There’s been a lack of Warriors hyperbole in this space for the first month of the season, mostly because there's nothing they can do to surprise me anymore. But as Thanksgiving rolls around and Golden State takes aim at the best start in NBA history, it might be time to be a little more appreciative.
The defending champions retained every key player from last season and are winning games by an average of 14.4 points this year. They lead the league in scoring, shooting percentage, three-point percentage, assists, assist rate, offensive rating, net rating and fast break points. Their dynamic ball movement has become must-see TV, giving regular-season play unusual meaning as talk of 72–10 begins to grow louder.
To be fair, the Warriors have pulled out close(ish) wins in four of their last five games. They will eventually lose one. But who’s beating this team right now? Soak in every highlight, wax poetic over Stephen Curry, and enjoy the ride. Only the lowly Lakers stand in the way of a record-breaking 16-0 start. Not bad for an encore.
So, give thanks for Golden State. And on that note, here’s the latest edition of the NBA Power Rankings. In honor of this week's holiday, we name one thing each team should be thankful for this season.
(All records and stats through Nov. 22)
1. Golden State Warriors
RECORD: 15-0 (4-0)
Pretty much everything. One more fun tidbit: of all the lineups around the league that have appeared in 10-plus games, Golden State’s small-ball five of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes and Green is the NBA’s best in both offensive and defensive rating. That group boasts a mind-boggling 70.8 net rating.
2. San Antonio Spurs
RECORD: 10-3 (3-1)
Consistency. Eight of their 10 wins have been by double-digits, their smallest margin of victory has been eight, and they’re allowing a league-low 91.5 points per game. So…we’ll excuse their 14-point loss to the Pelicans.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
RECORD: 10-3 (2-1)
Depth. Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert are still out, Timofey Mozgov is also sidelined and Mo Williams is banged up. Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson and the rest of a deep bench has stepped up just fine. The Cavs remain in the Eastern Conference driver’s seat until further notice.
4. Chicago Bulls
RECORD: 8-4 (2-1)
Butler, doing it. In the two games Derrick Rose missed with an ankle injury, Jimmy Butler went for 32 and 28 points, shot 50% from the field and came close to a triple double in a loss to Golden State. At long last, Bulls fans have their first real shooting guard since that one guy in the ‘90s.
5. Atlanta Hawks
RECORD: 9-6 (1-2)
Sharing. Despite losing four of five, Atlanta has improved on last year’s league-best assisted field goal percentage, a testament to their stability. And with Jeff Teague out with a sprained ankle, Dennis Schröder piled up 25 assists over three games.
6. Dallas Mavericks
RECORD: 9-5 (3-1)
Rick Carlisle. Who else, year after year, pulls together teams like he does? He’s earning that contract extension, as the Mavs have battled roster turnover, age, injuries and a crowded West once again. They also have Zaza Pachulia, Raymond Felton and Dwight Powell as key rotation players. Their biggest test of the season comes Wednesday in San Antonio.
7. Miami Heat
RECORD: 8-4 (2-1)
Good health. After 12 players totaled double-digit starts last season, the only member of Miami’s starting five to miss a game this season has been Dwyane Wade (one). If the Heat can make it to April in once piece, they could make things interesting in the East.
8. Indiana Pacers
RECORD: 8-5 (2-1)
Genetics. Considered a work in progress, Glenn Robinson III has made a case for extended minutes in the absence of George Hill. The Big Dog’s kid has been a fit in Indiana’s perimeter-focused style and opened eyes with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting in a blowout of Milwaukee. The three-year deal Larry Bird gave him looks prudent.
9. Toronto Raptors
RECORD: 9-6 (2-2)
Home cooking. The Raptors have played 11 of their first 15 games on the road and are 1–4 in games decided by two possessions or less. Things should get easier, with eight of their next 10 at the Air Canada Centre. A small disclaimer: that includes clashes with the Cavs, Spurs and Warriors.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
RECORD: 8-6 (2-2)
Staying the course. Going 3-3 without Kevin Durant is understandable, and the former MVP is expected back from his hamstring injury this week. OKC has yet to really hit its stride, but for now, hanging with the pack will do. More convincing results should follow.
11. Boston Celtics
RECORD: 7-6 (2-2)
Thievery. This opportune defense features seven players averaging more than one steal, including Jae Crowder’s NBA-best 2.8 per game. The Celtics capitalize on their opponents' mistakes, leading the league in both turnovers forced and points scored off of them.
12. Detroit Pistons
Conditioning. Detroit’s starters have logged 82 more minutes than any other lineup in the NBA, and have justified it with a 12.4 net rating when playing together. But with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris and Andre Drummond all in the top 10 in minutes per game, Stan Van Gundy might do well to find more balance going forward.
13. Utah Jazz
RECORD: 6-6 (1-1)
Favors’s party. Rudy Gobert gets more attention, but former lottery pick Derrick Favors has put together the best start of his career, averaging 16.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks and emerging as an asset on both ends. He’s a sleeper All-Star candidate if he keeps it up.
14. Los Angeles Clippers
RECORD: 6-7 (0-3)
Blake. The Clippers have hit a rough patch, dropping seven of 10 including a humbling loss to the Warriors, but Blake Griffin’s play has been immaculate. If his Herculean work continues, L.A. has too much talent not to turn things around.
15. Washington Wizards
RECORD: 6-4 (2-0)
Bench work. Washington’s reserves keyed a quality win over Detroit, outscoring the Pistons’ bench 51-15 and emerging as one of the more effective groups around. Jared Dudley, Ramon Sessions and a repurposed Nene have all been useful.
16. New York Knicks
RECORD: 8-6 (3-0)
Serious question? Kristaps Porzingis might be the most obvious recipient of blind thanks in professional sports right now, and he deserves every ounce of it. Instead of a nickname, give him a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and let New York hold onto this moment forever.
17. Charlotte Hornets
RECORD: 7-6 (2-1)
Fresh blood. An 0-3 start has been remedied thanks to Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb and Jeremy Lin, who have provided supplementary shooting and playmaking. The Hornets might be a year later to the party than expected, but they’re an intriguing sleeper.
18. Phoenix Suns
RECORD: 7-6 (2-2)
Brandon Knight. Eric Bledsoe makes more headlines, but Knight put together a big week, registering his first career triple double (30 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and coming close to another (38, 11, 6) in Phoenix’s two wins. Investing in this young backcourt has paid off so far.
19. Memphis Grizzlies
RECORD: 7-7 (2-1)
Signs of life. Memphis has won four of its last five, climbing back to .500 in a conference mostly in disarray. Newly-acquired Mario Chalmers has provided a spark for the team's stagnant offense since arriving and Marc Gasol has gotten his groove back (17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists) over the team's last five games.
20. Milwaukee Bucks
The future. Three straight losses has this team in uncertain territory, and last season’s defensive prowess and playoff showing feels like an afterthought. But given their youth, there are going to be stretches like this.
21. Denver Nuggets
RECORD: 7-7 (2-1)
Europe. Danilo Gallinari remains their best player, Jusuf Nurkic says he’ll be back this month and Joffrey Lauvergne was excellent in the first three games of the season before going down with an injury (he could return this week) Not to mention fellow rookie Nikola Jokic dropping 23 points and 12 rebounds against the Spurs last week.
22. Sacramento Kings
RECORD: 5-9 (1-2)
Quiet. Well, relatively speaking. The middling Kings have steered the ship back on course and have been in every game since things appeared to hit rock bottom. Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins are in great form. And…it could all implode any second now.
23. Orlando Magic
RECORD: 6-7 (0-2)
Evan Fournier, workhorse. Somehow, Fournier now plays the second-most minutes in the league and went from “guy with questionable haircut” to “Orlando’s leading scorer.” The Magic aren’t complaining.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves
RECORD: 5-8 (1-2)
The road ahead, literal and figurative. Minnesota has pulled off road wins at Chicago, Atlanta and Miami but has somehow yet to win at home (luckily, Philly comes to town this week). Meanwhile, the path in front of the Wolves has never looked brighter with Andrew Wiggins (20 years old) and Karl-Anthony Towns (19) just getting their feet wet.
25. Houston Rockets
RECORD: 5-9 (1-3)
History. Kevin McHale’s out, so how much of the Rockets’ old identity remains? The Three-and-D philosophy has faded hard: they’re allowing the league’s most points per game and shooting at its worst clip from three. You hesitate to give up completely on a team that won 110 games the past two seasons, but the Rockets have a lot of work to do.
26. Portland Trail Blazers
RECORD: 6-9 (2-2)
Los Angeles. Back-to-back wins over the Lakers and Clippers ended a seven-game skid. And guess what? After hosting Chicago, Damian Lillard and Co. will get both L.A. teams again. I hear Southern California’s nice in November.
27. New Orleans Pelicans
RECORD: 3-11 (2-2)
Ish Smith? Yeah, that Ish Smith. The journeyman engineered consecutive wins over the Spurs and Suns, with 13 assists in one and a near triple-double in the other. The scrap-heap find might be a viable piece going forward as the Pelicans try to reboot their season.
28. Brooklyn Nets
RECORD: 3-11 (2-2)
Time. Brooklyn’s starting lineup has looked decent slotting in rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. As for the 0–7 start, well, at least that’s over.
29. Los Angeles Lakers
RECORD: 2-11 (0-3)
Top-three protection. Maybe Kobe’s plan all along was to help the Lakers keep their draft pick—otherwise headed to the Sixers—and be the fall guy for a lost season. Maybe Byron Scott’s in on it, too. Maybe I’m crazy.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
RECORD: 0-14 (0-4)
The D-League. Who doesn’t love roster flexibility?