If you missed the preseason power rankings, you can check them out here. After week 1, we can start to see how certain teams will play, but there is too much basketball left to make bold statements.
1. Indiana Pacers(3-0)- Great teams separate themselves from good teams when they find ways to win games that they have to grind out. In the long NBA season, you can deal with lethargic attitudes, an off shooting night, and a myriad of other things. The Pacers are 3-0 on the young season, and currently sit on top of the Eastern Conference. They had to grind out two wins against the Magic and Pelicans, but this team is going to be good. They have struggled with being consistent in the regular season the last couple of years, but it looks like they may be turning that around. Their bench is improved, and Paul George is a stud. We will see how Danny Granger can help this team if he returns.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves(3-0)- I wasn’t sure how to rank this Minnesota team coming into the season. Theoretically, they could be a team in the playoff hunt. With a healthy Kevin Love, and a better supporting cast, their biggest opponent would be the injury bug this season. Well, through three games, they look exceptional. Kevin Love leads the league in scoring at over 29 points a game, and they are 3-0. They have 2 wins over the Thunder and Knicks that are extremely impressive, and they look like they could be an elite team this season.
3. Houston Rockets(3-0)- The Rockets are proving me wrong. I thought they would be a mess defensively, and it could take some time to find team chemistry. They have James Harden and Dwight Howard, but I wasn’t sold on the rest of the guys. Well, they look like contenders through 3 games. They–like the Wolves and Pacers–are 3-0 on the season. Dwight Howard looks like his old self on the defensive end, and is rebounding at an astounding rate (17 per game). They need to stop pretending that the Asik-Howard combo is working, and I think this team could be great. Don’t expect Omer Asik to be there beyond February. Jeremy Lin has found a good role coming off the bench, and he has provided a good spark for them.
4. Miami Heat(2-2)- Look, this is a regular season list, so you have to rank the teams as they do in the regular season. When this Heat team plays at full effort and capacity, there aren’t a lot of teams who could come close to them. They lost to the Sixers on a second night of a back to back, and they got caught playing lazy. The Brooklyn loss scares me a little bit, as both teams were trying as hard as they could to shut the other one up. The Heat will be fine, but they will most likely coast through a large percentage of this 82 game season, and still beat a lot of teams. They are 2-2, but I wouldn’t put them any lower than 4th.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder(2-1)- The Thunder have been underwhelming through three games, but they are 2-1. At first they looked like they could have some issues defensively, but they are 7th in the league at 96.3 points per 100 possessions. Their real struggle was finding more options on offense while Russell Westbrook was out, but now he returned early, so they should be fine. They looked good on the offensive end in his debut. The bigger issue for the Thunder is whether Scott Brooks is the right coach. He refuses to play small, and the fact that Kendrick Perkins plays more than 8 minutes a night is absurd. He has weak offensive sets, and if Durant and Westbrook weren’t such good isolation players, Brooks would be long gone.
6. Los Angeles Clippers(2-1)- It doesn’t get more embarrassing than losing to the Lakers on opening night, but the Clippers did it anyways. After that, they had a statement win against the Warriors that featured a duel between Stephen Curry and Chris Paul. The Clippers should be better on the defensive end under Doc Rivers, but they are the worst team in the league when it comes to points per 100 possessions at 108.9. The Clippers are a good team, but they better start defending. Fast.
7. Golden State Warriors(2-1)- The Warriors are fun to watch. They have the best shooting back court in the history of the NBA, and anyone of their young players could explode on any given night. They got 38 from Klay Thompson the first night, and 38 from Stephen Curry the next. They are defending well, and Andre Iguodala has found a home. He could be the X Factor for this team, and I think the Warriors are a true contender. They sit 2-1 on the season.
8. San Antonio Spurs(2-1)- The Spurs are the Spurs once again. They are another year older, but they look the same. Tim Duncan is out, but they find ways to win games. They will probably be in the thick of the top teams in the West, and you can count on a good game from them every night.
9. Chicago Bulls(1-2)- The Bulls are the hot pick to win the East this season, but they have stumbled out of the gate. They are 1 Derrick Rose floater away from being 0-3 on the season. I’m here to tell you that the Bulls will be fine. They have one of the best coaches in the league, along with one of the best players, and a good supporting cast. Rust should be expected from Rose–the guy missed 18 whole months. Once he finds his legs and his shooting stroke, the Bulls will really start to take off. They are a team that is capable of winning 15-20 games in a row, so don’t overreact to a 1-2 start. The one thing that concerns me is the fact that they are a middle-of-the-pack team defensively, and that is usually what they hang their hats on.
10. Brooklyn Nets(1-2)- This is an interesting team. They certainly have the fire power to win the East, but there are a lot of variables. They are an older team, so you could see a lot of rest from them. KG, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry are still finding their way in Brooklyn, but a win against the Heat shows what they could be. Jason Kidd finally coached his first game, so give them time to mesh.
11. New York Knicks (1-2)- The Knicks are another 1-2 team that will need more time to see how they will truly be this season. They have some new pieces in Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani, so give them time to get acclimated. The Knicks are a top 10 defensive team, so that is promising.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (2-1)- The Blazers started out with a loss, but they have rebounded nicely. LaMarcus Aldridge is 5th in the NBA in scoring, and their bench is much better than last season. They are a team with a lot of fire power, and we could be seeing a young team morph into a playoff team.
13. Dallas Mavericks (2-1)- The Mavericks are another team that is proving me wrong. I wasn’t high on them coming in, but they look like a dangerous team. I’m not a fan of Monta Ellis, but it seems as if Dirk Nowitzki could be the best thing to ever happen to him. They have a deadly pick and roll, and it looks like they will be better than a lot of people expected. They are bad defensively, but they can outscore you.
14. Detroit Pistons (2-1)- The Pistons talent is surprising a lot of people. They lack elite floor spacing, but they are great on defense, and they can get out and run with the best of them. I think they will make the playoffs, and they have been impressive so far. The big lineup with Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond are causing teams problems.
15. Memphis Grizzlies (1-2)- The Grizzlies are still trying to find their identity under their new head coach, so it’s expected to see them struggle. I think they need to rely on what made them great last season, and stop trying to be offensive oriented. They are the second worst team defensivley, and that is scary. They could grind teams down last season, but it seems David Joerger is less interested in that. They will need to find an identity soon if they want to win like they did last season.
16. New Orleans Pelicans (1-2)- The Pelicans are a team who experienced a lot of turnover. They certainly have some talent, so it will be about making the new pieces fit. Tyreke Evans will be the X Factor for them. I think they will be fine as the season comes along, and the struggles early aren’t surprising. They are making bigger headlines with their creepy mascot and Jrue Holiday still thinking he’s in Philly.
17. Cleveland Cavaliers (1-2)- The Cavs are having issues in their first 2 games. They have some new pieces and a new head coach (sort of), and so they will also need some time to gel. The fact that Andrew Bynum has seen playing time is a great sign, and I think this team will finish over .500. They are stellar defensively, and that’s a really good sign.
18. Phoenix Suns (2-1)- The Suns are a team that will be tanking this season, but the players seem to have missed that memo. They have come out and competed in all 3 games, and won 2 of them. Eric Bledsoe is proving that he is more than just an energy guy. The Suns will be fun to watch, but they should experience a drop off soon.
19. Toronto Raptors (2-1)- The Raptors are on the list of fringe playoff teams, and they have played decently so far. They have won 2 out of 3, but you have to wonder how much of this team will be in Toronto moving forward. I like what I’ve seen from DeMar DeRozan so far, but the Raptors are still in the category of teams who have a lot to prove.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (2-2)- The Lakers are fun. When they hit their 3′s, they can beat any team in the league. The cast of nobodies is thriving in Mike D’Antoni’s system, and I think they are better than people think. They had the chance to be 3-1, so I think they could make the playoffs if they keep this up. Kobe Bryant should return soon, and we will see how that factors in to their play. Xavier Henry has played well, and I like this Lakers team. They are bad defensively, just as everyone thought.
21. Atlanta Hawks (1-2)- The Hawks are a team who could go either way. They are still trying to install a new system under Mike Budenholzer, so there will be growing pains. They could easily be 2-1, so the record is a little deceiving. I was in the building covering their win against the Raptors on Friday, and they showed glimpses of what they could be. The Hawks are getting great play from Jeff Teague and Al Horford, and they should get better as time goes on.
22. Orlando Magic (2-2)- The Magic are scrappy. They have been in all 4 games this season, and Victor Oladipo is a stud. They are without promising forward Tobias Harris, and the fact they are playing well is a good sign. The Magic have some good talent, but they are still young and learning. Expect Aaron Afflalo or Jameer Nelson to be traded soon.
23. Sacramento Kings (1-2)- The Kings have a good future ahead of them. They have a good coach in Mike Malone, and an ownership group that is passionate. The young players seem to be responding well to Malone, and they will be much improved. They are still a year or two away from competing for a playoff spot, but they are showing some encouraging signs. DeMarcus Cousins has been a man on a mission after receiving a max deal.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (3-0)- What is life? The worst team in the league is 3-0? These are questions I’ve been dealing with since the Sixers have beaten the Heat on their opening night. Michael Carter-Williams has been a beast. Evan Turner is playing well, and it looks like tanking isn’t an option. Don’t be fooled though, this team isn’t good. They may be better than people may have thought, but their number 1 mission is to get a lottery pick. They have played above their heads, and they don’t have any talent that can sustain them for 82 games. MCW will hit a rookie wall, and they will probably trade Thad Young and Evan Turner. It’s a nice story, but it won’t last.
25. Charlotte Bobcats (1-2)- The Bobcats finally won’t be the worst team in the league. They are playing better, and Al Jefferson will make them better. They have been in 2 out of their 3 games. Michael Jordan says he doesn’t believe in tanking, but he doesn’t have a choice.
26. Milwaukee Bucks (1-2)- The Bucks aren’t good. They signed a bunch of players who are nice secondary pieces, and made them core guys. Coach Larry Drew has been playing Zaza Pachulia more than Larry Sanders, and that is not good for Drew.
27. Washington Wizards (0-3)- The Wizards have been a huge disappointment. With a healthy John Wall, and an improved supporting cast, they are supposed be in the mix for a playoff spot. They traded their first rounder for Marcin Gortat, and that showed that they are all in for the playoffs. They will need to step it up, or Randy Wittman will be out of a job before the season ends.
28. Denver Nuggets (0-2)- The Nuggets didn’t give me any reason to think they’d be good heading into the season, and they are making me look smart. They are trying to find a new identity under Brian Shaw, and it has led to bad basketball. They are starting young guys and JaVale McGee, so they will need time to see if they can develop. It may be safe to say that this could be a long year in Denver.
29. Boston Celtics (0-3)- The Celtics aren’t good. They are without Rajon Rondo, and have a first time head coach in Brad Stevens. Gerald Wallace has already stated that they aren’t a good locker room team either. This team will struggle mightily, and they will be drafting early.
30. Utah Jazz (0-3)- The Jazz have taken the crown as the worst team in the league. They have had some good play from guys like Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter, but they have no point guard. They are a mess all the way through, and it seems as if Gordon Hayward may be on his way out. It’ll be a long year in Utah, and Trey Burke isn’t exactly the calvary.
We are still in the NFL time of the year, so it is hard not to take every game so seriously. This is a long journey for teams, so look for trends, and don’t overreact to single games.
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