This early in the season, the power rankings feel like small sample size theater. Teams move up and down quickly as we try to get a feel for how good they really are (and we don’t have the data to really know that yet). There are teams in this list I think will fall as we move along, others that will rise (hello San Antonio), but where is where I have things as of the second week of the season.
1. Warriors (5-1, Last Week No. 1). After their win over the Rockets Saturday coach Steve Kerr came down hard on his team speaking to the media — that’s a smart coach trying not to let a hot start go to their heads (they lost the next night to Phoenix). But also he was right, they have had sloppy moments early they just survived. David Lee is out but Draymond Green has been a rock solid fill in — 12.8 points a game, .576 true shooting percentage and 7.4 rebounds a game. Good time to do it, he’s a restricted free agent next summer.
2. Rockets (6-1, LW 4). Easy for the Rockets to dismiss the loss to the Warriors — no Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley or Terrence Jones and it was still tied midway through the fourth. They need Howard on offense to really work inside out. Three winnable games this week (Timberwolves, Sixers, Thunder).
3. Grizzlies (6-1, LW 10). That impressive record looks a little shaky upon closer inspection — they are 21st in the NBA in offense and their bench has been nonexistent. But they have their next seven at home so look for the wins to keep piling up.
4. Raptors (6-1, LW 11). Winners of four in a row thanks to the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, they are building up a nice early cushion in the East toward their goal of at least one playoff round at home (and with that advancing to the second round or beyond). They are in the middle of a seven-game home stand so expect them to pad that cushion a little more.
5. Bulls (5-2, LW 9). Early on this feels like the Bizzaro Bulls team — they are fourth in the league in offense but middle of the pack (17th) on defense. You know that will change over time, but Tom Thibodeau is trying to lean on his bench guys more and they are not playing good defense, that is what is hurting the numbers.
6. Kings (5-2, LW 12). They swept a home-and-home with struggling Denver then beat Phoenix, but they way they played in a loss to OKC Sunday has me thinking this ranking may be generous. We’ll have a better sense of this team after this week when they are at Dallas, at Memphis then host the Spurs.
7. Heat (5-2, LW 3). This is a fun team to watch on the offensive side of the ball because they share it — they have the most assists per 100 possessions in the NBA this season. That ball movement helped get them a nice win over Dallas on Sunday. But their defense isn’t going to win them games, they need to outscore teams.
8. Clippers (4-2, LW 7). The least impressive 4-2 team in the league, their defensive rotations and their energy level have just not been impressive in any game. Plus, Lob City has taken fewer shot attempts in the restricted area than any other team in the NBA so far this season.
9. Wizards (5-2, LW 13). That’s a nice record considering the offense has yet to find a good groove without Bradley Beal in the lineup. They’ve done it with a top five defense and could pad that record with only Detroit and Orlando on the schedule this week.
10. Trail Blazers (4-3. LW 18). They are +7.4 points per 100 possessions as a team, meaning they are playing better than their record indicates. Good news for them that what looked like it could have a bad injury for Nicolas Batum is just a contusion.
11. Nets (4-2, LW 15). They have the second best points per 100 possessions differential in the East (trailing only Toronto) — they also have played a very soft schedule. Let’s see how they look after this week on the road in Phoenix, Golden State and Portland.
12. Mavericks (4-3, LW 6). They have the best offense in the NBA this young season gut have ugly losses to the Heat and Blazers because their defense has been terrible. Dirk Nowitzki should pass Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list at home against the Kings this week.
13. Suns (4-3, LW 10). There are moments Isaiah Thomas has looked like the sixth man of the year this season, there are moments (like against his former team the Kings) when he can’t seem to find a rhythm off the bench. It’s a good thing he’s had big nights because Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe have looked pedestrian and have yet to really find a rhythm this season.
14. Pelicans (3-2, LW 19). Anthony Davis made the late driving layup to lift the Pelicans over the Spurs this week, and that felt a little like a “we have arrived” moment for New Orleans. We’ll see if they can continue that momentum Monday taking on the Cavaliers on the road.
15. Spurs (2-3, LW 5). Kawhi Leonard says his sight isn’t fully right yet, and they miss Tiago Splitter inside, he’s been out injured. That beautiful Spurs offense we saw last season is bottom five in the league right now, but does anybody expect that to last? Didn’t think so. Good road tests against the Clippers and Warriors this week as they take on all the California teams.
16. Cavaliers (2-3 LW 8). They are going to miss Matthew Dellavedova (out six weeks with an ACL sprain), he was getting a lot of run and they don’t have a replacement as good as him. The offense shows moments of finding itself but that 27th ranked defense is the real issue and thing that needs to improve.
17. Celtics (3-3, LW 25). Good news that Marcus Smart is only out a couple weeks, he’s been a rookie to watch. A team leaning on Evan Turner and Jeff Green is as unpredictable night-to-night as you would expect (and with Smart out we get more Turner).
18. Jazz (3-4, LW 26). They picked up an exciting win over the Cavaliers on a Gordon Hayward game winner, plus Dante Exum is coming along a little faster than expected. Put this team on your League Pass watch list, they play hard and their games are entertaining.
19. Hornets (3-4, LW 21). One of the most disappointing teams in the early going. They lack shooting from the outside (29 percent from three and their offense has no spark, ranked 25th in the league. They lost to the Lakers and that was the easy part of the road trip, now they get Portland, Phoenix and Golden State.
20. Bucks (3-4, LW 24). They’ve had a soft schedule so it was a little hard to read them, then the Bucks went out and handed Memphis its only loss. This has looked like a strong defensive team, but that will get tested by Miami this week.
21. Hawks (2-3, LW 16). You know the game plan every team has for the Hawks includes the line “don’t help off Kyle Korver at the arc” yet he gets open and is shooting a ridiculous 61.3 percent from three to start the season. Also, young German point guard Dennis Schroder is starting to look like a guy Mike Budenholzer can lean on in the rotation.
22. Timberwolves (2-4, LW 23). Ricky Rubio has been key to the couple of Timberwolves wins — he shot 47.6 in those games and was a +15. He struggled with his shot in their losses. Fans may love rookie Zach LaVine but he is a big drop off from Rubio and it’s going to show while the Spaniard is out.
23. Pistons (2-4, LW 27). Stan Van Gundy started the Josh Smith/Greg Monroe/Andre Drummond trio and it wasn’t terrible (they have played 38 minutes together and are +5). But I’m far from sold they can sustain that, especially as the competition gets tougher this week (Bulls, Wizards and Grizzlies all on the road).
24. Knicks (2-5, LW 14). They have dropped four in a row, the offense has more resembled a trapezoid, and their defense has been atrocious. On the bright side they are home this week with some winnable games (Orlando, Denver), plus New Yorkers can still get the best bagels anywhere. That should be some consolation.
25. Thunder (2-5, LW 17).. There were signs of hope in the win over the Kings Sunday, the best game the Thunder have played so far this season. This week they face a few other struggling teams (Bucks, Pistons) and maybe can pick up some wins and try to tread water until the help arrives next month.
26. Nuggets (1-5, LW 20). Kenneth Faried told PBT this week that the slow starts for the Nuggets is all about them trying to get guys back from injury all together on the same page. Said it’s been a challenge as small injuries have had guys in and out of lineup, but he also said in the West they know they have to figure it out sooner rather than later.
27. Magic (2-5, LW 29). They picked up a couple of wins and rookie point guard Elfrid Payton seems to be learning from being thrown into the fire, he’s had a couple solid games. Tobias Harris is dangerous with the ball in his hands at the ends of games.
28. Lakers (1-5, LW 28). They picked up a nice win over struggling Charlotte (five days rest helped), which was a good one because the schedule is not kind for the next couple weeks. Byron Scott needs to play Ed Davis and Jeremy Lin more and together.
29. Pacers (1-6, LW 22). Nice game by Donald Sloan dropping 31 on the Wizards but the injury gods continue to show the Pacers no mercy, now with Roy Hibbert going to play through a sore knee. Their only win is against the Sixers but with Utah and Denver at home this week maybe that changes. Maybe.
30. 76ers (0-7, LW 30). The last winless team in the Association, but at least Tony Wroten is putting up numbers — he is putting up 21.9 points a game, by far the best on the team. He’s a guy that really worked to improve his game (we could see the improvement at Summer League) and now it’s paying off.