are going to be better than projected. They’ve got the Suns this week and could steal that team’s “surprising young team in the West” moniker if they keep playing like this.

source:  13. Wizards (2-1, LW 15). They had some nice games from Otto Porter (21 the night Paul Pierce got ejected) and the team looks good when John Wall is on the court. Interesting game with the Raptors Friday but a fairly soft schedule early, which is good for them with Bradley Beal still out.

source:  14. Knicks (2-1, LW 21). They picked up about as quality a sin as it gets in Cleveland and when they share the ball they offense seems to click. The defense is still a concern, it needs to improve or there will be some ugly losses to balance out their scales.

source:  15. Nets (2-1, LW 19). It’s fun to watch owed Mikhail Prokhorov take shots at Jason Kidd, but what really matters is they got Brook Lopez back in the rotation Monday in the win over OKC. Showdown with the Knicks this week but very winnable games on the schedule to get them off to a fast start.

source:  16. Hawks (1-1, LW 16). The Hawks are strong where you’d expect — Kyle Korver is knocking down threes and Al Horford remains very good at everything — but they are getting bat on the boards early. As expected, this team just hangs in the middle of the pack in the East so far.

source:  17. Thunder (1-3, LW 5).. The schedule maker was not kind to the Thunder to start the season: Already they have seen the Trail Blazers, Clippers and Nets with Brook Lopez back, this week they get the Raptors, Grizzlies and surging Kings. They are bottom five in offense and defense early on.

source:  18. Trail Blazers (1-2. LW 9). Rough start to the season for Damian Lillard who is shooting 26.8 overall and has a true shooting percentage of just .439 (it was .568 last season). He’s taking more threes this season — 53.7 percent of his attempts so far — and is hitting just 31.8 percent of those. He’s also just shooting 37.5 percent inside three feet.

source:  19. Pelicans (1-2, LW 11). Anthony Davis is a freak, averaging 23.7 points and 13.3 points a game, not to mention 4.3 blocks a night. The problem on the bayou is the rest of the New Orleans offense has all the spice of a rice cake — Tyreke Evans is shooting 39.2 percent, Eric Gordon 25 percent, Ryan Anderson 34 percent and so on.

source:  20. Nuggets (1-2, LW 13). It’s early, but this offense should be better than just 94.1 points per 100 possessions, 27th in the league. They are still playing with good pace but just not making plays or knocking down the open looks they do get.

source:  21. Hornets (1-2, LW 18). Lance Stephenson’s arrival has not boosted the Hornets offense so far, in fact he frustrated coach Steve Clifford enough to be benched in the fourth against Memphis. He was better against the Knicks, and Al Jefferson is putting up numbers as always, but this team still has a long way to go on that end of the court.

source:  22. Pacers (1-2, LW 23). The schedule makers were kind to a team they didn’t know would be broken down, giving them the Sixers, Bucks and Celtics in their first six games. Hasn’t helped them win, although Roy Hibbert has looked more like the guy from a couple years ago.

source:  23. Timberwolves (1-2, LW 24). Minnesota has actually outscored its opponents by 1.8 points per 100 possessions through three games, yet struggled late in contests. Meet the new Timberwolves, same as the old Timberwolves.

source:  24. Bucks (1-2, LW 27). Defensively, these Bucks are a pretty good team. A surprisingly good team — fifth best in the NBA right now. The offense is the side that needs work, starting with limiting turnovers — 20.8 percent of their possessions have ended in a turnover this season. You can’t just throw away one in five trips down the court.

source:  25. Celtics (1-2, LW 28). Impressive win over the Nets to start the season, but then they threw up a brick against Houston. Almost literally, going 1-of-25 from three. What really matters is Rajon Rondo has looked solid (that’s good news whether you’re in the “keep him” or “trade him” camp).

source:  26. Jazz (1-3, LW 26). The schedule maker has done no favors for Utah early, they have already played Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and the Clippers, then this week host LeBron and the Cavaliers, then Dallas, then they head out on the road for six of seven.

source:  27. Pistons (0-3, LW 20). Detroit’s offense has just been a mess, and it’s not all Josh Smith’s fault (he’s taking fewer threes, but he’s oddly struggling to hit around the rim this week). Stan Van Gundy went out trying to find shooting this summer but with Jodie Meeks injured you get a lot of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2-of-16) and D.J. Augustin (3-of-13) as the guys who have taken the most threes, and that’s not good.

source:  28. Lakers (0-4, LW 25). Their 0-4 start is the worst the franchise has seen since 1957. In Minneapolis. Where the Lakers name made some sense. The reason is their defense, which is 8.7 points per 100 possessions worse than any other team in the league so far. Small sample size alert, but that is crazy bad.

source:  29. Magic (0-3, LW 29). There have been flashes, like Nikola Vucevic putting up good numbers and rookie Elfrid Payton having good nights. Still no wins. The schedule maker did them no favors to start the season: 19 of 28 on the road to start the season.

source:  30. 76ers (0-4, LW 30). If you want a bright spot, in each of the Sixers four losses they held the lead at one point in the third quarter. But that’s about it, save for Nerlens Noel shutting down James Harden at the rim.

Lance Stephenson said he needs to be more aggressive to get his rhythm back

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks 508084169 Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks

Lance Stephenson is struggling to start the season. To put it kindly. Another way to say that is he has been Roseanne Barr singing the national anthem bad. He has shot 29.6 percent so far this season. The man has shot just 7-of-13 at the rim, he is 0-of-10 shooting outside the paint. Small sample size and all, but that’s bad. So bad he got benched for the fourth quarter once this season already (last Saturday vs. Memphis).

To be fair, he looked better against the Knicks Sunday — 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, he was 4-of-9 shooting, with 12 of the points coming in a strong third quarter, but the fourth saw three Stephenson turnovers and with that more of the Gary Neal show — but still has not looked like the Stephenson the Hornets thought was a steal at $9 million a year last summer.

How does he get on track? Stephenson thinks Stephenson just needs to be more aggressive, something he told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

“I tried to make something happen. I let the game come to me last two games and ended up doing nothing,” Stephenson said. “I need to be more aggressive, be in attack mode.”

With aggressive Stephenson also often comes some turnovers, something Frank Vogel seemed more comfortable with that Steve Clifford does this year. Hence the benching. Which, shockingly, Stephenson did not like (and the Hornets lost the game scoring just 69 points), reports Michael Scotto of Stephenson also said he’s moved on.

“It’s tough, but it’s part of being a pro,” Stephenson said. “Learning the system, learning new guys, not getting frustrated, keep playing through my mistakes and just trying to get other people involved. I play through instincts and when my players learn my instincts we’ll be a better team.”

The Hornets need the offense. Through three games Charlotte is averaging 91.7 points per 100 possessions, only the Sixers have been worse. Stephenson — along with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson — were supposed to fix that this season.

They likely will, it’s just going to take a little time. And it won’t be smooth getting there.

Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan dunks all over Rudy Gobert (VIDEO)

DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert

Utah’s Rudy Gobert is really making leaps as a defensive presence in the paint, you have to like that he goes after a lot of blocks, alters a lot of shots.

But sometimes that means you look bad.

Like when you try to stop the Clippers DeAndre Jordan on the alley-oop. Jordan has a history of making guys look bad and Gobert is in some good company, and you can expect before the season is out a few more will join the club.

The Clippers won the game 107-101 — Blake Griffin had 31 points, Chris Paul a triple-double — but the Jazz made them work for it.

Monday night’s NBA Winners/Losers: James Harden is putting up points, Rockets put up wins

James Harden

Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while trying to explain how Tinder is not just for hooking up

source:  James Harden and the undefeated Houston Rockets. The Beard is putting up numbers — 35 on Monday night against the Sixers brings him to 27.8 per game, and with that the Houston Rockets are undefeated at 4-0. Look under the hood a little and none of it is that impressive. In Harden’s case he is shooting just 37.3 percent overall. In the case of the Rockets, their four wins are against the Lakers, Jazz, Celtics and Sixers. Still, they are undefeated beating the teams in front of them and Harden is putting up numbers. So far so good.

source:  Jeff Green and the Boston Celtics. Sure, they lost to Dallas (118-113), but you had to love the fight out of this team. The Celtics were down 31 in the second quarter and 26 at the half, Chandler Parsons had poured in 16, Dirk Nowitzki had 16. A lot of young teams would have rolled over and accepted the loss. But the Celtics started the third quarter on a 23-8 run 8 points from Green — he had 35 on the night, Avery Bradley had 14 in the fourth quarter to get to 32 — and the Celtics made the Mavs work for it. Dallas would make a push, the Celtics would make a run. That included a late 9-0 run that almost tied the game late, until a Parsons three did Boston in. Nobody likes moral victories, but this was one.

source:  Oklahoma City Thunder. They got Reggie Jackson back, it didn’t help — they scored 90.2 points per 100 points per possession pace, they let the Nets score at a 127 per 100 pace. All of that is worse than their season averages, and their season averages are 25th in defense and 25th on offense. They are getting outscored by 13.5 points per 100 possessions. It’s going to be a rough first month.

source:  Sacramento Kings. The toughest back-to-back in the league is playing the second night in Denver, at altitude. The Kings beat the Clippers Sunday night, then went into Denver and beat the Nuggets. Throw in a quality win over the Trail Blazers and the Kings are off to a 3-1 start with three quality wins. Darren Collison had 21 points on 9 shots. Small sample size alert, but the Kings look good and have gotten our attention.

source:  Fabulous. Brooklyn’s own hip hop star came out to introduce the Nets players at the home opener… and wore sunglasses and used cue cards. He was not impressive.

Anthony Davis with ridiculous putback over Zach Randolph (VIDEO)

Anthony Davis, Kyle O'Quinn, Tobias Harris

Anthony Davis is ridiculous.

I feel like I’ll be typing that a lot this season. Early in the Pelicans game against Memphis Monday night Eric Gordon missed a three (he’s shooting just 25 percent from deep this season) but watch Davis, he anticipates the miss and takes three hard steps from the top of the key. Zach Randolph starts to casually slide over to grab the board and Davis just flies in over him and finishes with the putback. He didn’t leap over Randolph to throw it down, but he made the man irrelevant in the play.

Anthony Davis is ridiculous.