It took a players-only meeting, a locker-room visit from Drake and several profanity-laced tirades, but this week’s NBA Power Rankings have arrived.
Our top three hasn’t changed: the Warriors, Cavs and Spurs are the league’s only teams with top-10 offenses and defenses and are in a class by themselves thus far (although you could argue Golden State remains a cut above everyone). Watching the Warriors roll over the league is how Shia LaBeouf must feel screening three days' worth of his movies: the script is just too familiar. One new wrinkle: they're five straight wins away from the best start to a season in history.
With the rest of the league largely clustered together in terms of wins and losses, the top 10 overall is admittedly tougher to place. Utah debuts in the top 10, displacing the confounding Rockets, and Indiana sits on the precipice after making this week’s biggest climb behind an MVP–caliber Paul George.
Bottom line? Three weeks in, there appear to be fewer downright awful teams, making this task infinitely more entertaining and also much more difficult. Let’s take a look at a still-very-fluid pecking order.
(All stats and records through Nov. 15)
NBA POWER RANKINGS: WEEK 3
1. Golden State Warriors
RECORD: 11-0 (4-0)
Hard to say what was more shocking: Ronda Rousey being upset or the Warriors nearly losing to the hapless Nets on Saturday night. But the champions keep punching, and with Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli making strides, it’s nuts to think this team has gotten even better.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
RECORD: 8-2 (2-1)
Habitually slow starts caught up to the Cavs in Milwaukee, where the Bucks snapped their eight-game streak. But all we can really do is nitpick right now, with LeBron James in great form despite a questionable mustache. He’s just 10 points from passing Jerry West on the all-time scoring list.
3. San Antonio Spurs
RECORD: 7-2 (3-0)
The most talented Spurs roster in years has put out a balanced, efficient product thus far (surprise!), and all is well in San Antonio. They’ve covered more than adequately as Danny Green, who’s shooting just 30% from the floor, tries to work out some kinks.
4. Miami Heat
RECORD: 6-3 (2-0)
Miami enters the top five on the back of the league’s stingiest defense in both points allowed and opponent field goal percentage. This team is healthy, faces an undemanding schedule the rest of November, and could be even more formidable when the offense catches up.
5. Atlanta Hawks
RECORD: 8-4 (1-3)
Atlanta was badly out-rebounded in all three of its losses this week, suggesting last season’s biggest issue hasn't been completely remedied.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
RECORD: 6-4 (2-1)
The Thunder have held down the fort in two-and-a-half games without Kevin Durant as he nurses a hamstring injury, and if he’s back by week’s end as expected, they should be fine. But wing depth isn’t OKC’s strong suit, and some imbalance was evident in a KD-less loss to Boston, with Marcus Smart frustrating Russell Westbrook and the team shooting just 36%.
7. Toronto Raptors
RECORD: 7-4 (2-2)
Losses to the Kings and Knicks look bad, but the Raptors have largely defended well and the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan still gives defenses serious problems. That statement will be put to the test against the Warriors on Tuesday as Toronto kicks off a four-game slate on the West Coast.
8. Chicago Bulls
RECORD: 6-3 (2-0)
Popular discourse says this defense has declined, but Chicago is holding opponents to the league’s lowest shooting percentage (tied with Miami) and keeping them under 100 points per game. The bigger issue might be rebounding, with increased minutes for Joakim Noah a potential solution. The former All-Star impressed with 18 boards in 23 minutes last week in a win over the Hornets.
9. Los Angeles Clippers
RECORD: 6-4 (2-2)
These guys are dinged up and could really use Chris Paul and J.J. Redick back for Thursday’s grudge match with the Warriors. Luckily they’ve got three off days to recover, because it’s not often Jamal Crawford scores more points (37) than years he’s lived (35) as he did Saturday against Detroit.
10. Utah Jazz
RECORD: 5-5 (1-3)
One thing’s clear: Rudy Gobert means a lot to this team. The Jazz were beating the Cavs late until he suffered an ankle injury, then dropped two straight without him. His return to the lineup coincided with a win over the Hawks, and as long as the big Frenchman is healthy, the Jazz can hang with just about anybody.
11. Indiana Pacers
RECORD: 6-4 (3-0)
It sure looks like the Pacers have figured things out, with an invigorated Paul George leading the way on both ends of the floor and everyone else following suit. Give Indy credit: the team has won six of its last seven after starting the year 0-3.
12. Dallas Mavericks
RECORD: 6-4 (3-0)
A victory both moral and literal over DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers has sparked Dallas, which has won four of five and is getting the most out of a handful of guys at the back end of their careers. Appreciate all the vintage Dirk Nowitzki (31 points on 11 of 14 shooting against L.A.) we can get.
13. Boston Celtics
RECORD: 5-4 (3-1)
The Celtics have gotten rolling and now boast double-digit wins over the Wizards, Bucks, Hawks and Thunder in their past five games. Brad Stevens’s mix-and-match approach has worked out so far: 11 players are averaging 10 minutes per game, and not a single one holds a negative plus-minus rating.
14. Detroit Pistons
RECORD: 5-5 (0-4)
Concerns about this team bubbled to the surface with an 0–4 week to end their road trip. It’s hard to dock the Pistons for losing to the Warriors, but falling to the Kings, shorthanded Clippers and Lakers is a bad look. Their thin bench looks particularly troublesome, given heavy reliance on starters Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova.
15. Houston Rockets
RECORD: 4-6 (0-3)
Just when you thought it was safe to count on the Rockets, the team turns in three straight laclosses (including the Nets, yuck). James Harden keeps scoring, but his efficiency is down. In his defense, he shouldn’t need 40 points every night for this team to be competitive.
16. Washington Wizards
RECORD: 4-4 (1-1)
Kevin Durant’s trip to D.C. ended with the Wizards losing by 24 and KD injured on the sidelines. Not exactly the welcome party some were expecting.
17. Milwaukee Bucks
RECORD: 5-5 (1-2)
A double-overtime win over Cleveland was Milwaukee’s best of the young season, holding the Cavs under 41% shooting and weathering a huge game from LeBron. They’re inching closer to what we hoped they’d be, as is Jabari Parker, who looks more explosive than ever.
18. Phoenix Suns
RECORD: 5-4 (2-0)
Topping the depleted Clippers on Thursday is the closest thing the Suns have to a quality win, but with what should be a soft week ahead, they’ll have every opportunity to keep pace in the West. Their top-five scoring offense (104.2 points per game) has been based more on pace than spectacular efficiency (98.9 points per 100 possessions).
19. Memphis Grizzlies
RECORD: 5-6 (2-2)
Memphis halted a four-game skid thanks to a buzzer-beater from Z-Bo and temporarily broke a team-wide shooting funk against Minnesota. With their next five games in-conference against playoff teams, the Grizzlies have a chance to move the needle firmly in the right direction.
20. Charlotte Hornets
RECORD: 5-5 (3-1)
The Hornets made the most of three winnable games, thanks in large part to Nicolas Batum, who’s off to an impressive start. They’re turning the ball over at the league’s lowest rate, face the Knicks, Nets and Sixers this week, and have become part of the conversation in the East’s middle tier.
21. Orlando Magic
RECORD: 5-6 (2-2)
Orlando has won five of its last eight, an extremely impressive start for one of the league’s youngest teams. The growth of Nikola Vucevic, who drained a buzzer-beater to knock off the Lakers, has been critical for a team without another true interior presence on offense.
22. New York Knicks
RECORD: 5-6 (2-2)
It had been so long that we almost forgot what a healthy Carmelo Anthony can do. With five consecutive 20-point games, Melo is keeping the much-improved Knicks afloat. And with Arron Afflalo finally in the lineup, we’ll see what they’re really capable of.
23. Denver Nuggets
RECORD: 5-5 (3-1)
With Wilson Chandler out for the season, Will Barton has been a nice surprise on the wing, with career-high numbers across the board. With Jason Kidd offering high praise for Emmanuel Mudiay, good things are happening in the Denver backcourt.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves
RECORD: 4-6 (1-4)
Five games in seven days proved a stiff challenge for the Wolves, who opened the week with a quality win over the Hawks, then dropped four straight. A big week from Andrew Wiggins (24.8 points per game, 55.6% shooting) bodes well for a team that remains more competitive than anyone expected.
25. Sacramento Kings
RECORD: 4-7 (3-1)
It’s anyone’s guess what turned things around in that locker room, but the Kings (and a motivated DeMarcus Cousins) responded to internal discord and a storm of rumors with three huge wins. The circus next hits the road for a five-game swing on the East Coast.
26. Portland Trail Blazers
RECORD: 4-7 (0-4)
The Blazers have lost five straight, and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum’s three-point percentages corrected accordingly. Expect Portland’s results going forward to match the streakiness of its two-pronged attack.
27. New Orleans Pelicans
RECORD: 1-9 (1-3)
The frustration continues in New Orleans, and 10 games in, this is a pretty deep hole. Alvin Gentry discussed a needed shift to a team-first mentality this week, the offense has been disjointed, and remember: this is all happening without Tyreke Evans.
28. Brooklyn Nets
RECORD: 1-9 (1-2)
Brooklyn finally got in the win column against the Rockets, nearly beat the Kings and took the Warriors to overtime, looking a bit more like the team that snuck into the playoffs last season. Still, at 1-9, the Nets have a ways to go.
29. Los Angeles Lakers
RECORD: 2-8 (1-3)
As much crap as Kobe Bryant has taken for shooting (and shooting…and shooting…), he returned from two games off, strung together his two best games of the season, and helped engineer an upset of the Pistons. The occasional spots of rest for the future Hall of Famer leave more minutes for D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, and might be the optimal solution for a season that’s slipping away fast.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
RECORD: 0-10 (0-4)
Still no wins. But Rookie of the Year frontrunner and budding star Jahlil Okafor (19.2 points, 7.3 rebounds) makes them watchable, which is the most Philly’s had going for itself in a while.