Skip to main content
Publish date:

NBA Power Rankings: First Impressions for All 30 Teams

Are the Warriors back? And how high can the Hornets climb?
Author:

The first week of the NBA season saw hot starts by surprise teams and disappointing results from a few contenders. What to make of it all? SI’s NBA staff is ranking every team from best to worst all season long, taking into account how each squad is currently playing. Where does your team rank? Here are our early impressions after one week of action.

1. Denver Nuggets

(Record: 2-0)

The entire NBA might as well be orbiting Nikola Jokić’s genius right now. Gregg Popovich recently called him “a seven-foot Larry Bird type of guy.” This howling, otherwise inconsequential pass demands a fifth or sixth viewing after being seen for the first time. And his (sustainable?) 30 point, 15 rebound and five assist per game averages are why the Nuggets are 2-0. — Michael Pina

2. Golden State Warriors

(Record: 3-0)

​​Steph Curry, age 33, is still finding new ways to dazzle us (45/10/10 vs. the Clippers) … and make us believe the Warriors can rejoin the elite in the Western Conference. Sweeping the LA teams to open the season is a heckuva start, even if both LA teams are looking a little wonky. — Howard Beck

3. Utah Jazz

(Record: 2-0)

The Jazz haven’t played the toughest schedule (see: Thunder, Oklahoma City) but have yet to lose and lead the NBA in net rating (they’re also third in overall plus-minus). They’ve essentially picked up where they left off and the stink of last year’s disappointing playoff loss shouldn’t factor too heavily into where they currently sit. Which is, more or less, at the top of a teetering ladder. — MP

4. Charlotte Hornets

(Record: 3-0)

All three of the Hornets’ wins have come by double-digits, and LaMelo Ball hasn’t even had to play 30 minutes in a game yet. Charlotte is not only winning to tip off the season, it’s winning consistently. Keep an eye on Miles Bridges, who has scored at least 30 points in back-to-back contests. — Rohan Nadkarni

5. Milwaukee Bucks

(Record: 2-1)

With the static in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, it’d be easy to peg Milwaukee as the regular-season favorite in the East. But don’t be surprised if the reigning champs have occasional duds like the 42-point loss in Miami, which came just two days after their season-opening victory over Brooklyn. Having won it all, Milwaukee—missing five rotation players in the Miami defeat—will likely prioritize health this season. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were in the Olympics shortly after earning a ring. — Chris Herring

6. Chicago Bulls

(Record: 3-0)

One question may determine Chicago’s season: Can the Bulls defend well enough to make the leap some think they will? A week into the campaign, they’re surrendering 93.7 points per 100 possessions while using active hands to deflect almost 21 passes per game—each fourth-best in the NBA. In part because of that, they’re 3-0. At the same time, the tests figure to get tougher, as they’ve only played the young Pistons and the Pelicans, who stand a combined 0-5. — CH

7. Memphis Grizzlies

(Record: 2-1)

SI Recommends

Ja Morant is off to a dominant start, which is great for League Pass subscribers and scary news for the rest of the NBA. The Grizz look fully capable of returning to the playoffs, with Jaren Jackson back healthy and Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton excelling in supporting roles. Their next five games—at Portland and Golden State back to back, Miami, and Denver twice—will be a useful barometer. — Jeremy Woo

8. Atlanta Hawks

(Record: 1-1)

Atlanta followed up a statement win against the Mavs with a loss against the frisky Cavaliers. The team’s depth has been on display in its first couple games, with five different players currently averaging at least 11 points a night. Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter, two players who were mostly injured during last summer’s postseason run, have looked great early. — RN

9. Washington Wizards

(Record: 2-0)

The addition of Spencer Dinwiddie has been a revelation (very) early in the season. The former Nets guard just barely leads the team in scoring through two games with 23.5 points a night. The early returns of the Russell Westbrook trade have been positive, with Montrezl Harrel, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each playing big minutes in the rotation. — RN

10. Philadelphia 76ers

(Record: 2-1)

A 2-1 start includes wins over bottom-feeding New Orleans and Oklahoma City, but hey, it’s better than 1-2. Tyrese Maxey has been decent as a Ben Simmons stand-in and Philadelphia, with five players averaging double figures, is flashing some strong scoring depth. Andre Drummond, still a rebounding machine, has played well, a good sign with Joel Embiid already battling an early season knee issue. — Chris Mannix

11. Miami Heat

(Record: 1-1)

Miami walloped a wounded Bucks team in its home opener, before dropping an overtime slugfest to the Pacers. The good: Tyler Herro has been a wrecking ball off the bench, scoring 57 points in two games to lead the team. The not so good: Kyle Lowry has already missed time because of a twisted ankle, and Jimmy Butler is shooting only 40.6% through two games. — RN

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle drives to the basket against Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.

12. New York Knicks

(Record: 2-1)

It was trendy to suggest that Julius Randle couldn’t duplicate last season’s All-NBA performance. Uh, might want to re-think that. Randle is averaging 28.7 points and 11.7 rebounds through the Knicks’ first three games. He’s also handing out more than six assists, showing nice vision as a passer out of the post. Meanwhile, Evan Fournier has been largely as-advertised offensively, giving the Knicks much needed firepower on the perimeter. — CM

13. Brooklyn Nets

(Record: 1-2)

What’s going on with James Harden? Through three games Harden has attempted just eight free throws—one more than he averaged last season—with the NBA cracking down on the kind of non-basketball moves Harden routinely drew fouls within previous seasons. Meanwhile, the Nets’ defense, 24th in defensive efficiency through Sunday, isn’t stopping anybody. Will the pressure increase for a Kyrie Irving return? — CM

14. Minnesota Timberwolves

(Record: 2-0)

Wins are wins, and even though Minnesota’s first two came against a pair of bad teams, there’s solid reason to believe in these Wolves. Karl-Anthony Towns is breathing fire. Anthony Edwards is bouncing on a trampoline. And in all minutes that aren’t garbage time, no team in the entire NBA has a better defense than the Timberwolves. — MP

15. Phoenix Suns

(Record: 1-2)

Quite an opening week for the defending West champs. First, the club balks at giving a max extension to former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton. Then owner Robert Sarver issues a preemptive statement defending himself against a (still-unpublished) investigative report that will apparently accuse him of racist and sexist behavior and sexual harassment. — HB

16. Portland Trail Blazers

(Record: 1-1)

The Blazers avoided catastrophe when a Saturday night MRI on Norm Powell’s left knee revealed patellar tendinopathy instead of something far more devastating. Good news. Better news: Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little may both be making leaps at the exact right time for an organization that’s long needed an internal shot of adrenaline. Blowing out the Suns was a good sign, and both of them went above and beyond to help make it happen. — MP

17. Dallas Mavericks

(Record: 1-1)

Getting demolished by Atlanta in the season opener was not an encouraging way to start the season. This season will be a major test for Luka Dončić, as his supporting cast isn’t great, and Dallas has to piecemeal adequate wing minutes from Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown to prop up bench units and preserve floor spacing. There are early concerns here. — JW

18. Indiana Pacers

(Record: 1-2)

Yes, the Pacers lost a pair of games by one point each during the first week of play. But there’s plenty to be encouraged by. Aside from Myles Turner’s career-best 40-point effort at Washington, Indiana rookie Chris Duarte is averaging 20.3 points per night on almost 46% from deep—a shot in the arm for a team without Caris LeVert (stress fracture) and T.J. Warren (out indefinitely). — CH

19. Sacramento Kings

(Record: 1-2)

Still weird, still dysfunctional. They have four really good guards (DeAaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Tyrese Haliburton, rookie Davion Mitchell), who all need minutes and shots. Their highest draft pick, Marvin Bagley, has been banished from the rotation, drawing a stinging rebuke from his agent. Their frontcourt rotation is meh, beyond Harrison Barnes, who looked like an All-Star in Week 1. What does it all mean? I have no idea. — HB

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James dribbles a ball during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

20. Los Angeles Lakers

(Record: 1-2)

Too soon to panic, too soon to draw conclusions, too soon to say we told you so about Russ being an awkward fit. They might need a little time for all these new pieces to get acclimated (and/or healthy). But there was plenty of fodder for the skeptics in Week 1. On the plus side: LeBron and AD are both beasting. Best guess: Lakers will be fine. — HB

21. Toronto Raptors

(Record: 1-2)

​​Remember when the Raptors were criticized for drafting Scottie Barnes over Jalen Suggs? It’s early but Barnes looks good. He battered Boston for 25 points and 13 rebounds in his second NBA game, following it up with a 17-point, eight-rebound performance a night later against Dallas. Barnes is a physical, 6’7” wing and if he develops any kind of consistency with his three-point shot—he’s just 1-for-5 through the first three games of the season—he’s going to be a problem. — CM

22. Boston Celtics

(Record: 1-2)

There will always be a gap between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But is Brown closing it? Brown, fresh off a 10-day quarantine, scored 46 points in the season opener against the Knicks. Brown was a first-time All-Star last season, shooting nearly 40% from three. He’s improved nearly every season, and early returns show a heightened confidence in his three-point shot and improved ball-handling. Toss in that Brown is already one of Boston’s best perimeter defenders, and he could be ready to take another leap this season. — CM

23. Los Angeles Clippers

(Record: 0-2)

Their season depends on two questions: Can Paul George carry this team as a solo star? And is anyone capable of being a consistent No. 2 option? The early returns for George are encouraging (35 points/10.5 rebounds/5 assists per game). The second answer is unclear. Eric Bledsoe? Reggie Jackson? Terance Mann? — HB

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

(Record: 1-2)

There aren’t enough good things to say about Evan Mobley, whose skill jumps off the screen when you watch the Cavs for even a moment. It’s not just that he’s averaging 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.3 blocks through his first three games. It’s also how he moves his feet against smalls when he’s switched onto them. That was on display against Trae Young (8-for-22) Saturday, as Mobley helped the Cavs beat the Hawks with a lackluster Collin Sexton and without Darius Garland playing. — CH

25. San Antonio Spurs

(Record: 1-2 )

San Antonio’s success has to be measured in small gains—the Spurs are not masquerading as a contender, but need more from their collection of first-round draftees. Keldon Johnson (20.7 PPG on 56% shooting) and Devin Vassell (19 points in his season debut) can elevate the group’s long-term prospects with continued growth. — JW

26. Orlando Magic

(Record: 1-2)

Orlando’s two losses have come by a combined 51 points. Six players are averaging double-digit scoring but no one more than 16.3 points a game. And the team’s most promising player, Jonathan Isaac, is appearing more often on Fox News than the basketball court. — RN

27. Houston Rockets

(Record: 1-2)

Christian Wood has been exceptionally productive, but this is going to be a very long year for the Rockets, who are hoping Jalen Green and Kevin Porter find their sea legs sooner than later. None of this is surprising, of course, and Houston isn’t trying to make the playoffs anytime soon. But it’s not entertaining yet, either. — JW

28. New Orleans Pelicans

(Record: 0-3)

It’s been a messy start to the season for the Pelicans, and 19 turnovers per game won’t cut it. New Orleans has to find a way to tread water until Zion Williamson returns, and it’s hard to properly assess the roster without its centerpiece. Still, the unclear timeline for his return is troublesome, and the Pelicans need much more from their bench in the meantime. — JW

29. Detroit Pistons

(Record: 0-2)

No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham eyes making his debut later this week. In the meantime, Detroit would love to see more out of last year’s first-rounder, point guard Killian Hayes. Following a rough rookie campaign, Hayes has more turnovers (three) than points (two) through the first two games of this season. Unsurprisingly, the Pistons rank dead last in offensive efficiency by a wide margin heading into the second week of play. — CH

30. Oklahoma City Thunder

(Record: 0-3)

If you were to look for silver linings here, well, don’t. The Thunder are at rock bottom of a lengthy rebuild and as bad as advertised. They’ve been outscored by a league-worst 66 points in three games (21 more than the next team) and don’t even have awesome Shai Gilgeous-Alexander performances to show for it. Their newly signed max player is 3-for-19 from behind the arc. — MP

More NBA Coverage:
Be Patient With the Lakers
Is This the End of NBA Dynasties?
The NBA 75: Biggest Snubs, Surprises and Ranking Best Players
How Chicago Became the NBA's Most Intriguing Team