In Week 2 NBA Power Rankings, we shouldn’t have doubted the San Antonio Spurs, while the Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets are on the rise.
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Oct 29, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (middle) during the national anthem before a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
It’s only taken six days, but the opening week of the 2016-17 NBA season has already provided more quality games than the first eight weeks of NFL action.
No matter where your sports allegiances lie, however, professional basketball is back and there has been plenty to enjoy over the first week or so. From massive 50-point explosions to triple-doubles to a ton of competitive games, the NBA’s strong start made it that much more difficult to differentiate where every team in the league stacks up.
In an effort to do so, however, we’re back with Week 2 NBA Power Rankings to sort through the first six days of the season.
Are the Golden State Warriors in trouble? Are teams like the Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers not as good as we thought? And is there any reason to remove the Cleveland Cavaliers from the top spot?
Here’s a look at power rankings and highlights from the first week of NBA action.
Oct 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) punches the back post in reaction to his foul against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 103-97. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-2 Last rank: 30th
Pretty busy week for the Philadelphia 76ers, who denied a national anthem singer from performing at their season opener because she was wearing a “We Matter” jersey, kicked out another fan for flipping off Russell Westbrook and, in keeping with their last three seasons, fell to 0-2 to start the 2016-17 campaign.
The good news, however, is Joel Embiid taking a huge lead in the Rookie of the Year race. Through two games, the 22-year-old phenom has tallied 34 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in only 37 minutes of action. He’ll need to improve his efficiency (11-for-25) and rebounding, but Embiid is the lone silver lining for the Sixers right now.
Oct 28, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Phoenix Suns forward T.J. Warren (12) drives to the basket in front of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-3 Last rank: 27th
If you’re the Phoenix Suns, there are two ways to look at an underwhelming yet somewhat expected 0-3 start. On the bright side, the Suns competed with two vastly superior teams, taking the Thunder to overtime before falling short in OKC and then leading most of the way against the Warriors at home on Sunday before Kevin Durant just took over.
Unfortunately, there are no moral victories for a team coming off a 23-win season. Phoenix is still trying to learn how to win games, and as good as T.J. Warren has looked, Devin Booker‘s struggles (19-for-49 shooting, 3-for-15 from three-point range) and a nagging toe injury have deprived fans of their lone bright spot from last year.
Oct 28, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) argues an officials call during the first quarter of a game against the Golden State Warriors at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans
Last week: 0-3 Last rank: 23rd
The New Orleans Pelicans need to get Anthony Davis some damn help. It’s not their fault Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans aren’t back yet, but what other possible conclusion can we draw from the Brow’s historic start to the season being inextricably linked with that ugly 0-3 record?
Davis opened the season with a historic 50-15-5-5-4 stat line…and his team lost by five at home to the Nuggets. He followed that up with a 45-17-3-2-2 line against the still-figuring-it-out Warriors…and the Pellies lost by eight. The Spurs held him to 18 points, five boards and three rebounds, which of course resulted in a 19-point blowout. Get that Brow some help.
Oct 26, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka (7) ceebtrets after he makes a three pointer against the Miami Heat during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-3 Last rank: 22nd
Good thing the Orlando Magic put a second mortgage on their impatience to return to the playoffs by sacrificing all that youth, right?
Aside from owning the worst record in the Eastern Conference just months after trading Victor Oladipo away, Frank Vogel’s squad has a -14.7 plus/minus (second-worst in the NBA), they’ve shot under 40 percent from the floor in two of their three games, and they have yet to crack 100 points. Three games is a small sample size, but it’s already looking like Orlando’s projected flaws — scoring, a crowded frontcourt, and simply not being good enough to make the playoffs in general — are going to be very real.
Oct 29, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) controls the ball against Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-2 Last rank: 19th
An 0-2 start to the season is probably not what fans were expecting from the beginning of the Tom Thibodeau era, especially since one of those losses came against the Kings. But the Minnesota Timberwolves have been in both games, Gorgui Dieng has been a monster on the boards, Zach LaVine has been a 20 points per game scorer in the starting rotation and Andrew Wiggins has been incredibly efficient en route to his 27 points per game.
Once Karl-Anthony Towns gets rolling, perhaps the young Timberpups will start to build some real momentum. Exacting revenge on the Grizz in Tuesday night’s home opener would be a great place to start.
Oct 26, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) grabs the loose ball in front of Charlotte Hornets forward Spencer Hawes (00) during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 24th
Believe it or not, It’s starting to look like Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t have enough help with the Milwaukee Bucks missing Khris Middleton, the team’s leading scorer last season. Despite a 31-9-5 stat line, 21-11-3-2-2 performance and 17-8-8-3 outing in the Greek Freak’s first three games, the Bucks are only 1-2, with the lone victory being a two-point win over the talent-starved Nets — on a last-second tip-in, no less.
Still, in addition to Antetokounmpo’s big numbers, the Bucks saw signs of life from Rashad Vaughn in his 22-point explosion against Brooklyn. Also worth noting: Greg Monroe has done a decent job boosting his trade value by reaching double figures in all three games off the bench.
Oct 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) goes to the basket past Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-2 Last rank: 17th
If you had told me Markieff Morris would score 33 points through the Washington Wizards’ first two games of the season, I would’ve guessed they were 2-0. With John Wall and Bradley Beal unable to get on the same page in the same game, however, the Wizards are 0-2, getting humbled by the Hawks and falling short against the Grizzlies in overtime.
Add Scott Brooks to Tom Thibodeau and Frank Vogel on the list of reputable head coaches with new teams that have gotten off to winless starts through the first week of NBA action.
Oct 29, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) dribbles the ball past Milwaukee Bucks guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 29th
Fun fact: The Brooklyn Nets have as many wins as the Heat, Pacers, Raptors, Knicks and Jazz. They also have more wins than the Wizards, Mavericks, Timberwolves and Pelicans. Believe if or not, Kenny Atkinson’s team may actually be fun this season after all.
It’s not just the Jeremy Lin revival (17.0 PPG, 7.3 APG, 5.0 RPG), Bojan Bogdanovic‘s complete lack of conscience when it comes to shot selection or that surprising home-opening win against the Pacers either. In their season-opener against the Celtics, Brooklyn battled back from a 23-point deficit to make it a one-possession game in the final minute, and they battled Giannis and the Bucks to a two-point defeat in their second loss of the season. A 1-2 record is nothing to celebrate, but perhaps these Nets will be more fun than we thought.
October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) controls the ball against the Houston Rockets during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Lakers
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 28th
A bit of a reality check for head coach Luke Walton and his young Los Angeles Lakers after that exciting season opener victory over the Rockets. Still, starting off the post-Kobe Bryant era with a W was noteworthy, even if D’Angelo Russell and sixth man Jordan Clarkson have since come back down to earth following their terrific, efficient season openers.
Just one question for Walton, however: Why in God’s green earth is Nick Young starting?
Oct 28, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (40) drives to the basket against the Houston Rockets during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-3 Last rank: 10th
Anyone else starting to worry the tried and true “Rick Carlisle + healthy Dirk Nowitzki = playoffs” formula is losing its touch? As great as it was to see Harrison Barnes knock down a clutch three to send the Dallas Mavericks’ season opener to overtime, they’re still 0-3.
It’s not time to hit the panic button just yet, since two of those losses came to a Rockets team that Dallas just might not match up well against, and since Harry B is averaging 20 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. But after adding so much youth and defensive versatility, this is not the start Dallas was looking for.
Oct 29, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic (23) dribbles the ball as Portland Trail Blazers forward Mason Plumlee (24) defends in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-1 Last rank: 20th
Jusuf Nurkic has looked great so far this season, averaging 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Will Barton has filled the void at the 2 for the injured Gary Harris, and the Denver Nuggets have six players averaging double figures.
The question is where this team goes if the losses start piling up again. With they hang on to useful trade chips like Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried? Or will they even be able to find trade suiters if they DO make them available? Perhaps we’re putting the cart in front of the horse though, since Denver could be a playoff dark horse, overcoming Anthony Davis’ 50-point night for a win before falling in a hard-fought overtime game against the ascending Trail Blazers.
Oct 21, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) controls the ball around Philadelphia 76ers forward Richaun Holmes (22) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Philadelphia 76ers defeat the Miami Heat 113-110. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 25th
So far, the Miami Heat are exactly what they thought they were: a two-man show led by a great head coach that would compete, but struggle to rack up the wins. A thorough win over the Magic, followed by a six-point loss to the Hornets and a seven-point loss to the mighty Spurs fits perfectly with that description.
Hassan Whiteside is averaging a monstrous 21.7 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game through three games, living up to the pressure of being a franchise player. Goran Dragic is back, posting 18.3 points, 6.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game on .455/.462/.818 shooting splits. Now they just need some help from the supporting cast outside of Justise Winslow‘s promising 14.3 points per game.
Oct 29, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) dunks the ball during the third quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 111-104. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks
Last week: 1-1 Last rank: 18th
Consider us among those surprised by the New York Knicks’ bounce-back win over the Grizzlies after a 29-point loss — the worst season-opening defeat in franchise history — against the Cavaliers. Kristaps Porzingis dropped 21 points, Joakim Noah looked more like himself with a 6-10-7 stat line and Carmelo Anthony has eight assists through two games.
What remains to be seen is what kind of production the Knicks can expect from the backcourt, especially with Derrick Rose being hit-or-miss even when he’s healthy and Brandon Jennings struggling to conjure up that same preseason magic.
Oct 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) dunks against the Dallas Mavericks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Dallas 130-121 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 11th
As if the 1-2 record wasn’t bad enough, the Indiana Pacers’ feel-good opening night victory over the Mavericks was tarnished by Dallas’ 0-3 overall record. Myles Turner dropping that 30-16-4-2 stat line was fantastic, and his 21.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game are a promising start to a potential Most Improved Player of the Year campaign.
Unfortunately, the concerns about the defensive end are quickly becoming solidified, as the Pacers are the NBA’s second-worst defense thus far. Plus, when you lose to the Brooklyn Nets, you’re bound to drop a couple spots no matter what.
Oct 29, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the third quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Kings won 106-103. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 26th
Wait…are the Sacramento Kings actually good? It’s too early for anyone to be jumping on this bandwagon just yet, but Dave Joerger is bucking the trend of reputable head coaches joining new teams and struggling out of the gate. Despite the front office’s lackluster summer, the Kings have a winning record!
DeMarcus Cousins is a monster as always, averaging 30.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game through three games, not to mention his frighteningly good 37.5 percent efficiency from three-point range. But that 19-point win over the Suns, a close loss to the Spurs and a narrow win over the Timberwolves are giving plenty of reason for early optimism.
Oct 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) talks with referee Mark Lindsay (29) during the first half against the Indiana Pacers at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-0 Last rank: 20th
Someone needs to remind the Chicago Bulls they’re not supposed to be a good offensive team, either because they need to come back down to earth or because hearing that chatter all summer long is EXACTLY why the NBA’s top-ranked offense has come out firing so far in 2016-17.
Yes, two games is an excessively tiny sample size. But how else are we supposed to react to the Bulls ranking third in three-point percentage (43.2 percent), Dwyane Wade going 4-for-6 from deep in his Windy City debut or impressive wins over the Celtics and Pacers? If Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler can co-exist like this all season, perhaps we were wrong to write the Bulls off so quickly.
Oct 25, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) reacts after dunking against the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 14th
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Utah Jazz are on the cusp of a breakout season, but so far injuries are holding them back. George Hill has looked great on his new team, and Utah’s two losses have come against the ascending Trail Blazers and Western dark horse Clippers.
But with Derrick Favors shaking off rust, Gordon Hayward still out and Alec Burks sidelined as well, the Jazz are severely lacking in offensive firepower. Rodney Hood has scored 20 points in two games following his 26-point season opener, and even Rudy Gobert‘s strong start (11.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.7 BPG) has not been enough to help this promising, banged up team finally build up some early season momentum.
October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) moves the ball up court against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 14th
Everyone laughed about Mike D’Antoni wanting James Harden to double his assists per game, and yet, through three games, the Beard ranks fourth in the NBA in that category, averaging 10.7 assists per game in addition to his 29.3 points and 7.3 rebounds. Maybe those career-high 17 assists in the season opener were unsustainable, but don’t be surprised if Harden flirts with a 30-10-6 stat line this year.
The question is whether the Houston Rockets will be able to get enough stops for it to matter. The Rockets gave up 120 to a young Lakers team in their disappointing season opener, and only so much can be expected of Clint Capela as a defensive anchor…especially if D’Antoni continues to play Nene over him late in games for God only knows what reason.
Oct 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (34)) takes a shot over Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) in the first quarter at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 9th
A 2-1 start isn’t bad at all for a Detroit Pistons team missing their starting point guard. That 18-point loss to the Raptors on opening night — and the 40 points they gave up to DeMar DeRozan — was embarrassing, but Stan Van Gundy’s squad bounced back nicely with comfortable double-digit wins over the lowly Magic and Bucks.
Tobias Harris is living up to all that projected potential early on, leading the team in scoring at 18.7 points per game. Andre Drummond is putting up a monster 16-16 stat line, Ish Smith is averaging 7.3 assists per game in his starting role, and if the Pistons can just hang on until Reggie Jackson returns, they’ll be in great shape.
Oct 28, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after defeating the Phoenix Suns 113-110 in overtime at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma City Thunder
Last week: 3-0 Last rank: 12th
Through the first three games of the season, Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double at 38.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game. Three games down, only 79 to go.
As much as Westbrook matching Oscar Robertson‘s historic triple-double feat is starting to feel like a realistic possibility, however, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first three wins have come against the 76ers, Suns and Lakers — three of the worst four teams in the NBA last year — and two of them were close calls. Westbrook is going to post gaudy numbers, but how long can he keep carrying this team? We may get a better idea on that answer this week, when OKC gets its first real tests of the season in road games against the Clippers and Warriors.
Oct 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) shoots from the foul line during the third quarter of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Atlanta Hawks won 104-72. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-0 Last rank: 16th
Granted, two games is nothing in the context of an 82-game season, but perhaps our early projections for the Atlanta Hawks — winning 41 games, losing 41 games — were a bit modest. So far, this team hasn’t missed a beat after switching from Jeff Teague and Al Horford to Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard.
To be fair, their two opponents have been the Wizards and Sixers, but the Hawks did what good teams are supposed to do, beating their lesser opponents handily by 15 and 32 points, respectively. Howard put up a monster 11-19-3 stat line in his Atlanta debut, Schroder has been efficient thus far, and Paul Millsap has been on an absolute tear early on, averaging 22.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.
Oct 30, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) celebrates after making a three point shot in overtime against the Washington Wizards at FedExForum. Memphis defeated Washington 112-103. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 8th
It hasn’t been a very convincing stretch to start the season for the Memphis Grizzlies. Though they’re 2-1, their first win was a narrow home victory over the young Timberpups. They were bested by the Knicks in their second game of the season and it took overtime to outlast the visiting Wizards on Sunday.
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have been great as expected, especially now that Big Spain is shooting threes. Meanwhile, Zach Randolph is quickly building his Sixth Man of the Year resume, averaging 18.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in 23.7 minutes per game off the bench. Until Chandler Parsons is ready, however, the Grizz may just need to be content with the most basic stat there is: the numbers in the win-loss column.
Oct 27, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots over Los Angeles Clippers forward Wesley Johnson (33) in the second half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Portland Trail Blazers
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 13th
So much for regression, eh? The Portland Trail Blazers are only three games into their 2016-17 campaign and it’s already starting to feel like this young team is going to be a pain in everyone’s ass. Damian Lillard remains a dark horse MVP candidate, averaging 35.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game on .549/.444/.905 shooting splits. C.J. McCollum is putting up 21.3 points per game. Allen Crabbe is living up to his massive summer deal with 11.3 points per game off the bench.
Rip City’s only loss so far came against a pseudo-contender, the Los Angeles Clippers. If Evan Turner finds a way to get comfortable and play a similar role to the one he played in Boston, don’t sleep on the Blazers giving teams a lot of problems down the road.
Oct 26, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Charlotte Hornets center Roy Hibbert (55) dunks as Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) and guard Rashad Vaughn (20) look on during the third quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 15th
Turns out losing Courtney Lee, Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson to free agency might not hurt the Charlotte Hornets as much as we thought. As least, that’ll be the case as long as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can submit a bounce-back season more in line with his debut (23 points, 14 rebounds) and less like his next two games (10 points, nine rebounds combined).
The same could be said of Roy Hibbert, who had a tremendous season opener (15 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and three assists) before a knee injury limited him to four minutes in the next two games. The Hornets have only beaten the Bucks and Heat, but if they can stay healthy, it feels like Steve Clifford has enough to get this team back to the playoffs.
Oct 26, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives the ball against Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) in the first quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 6th
It’s hard to say what to take from the first week of NBA action for the Boston Celtics. They were steamrolling the Nets as expected…until Brooklyn came roaring back and turned a 23-point deficit into a one-possession game late in the fourth. Then the Celtics surprisingly lost to the Bulls on the road before bouncing back with an impressive road win in Charlotte.
One main takeaway for Boston that was a recurring trend with Al Horford’s Hawks teams? The Celtics are going to need to improve in the rebounding department. So far, they’ve given up an average of 13 offensive rebounds leading to 15.7 second chance points per game.
Oct 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) is greeted by center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and forward Pascal Siakam (43) after making a basket against Detroit Pistons in the second half at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-1 Last rank: 5th
Losing to the Cavaliers — the team that eliminated them in the Eastern Conference Finals — for the third straight time probably stung for the Toronto Raptors, but We The North certainly battled. In any case, there’s no doubt this team is up there with Cleveland and Boston as the three teams most likely to rule the East this season.
Despite a slow start from Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan has been tremendous, tallying 72 points on 52.7 percent shooting through two games and sending Tristan Thompson to an early grave. Before we heap on the praises for DeRozan, however, don’t overlook what Jonas Valanciunas (21.0 PPG, 14.0 RPG) is doing early on either.
Oct 27, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) in the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Clippers
Last week: 2-0 Last rank: 4th
Opening week served as a nice reminder for the rest of the league that when healthy, the Los Angeles Clippers are still a pretty damn good team. With everyone locked in on the Warriors and Spurs, Lob City quietly dominated a very good Blazers team and a promising young Jazz team, injured though they may have been.
Chris Paul is showing zero signs of decline in his age-31 season, Blake Griffin seems poised for a bounce-back year and the bench has never packed a bigger scoring punch (thanks, Marreese Speights). The Clippers won’t get the credit they deserve until they best the Spurs, Warriors or Cavaliers, but don’t overlook them among the Western elite.
Oct 28, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter of a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 122-114. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Golden State Warriors
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 2nd
The Golden State Warriors are back above .500 thanks to favorable matchups against the Pelicans and Suns — opponents they were unable to dominate and had to squeak out wins against by the virtue of their star power. The biggest takeaway of the week, however, was that 29-point smackdown at the hands of the visiting Spurs during the Dubs’ home opener.
No one should be surprised the Warriors have struggled out of the gate; LeBron James‘ super-teams taught us these things take time to come together, no matter how much talent is at their disposal. As of right now though, a lack of depth and scoring outside of Kevin Durant and his superstar point guard have really hurt the Warriors…which sounds eerily similar to KD’s last situation.
Oct 29, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks the ball as New Orleans Pelicans point guard Tim Frazier (2) defends during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs
Last week: 4-0 Last rank: 3rd
We’re not even one week into the season, but so far, the San Antonio Spurs join the Atlanta Hawks as the only NBA teams to rank in the top 10 for both offensive and defensive rating. We should have known better than to doubt Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, even in the first season of the post-Tim Duncan era.
It’s not just the 29-point smackdown of the Warriors or the fact that they’ve done all this without Danny Green while also implementing new players like Pau Gasol, Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee. The biggest reason the Spurs are so dangerous is Kawhi Leonard, who is playing the role of franchise savior and MVP frontrunner, averaging 28.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.3 steals per game while doubling as the league’s most intimidating defender. Death, taxes, Spurs.
Oct 28, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) dribbles the ball as Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll (5) defends during the third quarter at Air Canada Centre. The Cavaliers won 94-91. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 3-0 Last rank: 1st
The Spurs have been the most impressive team to start the new season, but it’s going to take more than a six-day sample size to remove the Cleveland Cavaliers from this top spot, especially as long as they remain undefeated. Simply put, they’re the champs ’til they ain’t the champs no mo’.
So far, the Cavs have had mostly smooth sailing. The Raptors put up a good fight at home and the Magic came back from a 22-point deficit to make things interesting Saturday, but none of it stopped Cleveland from cruising to a 3-0 start. LeBron James is damn near averaging a triple-double at 21.3 points, 10.0 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game, Kyrie Irving is poised to take the next step with a 25-4-4 stat line and Kevin Love is quietly averaging 20 and nine. For now, the Cavs get the benefit of the doubt over San Antonio and Golden State.