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NBA Power Rankings: Surprising Sleepers Emerge

We're still trying hard not to overreact, but there's been a slew of surprising starts from under-the-radar teams. The Grizzlies, Magic and Pistons are among this week's biggest risers in our NBA Power Rankings.

Welcome back to The Crossover’s NBA Power Rankings, where we determine who is the greatest contender to the mighty Orlando Magic. We’re still in early-season mode, trying not to freak out about results, but the prospects of each team are becoming ever-so-slightly clearer. So cozy up to your computer with a warm cup of apple cider, your earbuds, and a bag of candy corn. Come on a journey through the NBA with me. I’m sorry if I don’t say anything of substance about your favorite team, it’ll happen with every team at some point. I promise.

(All stats and records through Oct. 30).


30. Atlanta Hawks (1–6)
Last Week: 28
The Hawks literally put three men on Giannis in the restricted area and still couldn’t stop him.


29. Phoenix Suns (2–4)
Last Week: 30

Josh Jackson is the rookie leader in steals, so at least there’s that!

28. Chicago Bulls (1–4)
Last Week: 29

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Bulls. I feel like they (and, in particular, Lauri Markkanen) deserve some sort of reward for beating the Hawks, so here they are at 28. 

27. Dallas Mavericks (1–6)
Last Week: 21

Okay, this is team is bad. They’re giving up nearly 111 points per 100 possessions and their best player, Harrison Barnes, is shooting 39% so far. Maybe Yogi Ferrell will be their best player by the end of the season.

26. New York Knicks (2–3)
Last Week: 27

Two wins in a row? A beatdown of the Cavaliers? I’ll see you all at the championship parade down the Canyon of Heroes on Wednesday.

25. Indiana Pacers (3–3)
Last Week: 26

They (somehow) ​now have wins over the Spurs and Timberwolves. Just enough to fend off those pesky Knicks and their big win over Cleveland. This is a prime example of the early-season standings playing games with us.

24. Sacramento Kings (1–5)
Last Week: 23

The most noteworthy thing the Kings did this week is get absolutely brutalized by DeMarcus Cousins.

23. Los Angeles Lakers (2–4)
Last Week: 24

This team is kind of amazing in transition, but other than that their youth is really showing in the early going. Luke Walton had to bench the entire starting unit for a moment against the Raptors to teach them a lesson.

22. Philadelphia 76ers (2–4)
Last Week: 22

It took what felt like years, but the Sixers have finally shut down MarkelleFultz. Only when he returns, and is able to raise his arm, will this team be able to perform like it’s not lottery-bound. I really believe Fultz is already that good, and important.

21. Brooklyn Nets (3–4)
Last Week: 20

What a weird week. They take down the Cavaliers at home, then get absolutely manhandled by the Knicks and Nuggets. This is a reminder that there will be growing pains with this team woven within the fun times it yields, and that th—

hey...HEY. Trevor. OUT. OUT!

20. Charlotte Hornets (3–3)
Last Week: 17

Guess who’s back
Back again
Cody’s back
Hornets win

19. Orlando Magic (4–2)
Last Week: 25

As reluctant as I am to move teams around too much based on early-season results, the Magic have earned all of our attention. I mean, no, I don’t think this team is actually good, but they’re tied for second in the East! The fun should come to an end when they play the Pelicans and drop their second straight game, but then again, who knows! This team is the Biyomb right now.

18. Utah Jazz (3–3)
Last Week: 15

Portland, Toronto and Houston await this week. It could actually get worse for Utah, as if losing to Phoenix wasn't bad enough.​

17. Miami Heat (2–3)
Last Week: 16

Hurry back, Hassan Whiteside. Make the Heat fun again.​

16. Denver Nuggets (3–3)
Last Week: 17

Nikola Jokic has three straight double-doubles and is shooting 50% from the field in those games. Jamal Murray finally made an impact against the Nets. I’m still somewhat hopeful for Denver this season.

15. Detroit Pistons (5–2)
Last Week: 18

We’re sure that each team ahead of the Pistons this week is good. We’re pretty sure each team behind them isn’t going to be a force this season. So where does that leave Detroit? They’ve just rattled off three incredible wins over the Wolves, Clippers and Warriors, but they’re still the same team they were two weeks ago: pretty top-heavy, and unable to get consistent outings from Andre Drummond. It’s going to take a hell of a lot longer than two weeks to get a handle on the Pistons’ identity.

14. New Orleans Pelicans (3–3)
Last Week: 14

Pelicans before signing Josh Smith: Alright.

Pelicans after signing Josh Smith:

13. Portland Trail Blazers (4–2)
Last Week: 13

Can someone explain this image to me? I don’t think arms are supposed to look like that.



12. Milwaukee Bucks (4–2)
Last Week: 8

It’s hard not to go all-in on Giannis at this point, but are we totally sold on his supporting cast? Are you feeling confident about Khris Middleton as this team’s second-best player? Is Malcolm Brogdon going to keep up this scoring average all season? I'm not convinced, yet here the Bucks are at 4–2 with wins over Boston and Portland in their pocket. I’m not totally sold yet, but Antetokounmpo’s insane season alone could elevate this team to the top 10 for several weeks. 

11. Washington Wizards (4–2)
Last Week: 10

At times, it just looks like they’re beating themselves out there. No, seriously, they are literally beating themselves.

10. L.A. Clippers (4–1)
Last Week: 11

In case you were wondering, no one is laughing at me now for calling Blake Griffin an MVP-caliber player.

Nothing but respect for my MVP:

9. Toronto Raptors (3–2)
Last Week: 7

I’ve been waiting for that first moment this season that reminds us that the Raptors are, indeed, elite. They’ve got some winnable games coming up, so maybe they catch fire and make some noise like a real good team, like the Magic.

8. Boston Celtics (4–2)
Last Week: 9

This defense has been suffocating at times, and Kyrie Irving is already beginning to hit his stride on offense. It’s a shame Gordon Hayward isn’t here to elevate this team to legitimate contender status, but you’ve got to appreciate the job Boston has done without him. A lot of credit should go to Brad Stevens.

7. Memphis Grizzlies (5–1)
Last Week: 12

Finally, the Chandler Parsons revival is here. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have been playing their faces off, and with occasional contributions like the ones they’ve been getting from Parsons and Tyreke Evans, the Grizzlies can play with anyone. I'm nearing the point where I overreact and go all-in on Memphis.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves (3–3)
Last Week: 6

They got them again. They freaking got them again. The Timberwolves beat the Thunder for the second time in the week, something that’s reverberated around the league. This is a very dangerous lineup, even though they are dead last in defensive rating, which is super weird for a Tom Thibodeau-coached team! Something special is in the works here, even if it takes a few more years to fully materialize.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder (3–3)
Last Week: 5

Much like the rest of this top-five, I’m not going to overreact to early-season results. These are still the five most powerful teams in the league, and even though Minnesota has its number, OKC is deserving of this spot. By the way, Ray Felton is averaging 8.3 points per game. Just thought you should know.

4. San Antonio Spurs (4–2)
Last Week: 4

Without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, this is a somewhat vulnerable team. Get well soon, Kawhi.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (3–4)
Last Week: 3

Look, chemistry doesn’t just happen over night, and though it’s unquantifiable it certainly exists and impacts basketball games. Dwayne Wade has had a tough time jumping right into a leadership role around a new group of players, many of which have been in the league for a while. There will be bumps in the road, but at the end of the season there are still only two, maybe three teams you will fear more than the Cavs. 

Also, I like this tweet from our buddy Andrew Sharp:

2. Houston Rockets (5–2)
Last Week: 2

After riding the high of Eric Gordon’s game-winner against Philly, the Rockets suffered a sobering loss to the Grizzlies. Until Chris Paul returns, Houston will be susceptible to bouts of inconsistency. 

1. Golden State Warriors (4–3)
Last Week: 1

Fights? Close games? A loss to the Pistons? The Warriors are finally watchable again—because they're not just obliterating teams. Last year, it was easy to go to bed at 10 and skip the Dubs. Now, you’ve got to stay up to see what kind of drama unfolds.