- Four teams have managed to distance themselves from the rest of the pack in the first six weeks of the season. We examine the NBA's elite in this week's Power Rankings.
Welcome back to The Crossover’s weekly NBA Power Rankings! We know you missed us. There were no surprise streaks this week, just a couple dominant teams (Cleveland and Houston) continuing to dominate. There was a new addition to the pit of the abyss, though (Memphis, come on down!). We’ll try to sort out all the big stories from the week, from Joel Embiid’s triumph over Andre Drummond to the birth of Bogdan Bogdanovic’s MVP campaign.
Without further ado, let's get to this week's rankings.
(All stats and records through Dec. 3).
30. Chicago Bulls (3–18)
Last Week: 30
Much of this season should be about the development of Kris Dunn, and also tanking for a good draft pick, so considering all that it was a pretty good week for the Bulls.
29. Phoenix Suns (8–16)
Last Week: 29
Devin Booker didn’t go for 70 again in his rematch with the Celtics, but he did drop 38 against the top defense in the league. That’s mighty impressive.
28. Dallas Mavericks (6–17)
Last Week: 25
I don’t know why this happened but I’m glad it did.
27. Atlanta Hawks (5–17)
Last Week: 28
The Dewayne Dedmon breakout season is apparently a real thing. Twenty points and 14 rebounds on 9 of 10 shooting on Sunday (against the Kings, but still!). Good lord.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (8–15)
Last Week: 22
I’m beginning to lose patience with Lonzo Ball. Will he have a great career? I still think so. Will he have a great rookie season? It’s looking less and less likely as the weeks go on. He still has a ways to go before he grows into his role. Also, he might be hurt?
25. Memphis Grizzlies (7–15)
Last Week: 20
The Grizzlies have been like a teenager wandering into the deep end of the pool, touching the bottom and wondering with each step if they’ve reached the lowest point. But they’re still a few feet away, continuing to slide further and further down a slope until they’re completely underwater.... Sorry, that was dramatic.
24. L.A. Clippers (8–14)
Last Week: 24
Austin Rivers has gone from top high school recruit, to somewhat-exciting NBA prospect, to out of the league, to back in the league, to laughing stock, to an absolute machine of late. And he’s only 25.
23. Brooklyn Nets (8–14)
Last Week: 23
The Nets are the only team under .500 that plays consistently watchable basketball, so we have to give them credit for that. Our lives would be marginally more boring without them.
22. Sacramento Kings (7–16)
Last Week: 27
Behold, the future of the Sacramento Kings:
Also, I would like to say, did you realize the Kings’ starters did not score at ALL in the first quarter on Saturday? AT ALL?
21. Charlotte Hornets (8–13)
Last Week: 17
Charlotte just doesn’t want to play any defense these days. Something’s got to change, this team should be a lot better.
20. Orlando Magic (10–14)
Last Week: 26
Aaron Gordon tried to convince us all when he was drafted that he could shoot, and no one bought it. Well, he was (eventually) right. Six threes and 40 points against Oklahoma City?! If you live in Orlando, get your hands on some tickets to Gordon's season before they become too expensive on the secondary market.
19. New Orleans Pelicans (12–11)
Last Week: 15
Any ray of light brought by that inspired victory against the Blazers was quickly covered up by the dark cloud hanging over Anthony Davis. If Davis is forced to miss extended time, the Pelicans could take a significant step back.
18. New York Knicks (11–11)
Last Week: 14
Things have quickly taken a turn in the other direction for the Knicks after an improbable start, but it’s got nothing to do with their play. Just as they got Enes Kanter back from injury, now Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis are both out for the immediate future. They don’t have the firepower to tread water without them.
17. Denver Nuggets (13–9)
Last Week: 19
This seemed kind of uncalled for:
They’ve got a lot of room to grow, in more ways than one apparently.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (10–12)
Last Week: 18
Before the weekend:
After the weekend:
15. Utah Jazz (12–11)
Last Week: 21
I can’t tell if Utah is as bad as I thought it was two weeks ago and is simply downing bad opponents, or if this is actually a good team. The Jazz are second in offensive rating, first in assist-to-turnover ratio and fifth in True Shooting % over the past two weeks. They’ve been legitimately great on offense, too. I'm taking the wait–and–see approach for now.
14. Indiana Pacers (12–10)
Last Week: 13
Here, we have Victor Oladipo singing loudly in the locker room and Lance Stephenson promising to “get a track going” with his new teammate. I’d say that’s the most important update I can give you on this team.
13. Miami Heat (11–12)
Last Week: 8
The team has cooled off considerably, but Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson have played well of late, a good sign for the future prospects of this season. I touched on Miami resting Goran Dragic and giving the aforementioned youngsters an extended look a week ago and they continue to prove that was a savvy decision.
12. Milwaukee Bucks (12–9)
Last Week: 16
With the way this season has gone, you’ve got to brace for a four-game slide after this three-game winning streak. Right?
11. Washington Wizards (12–10)
Last Week: 15
Aside from this strange Ian Mahinmi experiment, things are actually trending upward for Washington. Otto Porter hit a game-winner, yet another highlight in a season that has been full of them to this point, and Markieff Morris rose from the dead in a big game against Detroit. Wins won't come easy as long as John Wall is sidelined, btu the Wizards have been respectable in his absence.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (13–10)
Last Week: 11
Let’s take you back to Oct. 23’s NBA Power Rankings:
Portland currently ranks in the top three in net rating, but they’ve beaten up on the Pacers and Suns to get there. They certainly impressed against the Bucks, but I’m not quite sure they’re on that level yet. Side note: Is Meyers Leonard not a thing anymore? Two straight games with a DNP-CD. We need to get him back in the lineup for his annual battle with DeMarcus Cousins.
Well, guess what. Good ol’ Meyers got back in there after a brief hiatus and not a moment too soon. He went to WORK against his rival.
When these guys get together, magic happens.
9. Philadelphia 76ers (13–9)
Last Week: 10
From one great feud to another, Joel Embiid continued to back up his talk on the floor, and showcase his ability to get in opponents' heads.
He called himself the “James Harden” of big men with his ability to draw fouls, which I can get behind. He becomes craftier and craftier as time goes on.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves (14–10)
Last Week: 9
Minnesota's opponents are averaging more than 29 points per game in the fourth quarter this season. That’s a problem.
7. Detroit Pistons (14–8)
Last Week: 6
Andre Drummond has shown up this season, just as everyone seemed to turn their backs on him. He's 14.3 points and 15 rebounds per game this season, and for all the talk about him fouling out of that big matchup against Joel Embiid, he rose to the occasion with a double-double, six assists and five steals.
6. Toronto Raptors (14–7)
Last Week: 7
This was the only thing that went wrong with the Raptors this week:
5. San Antonio Spurs (15–8)
Last Week: 5
This season may be the greatest testament to how great of a coach Gregg Popovich is. I’m not sure how they keep winning! Kyle Anderson is the most recent Spur to succumb to the injury bug, but now Davis Bertans looks poised to fill his shoes. I’m confident I’d average seven points per game on this team.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (16–7)
Last Week: 4
Hello, hottest team in basketball. I feel bad, because this is going to be their ceiling in the rankings for the foreseeable future, but that’s not because I don't think they can keep this up. Dwyane Wade seems to be hitting his stride, scoring in double-digits in six straight games, Kevin Love is fitting IN with an average of 27 over his last three and LeBron James is pulling some late-game heroics out of his pocket, scoring the last 12 Cleveland points in a win over Memphis on Saturday. I could go on and on about the encouraging stats, you get the point.
3. Houston Rockets (18–4)
Last Week: 3
The Rockets had a 15.4 Net Rating with Chris Paul on the floor this week and a 22.6 Net Rating with him off. Maybe they don’t even need him!!!! (I'm kidding.)
2. Golden State Warriors (18–6)
Last Week: 2
This is the first time I’ve cared about Shaun Livingston since every year in the Finals. Apparently he makes noise during the regular season, too!
1. Boston Celtics (20–4)
Last Week: 1
They’re so good, the rest of the league has just stopped trying to guard them.