Week 2 is in the books in the NBA, and the contenders are starting to show themselves. We also had some bottom feeders return to earth. Either way, it’s good to have NBA basketball back
1. Indiana Pacers (7-0)- The Pacers have shown that they are the best team in the league. They have the NBA’s best defense, and Paul George and company have some nice offensive weapons. Their bench is no longer a weak link, and the Pacers are for real. They beat the Nets to move to 7-0, and that is just 1 of their many impressive wins. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Danny Granger traded soon.
2. San Antonio Spurs (6-1)- Those who doubt the Spurs are the ones who doubt that the sun will come up the next day. Every time we think they are too old to compete, they go out there and prove everyone wrong. They are getting contributions from different players this season, and they continue to be deep and execute Popovich’s system. They may not take the regular season serious, but no one wins more in the regular season than they do. They beat the Knicks by 31 on Sunday night, and they are a force to be reckoned with.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-1)- The Thunder got the best present they could ever ask for when Russell Westbrook returned after missing just 2 games. They are in the top half of the league in both defense and offense. The Thunder are returning to form, but they will need to find a consistent third scorer.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-2)- The Wolves finally lost a few games, but they are still solid. Kevin Love is putting up historic numbers, and he has a real chance to win the MVP. They are coming off a big in against the Lakers, and their young players are developing nicely. Kevin Martin is feeling right at home under Rick Adelman. The Wolves have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
5. Miami Heat (4-3)- The Heat are still one of the best teams in the league, but they are dealing with some lethargic play. They aren’t taking the regular season seriously, but it will just take a run for them to have a record that reflects their talent. Jeff Green hit a shot that prevented them from being 5-2.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (4-3)- The Clippers are a powerful team. They have some serious issues on the defensive side, but more time under Doc Rivers should change that. They aren’t a team that struggles in the half court as much, and they could score 150 at some point this season. They have 2 impressive wins against the Rockets, and they gave the Heat all they could handle.
7. Golden State Warriors (4-3)- The Warriors are a great team. They have the offensive fire power to outscore any team, and their defense is really coming into form. Stephen Curry has some ankle issues, so that’s something to watch. They should be in contention for the top seed as the season progresses.
8. Houston Rockets (4-3)- The Rockets have some fire power, but they do not look good defending the perimeter. So far they are 4-0 against the league, but 0-3 against the teams in LA. Their guards and wings can’t defend a mannequin, and it’s putting Dwight Howard in bad situations. They keep trying to make the Omer Asik-Dwight Howard thing work, and it has made them start out slow on offense.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (4-2)- The Blazers are a great young team. LaMarcus Aldridge has looked like one of the best players in the league, and their bench is no longer a dumpster fire. Damian Lillard hasn’t missed a beat, and when they get C.J McCollum back, they will only be stronger. I like this team.
10. Phoenix Suns (5-2)- The Phoenix Suns may be the biggest surprise in the young NBA season. They were supposed to roll over to every team and rebuild, but they have done anything but that. Eric Bledsoe is looking like a future all-star, and that is making Vinny Del Negro look even worse. They have some young talent on this team, and they are competing hard. They had a big come from behind win against the Pelicans on Sunday. They may fall back down to earth, but right now they are proving the critics wrong.
11. Chicago Bulls (2-3)- I know the record isn’t good for Chicago, but this team is finding their way. Their defense is shaky, which is concerning, but they will be fine. As soon as Derrick Rose finds his footing, the Bulls will start to rack up the wins.
12. Atlanta Hawks (3-3)- This team isn’t getting a lot of attention, but they should be. They do have some bad losses against the Lakers and Nuggets, but they are showing signs of a team who could potentially make some noise. Under Mike Budenholzer, these players are fitting the system perfectly. Paul Millsap is probably the steal of the off-season in the NBA, and Jeff Teague is the best player no one is talking about. I like this Hawks team.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (3-3)- The Grizzlies are a strange team. They have not defended as well as they did last season, and it seems as if they are going through an identity crisis. They have come on late, and they are basically a middle of the pack team. They need to get back to their strengths if they want to repeat last year’s success.
14. Philadelphia 76ers (4-3)- This team was 3-0 on last week’s power rankings, and they have gone 1-3 since. They will still end up being one of the worst teams in the league when it’s all said and done, but they are showing some fight. They have beaten some good teams, and Michael Carter-Williams has been stellar. You should expect them to trade Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young before the deadline. They may start dropping down this list every week, but they deserve credit for their nice start.
15. Brooklyn Nets (2-4)- The Nets record isn’t very good, but that is just an indication of all their chemistry issues. When this team gives full effort, they can beat anybody, but right now they need time to gel. They have a rookie head coach in Jason Kidd, and some new veterans in KG and Paul Pierce. Give this team time, and they will start to add wins.
16. Dallas Mavericks (4-3)- The Mavericks have slowed down a bit, but they have some good weapons. Dirk and Monta Ellis have really worked well together, and they need other guys to step up with them. The team is a mess defensively, and some more consistency will help them mightily.
17. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-4)- I’m still high on this Cavs team. They have a lot of talent, and it’s just a matter of getting it all to mesh. Mike Brown has this team defending well, and I think they should be in contention for a playoff seed as time goes on. Andrew Bynum’s health is a key factor for this team.
18. Orlando Magic (3-4)- This is a scrappy team. They may not be good, but their young talent is going to give them a chance every night. They haven’t really been blown out this season, and Victor Oladipo is a stud. They will likey start to fall off as the season goes on, but this is a fun team to watch.
19. Toronto Raptors (3-4)- The Raptors are really confusing. They have the talent to compete every night, but they lack an identity, and they haven’t looked that impressive. I really don’t know what to make of this team, and I expect that they will make some trades before the deadline. This is a wait and see team for me.
20. Detroit Pistons (2-3)- The Pistons have some talent. They are starting Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond. That big lineup can work, but they need to find better ways to space the floor. This is also a team with a lot of new pieces, so they need more time to play together. They can beat anybody, but it’s a matter of doing it consistently for Detroit.
21. New Orleans Pelicans (3-4)- The Pelicans are a good team, and with time they should rise up this list. Anthony Davis has looked like an all star, and when this talent meshes, they should be contending for a playoff spot.
22. Los Angeles Lakers (3-5)- The Lakers have some impressive wins over the Clippers, Hawks, and Rockets. They also get blown out in their losses. This is a team that can provide an upset if they are hitting from beyond the arc, but will get destroyed if that’s not falling for them. They are a mess defensively, and you can tell that they miss Kobe Bryant. They are still performing better than expected. They gave up 47 points in the 1st quarter against the Timberwolves on Sunday–not good.
23. Milwaukee Bucks (2-3)- I am not high on this Bucks team. They don’t really have a lot of fire power, and they have a bunch of role players playing starters’ minutes. Larry Sanders has been having on and off the court issues, and I don’t know how good of a coach Larry Drew is for this squad. Expect the Bucks to hover just under .500 all season.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (3-3)- I was going to put the Bobcats a little higher on this list, but I’m not ready to trust them just yet. They have won 3 of their first 6 games without Al Jefferson being in 5 of them, and they are showing some spark. They can defend pretty well, and it looks like some of their draft picks could turn out to be solid. This is the Bobcats though, so I’m not holding my breath.
25. Boston Celtics (3-4)- After starting 0-4, the Celtic have won 3 straight games, including a thriller over the Heat. They have seemed to find some pride, and they have played some good basketball. This is still a bad team, but they showed that they won’t just roll over. Expect Danny Ainge to be trading someone if they’re in playoff contention though. I hope Jeff Green can stay this consistent all year.
26. Washington Wizards (2-4)- This team has been a disappointment. They started out 0-3, and have won 2 of their last 3, though. John Wall has looked solid, but the rest of the guys need to step up. I think Marcin Gortat will help them tremendously, and they are trending upwards. They gave OKC all they could handle in overtime on Sunday night.
27. New York Knicks (2-4)- This team is a mess. They can’t beat anybody right now, and they are a disaster on both ends. With Tyson Chandler out, the paint will be wide open for opponents, and Mike Woodson is probably on the hot seat. They have a lot of issues, and it isn’t pretty in the Garden right now.
28. Denver Nuggets (1-4)- I feel for Brian Shaw. He is leading a team that is good in transition, and trying to make them focus on being effective when the ball slows down. He has to start their younger players, and they just haven’t looked good. JaVale McGee is out for a while, and J.J. Hickson is not a center. This team has holes everywhere.
29. Sacramento Kings (1-5)- The Kings are the Kings again. They aren’t very good, but their young talent is playing well, so there’s hope for the future. I like Mike Malone as a coach, but they need some talent that fits better soon.
30. Utah Jazz (0-7)- This team is terrible. I’m pretty sure they will end up with the worst record this season, and this spot belongs to them. They have no talent outside of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward is probably on the way out.