Piston Powered 2016-17 NBA power rankings: Week 1

Oct 28, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Beno Udrih (19) high fives Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson (7) during the third quarter against the Orlando Magic at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to our weekly Piston Powered NBA power rankings. We’ll take a regular look across the NBA and rank the league in its entirety.

It’s been an incredibly long offseason and the Detroit Pistons and the rest of the NBA are finally back in action.

We’re just a week into the regular season, and there’s no shortage of incredible storylines and performances from guys like Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, and a host of other elite players showing just what makes them so good.

There’s also a couple of surprises near the top of these power rankings, including a number one that may catch you off guard and a team near the top that may be a complete fraud.

The Detroit Pistons are in a favorable spot in these rankings thanks to a solid start to the season in spite of Reggie Jackson‘s absence, and thanks to a decent schedule coming up there may be room for them to climb in the next edition of the Piston Powered NBA power rankings.

Now that we’re this far into the season and every team has between two and four games under their belts, there is no better time to get started with our first power rankings for the 2016-17 season than right now.

Let’s rank.

Oct 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) looks to pass during the fourth quarter of the game against the Atlanta Hawks at the Wells Fargo Center. The Atlanta Hawks won 104-72. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

30

Philadelphia 76ers

Last week: 0-2
Last rank: N/A

The Philadelphia 76ers have no shortage of potential down the road, but right now they’re pretty bad. They have one of the most exciting young players in the game in Joel Embiid, who has per 36 numbers of 32.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks, and Ben Simmons will be a further dose of excitement when he returns from a broken foot in a couple months. For now, they’re fodder for the rest of the NBA.
29

Orlando Magic

Last week: 0-3
Last rank: N/A

Where on earth will the Orlando Magic get their offense from? They’re led in scoring by Evan Fournier with 16.7 points per game, but they’re shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range. They’re getting outscored by 14.2 points per 100 possessions and scoring just 93.6 points per 100. The defense isn’t great, but the offense is horrendous and the roster is so bizarrely constructed it’s unlikely they’re going to figure it out anytime soon.
28

Phoenix Suns

Last week: 0-4
Last rank: N/A

The Phoenix Suns have a breakout star in Grand Rapids’ own Devin Booker, but they haven’t been able to buy a break yet this season. While Booker is averaging 15.3 points per game thus far, the Suns are 0-3 after getting blown out by the Sacramento Kings and losing close games to the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s unlikely the Suns are going to string together a lot of wins, so they’re probably not going to climb much higher than the low-to-mid-20’s in these rankings this season.
27

Brooklyn Nets

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 27

The Brooklyn Nets are the worst team with a win in the NBA so far this season, so says these rankings. They’re going to be better this season than they were last year, and they’ve played tough as nails so far this year with close losses to the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks and a surprising win over the Indiana Pacers, but the Nets are still bad and Monday’s 30-point blowout to the Chicago Bulls is proof.
26

Dallas Mavericks

Last week: 0-3
Last rank: N/A

The Dallas Mavericks are off to a rough start. It’s not an unexpected one, however. They’ve lost an overtime road game to the Indiana Pacers and were swept in a home-and-home series against the Houston Rockets. Dirk Nowitzki is showing no signs of ever growing old, averaging a team-leading 22 points per game on shooting splits of .421/.444/1.000, and Harrison Barnes is showing that he may be worth his $94.4 million contract, averaging 20 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from long range. The Mavs will need more of the same from this duo if they hope to be competitive this season.

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

25

Washington Wizards

Last week: 0-2
Last rank: N/A

Nothing is going well for the Washington Wizards and head coach Scott Brooks. They’re off to a winless start having gotten throttled by the Atlanta Hawks and losing an overtime game to the Memphis Grizzlies. John Wall is averaging a team-leading 17 points and a sparkling 11.5 assists per game but is shooting just 32.4 percent from the floor. That’s going to need to improve for the Wizards to climb the rankings.
24

Minnesota Timberwolves

Last week: 0-2
Last rank: N/A

The Minnesota Timberwolves are absolutely dripping with potential but they’re not there yet. I have the Timberpups finishing just out of the playoffs, and while they’re just 0-2, they may find it a tough climb in the Western Conference. The Wolves have dropped close road games to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Sacramento Kings, and are just a couple breaks away from being 1-1 or even 2-0. That said, there are going to be some bumps in the road for this young team. They’re still going to be a blast to watch.
23

Los Angeles Lakers

Last week: 1-2
Last rank: N/A

The Los Angeles Lakers are fun again! Not good yet, but they’re fun, and they’ll get there. D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle are developing under new head coach Luke Walton, and Brandon Ingram might be a star in the making for the young Lakers. Keep an eye on this team.
22

Milwaukee Bucks

Last week: 1-2
Last rank: N/A

Most observers had the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs before the season started, but that all went out the window when former Detroit Piston Khris Middleton was ruled out for six months with a torn hamstring. The rise of Point Giannis is off to a strong start, as Giannis Antetokounmpo has put together a sparkling 23 point, 9.3 rebound and 5.3 assist stat line so far. He’s shooting 50.9 percent from the floor, but he needs more help. The Bucks will be rough at times, so hopefully Middleton returns sooner than later.
21

New Orleans Pelicans

Last week: 0-3
Last rank: N/A

The New Orleans Pelicans are off to a terrible start, but Anthony Davis is off to a start for the ages. Through three games, Davis is averaging 37.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. He’s taking 26.7 shots per game and hitting 50 percent. But he can’t get his team into the win column by himself. Tim Frazier and E’Twaun Moore are the only other Pelicans averaging double digits in scoring. This team is going to be fodder for stronger teams until Jrue Holiday returns.

Oct 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) posts up against Dallas Mavericks guard Deron Williams (8) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

20

Denver Nuggets

Last week: 1-2
Last rank: N/A

The Denver Nuggets have been nothing but competitive this season. After surviving a performance from the ages from Anthony Davis and defeating the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in the season opener, they dropped tough close games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors to fall to 1-2. The Nuggets feature a balanced attack with six different players averaging double-digits in scoring, led by Will Barton‘s 18 points per game.
19

New York Knicks

Last week: 1-1
Last rank: N/A

The New York Knicks got drubbed by the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers on opening night but saved face with a solid 111-104 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies to draw even at 1-1. Derrick Rose is showing flashes of his old MVP form, but this is a flawed team. Fringe playoff team at best.
18

Miami Heat

Last week: 1-2
Last rank: N/A

Hassan Whiteside has been an absolute monster for the Miami Heat. Through three games he’s averaging 21.7 points on 64.3 percent shooting and 14.7 rebound per game. With Dwyane Wade now a Chicago Bull, Whiteside is now the face of the franchise for the Heat. We’ll see how that goes in South Beach.
17

Indiana Pacers

Last week: 1-2
Last rank: N/A

The national media has been high on the Indiana Pacers, but I haven’t been buying it. I’m prepared to be wrong, but the Pacers’ 103-94 loss to the woeful Brooklyn Nets leaves me feeling pretty good about my prediction that they’ll miss the playoffs. That said, Paul George and Myles Turner are awesome. George is averaging 22.3 points and six rebounds per game, and Turner is averaging 21 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
16

Utah Jazz

Last week: 1-2
Last rank: N/A

The Utah Jazz are four-to-six weeks away from Gordon Hayward‘s return from a dislocated and broken finger on his right hand, and Alec Burks is without a timetable for return from knee and ankle surgery. His outlook is unknown, but Hayward’s return will be a welcome one for this team expected by many to compete for the 4-5 seed in the Western Conference.

Oct 30, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) brings the ball up the court during the first quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

15

Sacramento Kings

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: N/A

I know, I’m surprised too. By virtue of a 2-2 record, with both losses being against top-flight competition (the San Antonio Spurs and the Atlanta Hawks), the Sacramento Kings are in the exact middle of the pack in our power rankings. We’ll see if they can maintain this lofty level, and if history is any indicator they won’t, but for now they’re worthy of 15th.
14

Charlotte Hornets

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: N/A

The Charlotte Hornets are off to a 2-1 start behind the blazing hot shooting of Kemba Walker. Sporting a 23.3 point per game average, Walker is shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three-point range. The Hornets have a very soft upcoming schedule against the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets so expect them to get a couple more quick wins.
13

Portland Trail Blazers

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: N/A

The Portland Trail Blazers are off to a perfectly reasonable 2-1 start thanks to the blistering numbers being put up by Damian Lillard. Through the first three games, Lillard is averaging 35 points, eight rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He’s hitting 54.9 percent of his 23.7 shots per game, and is 44.4 percent from long range. The Blazers will play the struggling Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night in what could be one hell of an interesting matchup.
12

Houston Rockets

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: N/A

Nobody is going to score and surrender more points than the Houston Rockets this season. They may have a top-two offense and a bottom-ten defense. That won’t lend itself to being championship material, but it will lend itself to a lot of 125-120 wins and losses. James Harden should put up spectacular numbers running the Rockets’ offense, and as we saw two seasons ago, he might just be able to drag them to relevance in the Western Conference.
11

Detroit Pistons

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: Na

Your Detroit Pistons are off to an acceptable start. The Pistons lost to a borderline-elite team in the Toronto Raptors and smoked two inferior teams. With Reggie Jackson out, that’s basically what you want out of this team. They play the New York Knicks on Tuesday night and should romp at home.
10

Memphis Grizzlies

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: N/A

No matter what, you can’t really kill the Memphis Grizzlies. They went through 28 players last season and were basically an NBA D-League team by the time the season ended, but they still made the playoffs. Never ever count out the Grizzlies. They’re 2-1 and will probably be a top 10-12 team all season long no matter what happens.
9

Toronto Raptors

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: N/A

Once again the Toronto Raptors are a top-tier NBA team. DeMar DeRozan, in turn, appears to be a top-tier NBA talent after three games. DeRozan lit up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Detroit Pistons on opening night for 40 points and is averaging 35 points through the first three games. He may have turned the corner to become a legitimate superstar in the NBA.
8

Boston Celtics

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: N/A

Oh man, is Isaiah Thomas off to a good start. The 5’9″ point guard is averaging a stellar 24.7 points per game on 53.1 percent shooting and Avery Bradley is close behind, averaging 21.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. They’re still figuring things out with newcomer Al Horford, but this is an Eastern Conference force to be reckoned with.
7

Atlanta Hawks

Last week: 3-0
Last rank: N/A

The Atlanta Hawks have been torching the NBA at this early stage. Through three games the Hawks are 3-0 and have a league-leading net rating of +21.7. Dennis Schroder is leading the team in scoring after taking over the reigns from departing starting point guard Jeff Teague and the Hawks are a dangerous team indeed under his leadership.
6

Los Angeles Clippers

Last week: 3-0
Last rank: N/A

The Los Angeles Clippers have wasted no time in getting after it this season. They’re 3-0, Blake Griffin is averaging a fairly typical 22 points and 11.3 rebounds, DeAndre Jordan is averaging 10.7 points and 13 rebounds, and Chris Paul is averaging a reasonable 20 points and 7.3 assists per game. The Clippers are going to be tough and the Western Conference should be on notice.
5

Chicago Bulls

Last week: 3-0
Last rank: N/A

The Chicago Bulls are the only team in this top 10 who I believe to be fraudelent. On a team that doesn’t have much shooting and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on paper, they’re torching their opponents from long range at a 42.5 percent clip. Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Canaan, Michael Carter-Williams and Doug McDermott are all shooting 50 percent or better from three-point range, and I’m not buying it. They’ll drop in the rankings sooner than later, but for now they’re undefeated and a worthy top-five team.
4

Golden State Warriors

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: N/A

The Golden State Warriors are WHERE? That’s right, they are fourth in these rankings with a 2-1 record. They got destroyed at home on opening night by the San Antonio Spurs, and they struggled against the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns. They’re going to be spectacular, but they have some work to do in the meantime.
3

Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week: 3-0
Last rank: N/A

The Oklahoma City Thunder may end up a fringe playoff team, but they’re being dragged kicking and screaming to victory by a vengance-fueled Russell Westbrook. Russ is averaging eye-popping numbers, putting up 38.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game. He’s hitting 45.3 percent of his 28.7 shots (you read that right) per game, and he’s hitting 44.4 percent of his three-pointers. The Thunder have had a soft schedule so far and there will be a price to pay when they come up against superior competition, but right now Westbrook’s revenge tour is in fine form.
2

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last week: 3-0
Last rank: N/A

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the defending NBA champions and haven’t lost a game yet, but they’re second in these rankings. That’s no slight on them, it just goes to show how impressive the top team has been. LeBron James seems to be showing interest in winning this season’s MVP award as he’s averaging a near triple-double at 21 points, 8.3 rebounds and 10 assists per game. The other two parts of the Cavs’ Big Three is not far behind, as Kyrie Irving is averaging 25 points and four assists, and Kevin Love is averaging 20 points and nine rebounds per game. There isn’t a team in the Eastern Conference even close to the Cavs.
1

San Antonio Spurs

Last week: 4-0
Last rank: N/A

Tim Duncan may be gone, but the San Antonio Spurs will probably never be. They opened the season with a devastating victory over the mighty Golden State Warriors in Oakland and have cruised ever since. Kawhi Leonard has begun spreading his immense wings and ascending to true superstardom with incredible numbers, averaging 28 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game, and the new face of the San Antonio Spurs has been well-established.

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