Both Anthony Davis (23) and guard Tim Frazier (2) are in my FanDuel daily picks lineup as they go for their first win of the season in Milwaukee tonight. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
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New Orleans Pelicans
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 30th
WILL SOMEONE PLEASE GET ANTHONY DAVIS OUT OF NEW ORLEANS?!?!?! I’M NOT KIDDING, WE NEED TO GET THIS MAN AWAY FROM THE NEW ORLEANS PELICANS AND FAST! This is not just some running gag or an attempt to draw the ire of New Orleans Pelicans fans. It is a 100 percent honest plea to make something change before we waste away the best of The Brow on a non-contending team. The word now is that ownership and the front office has put the pressure on head coach Alvin Gentry and that if the losing continues he could be without a job sooner than later. Back pain forced Davis to miss some time against the Los Angeles Lakers and the last thing the NBA needs is another injury to sideline the phenomenal Davis again. A home win over a good opponent in the Boston Celtics (is there something wrong with the Celtics?) should certainly cool Gentry’s hot seat some in the coming days, but the team needs to build off these type of games and not retreat back to their prior ways. Jrue Holiday is expected to return to the team imminently and if he can return to playing within the month things might see a massive turnaround in New Orleans. If not, get ready for this slide to feature “[insert 300 words here]”, removed entirely and replaced with a more kid-friendly one or 300 words worth of jokes from Matt Rutkowski (Matt is actually one of the funniest writers in all of basketball writing so this shouldn’t be seen as a form of punishment for anyone). As long as Davis is around there’s hope that this team can become greater than the sum of its non-Anthony Davis parts. Another lottery pick could be just what the doctor ordered for this franchise.
Nov 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) and guard Bradley Beal (3) talk against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 27th
Things aren’t off to such a great start in Scott Brooks’ second stint of being a head coach. After four seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder and nine games with the Washington Wizards I can confidently say the following: Scott Brooks isn’t that great of a basketball coach. This isn’t a new sentiment, it was a prevalent thought even when Brooks was leading the Thunder to the NBA Finals and the Western Conference Finals year after year. Now, I’m not saying Brooks is bad or that he needs to be fired immediately, however, it seems clear to me now that the Thunder’s success under Brooks had more to do with the talent of Kevin Durant, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Russell Westbrook than the coaching acumen of Brooks. John Wall and Bradley Beal aren’t on that same level (well not Durant, Harden, Westbrook level for sure) and the results in Washington DC have not been pretty to start the year. Washington isn’t necessarily lacking or wanting for talent, but they have yet to be able to put it all together on the floor. Wall is the team’s best shot at having a superstar level talent, but after jumping off to a quick start in his NBA career it seems like Wall might have already reached his ceiling. With Beal it’s just great to not have to worry about him suffering any type of injury with the season just getting underway. The remaining Wizards have been all over the place this year. It needs to be said that even at their lowest, the Randy Wittman Wiz teams didn’t have this much lack of faith clouding over them.
Nov 7, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) reacts against the Utah Jazz during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-3 Last rank: 29th
The Process was trusted and it finally got the Philadelphia 76ers a win. The Process I refer to of course isn’t Sam Hinkie’s often criticized rebuilding concept, but the one, the only, Joel Embiid. Still on his 24-minute restriction, Embiid pumped in 25 points and helped the Sixers snatch victory away from the Indiana Pacers in Philly. Pulling out a crunch time victory in overtime is huge for this young group. Every game is a chance for them to learn and grow. Learning how to win is hard (just ask some of the other teams in the bottom half of these rankings) and any chance the players get to experience this year should be highlighted. This team will be much different in the second half of the season when Ben Simmons returns to action, but for now Embiid is THE reason to keep tabs on the 76ers. His play, skill and charisma make him the type of player that everyone roots for. The European imports of Sergio Rodriguez and Dario Saric have been fun as well and this is a team that is well worth your time and possibly League Pass money as well (I really want to rant on how horrible the broadband changes to League Pass have been for this season, but I’ll save that for another day and another post). The only way things could get better in Philly is if they are able to cash in on two top five picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Nov 4, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) walks off the court during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 28th
The Dallas Mavericks have not been able to conjure up some Rick Carlisle magic and turn this new group into a potential postseason threat yet. Though Dirk Nowitzki isn’t retired from the NBA at this point in time, a right Achilles injury has had him in and out of the lineup more frequently than he and Mavs fans would like. In his absence Harrison Barnes hasn’t necessarily ascended into superstardom, but has shown that he is comfortable being a go-to scorer. He’s now gotten up to 22.6 points per game and is beginning to find his comfort in the new offensive system. Without Nowitzki this team just can’t have the same type of success we’ve grown used to seeing out of Dallas over the last decade. Aside from Dirk, this is not a youthful Mavericks team either. Their other big offseason acquisition was Andrew Bogut, who at 31 years old more closely resembles a man that has just entered his late 40’s. Mark Cuban would probably rather be a member of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet right now than to sit courtside — or rather, bench side — at these Mavericks games.
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) is in my FanDuel daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-3 Last rank: 23rd
Dwyane Wade returned to Dade County on Thursday and it was one of the more memorable moments of the early season. What hasn’t been memorable is the play of the Miami Heat. It’s hit a point where the team is actively seeking out Dion Waiters to get them a shot in bad possessions. Hassan Whiteside still can’t seem to put together a full-effort game even though he’s been handsomely paid by Pat Riley and the Heat this offseason. Goran Dragic has come back to life now that Wade is no longer around to kidnap the offense away from him. But with Whiteside, Dragic and a rapidly developing Justise Winslow as your top players it’s going to be a long year. A high-lottery pick will make the heartache for D-Wade lessen slightly for the Heat fans and franchise. Pat Riley is either crying over spilled milk in his office or grinning widely as he sees the beginning of his plans to retool and rebuild the Heat slowly, but surely start to take shape with Wade gone. Erik Spoelstra is just awesome at coaching and it will be very intriguing to see what he can do to keep Miami competitive throughout the duration of this season.
October 31, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Phoenix Suns forward T.J. Warren (12) grabs a rebound against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 26th
Devin Booker looked like a shoe-in to be the next best thing for the Phoenix Suns following his rookie season. Yet, it seems like Booker has been fighting off a sophomore slump in the early stretches. While, it’s not Klay Thompson level of worry, Booker hasn’t been the same type of shooter from the perimeter that we saw as a rookie. The Suns though have to be happy about T.J. Warren raising his game to start the year. For the Suns, this season should be all about seeing how much they can develop their younger core pieces. If that means they end the year with the best odds at the number one pick so be it. That’s just another talented young piece that the team can bring on board for cheap. The youth movement should be in full force in the desert if it is not already. Marquese Chriss found his way into the starting lineup already and hopefully they continue to baptise Dragan Bender by fire in his first year not only in the NBA, but in America as well.
Nov 7, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Aaron Brooks (00) reacts to a technical foul in the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. The Hornets defeated the Pacers 122-100. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 18th
Keeping with the, “things aren’t going as planned” section of the NBA, the Indiana Pacers have yet to come close to resembling the team many had them pegged to being at the start of the season. Even All-Star Paul George hasn’t looked like the same player through 11 games. A big win over the Orlando Magic — where their defense finally showed up and held the Magic to just 69 points — could be just what is needed to jumpstart this team back to life. Jeff Teague is going to have to rediscover himself as the player that was such a key piece to the Atlanta Hawks if things are ever going to fully change for the Pacers. Their other offseason moves (bringing in Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn for the 20th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Caris LeVert, and signing Al Jefferson) have similarly not have the same impact with Indiana that they had in their previous stops in the NBA.
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) is in today’s FanDuel daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 22nd
Rumors of DeMarcus Cousins departure from the Sacramento Kings have been leaking out practically since Cousins was first drafted by the organization. Boogie is an uber-talented once-in-a-generation type of player, but his attitude combined with the chaotic way that the Kings have been run of late have made for a very tumultuous relationship between the two sides. Kings part-owner Shaquille O’Neal chimed in to say that he’s heard that if things don’t turn around in California’s capital that Sacramento will look into moving Boogie. If Cousins is moved out of Sacramento my plan to make every one of the Kings’ power rankings slides feature a different picture of Cousins looking confused will be lost too. So selfishly, I hope that we get to see Cousins play out the season with the team that he’s been with his entire NBA career.
Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) is my PG tonight in my DraftKings daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-4 Last rank: 15th
After a better than expected start to the year the Denver Nuggets have cooled off in recent play. This team seems more like a disjointed collection of pieces than a cohesive roster. With rumors that DeMarcus Cousins might be available for the right price, the Nuggets are a team to watch in any potential trade scenarios. As it stands the Nuggets still possesses one of the deepest rosters in the entire NBA and having that much talent in one place can only mean good things are coming to Denver. Mike Malone is a good coach and has gotten the most out of his team and continues to make the Sacramento Kings look dumber and dumber for dumping him unceremoniously two years ago. When the Nuggets play hard they are going to be a tough out for anytime, unless it’s the Warriors and Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are equipped with flame throwers to their arms that night. The future is bright for Denver and the better they are this season the better it will turn out in the long run.
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) is in my draftKings daily picks lineup again tonight. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 25th
In Minnesota, the Timberwolves seem to be slowly inching towards becoming the playoff team that a lot of people expected them to leap into. Much like a caterpillar in its cocoon, the Timberwolves are being patient in their growth. Minnesota has still been struggling to win close games, still is too careless with the ball at times, still forcing shots and having breakdowns on defense. Tom Thibodeau is coaching his new team in the only way that he knows how to: hard. Thibs’ hoarse croaks are one of my favorite things about the NBA season. I hope that they will be bursting interruptions of the play-by-play of any game that features the Timberwolves. Andrew Wiggins’ recent 47-point performance against the Los Angeles Lakers is the type of game that brought everyone to the Timberwolves bandwagon (that and some guy named Karl-Anthony Towns). The better Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Towns can be the quicker that Minnesota sniffs the playoffs.
New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) is in my DraftKings Daily picks for today. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 20th
The New York Knicks are who we thought they were and by we, I mean me, of course. The additions of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah were nice on paper and in NBA 2K, but in the real world they have been pretty average moves on the whole. Well, given the product that has been put on display in Madison Square Garden the past couple of years Knicks fans will gladly take average over what they’ve been receiving of late. The triangle offense is rarely run and Jeff Hornacek’s promise to push the tempo looks to be falling flat on its face most nights. A blowout home victory over the Dallas Mavericks should help boost morale around the Fifth Avenue boys, but any visions of grandeur that people had in the offseason about this team should be well put to bed by now. The focus of this team should really be on how they can further improve Kristaps Porzingis’ game. He got time at the center spot against Dallas and naturally he flourished in the spot. Hopefully we continue to see tinkers and adjustments like this from the Knicks moving deeper into the season.
Oct 26, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) during the second half at Amway Center. Miami Heat defeated the Orlando Magic 108-96. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-3 Last rank: 21st
After it looked like the Orlando Magic hit rock bottom a week ago, they were able to dig themselves slightly out of the hole with a late game victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. In his first game back in the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Serge Ibaka had a career night. He posted a career-high 31 points and drilled the game winning jumper over the outstretched arms of Steven Adams. While the revenge was certainly sweet for Ibaka it will only masks the problems of the team from Disney World for only so long. Then, just when Magic fans thought it was safe to come out of hiding they have Monday night’s stinker against the Indiana Pacers rained down upon their head. Orlando was only able to score 69 points. There really isn’t much else to say about a team after that.
Nov 4, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) puts up a shot against Charlotte Hornets forward Spencer Hawes (00) in the first quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 24th
The Brooklyn Nets are doing all they can to make Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics look worse and worse for not trading the 2017 Nets pick when they had the chance to in the offseason. Now, what most thought was a guaranteed high-lottery pick heading into the season, looks more likely to fall outside of the top 10 when the ping pong balls decide the draft order in May. Even without their best player–yes, Jeremy Lin is the best player on an NBA team now–Brooklyn was still able to get the best out of their group this past week. Kenny Atkinson’s name is going to be in the running for Coach of the Year if the Nets are able to keep up their impressive start.
Nov 6, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers forward Meyers Leonard (11) and Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu (8) during the first half at FedExForum. Portland Trail Blazers defeats Memphis Grizzlies 100-94. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 19th
The new-look Memphis Grizzlies have been okay to begin the year, but it is still a work in progress for the folks in Tennessee. The schedule doesn’t do them any favors in this upcoming week either. They began the week with a road game against the Utah Jazz and were able to come away with a victory. Next, they’ll face the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, before we get the much-anticipated return to Dallas for Chandler Parsons. However, lost in the turning of a new leaf for the Grizzlies has been the defense that made them such an annoying opponent to the league’s best teams. The Grindfather, Tony Allen, hasn’t returned from injury yet and that could have something to do with the lack of defense in Memphis so far this season.
Can Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris (13) have another big revenge game in Phoenix? Find out what I think in my DraftKings daily picks of this Wednesday. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 9th
Speaking of magic, it seems like the clock has struck midnight on Stan Van Gundy’s Ish-derella experiment. Ish Smith has been respectable stepping in for Reggie Jackson (9.6 PPG, 6.7 APG in a tick under 30 minutes a night), but respectable isn’t what the Pistons were hoping for when this season began. If they are not able to get things back on track soon their season could fall apart before it even gets a chance to get on track. Getting their first road victory on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets was a step in the right direction for this team. However, Andre Drummond was kept out of their most recent victory due to an ankle sprain. If any more Pistons get injured they might start calling people out of the stands from The Palace at Auburn Hills to suit up for “DETROIT BASKETBALL!”
Oct 30, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) fouls Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Lakers
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 17th
Luke Walton’s magic hasn’t run out yet for the Los Angeles Lakers. Somehow, Nick Young has become one of the best “3-and-D” players in the entire league under the new regime. D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson all seem more free and comfortable than they have at any other point in their NBA careers. The only negative has been the slow start to the season for the number two overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Brandon Ingram. Ingram’s shot hasn’t found it’s way to the NBA yet (41 percent from the field and 25 percent from three). The good thing for the Lakers is that they don’t really need Ingram to be much more than he’s been so far this season. Hopefully the secret stuff doesn’t run out on the Lakers at halftime like what happened to the Toon Squad in Space Jam.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) is in my FanDuel daily picks lineup for tonight. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-1 Last rank: 16th
For the Milwaukee Bucks their ability to stay above the .500 mark has been the cherry on top of the development sundae that’s being served in Wisconsin. Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo have both been stellar in the opening portion of the 2016-17 season. Antetokounmpo is playing like a guaranteed All-Star (possibly even a starter) and Parker is showing more of his all-around game that made him a sought after prospect during his lone season at Duke. If the Bucks want to make good on this promising start they are going to need the Greek Freak and Parker to sustain this level of play over the course of the season. Their rookies Thon Maker and Malcom Brogdon have had some spot opportunities to showcase what they can do and while neither are All-Rookie type of players just yet, if they can develop at the same rate as Antetokounmpo and Parker than the makings of a great team is suddenly born before your very eyes.
Oct 29, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) stands on the court in the game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. The Celtics defeated the Hornets 104-98. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 14th
The Boston Celtics have not only been a disappointment to the vast majority of the basketball world, but they’ve also been a disappointment to themselves. Isaiah Thomas has called his teammates out and the prolonged absence of Al Horford for a concussion results in more than a little cause for concern in Massachusetts. Jae Crowder has been missing in action of late too. But just because he’s hurt doesn’t mean he still won’t end up in the latest trade rumor to bring a star player to the Celtics. The depth that we spent so much time discussing in the summer hasn’t been able to step up when asked to fill bigger roles. Once this team is at full health again it will be a better time to take stock in just how much worry and panic there should be in regards to Brad Stevens’ team this year.
Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) is in my FanDuel daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 13th
James Harden and Mike D’Antoni go together like peanut butter and jelly, like chocolate and peanut butter, like chicken and waffles, like fish and grits (excuse me while I go to the kitchen, BRB). The Houston Rockets might be one game above .500, but it damn sure has been entertaining mediocrity. Harden, or as he likes to refer to himself “I am”, is leading the league in assists per game (13) and has become arguably the best point guard in basketball under D’Antoni. With Patrick Beverley nearing return (reports are that he could be back as soon as Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder) there’s hope that the Rockets defense could go from just preposterous to laughable. Again, the defense doesn’t really matter for Houston. They can score at an ungodly clip and if you can’t match them basket for basket then there really isn’t much chance of you winning even if you score 120-plus points.
Oct 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) talks with center Steven Adams (12) during a break in the second half Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 103-97. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma City Thunder
Last week: 0-4 Last rank: 4th
RUSSELL WESTBROOK’S SCORCHED EARTH TOUR is still selling out on a nightly basis, but it hasn’t resulted in as many victories as it once did. The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming off a season in which they did not lose a single game in which Westbrook tallied a triple-double. To begin the 2016-17 season they are already 2-1 and two assists away from seeing that record falter to 3-2. Westbrook has been nothing short of MVP-caliber through the team’s first 10 games, but if Oklahoma City is going to continue to be a solo act all season long then this team could find itself on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around. Right now only three other players are even averaging double digits (Victor Oladipo 15.8 PPG, Enes Kanter 12.4 PPG and Steven Adams 10.5 PPG) and only one other player is attempting double digit shot attempts (Oladipo 13.8 FGA). If the Thunder are to make their way back into the top 10 of these rankings they will need to see improvements in these two areas.
Nov 7, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) and guard Rajon Rondo (9) celebrate during the second half of the game against the Orlando Magic at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 14th
The three-point shooting has started to normalize for the Chicago Bulls–though Jimmy Butler is still out here scorching nets at 43.2 percent from the perimeter–and with that so to have the losses. The team got a needed boost with its victory over the Miami Heat in Dwyane Wade’s return to South Beach, but that game was closer than it ever needed to be. The Bulls are nearing a point where teams will have them properly scouted and it will be interesting to see if opposing teams begin to change the ways that they defend Chicago in the future. Fred Hoiberg’s seat has gone from hot to moderate thanks to this team’s fast start, but if things start to head south again that temperature is going to rise as more and more logs get tossed onto the let Hoiberg go fire.
Portland Trail Blazers guards C.J. McCollum (3) and Damian Lillard (0) anchor my FanDuel daily picks lineup for tonight. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Portland Trail Blazers
Last week: 3-1 Last rank: 11th
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are laying hold to their claim as one of the best backcourts in the NBA. However, this year the Portland Trail Blazers seem to be more comfortable in the type of team that they want to be than at the beginning of last year. The Moe Harkless, Al Farouq Aminu, Mason Plumlee starting frontline is performing almost as well as they did during the playoffs last year. The addition of Evan Turner has even been working out for the Trail Blazers. What Portland can’t afford though is to get complacent. Even the slightest of improvements can pay dividends for this team. When everything is going they are a tough team to defend against as the smallest miscommunication could lead to a wide open shot.
Nov 6, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward (20) dribbles the ball up court against the New York Knicks during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Utah won 114-109. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 3-2 Last rank: 10th
The teams ranked six through eight are all relatively similar in the fact that they are solid teams that don’t get as much media notoriety as they should. Now all three fall on different ranges of those two scales, but if placed in a venn diagram they would be the three teams that met in the middle. For its part, the Utah Jazz are starting to finally put it all together. Gordon Hayward is back and fitting in effortlessly and Quin Snyder’s group is swallowing up win after win. The Jazz are still one of the stingiest defensive teams in the league, but the real stat that jumps out for me is their pace. Utah plays at the slowest pace in the NBA (91.5 possessions per 48 minutes). Despite having a fair amount of athletes on their roster (Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert) they prefer to break an opponent with methodical offense that often eats up most of the shot clock before yielding an open look for the Jazz.
Oct 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng (5) during the first quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 5th
What can I say about the Charlotte Hornets that hasn’t already been said by the national media? Well, anything actually. All kidding aside, the Hornets have been phenomenal to begin the season and there isn’t any evidence that it’s a fluke. Kemba Walker is consistently playing at an All-Star level and Nic Batum is looking as good as a second banana can so far. Steve Clifford is truly the highlight of this whole thing as his coaching not only has Charlotte as one of the top defensive teams in the NBA, but also has them taking care of the ball at a high rate too. Clifford’s teams has adapted to the three-pointt trend and suddenly the Hornets became one of the most prolific three-point shooting teams in the league. All those years of Michael Jordan GM jokes and crying Jordan memes are worth it now for his Airness as he’s the owner of one of the best teams in the association.
Oct 21, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12, left) and Kawhi Leonard (2, right) talk on the bench during the second half against the Houston Rockets at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs
Last week: 3-1 Last rank: 3rd
I’ve reached my limit with the San Antonio Spurs just two weeks into these power rankings. There really aren’t many new ways to keep saying “The Spurs are good. Kawhi Leonard is good. Gregg Popovich is good.” However, I will tell you this much: the Spurs ARE good and Kawhi IS good and Coach Pop IS good. Those three things are the NBA equivalent to death and taxes quote by Benjamin Franklin. Having players like Tony Parker, Danny Green, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili and Jonathon Simmons also helps these three things remain true. The Spurs haven’t been as tough on their home floor compared to a season ago, but when the end of the season comes they’ll once again be one of the top teams in the entire league.
Oct 30, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after scoring a basket against the Phoenix Suns during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Warriors won 106-100. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Golden State Warriors
Last week: 3-0 Last rank: 8th
From eighth to fifth, the super team is slowly gaining momentum. For all the greatness that comes with Steph Curry’s 13 three-pointers or Steph, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant combining to score 89 points, the Golden State Warriors still seem to be playing as if they possesses a light switch. We’ve seen them turn it on in games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, but we’ve also seen them lack energy against the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. While it’s reassuring to see that this team has the potential to be the dominant juggernaut that everyone foresaw in the preseason, it is concerning that this team has already started to run hot and cold so quickly. With a long regular season upon them it isn’t a surprise that they aren’t a full throttle every night and come postseason it should not be a problem (hopefully). All that being said, that four possession sequence against the Suns from Sunday night should be sent to the Basketball Hall of Fame and be played on an endless loop in an open room for all of eternity.
Nov 4, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) dribbles the ball up court as he fends off Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) in the second half at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 3-0 Last rank: 6
DeMar DeRozan is to mid-range scoring as Elvis is to rock-and-roll. For you high schoolers perusing these rankings, study up because that’s about as good of a SAT prep question as you’ll get from us. DeRozan has been on a tear and his 34.1 PPG is tops in the league. Last year was Kyle Lowry’s breakout year and it seems he’s passed the baton right into the hands of DeRozan this season. The Raptors have had questions about their power forward spot haunt them — they were reportedly close to dealing for Serge Ibaka in the summer — but it seems like they finally found someone to fill that gap, rookie Pascal Siakam. Siakam’s numbers won’t get him Rookie of the Year, but he’s served as a critical piece for Toronto in the early portion of the season. It would seem at some point that DeRozan’s numbers would come back to Earth (after being inefficient all his career he’s suddenly gotten a knack for efficiency), but that doesn’t mean the Raptors aren’t a team for the Cleveland Cavaliers to monitor.
Oct 13, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) drives on Detroit Pistons guard Ish Smith (14) in the third quarter at Philips Arena. The Pistons defeated the Hawks 99-94. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 3-0 Last rank: 7th
Whether you like it or not, the Atlanta Hawks are still good at basketball. Ever since Mike Budenholzer was hired in 2013 the Hawks have transformed into the East Coast version of the San Antonio Spurs. They are showcasing that the transformation is all but complete now with their start to the 2016-17 season. Despite losing two of their biggest names in the offseason–Al Horford and Jeff Teague–things are running right on schedule in Atlanta. Dwight Howard and Dennis Schroeder have filled in for the departed with little to no mistakes in the process. The Hawks have been just a step below the league’s elite the last few years, but following a road victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers they are looking more and more like they belong to be mentioned with the NBA’s upper echelon.
October 31, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) speaks with guard Chris Paul (3) during a stoppage in play against the Phoenix Suns during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Clippers
Last week: 4-0 Last rank: 2nd
The Los Angeles Clippers are playing the best basketball in the NBA, however they still come in behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second consecutive week. The Clippers became the first team to hit double digit wins on the year after pouncing on top of the Brooklyn Nets for a home victory Monday night. Chris Paul is well on his way to capturing his first Most Valuable Player award if things hold up for the Clippers. After four years, we are finally seeing the full potential of a Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul trio. What really has stood out for Los Angeles this season is the improvement we’ve seen from their bench. A year ago we were collectively making Austin Rivers jokes and now he and Jamal Crawford are leading one of the strongest second units in the NBA. We all know what the Clippers big three is capable of, it’s going to come down to whether or not the rest of the team will be able to answer the bell when called upon. If they keep answering in this resounding of a fashion they could be the foil to everyone’s perceived predetermined NBA Finals matchup.
Nov 1, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) defended by Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) in the second half at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland won 128-120. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 1st
The Cleveland Cavaliers lost their first game of the year to the Atlanta Hawks. While that would usually be the biggest story of the week for a formerly undefeated team it’s not in this case. The bigger story for the Cavs is just how much of a backseat LeBron James has taken to both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love this year. 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists a night aren’t pedestrian numbers for most, but most people aren’t LeBron. With LeBron easing back it’s allowed Love to get back to the 20-10 player we all knew and loved during his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s also allowed Irving to shoot 20 shots a game and lead the team in scoring (23.9 PPG). I don’t think this is a full on passing of the torch from King James to Irving, but I do think that we will see this trend continue throughout the duration of the regular season. James knows that he needs to be at his best come June and for that to happen he needs to coast whenever possible in the regular season. James also knows that he needs his teammates to be at their best come June too and if that is going to happen he can use the 82-game regular season to make sure that they are clicking on all levels.