Driscoll’s NBA Power Rankings: Part 3

NBA, Timberwolves, Magic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Luka Doncic

We are now six weeks into the season and it has been two weeks since our last NBA power rankings.

Usually at about this time, we start to discover which teams are going to be the best and which are more flukes.

It is still relatively early, but we now know more than we did at the beginning of the season.


Honorable Mentions

Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers

10. Los Angeles Clippers (Not Previously Ranked)

The Clippers are currently 9-10, which is ninth in the West and 18th in the league. How on earth did they make the top 10? Since Russell Westbrook requested to come off the bench, they are 6-3 and ninth in net rating. Out of all lineups that have played over 100 minutes together, the combination of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, James Harden, Ivica Zubac, and Terrence Mann is second in basketball. They will likely deal with some inconsistencies throughout the year, but I believe their ceiling is a championship with how talented their starting lineup is.


9. Phoenix Suns (Not Previously Ranked)

The big three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal have still yet to play all together. In 20 total games, Durant has played 18, Booker has played 11, and Beal has played only three. They are currently fifth in the West (only 1.5 games behind second), mainly because Durant has looked like an MVP candidate. In November, he averaged 33 points, seven rebounds, and six assists per game with 66 percent True Shooting. The Suns are currently ninth in offensive rating for the entire season and will likely get even better when Booker and Beal are fully healthy. Fans wonder what their ceiling will be with their depth and lack of size, but if Durant and Booker both play like top-10 players, they are title contenders.

8. New York Knicks (Change: -1)

The Knicks have quietly been very solid this year. They are currently on a three-game winning streak, having won seven out of their last ten, and rank fourth in defensive rating, fifth in net rating, and fourth in SRS. They also currently have two five-man lineups among the NBA’s top-eight combos. I expected the Knicks to fall off a few spots by now, and maybe they still will, but they have been consistent all year long and have not shown many signs of slowing down.

7. Denver Nuggets (-2)

I’d be shocked if we saw the Nuggets this low for the rest of the season unless there is a massive injury. As of now, they are tied for the fifth-best record in the league (tied for second in the West), seventh in Net Rating, and sixth in SRS. The reason they are lower in most of these is because of the absence of Jamal Murray. They are 7-1 with him and 7-6 without him. As long as the Nuggets stay healthy the rest of the season, they should have no problem being a top-two team in the West.

6. Milwaukee Bucks (-2)

The Bucks are a pretty tough team to rank as of now. Their ceiling could be as high as No. 1, but the advanced stats are not on their side. Even though their record is tied for fourth in basketball, they are ninth in both net rating and SRS. This is mainly because their defense has been awful. They are 21st in Defensive Rating for the season. The duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard has been much better as of late, but there is still room for improvement. At the end of the day, their defensive backcourt needs to improve if they want a shot at the title.


5. Orlando Magic (Not Ranked)

The Magic got their nine-game winning streak snapped by the Nets on Saturday. This was their second loss to Brooklyn this season. They are tied for the third-best record in the league (tied for second in the East), third in defensive rating, sixth in net rating, and eighth in SRS. The only thing for them to be concerned about is their star, Paolo Banchero. They have been a much better team with him off the court (12.06 net rating) than on the court (1.46 net rating). However, one might see this as a positive. They are looking so good without him that when he figures it out, they’ll be unstoppable.

4. Philadelphia 76ers (-2)

The Sixers are on a two-game losing streak with Joel Embiid out. They are currently tied for the seventh-best record (tied for third in the East), second in offensive rating, third in net rating, and second in SRS. The fact they were in an extremely tight game against the Celtics without Embiid and Tyrese Maxey on Friday night shows their depth is pretty strong. A lot of people will not respect them until they capitalize in the playoffs, but for now, they have been unquestionably a top-five team.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (+2)

The Thunder have been far better than even some of their biggest fans thought they had been. They are tied for the fifth-best record in the league (tied for second in the West), sixth in defensive rating, fourth in offensive rating, second in net rating, and third in SRS. Between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looking like an MVP candidate, Chet Holmgren being the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, and everyone seeming to know their role, they have been a perfectly constructed basketball team. Whether this is sustainable or not is a legitimate question, but the more they play, the more real this team looks.

2. Boston Celtics (-1)

The Celtics are tied for the best record and are first in net rating and SRS. So, why are they not No. 1? They simply have not been playing as well as their stats indicate the past couple of weeks. They have been losing games they should have won and making things far too difficult on themselves. Examples of this include almost blowing a near-20-point lead to the Bucks and almost losing to the Sixers last Friday without Embiid and Maxey. I still think they are the favorites to win the title, but they have not been playing like the best team in basketball.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves (+3)

Last year, the Timberwolves were the No. 8 seed and lost in the first round in five games. This year, they have been playing like the best team in basketball. They are tied for the best record in the league, have the best defense, and are fourth in both net rating and SRS. They do, however, need to work on their offense, where they rank in the bottom half. With this being said, they have been super consistent all year long and Rudy Gobert is looking like the best defender in the league. Karl-Anthony Towns is also looking as good as he has ever been while Anthony Edwards is taking another leap. Will they remain No. 1 all year long? Unclear. But there is not a ton to complain about as of now.

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