The Water Cooler

Week 1 Power Rankings

NBA action is underway and each team has about five games in the books. The Warriors struggled out of the gates against the Spurs who have looked like the most complete team in the league along with the defending champs. The Cavs look unbeatable and so do the Thunder. How do they all stack up in the Power Rankings?

1-Cavs (previous 2)

The defending champs are off to a 5-0 start including a wins over their top two challengers in the East with a 94-91 road win in Toronto and a home win over the Celtics. Lebron and company off to a great start and top the rankings.

2-Warriors (Previous 1)

The Dubs have recovered from the 29 point shellacking at the hands of the Spurs on opening night by winning 4 straight since, including a statement win over the previously unbeaten Thunder. Durant’s performance against his old team was impressive.

3-Spurs (previous 3)

The Spurs were the first team to reach 4-0 and thrashed the Warriors on opening night and proved that they are the team to be reckoned with in the West. Handed a rare home loss by the Jazz, but that’s not enough to drop them out of the top 3. Kawhi Leonard looks better every year and looks like an MVP.

4-Thunder (previous 10)

The Thunder is finally clearly Westbrook’s team and Westbrook is thriving, leading the league in scoring and with two triple doubles already. The Thunder is putting the league on notice that the team was much more than Durant and will not fall off much without him. That said, losing by 26 to the motivated Warriors illustrates why the Thunder were sad to lose him.

5-Clippers (previous 4)

2-0 versus the Trailblazers and the Jazz (and 3-1 overall), the Clippers had two quality wins early before dropping a close home game to the Thunder. Griffin and the Clippers are scoring a league-leading 114 PPG and are clicking.

6-Raptors (previous 7)

DeRozan is proving he was worth the max extension and playing great in the first five games. Toronto’s only loss came as a narrow loss to the unbeaten Cavs. The Raps are for real.

7-Jazz (previous 6)

With losses at Portland and at the Clippers and wins over the Lakers, Spurs, and Mavs the Jazz have dialed it in from deep and are gelling quickly. Word on the street is that Hill may be extended to keep him off the market at season’s end. With Gobert locked up and talks starting with Hill, the Jazz look to convince Hayward that he should resign as well.

8-Hawks (previous 16)

The Hawks have a few new pieces, but the same balance, with 8 players averaging at least 8 points per game. Howard looks like the force on the boards and the rim protector we saw for so many years and he looks healthy. As a result the Hawks enjoy the biggest jump in the rankings.

9-Houston (previous 8)

James Harden looks like an early MVP favorite and will continue to put up ridiculous numbers as the point guard of the Mike D’Antoni offense and he looks amazing in that role. They don’t guard, but they can score with anyone.

10-Celtics (previous 5)

They are young and still finding themselves, but they are talented, have grit, and compete like crazy. How do you not cheer for the 5’9″ spark-plug-turned-franchise-player who plays with a permanent chip on his shoulder?

11-Bulls (previous 17)

The Bulls have been a pleasant surprise, but it’s not sustainable for Rondo, Wade, and Butler to keep shooting better than 50% from deep. Still, the Bulls seem to have come together quickly and Wade looks as good has he has in three years.

12-Memphis (previous 9)

A couple of bad losses to the Knicks and the Wolves and wins over the winless Wizards, the Wolves, and the lowly Pelicans have given us little to evaluate how good the Grizzlies actually are.

13-Blazers (previous 12)

The Blazers’ 2-3 record is misleading as to how good the Blazers really are. Lillard is playing like an MVP. The question is whether the Blazers will give him enough support to contend.

14-Hornets (previous 20)

The Hornets are 3-1, losing to the Celtics and beating the Sixers, Heat, and Bucks. Their defense has been stiffer than expected, allowing only 96 per game.

15-Pistons (previous 14)

Time will tell if the Pistons will be any good when the schedule gets a little tougher. Their only stiff test was an 18 point loss to the Raptors.

16-Pacers (previous 11)

Myles Turner has been a revelation, joining the class of Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside as top young Centers with off-the-charts potential. Indiana is giving up 112.5 points per game. Too many for a team with an above average rim protector hoping to make the Playoffs.

17-Bucks (previous 19)

Because the Greek Freak didn’t sneak up on anyone and everyone was predicting growth, we tend to take it for granted that Giannis has moved to point guard and responded by averaging 23.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. Larry Bird’s career numbers look similar at 24.6/10/6.3. Just sayin’.

18-Heat (previous 22)

Dragic and Whiteside are pulling their weight, but the rest of the group will determine whether the Heat can sneak into the Playoffs this year or hit the lottery. If Winslow is going to be an effective starter in this league, he’ll have to be more efficient than 35% from the floor.

19-Knicks (previous 15)

At 1-3, when the Knicks lose, they really lose with losses of 13, 19, and 29. Porzingis is already spending fourth quarters on the bench as a defensive liability, that doesn’t bode well for the Knicks who need his offense.

20-Timberwolves (previous 13)

The 1-3 start tells me that maybe the hype train was a little premature, considering this young team still hasn’t figured out how to win close games and how to bring it every night.

21-Wizards (previous 21)

The Wiz are off to a tough start at 0-3, but the haven’t played their first home game yet, so I’ll reserve judgement.

22-Nuggets (previous 24)

They are 2-2, but at what point do they start to wonder about their point guard? Mudiay is shooting 15 times per game at a 33% clip and is averaging more turnovers (4.3) than assists (3.7). It’ll be tough to be any good without better point guard play.

23-Magic (previous 25)

Averaging the 2nd lowest point total in the league doesn’t help when you are giving up 105.5, but the Magic’s young talent is showing signs of growth which is about as good as it’s going to get for the Magic this season.

24-Kings (previous 26)

The Kings’ talent will continue to be enough to win here and there. After a 2-1 start, they have lost their next 3 on an east coast road swing.  Still, the Kings aren’t getting blown out.

25-Lakers (previous 29)

I watched the Lakers play the Jazz tight in Utah and they looked much better than they did last year with Kobe. They play with energy and have guys that can score. They have a ways to go on defense, but based on effort alone this team will beat some teams that take them lightly. Luke Walton has them going in the right direction.

26-Dallas (previous 21)

The Mavs haven’t benefitted from a tough schedule in falling to 0-4, and struggled in two games without Dirk. The Mavs have had three different players lead them in scoring, so perhaps their depth will prevail when the schedule lightens up.

27-Nets (previous 30)

The Nets victory over the Pacers was surprising, but they didn’t build on that momentum by losing their next home game by 30 to the Bulls. The Nets will have lots of erratic play as they try to find their identity and finding out that Lin will miss a couple of weeks doesn’t help.

28-Pelicans (previous 23)

The Pelicans have been one of the most disappointing teams so far. When Anthony Davis can put up one of the greatest statistical games in the last 50 years with 50 points, 16 rebounds, 7 steals, 5 assists, and 4 blocks and still lose to the Nuggets and when Tim Frazier is your second best player, you know there is a problem.

29-Suns (previous 28)

The Suns are 0-4 and off to the worst start of any team in the West. Booker looks good, but inconsistent and the Suns defense isn’t stopping anyone.  There is no shame losing to the Clippers, Warriors, and Thunder, but to lose to the Kings by 19 at home is inexcusable.

30-76ers (previous 27)

An 0-4 start with a league-worst margin of -14, the Sixers deserve to be last in the rankings. The Simmons injury delayed the 76ers surge from last place in the Power Rankings. Embiid looks like the early favorite for Rookie of the Year and has shown he can be a defensive game-changer and an offensive force, but there is still a dearth of talent here without Simmons in the line-up.

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