Through the first month of the NBA season, it is feeling like there has not been much separation between many of the teams in the league. The Golden State Warriors have been the most consistent team so far and while they lost to the Charlotte Hornets this week, they also put a beatdown on the Brooklyn Nets. The Chicago Bulls still look good and last season’s Western Conference champions, the Phoenix Suns, have won 10 in a row and look ready for another run. Early season surprises like the Wizards and the Bulls are still going strong and remain high in this week’s NBA power rankings.
30. Houston Rockets (-1)
The Houston Rockets claim the lowest spot in the power rankings this week due to their 1-14 record and league-worst -11.1 point differential. It is not surprising that the Rockets are in this spot, though. Rookie Jalen Green is now leading the team in scoring but is not playing very efficiently. The Rockets lost four more games this week by double digits. There is not much good news to report out of Houston right now.
29. New Orleans Pelicans (+1)
The Pelicans have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season. However, it does look like former No. 1 pick Zion Williamson is getting ready to return, which should help things somewhat. New Orleans did get a win this week, but that was the only good result of the week for the Pelicans as they also lost to shorthanded teams in Washington and Miami. It is going to be a long season in New Orleans, it appears.
28. Orlando Magic (-3)
It has not been the worst of weeks for the Magic, who got their second win of the season over the New York Knicks. Also, second-year point guard Cole Anthony and forward Wendell Carter Jr. appear as if they have taken a step forward. What is concerning for the Magic is the fact this year’s fifth overall pick, Jalen Suggs, is off to a disappointing season so far and that is not what Orlando fans want to see. The Magic compete well for a team that is heading for the lottery, which is something they like to see.
27. San Antonio Spurs (-7)
The Spurs are one of the biggest fallers in this week’s power rankings. It has been a trying season for the Spurs so far, and they have had some tough losses this week to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, as well as the Dallas Mavericks. One thing that should be nice for Spurs fans to see is the improved play of Dejounte Murray. Murray is having a nice season and has been one of the lone bright spots for the 4-10 team.
26. Detroit Pistons (+2)
It took him a few games, but this year’s No. 1 pick, Cade Cunningham, is finally starting to look like the franchise centerpiece that the Pistons wanted him to be. Cunningham is excelling in a lot of areas and looks more comfortable on the court than he did in his first few games. Detroit got two wins this week over the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors, and if Cunningham keeps up the good play, Detroit might see more wins in the future.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder (+2)
Don’t look now, but the Thunder have won six games and are playing much better than most thought that they would be at any point this season. The play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort is the highlight right now for Oklahoma City. Dort had a big game this week with 34 points and is improving with every game he plays. It is a surprise to see the Thunder with six wins already, but they have played better, even if the front office wants to lose.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (+2)
It was an uneven week for Minnesota. It started off with a big win over the Lakers but followed up with losses to the Clippers and the Suns. Second-year player Anthony Edwards has shown that he is taking that second-year leap and is becoming a more complete player. Edwards has scored well this season and at times has looked like the best player in Minnesota. This team has the talent to be better than this and could improve this season.
23. Indiana Pacers (+0)
The Pacers are the most perfectly average team in the NBA. They have good players in Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, and Domantas Sabonis, but they just can’t seem to improve and get over the hump to become a more consistent team and make a play in the Eastern Conference. This is a team that can beat anyone on a given night and also loses to anyone, evidenced by their win over the Utah Jazz and then a loss to the Detroit Pistons. This team might be making some moves at the trade deadline.
22. Sacramento Kings (-1)
The Kings have been in the news this week with reported rumors of head coach Luke Walton being on the hot seat. Walton might not be the best coach, but the timing of the whole thing is a little odd. The Kings are playing well at the moment and actually have a positive point differential. Sacramento got a win over the Pistons and suffered losses to Oklahoma City and Minnesota. Hopefully, the hot seat talk won’t distract this team, because they seem to be playing better.
21. Memphis Grizzlies (-5)
The Grizzlies had one of the worst losses of the season this week when they fell to New Orleans, but it has still been a solid season for Ja Morant and the Grizzlies overall. Morant has had a great season so far and looks as if he has taken the next step this season. The surprising thing about the Grizzlies this season has been their poor defense. Memphis has the reputation of being one of the tougher teams in the league, but they have had one of the worst defenses in the NBA this season. That is going to have to improve if Memphis wants to return to the postseason.
20. Toronto Raptors (-1)
It has been a strange week for the Raptors. Toronto has had one of the best defenses in the NBA this season but gave up 127 points at home to the Detroit Pistons. They also got a win over the Philadelphia 76ers, who were without superstar Joel Embiid. Toronto has, in some ways, both exceeded expectations and come up short of them at the same time because they were a hard team to peg down at the beginning of the year. The good thing for the Raptors is that Pascal Siakam appears to be fully back from injury and is playing well.
19. New York Knicks (-8)
After a hot start to the season, the New York Knicks have cooled down and are starting to look average. After their second loss of the season to the Orlando Magic, the Knicks have some things to figure out. It is not just the two losses to the Magic that has to be concerning for the Knicks; New York has dropped six of their last nine games as well. Julius Randle has not been playing well during this tough stretch, either. It is too early to panic for any NBA team, but it is clear that New York has to start playing better soon.
18. Milwaukee Bucks (-4)
Speaking of teams that have been having a rough stretch, the Milwaukee Bucks might finally be trending upward. The defending champs have had to battle through COVID issues this season and have been missing various parts of their starting lineup during the early part of the season. Aside from their season-opening win versus Brooklyn, the win over the Lakers on Wednesday has to be the most satisfying moment of the season for the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped 47 points and Milwaukee welcomed Khris Middleton back. Now that they are healthy, it is time for the champs to start making a move toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
17. Boston Celtics (+0)
Boston has been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams this season. It is hard to be too harsh on them in the rankings because of the absences of Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams, but this team needs to start playing better … and fast. The bright spot for the Celtics is that Dennis Schroder has been able to fill a little bit of the void that Brown left behind on offense. Hopefully, for Boston, he can keep that up even when Brown returns. Boston needs to find a rhythm before they get left behind in the Eastern Conference.
16. Atlanta Hawks (+8)
The Hawks got off to a rough start and were one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams at the start, but now they have three straight wins. Atlanta took down Milwaukee, Orlando, and Boston this week and will close the week out with Charlotte at home on Saturday. The two guys responsible for Atlanta’s better play have been Trae Young and Clint Capela. Young is starting to play like a superstar again and Capela is owning the paint. It is just three games, but the Hawks look much improved.
15. Los Angeles Lakers (+0)
The Lakers were the favorites in the Western Conference to start the season, but it has been an uneven start. LeBron James is sidelined with an injury and the Lakers need him back quickly. L.A. dropped three more games this week and it has been tough to find the right combination of guys for the team to rotate through. The best news for the Lakers is that Talen Horton-Tucker is back and playing well. He could be one of the pieces that the Lakers need to get this thing turned around.
14. Philadelphia 76ers (-5)
It has been tough sledding for the 76ers with Embiid out. Philadelphia lost three games to the Jazz, Raptors, and Pacers and is struggling on both ends of the floor. Point guard Tyrese Maxey has been scoring very well and Tobias Harris has looked good, too. That is where the good news stops for Philadelphia this week. This team needs its superstar back because they are just a much better team with him on the floor. It does not help that the Ben Simmons situation is flooding the headlines and remains a distraction.
13. Charlotte Hornets (+9)
The Hornets have been one of the most inconsistent teams this season, but they have had some great moments in the past week. They became only the second team to beat the Golden State Warriors and continue to look impressive on offense. A win over the Knicks was also very impressive. This team continues to be led by LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges and is one of the most exciting in the league.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (+6)
Portland has been on a roll this week and got a great comeback win over the Chicago Bulls. One of the reasons for the good play has been the improvements of Larry Nance Jr., who has done a great job on both ends of the floor this week. Damian Lillard has been off to a slow start this season, but he also found his groove this week even if he is not playing at the All-NBA level that we are used to. This team still has a high ceiling with their starting five if they can become a cohesive unit.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers (+1)
Cleveland was dealt a big blow this week when rookie Evan Mobley was said to be sidelined with an injury. He will be out for a few weeks. This was a team that was already missing guard Collin Sexton and it will be a challenge for the Cavs to keep up their good record without two of their better players. Still, it was a great feat for Cleveland to go 2-2 this week. They can thank Ricky Rubio and Darius Garland for their stellar play.
10. Utah Jazz (-5)
The Jazz have hit their first rough patch of the season and, after a great start, now sit at 9-5. Utah had a win over the 76ers this week and it was much needed after a couple of losses to Miami and Pacers. Utah was off to a great start and looked like they might be the top team in the Western Conference, but a bad week or so has the expectations being dialed back once again. The two guys who played great this week were Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert, who is once again making his case for Defensive Player of the Year.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (+4)
The Clippers continue to be one of the hottest teams in the league and are now 8-1 in their past nine games. Paul George has been playing at an MVP level all season and should be getting more recognition than he has for that award. Reggie Jackson is also finding a way to pick things up offensively while Eric Bledsoe is starting to find his groove. This team looked dead in the water a week or so ago, but now they are rolling and look like they are going to be able to make a playoff push after all.
8. Dallas Mavericks (+0)
Dallas has been one of the better teams in the league, but they may have hit a bump in the road with Luka Doncic and his ankle injury. It is not known when Doncic will be able to return. Wins over the Spurs and the Nuggets were impressive, though the team did take a loss against Phoenix. The good news for Dallas is that Kristaps Porzingis seemed to find his way offensively and is shooting the ball well. For the Mavericks, they need this version of Porzingis to stick around once Doncic makes his return.
7. Denver Nuggets (-4)
It is flying a bit under the radar, but Nikola Jokic has been the best player in basketball this season. Despite being named MVP last season, Jokic has been even better this year. Denver is leaps and bounds better when he is on the floor as he impacts every facet of the game. The other Nugget that has stepped it up this week has been Aaron Gordon. Gordon is playing some of his best basketball since joining Denver and it is welcomed.
6. Chicago Bulls (+1)
The Bulls have had an uneven week and have gone 2-2. They have had to play without one of their top stars in Nikola Vucevic and it has gone about as expected. The offense has not taken a big step back and the defense is unchanged because Vucevic is not the best defensive player. DeMar DeRozan has been playing at an MVP level to start the season and while he may not keep that up all year, both he and Alex Caruso are playing great basketball right now.
5. Washington Wizards (-1)
Washington has been one of the surprises of the young season and they are still playing well right now. Bradley Beal had to miss some games, but Spencer Dinwiddie has picked up the slack. Montrezl Harrell has been energetic and a great guy for this team. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma are also impressing. It is unclear whether this team has any staying power, but give full credit to the coaching staff for how well the Wizards are playing.
4. Brooklyn Nets (+2)
Brooklyn was having a great week before they had a dud of a game against the Golden State Warriors. The best thing that is happening for Brooklyn is that James Harden looks like he is starting to play like a top-10 player for the first time all season. The Nets had three wins against lesser teams in the Thunder, Pelicans, and the Cavs, who were shorthanded, but this team still has a ton of talent and will remain one of the favorites to win the championship all season. Kevin Durant should be on everyone’s shortlist of MVP favorites.
3. Miami Heat (+7)
The Heat looked like the best team in the league for the first couple of weeks of the season. After stumbling for a few games, Miami found its stride again and demonstrated exactly that in a big win over the Jazz. While other guys are getting more attention, Jimmy Butler has been playing at an MVP level; he dropped a 31-point triple-double this week. The Heat play great defense and will be a force to be reckoned with all season.
2. Phoenix Suns (+0)
Don’t look now, but the reigning Western Conference champions are starting to play like they are the champs again. Phoenix has won 10 straight as Devin Booker leads the charge. The unsung hero for the team has to be JaVale McGee, though. With Deandre Ayton out due to an injury, McGee is stepping up and playing great for Phoenix. The schedule has not been the toughest, but the Suns are playing like one of the best teams in the NBA right now.
1. Golden State Warriors (+0)
There is no question who the best team in basketball is right now. The Warriors have been the semblance of consistency. Stephen Curry is the current frontrunner for MVP and Draymond Green is still one of the best defensive players in the league. The Warriors have yet another trick up their sleeve in Klay Thompson, who is going to return and immediately puts the league on notice. The Warriors might be back.
Follow Jackson Caudell on Twitter @jacksoncaudell
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