NBA Power Rankings Week 3

The NBA season is now well underway and we are starting to get better ideas of what these teams will look like.  Here’s how we see it after three weeks:

 

1. Indiana (9-1): Still the best defensive team, still the most hungry and still the best team in basketball.  It’s hard to win in Chicago on the second night of a back-to-back.  Pacers will be in this spot most of the year. (WJ)

2. San Antonio (9-1): The Spurs have won seven in a row, which should not surprise anyone that has followed this Popovich lead team. What is surprising is the defense they are playing.  After a couple years of being an offensive team the Spurs have reclaimed their number one defensive rating. (EJ)

3. Miami (7-3):  The Heat have won three in a row and six of their last seven. They have maintained their number one rated offense the entire season, but this week they started to improve on the defensive end (going from last in the NBA to 19th in a week of play). When this teams plays its smothering brand of defense, it can not be stopped. (EJ)

4.  LA Clippers (7-3): A 4 game winning streak over the likes of Houston, Minnesota, OKC, and Brooklyn is an impressive stretch.  The Clips are still undefeated at home and Blake Griffin is playing the best basketball of his career.  They continue to be the highest scoring team in the league at 110 per game.  This squad is trending upward and is right at the top of the league in both talent and performance. (AL)

5. Golden State (7-3): Golden State is a team of long range snipers (they lead the league at 45.3%) and hard nosed defenders (5th in the league in Opposing FG%).  They have multiple ball handlers and a half dozen very capable scorers making them difficult to guard and game plan for.  I love watching them play and still have them coming out of the west.  Is there a more dangerous hot-hand than Steph Curry? Maybe only Klay Thompson. (AL)

6. Portland (8-2): I’m not going to fault the Blazers for beating the Kings twice, Phoenix, Toronto, Boston and Detroit.  You’re supposed to beat the teams that you are supposed to beat.  It’s also evident that this Portland team knows that too.  They have a “we belong” mentality and it’s showing when they come out and win games they are expected to win. (WJ)

7. Minnesota (7-4): One of the most fun teams to watch in the league.  They just can’t play defense.  I think they are content with outscoring teams on a nightly basis, but I think in order to make some real noise this year, they need to develop a defensive identity.  As always, here is my weekly: “Please stay healthy, Minnesota” (WJ)

8. OKC (6-3): We know what we are getting out of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.  Everyone else is a mystery.  This team needs to figure out who their best bench player is and whether Serge Ibaka will ever turn the corner that warrants the team putting so much faith in him over the years.  (WJ)

9. Houston (7-4):  The Rockets right now are a disjointed team. Dwight Howard has always functioned best when he has been surrounded by four shooters. The “twin tower” experiment of Asik and Howard is not working. It’s time for them to trade Omer and move on with their new identity. (EJ)

10. Chicago (5-3): Newsflash, this is basically the same Thibs-coached Bulls team we have seen over the past few years.  They gritty, defense-oriented, and as stingy as they have always been.  Oh yeah, they just beat the Pacers and Derrick Rose hit six 3s.  Don’t worry about the Bulls. (WJ)

11. Dallas (6-4): The Fighting Dirks are playing fast sharing the ball and scoring a lot of points (4th in the NBA per game). They are not however playing much defense, unless they can find a way to improve defensively, this will be nothing more than a fun team. (EJ)

12. Phoenix (5-4): Phoenix is starting to come back down to earth but they are still a solid squad.  With Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe working well together, this team will be able to put up points with anyone.  My concern is and has been on defense for this team, but so far they are doing well allowing the 5th least points per game in the league (95.8). (AL)

13. Atlanta (6-4): It is a crazy coincidence that a Hawks team with consistently average offenses suddenly became more efficient when they replace Josh Smith with Paul Millsap. The Hawks are now 5th in the NBA in terms of offensive rating. Jeff Teague is driving the lane and setting up his extremely efficient scoring teammates.  Although this team has the same ceiling, it will be much more fun to watch, than it’s older versions.

14. Memphis (5-5): This team seems to be a shell of its former self. Their wings are getting older, which is hurting their team defense. In the last week they have been able to grind out wins against the Lakers and Kings but could not stop the offensive machine that is the Toronto Raptors. If this team can’t grit and grind more on the defensive end, it could be in danger of being broken up. (EJ)

15. Philadelphia (5-6): After the 3-0 start, this squad looks vulnerable as of late. There team defense is atrocious; they are last in league in points allowed at 111.1. (AL)

16. New Orleans (4-6):  Anthony Davis is really exploding onto the scene, but to this point in the year I think he was missing the staunch defenders around him, to lead NOLA to the playoffs. Well, I was wrong they were missing a floor spacing 3 point big to ease scoring. Ryan Anderson in his first game back contributed 26 points (6 three pointers)  en route to the Pelicans scoring 135 points (30 more points than their previous high). Look for New Orleans, to start scoring a lot more and move up these rankings quickly.

17. Denver (4-5) – They are still running around, rebounding and scoring points at a high clip, but something doesn’t feel right.  Brian Shaw hasn’t figured out consistent rotations and I think that hurts this team for stretches at a time.  Ty Lawson might pop up in the All-Star game if he keeps this up. (WJ)

18. Charlotte (5-5): A lot of NBA coaches are attempting to push the pace and play in a style that emphasizes scoring. Steve Clifford looked at his team in training camp and decided that simply was not possible. The Bobcats are attempting to make every game a slowed down  (30th in pace) attack on the eyes. So far it is working for them, to the tune of a .500 record. However, as someone who saw this team play last week, I would advise against anyone doing so in the future. (EJ)

19. Brooklyn (3-6): Yikes, KG leads the team in rebounding at 7.8 per contest and despite the wealth in talent, they have only 4 players averaging in double digits. This team needs to come together stat, which includes getting everyone healthy.  No serious injuries, but the older vets are already banged up. (AL)

20. Toronto (4-7): I really don’t enjoy watching this team.  Rudy Gay is still shooting sub 40% and is clearly not up for the job of being the number one option.  Poor Raptors, the future is not bright. (AL)

21. LA Lakers (5-7): Kobe practiced this week, so help is on the way, but this team needs a lot of help to become relevant.  At least Xavier Henry did this:

 

POSTER!

22. Detroit  (3-6): The Pistons might be the weirdest team in the league.  I dig it, the fans might dig it and management definitely does not dig it.  They have a ton of potential and if they decide not to move Greg Monroe, I see this team figuring it out midway through the season. (WJ)

23. New York Knicks (3-6): What a disaster the Knicks are these days.  Trade rumors are swirling around Iman Shumpert and Amare Stoudemire, no doubt creating locker room distractions, but hey at least Carmelo is averaging 26 and 9. (AL) 

24. Boston (4-7): Boston is second in the league in defending the three and is showing great effort, despite a lack of overall talent.  The young big man core or Sullinger, Olynyk, and Faverani look solid and will be the most intriguing group to watch as the season moves along.  Brad Stevens is doing an excellent job. (AL)

25. Orlando (4-6): Jacque Vaughn is doing an excellent job early in his career. He has a young team in Orlando playing very good defense (7th in defensive rating). While it won’t lead them to anything this year, it will set down a good foundation to build upon in the future. (EJ)

26. Cleveland (4-7): What a disappointing start to this season.  The Cavs own the third highest (-7.0) PPG differential in the league, their number one pick looks to be an all-time bust, their two guard went missing and Bynum doesn’t seem to be healthy.  Bold prediction that’s not very bold: changes will be happening very shortly in Cleveland. (WJ)

27.  Washington (2-7): It is looking more and more like Washington might regret trading a future first rounder to Phoenix. This team has been much worse than expectations. With the large contracts they have handed out recently, it looks as if they could be in the lottery for a while. (EJ)

28. Milwaukee (2-7): This Bucks team plays very hard.  The problem is that they aren’t good no matter how hard they play.  They have no identity and seem like they are missing pieces at just about every position.  John Henson, Ilyasova and Wolters provide some hope for the future. (WJ)

29. Sacramento (2-7): Somehow, Kings’ fans set the record for loudest indoor arena noise…that’s about all Sactown has going for it. (AL)

30. Utah (1-10): This team hates scoring (last in the league) and passing (29th in assists).  To me, that sounds like a perfect strategy to acquire the most lottery balls in April.  I mean, did you see those Freshmen last week? (WJ)

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