- Joe Ingles went nuclear, the Warriors were (predictably) pretty good despite some close calls and Toronto was mightily impressive during opening week in the NBA.
Games have started, and word to Brandon Ingram I’m coming in swinging with these Power Rankings.
It’s not going to be fun if we don’t overreact at least a little bit each week, so I apologize in advance for dropping your favorite team seven spots after 1-2 weeks.
The NBA gave us plenty of great matchups in the opening week and it looks like we’re headed for another phenomenal season. Even if you’re one of those losers who wants to complain about how nothing matters cause Golden State is going to win it all, even you have to admit this first week gave you enough reason to think that’s not a foregone conclusion.
So who’s ready to see how The Crossover ranked teams after finally getting on the court?
30. Bulls | Record: 0-2 | Preseason: 27
Zach LaVine has looked great through two games. It’s easy to say, “somebody has to score points on a bad team” just to poo-poo what he’s done so far, but that would be the lame thing to do. There’s literally zero chance he averages 30 points for the season, but while he’s doing just that, let’s enjoy it. You’re not going to want to watch the Bulls by January, so take in LaVine’s stupendous scoring while you can.
29. Kings | Record: 1-2 | Preseason: 25
You can’t give up 149 points in four quarters and expect to be ranked higher than 29th. The Kings played the Jazz close in their opener and Sunday’s win in Oklahoma City was pretty impressive. But, in 48 minutes of action against the Pelicans, they gave up 149 points, and that’s all I can associate with this squad.
28. Magic | Record: 1-2 | Preseason: 30
Beating the playoff-contending Heat to start the season was a great win for a young team starting a year with a new coach. Getting the brakes blown off against the Pacers was a horrible loss for a young team with a new coach. Playing Philadelphia down to the wire just to lose on a J.J. Redick game-winning three is classic Magic basketball.
27. Knicks | Record: 1-2 | Preseason: 29
The David Fizdale era is off to a solid start in New York. A win over the Nets on Friday would have been nice, but to bounce back on the second night of a back-to-back to take the Celtics to the final possession is good enough consolation. Wins aren’t too important for the Knicks this season, so to lose both of their games by a combined four points is definitely something for people to walk away happy with for now.
26. Cavaliers | Record: 0-3 | Preseason: 19
So life without LeBron James is about exactly as you remember it, huh Cleveland? Losing to the Raptors and Timberwolves to start the season was whatever.
Sunday’s game against the Hawks was the game the Cavaliers could really show what they were made of. And they did. They are made of atrocious defense and no way to make Kevin Love’s life on offense any easier.
The one All-Star on this roster is shooting 30% through three games and until that skyrockets to something much more in line with what Love has done through the other 10 years of his career, there’s not too much to get hyped about this year.
A lot is going to fall on Tyronn Lue showing he is a legit coach and not just the guy who got left in charge to babysit while LeBron takes a trip to L.A. But, similar to last year’s Grizzlies, too much reliance on the All-Star big man and not enough guys who can make others better could just crater Love’s production and lead to losses piling up.
25. Hawks | Record: 1-2 | Preseason: 28
After a forgettable debut against the Knicks, Trae Young has looked better from game to game. He nearly notched a double double in the loss to the Grizzlies in which he shot four-for-nine from three. Then on Sunday he scored 35 points on 13-for-23 shooting (six-for-14 from three) and dished out 11 assists in a road win. Solid start for the rookie so far.
24. Nets | Record: 1-2 | Preseason: 23
Getting a close win over the Knicks after narrowly losing in Detroit to start the season was a positive sign for the Nets. However, getting waxed by the Pacers by 20 was a reminder this team is only going to do but so much. If Caris LeVert can keep up this scoring output though, this team could pull itself to the top of the bottom pack of East squads.
23. Wizards | Record: 0-2 | Preseason: 15
Losing to the Heat on a last-second Kelly Olynyk putback can be forgiven. Losing at home to the Raptors who were without Kawhi and on the second night of a back-to-back is the type of loss that sticks with you. It feels like Washington is just continuing where it left off last season, and that is not a good place to start a new year.
22. Mavericks | Record: 1-1 | Preseason: 22
Don’t expect Dallas to be too concerned with stopping the other team from scoring this season. The team that gives up 136 in a win is a team to watch on League Pass on a random night in hopes of seeing a fun game, but not a team you should take home to mom. The jury is still out on Luka Doncic, but his 15-point second quarter against the Timberwolves and his four-for-nine showing from deep in said matchup are enough reason to mark your calendar for each time the Mavericks face the Nuggets.
21. Suns | Record: 1-1 | Preseason: 26
We all know Devin Booker will have little trouble getting all the buckets he wants this season, but his production as a passer was not as much of a guarantee. With Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson there to stretch the floor and provide some spacing and shooting like they did for James Harden in years past, Booker should have more room to operate against his defender to find his own shot, but also to keep up with the 14 assists he’s had through two games. Establishing a strong two-man game with Deandre Ayton could be the difference in Booker becoming an All-Star or just every Kentucky fans favorite NBA stat-stuffer.
20. Timberwolves | Record: 1-2 | Preseason: 18
The good news in Minnesota is Jimmy Butler hasn’t actually killed Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins … yet. The bad news is Tom Thibodeau’s defense surrendered 140 points to the Mavericks with Butler sitting out. Life without Buckets is going to be really ugly whenever we get to that point.
19. Grizzlies | Record: 1-1 | Preseason: 17
Memphis is going to need some defense going forward if Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are going to return this team to the postseason. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Garrett Temple’s strong starts could be launching points for big seasons in Memphis, or they could just be a sign of the future and great bit of trade bait to help bring that future about even quicker.
18. Pistons | Record: 2-0 | Preseason: 20
All wins count the same and that’s the main thing Dwane Casey should remind his team. Close calls against the Nets and Bulls aren’t something to necessarily be too proud of, but it’s a strong foundation for a team with a new coach and new-ish All-Star centerpiece. We’re seeing a glimpse of what Blake Griffin might be able to do as the No. 1 option, and Detroit’s upcoming game against Philadelphia will be a good litmus test for a team filled with so much mystery going forward.
17. Heat | Record: 1-2 | Preseason: 16
Miami playing three nail-biters against division foes to start the season seems right for some reason. This team could just as easily be 3-0 or 0-3. Josh Richardson is coming into his own to start the year, and hopefully, the Dwyane Wade farewell tour will continue to feature as many close games as possible. I need to watch him run to the corner of the court while gesturing about owning whatever city it is he just hit his game-winner in. Preferably the last time he does this it will be in Wade County.
16. Thunder | Record: 0-3 | Preseason: 8
Losing two road games without Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson can be overlooked. Giving up 131 points to the Kings in Westbrook’s season debut needs to be addressed. PG and Russ will get things back on track in OKC, but this team can’t ignore its issues like it did much of last season and just assume play will improve. Among the two All-NBA players and the two-time national championship winning coach, somebody needs to have some answers going forward besides hoping Roberson will turn this into a top five defense.
15. Clippers | Record: 2-1 | Preseason: 21
Doc Rivers has a healthy team as of right now. Tobias Harris looks comfortable as the lead option and Danilo Gallinari is showing he can be a viable second option in the right situation. Lou Williams is still Lou Will. And Patrick Beverley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are doing a good job running the offense and setting up others.
The cap on the Clippers is more about health than anything else at this point. When at full strength, they have no trouble playing the best teams close and taking advantage of other squads who might be without a key player or two. Wins over the Westbrook-less Thunder and the Rockets without CP3 on the second night of a road back-to-back aren’t the groundwork for some playoff dark horse. They do instill confidence in a roster of vets that knows it can battle anybody.
Figuring out exactly what Gilgeous-Alexander can provide long-term and deciding whether or not the 26-year-old Harris is also part of the future in L.A. are the most important parts of this season. If getting the answers to those questions happens to coincide with winning though, Doc will get the most out of this team from night-to-night.
But, if things go wrong and the injuries pile up some more, please Doc, just give us more Boban. That’s all the people really want. More Boban. Seriously.
14. Hornets | Record: 2-1 | Preseason: 24
Kemba Walker has treated every defender he’s faced so far this season like they’re Gary McGhee and the game is on the line in the Garden. His scoring will decrease as time goes on, but his usage may remain about where it is now. Kemba’s three-point shooting the past three seasons has been a major plus from where it was at the start of his career, and his ability to toy with defenses from behind the arc could be the difference in him leading Charlotte back to the playoffs or back to the lottery. Here’s hoping he keeps shooting about 13 triples a night this season.
13. Lakers | Record: 0-2 | Preseason: 10
Well, LeBron has looked pretty good in the Purple and Gold so far. As an entire unit, there is still a lot to be desired from the Lakers. It was obviously going to be a bit of a bumpy road in Los Angeles to start the season and losing to last year’s No. 1 and No. 3 seeds from the West isn’t the worst way to start the season. And now LeBron gets to spend more time figuring out how he better fits with Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma while Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram serve suspensions for fighting Chris Paul.
12. Rockets | Record: 1-2 | Preseason: 5
This is not Carmelo Anthony’s fault. As of now.
Getting trounced by New Orleans at home is not how you can start the season when the last time we saw you in a meaningful game you missed 27 consecutive threes. And to follow up the win over the Lakers with a loss to the Clippers is just not a good look.
As much as the Rockets want to be on Golden State’s level, they are not. And unlike the Warriors, Houston’s season did, in fact, start in October and we will not wait until May to care about what’s happening there.
Carmelo agreeing to come off the bench shows this team has faith in what Mike D’Antoni is trying to do. However, getting smacked left and right by the Pelicans shows this team might not have the raw talent it did last season.
At a certain point, we need to focus more on the facts Chris Paul is 33 and coming off an injury and James Harden still doesn’t care about defense. There’s only so much P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela can do for the defense after losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute.
This team is going to right the ship and rip off at least one 10-game winning streak this season. Houston fans will get a chance to convince themselves they can take down the Warriors as long as Melo can hit just one three Ariza couldn’t. It will get better from this week.
However, after watching what New Orleans did to them, just how much better do you think they will get?
11. Spurs | Record: 1-1 | Preseason: 7
Having no Dejounte Murray this season is a big blow for San Antonio. The pressure on Gregg Popovich and DeMar DeRozan specifically increases now that the Spurs are in need of answers at the lead guard spot. A season-opening win over the Timberwolves is a satisfying way to get the season started knowing it will be a long trek ahead for a team missing its projected starting point guard and top draft pick for the time being.
10. Pacers | Record: 2-1 | Preseason: 9
Indiana’s two wins to start the season were impressive, but they also came against lesser competition. Similar to the 76ers, the Pacers got rocked in their matchup against a team it will be comparing itself to all year long in the Bucks. The 17-point difference in that loss in Milwaukee should be Indiana’s main takeaway from this week and not the 48-point differential in their two home wins.
9. Nuggets | Record: 3-0 | Preseason: 14
Nikola Jokic posting one of the most bonkers triple doubles is the exact type of thing to expect from the Nuggets on a nightly basis. I don’t know just how much you can take out of Sunday’s two-point victory over the Warriors, but it’s a marvelous notch on the belt nonetheless. But until Paul Millsap demonstrates his ability to be the difference-maker and All-Star presence he was expected to have when he joined this team last year, I can’t get too high on Mike Malone’s squad just yet.
8. Trail Blazers | Record: 2-0 | Preseason: 12
Nik Stauskas ruining LeBron’s Lakers debut will easily be one of the top 10 moments of this season. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will continue to do what they have done for the past few years as you saw against the Spurs on Saturday. But some combo of Sauce Castillo, Jusuf Nirkic, Zach Collins, Evan Turner and Seth Curry has to fill in the rest of the offensive production on a nightly basis.
7. Bucks | Record: 2-0 | Preseason: 13
What if we just gave Giannis MVP right now? No? We should still wait a few more weeks to do this? Fine. Still, he and coach Mike Budenholzer are plenty of reason for all of Milwaukee to be pumped about the potential of this season. To survive Kemba’s lights-out performance in the opener and follow it up with a 17-point triumph of a Pacers squad many expect to battle the Bucks for a playoff seed is a splendid way to get a new season underway.
6. 76ers | Record: 2-1 | Preseason: 4
The opening night loss in Boston will sting until Philly gets another crack at the Celtics. For now, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will just have to take their frustrations out on every other team in the East. Back-to-back 30-point performances from Embiid are a sign to come for every team that can’t send Al Horford, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris out there to slow him down.
5. Pelicans | Record: 2-0 | Preseason: 11
So, remember when the Pelicans traded for Nikola Mirotic last season and became one NBA’s fastest playing team? That is here to stay.
Alvin Gentry’s team is going to make you play their game whenever they can. And it turns out, not even the defending MVP can have his team ready to move at that pace on any given night.
With Mirotic, New Orleans found the perfect complement to Anthony Davis. His floor spacing gives AD all the room he needs to work inside on the offensive end, and his rebounding takes a bit of the pressure of Davis, who is already at the center of the defense.
Julius Randle getting the green light to bully defenders as much as possible will go a long way for a bench not expected to provide much help going into the year. Randle needs to make sure he finds a way to work with Davis, allowing Gentry to cycle between the three bigs as seen fit. If the Pelicans have the ability to send any of those two bigs at you along with Jrue Holiday, expect problems for the rest of the league.
Depth is sure to be an issue as the season wanes on. An injury to any starter would likely create a hole that could only be filled by Davis being even more of a Monstar than he already is. As long as the Pelicans are healthy though, be ready to either run with them or have them run you out the gym.
4. Celtics | Record: 2-1 | Preseason: 2
It’s been an interesting week for Boston. After taking care of the 76ers to start the year, the Celtics lost their showdown with the East’s other major contender in Toronto. And all wins count the same in the standings, but Saturday’s close call against the Knicks is not what you want to see, even if Gordon Hayward is sidelined. But Jayson Tatum is looking like the next star pupil of the Kobe System and that’s all that really matters for Boston right now.
3. Jazz | Record: 1-1 | Preseason: 6
If you see Joe Ingles in a fight with a kangaroo, for the love of God, HELP THE KANGAROO!!!
Words can’t accurately describe what Joe was doing to the Warriors on Friday night, and if you didn’t watch it live, you should be slightly ashamed of yourself.
There’s no doubt Utah will be one of Golden State’s toughest competitors this year, but it wasn’t clear just how close the Jazz would be to the defending champs. There’s only but so much to really extrapolate out of one game, but Friday’s contest in Salt Lake City was proof the Jazz want the smoke with any and everybody.
After posting at least 20 in three postseason games last year, these two games might just be the beginning of the Joe Ingles Scoring Bananza potentially taking place this season. Even if that isn’t the case though, Utah has plenty to be hype about.
The offense is putting up points at will without Donovan Mitchell shouldering too much of a heavy workload. Ricky Rubio is making it harder and harder each game for defenders to casually leave him alone behind the three-point line. Jae Crowder and Dante Exum have the second unit looking scary to opposing benches.
And you can’t forget about the 7-footer in the middle of the defense who can turn any offensive threat into a blocked shot and a possession for Utah. Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert haven’t had too much reason to brag about how stifling their defense is sure to be this season, but we all know what’s coming. If one of the league’s projected top defensive teams can also put up 120 points on any given night and take the defending champions to the final buzzer, what is there not to love about that group?
2. Warriors | Record: 2-1 | Preseason: 1
Do any of y’all really care where I put the Warriors in these rankings from week-to-week? Like, we all assume they’ll be No. 1 by June, so what does this matter?
Raptors | Record: 3-0 | Preseason: 3
I was prepared to leave Toronto at No. 2 after pulling out the thriller against the Celtics. Then, without Kawhi, the Raptors went on the road and earned another victory on the second night of a back-to-back that they had every reason to lose. Kyle Lowry might be down a best friend, but the championship experience provided by Leonard and Danny Green will mean more than pregame handshakes come May. And through one week in October, it seems it is already paying off.