One word of precaution before we dive into this week's NBA power rankings. This early in the season, the rankings are subject to some pretty wild fluctuations based on game-to-game results, especially when two teams within a few spots of each other meet on the court. There are several Finals contenders who rank lower than you might expect this week thanks to some recent losses. Don't sweat it too much; as the year progresses, the cream will rise to the top.
Now, to the rankings!
Philadelphia 76ers (Previous ranking: 30)
The only question for the Sixers this season: will Philly go wire-to-wire as the No. 30 team in power rankings across the internet?
As a betting man, I'd wager a pretty hefty sum on "yes" -- and on Joel Embiid to win Rookie of the Year, of course.
New Orleans Pelicans (28)
I honestly didn't think this season could be any worse for the Pelicans than last, when New Orleans lost its first six games before finally getting a win. Fast-forward to 2016-17, and Anthony Davis' crew just won its first game of the year in game No. 9. When exactly will this team hit rock bottom?
Derick E. HingleDerick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport
Dallas Mavericks (29)
Harrison Barnes put together a nice little week, pouring in 30+ points in two games and 25 in a third. At this rate, maybe there's a chance he lives up to his contract after all.
Washington Wizards (24)
John Wall's multiple ejections in the past few games likely amount to an aberration in a long season, but it's not a great look for the Wizards PG -- and neither is Washington's 2-5 start.
Minnesota Timberwolves (23)
Maybe projecting the Wolves to make the playoffs this year was foolish (although I'm not giving up hope yet). This young team clearly needs a little bit of time under a new coach and in a completely different system before Minnesota will be a threat in the West.
Orlando Magic (26)
Like the Wolves, the Magic are going through some growing pains with new coach Frank Vogel in town. Unlike the Wolves, Orlando doesn't have a singular talent like Karl-Anthony Towns to count on in the future -- and the Magic aren't doing themselves any favors in the present with their atrocious transition defense.
Phoenix Suns (27)
Dragan Bender clearly needs a lot more polish before he's ready for major minutes, even off the bench, but there's good news with Phoenix's rookie class. Marquese Chriss tallied the first two starts of his young career this week. He wasn't great, which hardly matters. Like I said last week, the key for the Suns is to keep playing the young guys.
NBAE/Getty ImagesDavid Dow
Miami Heat (17)
The Heat's lack of a go-to scorer in the clutch will get all of the attention coming out of Miami's loss to the Bulls. Why limit one's concern to the closing minutes, though? The Heat are one of the NBA's worst overall offenses now that Dwyane Wade is plying his trade elsewhere.
Denver Nuggets (25)
If you're an old-school basketball fan, you need to be watching the Nuggets when you can. Their frontcourt of Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic is a throwback unit featuring two monstrous human beings in the middle and a skilled small forward. In an age of 3-pointers, it's nice to be able to count on at least one team to bludgeon opponents.
Brooklyn Nets (21)
My favorite under-the-radar thing so far this year: Brook Lopez shooting 3s. There's nothing like the Brooklyn big man comfortably stepping into a shot and ripping the net as his defender wonders what in the world just happened. For his career, Lopez has 14 made 3s, 11 of which have come this season.
New York Knicks (22)
Earlier this week, I called Joakim Noah's contract the worst in the NBA. While I stand by that long-term, we should all be rooting for the Knicks center to stay healthy. His pick-and-roll defense makes basketball diehards swoon.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Sacramento Kings (19)
It's not always leading to wins, but DeMarcus Cousins is dunking all over the NBA to start this season. No, really -- he's shooting a career-best 68.5% from within the restricted area, which has Cousins on pace for a career-best PER as well. Call it a small sample size if you want; Boogie is reaching his peak.
Indiana Pacers (16)
If this seems low for Paul George's team, just imagine how far they would have plummeted with a loss to the Sixers. Props to the Pacers for managing an OT win over Philly, I guess, but there are major problems in Indiana. The defense is a mess, and there's not a ton of offensive chemistry. It could be a while before the Pacers are contenders once more.
It took until the end of December for the Lakers to put together a three-game win streak last season. In 2016-17, they checked that milestone off after the seventh game. Who could have guessed Luke Walton's team would be fun and capable of winning games so soon?
Memphis Grizzlies (14)
How's Mike Conley responding to his massive (and well-earned) raise from this offseason? By posting career bests in points (19.3) and assists (6.7) per game while playing his typical top-notch defense, naturally.
Nelson ChenaultNelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Milwaukee Bucks (18)
Giannis Antetokounmpo rightfully steals the show with his spectacular offensive repertoire these days, but the more important development for the Bucks is the their apparent improvement on defense. Somehow, Milwaukee took a major step backward on that end last season, only to bounce back into the top 10 so far in 2016-17.
USA TODAY SportsBenny Sieu
Boston Celtics (5)
Don't expect the Celtics to be outside the top 10 for very long. Back-to-back losses to the Nuggets and Wizards sent Boston tumbling down the rankings this week, but the Celtics have a four-game stretch against the Knicks, Pacers, Pelicans and Mavericks before a titanic matchup with the Warriors.
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Sport
Chicago Bulls (9)
Dwyane Wade soaked up all the applause in his Miami homecoming, then Jimmy Butler took over in the end to remind everyone that he's both the present and the future for Chicago.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Portland Trail Blazers (13)
Unfortunately for C.J. McCollum, the Western Conference is stacked at the guard position. Otherwise, he'd be on his way to gaining traction as a sleeper All-Star candidate for this year's game.
If you're looking for a late-night League Pass alternative to the Warriors, spend some time with McCollum, Damian Lillard and the Blazers.
Utah Jazz (12)
Now that Gordon Hayward is back, we're about to see just how good this Jazz team really is. Utah has a relatively easy schedule for the next week and a half and should climb to at least 8-5 ahead of an interesting game against the Rockets next weekend.
Oklahoma City Thunder (4)
The Thunder take a larger dive in the rankings than they probably deserve, thanks to a couple of teams leapfrogging up the list. There's also the thorny issue of OKC's offense, which is an absolute nightmare outside of Russell Westbrook's usual brilliance.
James Harden's looking like an MVP in Houston, where the Rockets are playing some of the best offensive basketball you'll see. Even more impressive was Houston's late-game defensive execution in a clutch win against the Spurs on national television this week.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock
Toronto Raptors (10)
It's like DeMar DeRozan is on a personal mission to shut up people like me who question how elite he really is. While I don't like being wrong, I have to admit I'm enjoying the show, so ...
DeRozan is just the worst and I bet he can't even score 60 points in a game this season.
There. Let's see what happens next.
Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY SportsPeter Llewellyn
Atlanta Hawks (7)
These aren't the same old Hawks, as Atlanta demonstrated in handing the Cavs their lone defeat of the season. Cleveland can't just count on steamrolling this team should they meet in the postseason, assuming Dwight Howard keeps playing like this.
Brett DavisBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Charlotte Hornets (8)
Stop treating the Hornets like some early season novelty due for regression. Charlotte is for real -- and might be the second-best team in the Eastern Conference when it's all said and done.