Skip to main content
Publish date:

Power Rankings: Warriors seize top spot; first impressions of all 30 teams

The Warriors made the best first impression and take the top spot in the NBA Power Rankings.

Drawing conclusions after just one week of play is like evaluating candy based on smell.

That said, we can nail down a few certainties already. For one, the Los Angeles Lakers are terrible at basketball. Second, the Thunder's playoff hopes are in serious jeopardy as long as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook remain in street clothes. And the Warriors -- SI.com's No. 1 team -- haven't missed a beat under new coach Steve Kerr.

Others teams are harder to judge. What do we make of the Knicks after floundering at home their first night but spoiling LeBron James' homecoming in Cleveland the next? Are the 3-0 Heat still an elite team? Have the Suns taken the next step?

Rather than guess, let's just go over what we know. Here are my first impressions in this week's NBA Power Rankings. (All stats and records are through Sunday, Nov. 2. "Last Week" refers to preseason rankings.)

1. Golden State Warriors

PREVIOUS: 6

RECORD: 3-0

There is so much to like with Golden State. The NBA's best backcourt (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 72 points against the Lakers) pairs beautifully with the league's best defense (87.5 points allowed per 100 possessions), forming a concert of mesmerizing basketball that's as fun as it is effective. 

2. San Antonio Spurs

PREVIOUS: 1

RECORD: 1-1

One silver lining of not extending Kawhi Leonard now: a contract year from a 23-year-old Finals MVP. San Antonio passed its opening-night test against Dallas without Leonard, but it'll be glad to have a young star with something to prove the rest of the season.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

PREVIOUS: 2

RECORD: 1-1

The Cavaliers' opening loss doesn't worry me as much as David Blatt's first stab at a rotation. Cleveland has essentially been relying on seven players, leaving Shawn Marion and Mike Miller on the periphery. LeBron James and Kevin Love have logged at least 38 minutes apiece in the first two games, the second of which went to overtime.

4. Memphis Grizzlies

PREVIOUS: 9

RECORD: 3-0

The Grizzlies are already in midseason form, beating the Hornets despite scoring just 71 points. Memphis should be better offensively with the arrival of Vince Carter and the return of Quincy Pondexter, but even if the improvement is only marginal, the Grizz will still grit and grind their way to 50 wins.

SI Recommends

5. Chicago Bulls

PREVIOUS: 4

RECORD: 2-1

Despite Derrick Rose's reassurance, every injury is a big concern. Chicago should take some comfort from pushing Cleveland to overtime after Rose departed early and defeating Minnesota the next night as he sat with ankle injuries. The Bulls are still a top-10 team without their MVP.

6. Houston Rockets

PREVIOUS: 8

RECORD: 3-0

The NBA was generous enough to give the Rockets four extra preseason games, against the Lakers, Jazz, Celtics and 76ers. Houston, to its credit, disposed of the first three by double digits. We'll wait to form an opinion on the Rockets until the competition arrives.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

PREVIOUS: 3

RECORD: 2-1

The offense hasn't looked sharp, including poor shooting (37.5 percent) that included an 0-for-12 fourth quarter from three-point range in a home loss to the Kings. If this is what Steve Ballmer looks like when he's happy, we'd hate to see him when he's angry. 

8. Dallas Mavericks

PREVIOUS: 5

RECORD: 2-1

Dallas leading the league in offensive efficiency (118.8 points per 100 posessions). Its revamped defense anchored by Tyson Chandler, however, is still a work in progress (109.1 rating). The same goes for the point guard rotation, which added another veteran last week in J.J. Barea, a Mav from 2006-11.

9. Miami Heat

PREVIOUS: 12

RECORD: 3-0

Not one, not two, but three wins to begin the post-LeBron era. Chris Bosh looks like his former Raptor self, and Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng are flanking him respectably. But the big surprise? Shawne Williams, who has appeared to carve out a (temporary?) niche in the starting lineup.

10. Phoenix Suns

PREVIOUS: 13

RECORD: 2-1

With six players capable of leading the Suns in scoring on any given night, Phoenix's offense is difficult to handle. Isaiah Thomas is following in the sneakers of fellow Seattle native Jamal Crawford, lighting up opponents off the bench (18.7 points) and serving notice that he will be in the Sixth Man Award conversation.

11. Sacramento Kings

PREVIOUS: 24

RECORD: 2-1

You could make the case that the Kings should be even higher than this, thanks to impressive victories over the Clippers and the Trail Blazers. Rudy Gay scored 40 against Portland, and DeMarcus Cousins manhandled Los Angeles with 34 points, 17 rebounds and five assists. Maybe Sacramento won't have to cherry-pick after all. 

12. New York Knicks

PREVIOUS: 21

RECORD: 2-1

The Knicks rebounded from a flat loss to Chicago with a jaw-dropping win against the Cavaliers and a solid victory over the Hornets. Derek Fisher is just getting comfortable, but it appears the longtime point guard has brought a steady hand to a rocky team.

13. Portland Trail Blazers

PREVIOUS: 7

RECORD: 1-2

The Blazers will be hard-pressed to match their scorching start from last season, when they didn't suffer their fourth loss until Dec. 7. After back-to-back defeats, Portland's next three games are against the Cavaliers, Mavericks and Clippers. It hasn't helped that Damian Lillard is shooting just 26.8 percent.

14. Washington Wizards

PREVIOUS: 14

RECORD: 2-1

The Wizards could be scary good when Bradley Beal returns from a broken left wrist. Washington is getting production up and down its roster, including a nice boost from 2013 lottery pick Otto Porter Jr., who has 38 points through three games after scoring just 78 in 37 games as a rookie.

15. Toronto Raptors

PREVIOUS: 15

RECORD: 2-1

With a still-improving core surrounded by experienced reserves, the Raptors look poised to challenge last year's franchise-best season of 48-34. After playing two of its first three on the road, Toronto has eight of its next nine at Air Canada Centre.

Image placeholder title

16. Charlotte HORNETs

PREVIOUS: 11

RECORD: 1-2

The defense is there, the offense is not. Cold spells have plagued Charlotte in its three close games (margins: +3, -2, -3). Lance Stephenson (29.6 percent), Kemba Walker (32.6) and Gary Neal (35.5) have to produce for this team to win.

17. Oklahoma City Thunder

PREVIOUS: 9

RECORD: 1-2

A lot is hinging on third-year forward Perry Jones, which I'm guessing isn't what Sam Presti envisioned when training camp began. The Thunder are still a respectable defensive unit without their two stars, but they need Reggie Jackson back from a sprained right ankle to spark the offense.

Image placeholder title

18. New Orleans PELICANs

PREVIOUS: 18

RECORD: 1-1

Anthony Davis' first two games (28.5 points, 16.0 rebounds, 6.0 blocks) offered a glimpse at what the 21-year-old power forward has in store this season.

19. brooklyn Nets

PREVIOUS: 17

RECORD: 1-1

Kevin Garnett (18 points, 14 rebounds) played 35 minutes in a victory over Detroit, a total he reached only once in 54 games last season. The frontcourt gets a boost this week with the return of Brook Lopez, who missed the first two games because of a sprained right foot.

20. Denver Nuggets

PREVIOUS: 16

RECORD: 1-1

Falling behind by 24 points to an eight-man Thunder team was perplexing. So was allowing 17 points to Kendrick Perkins (!), who matched his highest scoring total since being traded to Oklahoma City in February 2011.

21. Atlanta Hawks

PREVIOUS: 19

RECORD: 1-1

The Hawks will go as far as Jeff Teague can carry them. With a sturdy frontcourt and a slew of shooters around him, the table is set for Teague to earn his first All-Star selection.

22. Minnesota Timberwolves

PREVIOUS: 23

RECORD: 1-2

Veterans such as Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Mo Williams may log extensive minutes early in the season as Flip Saunders seeks to remain competitive, but eventually the Wolves' president/coach needs to do the smart thing and make the development of youngsters like Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Zach LaVine the top priority.

23. Milwaukee Bucks

PREVIOUS: 26

RECORD: 1-2

New coach Jason Kidd is tasked with shuffling an entire active roster of players worthy of minutes. Skinny O.J. Mayo is a likely trade candidate if his hot start continues. Despite the hype, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging only 21 minutes, showing just how competitive the fight for playing time is in Milwaukee. 

24. Utah Jazz

PREVIOUS: 27

RECORD: 1-2

The Jazz will be well-suited to playing the role of spoilers this season. Utah is full of young players just scratching the surface of their potential, such as 23-year-old big man Derrick Favors, who erupted for a career-high 32 points in a rout of the Suns. 

25. Boston Celtics

PREVIOUS: 28

RECORD: 1-1

Dear basketball gods, please let Rajon Rondo play all 82 games -- and it doesn't matter for which team. As long as he's a Celtic (and in the starting lineup), though, Boston will be pesky.

26. Indiana Pacers

PREVIOUS: 22

RECORD: 1-2

Donald Sloan leads the Pacers in minutes and Chris Copeland is their leading scorer. Last season, Sloan averaged 8.2 minutes and Copeland averaged 3.7 points. The good news? Indy fans still have at least two more months of Colts games.

27. Detroit Pistons

PREVIOUS: 20

RECORD: 0-3

Stan Van Gundy's magic touch won't cure the Pistons overnight. Clashing with Brandon Jennings was inevitable, but this early? Van Gundy is understandably frustrated. Detroit is 14-of-64 (21.9 percent) from three-point range, including 2-of-16 from starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

28. Orlando Magic

PREVIOUS: 29

RECORD: 0-3

The Magic have tantalizing talent and are fun to watch -- but they don't look any closer to being a winning team with veterans Channing Frye and Ben Gordon in the rotation. As Orlando awaits the return of Victor Oladipo (facial fracture), it plays seven of its next nine on the road.

29. Los Angeles Lakers

PREVIOUS: 25

RECORD: 0-4

The Lakers might be the worst team in the NBA (the 76ers don't count). If Kobe Bryant is content to fire away for an also-ran (he's averaging 21.3 shots), he'll ride it out in L.A. But if he wants to chase a sixth ring -- or at least a playoff spot -- he'll have to move elsewhere.

30. Philadelphia 76ers

PREVIOUS: 30

RECORD: 0-3

There was no repeat of last year's season-opening three-game winning streak. Philadelphia has started the likes of Hollis Thompson, Chris Johnson and Henry Sims in its first three games, unbeknownst to everyone else in the world.