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NBA Power Rankings: Where Each Team Stands After First Month

The Warriors remain in the driver’s seat, while the Suns are showing last year was no fluke.

The first month of the NBA season has come and gone with teams around the league nearing the quarter mark of this year’s campaign. Thus far, we’ve seen a number of surprising starts—both good and bad—as both conferences’ standings are more broadly starting to take shape. Here’s a look at where things stand coming off another exciting week of action.

(Note: SI’s NBA staff is ranking every team from best to worst all season long, taking into account how each squad is currently playing.)

1. Golden State Warriors

Current record: 15–2

Previous ranking: 1

Klay Thompson’s return is coming soon and, when he steps on the floor, he’ll join not only one of the league’s most exciting offenses but an elite defense as well. Golden State currently leads the NBA in defensive rating, at 99.4 points allowed per 100 possessions, and opponents are shooting a league-worst 42.2% from the field against them.

2. Phoenix Suns

Current record: 13–3

Previous ranking: 3

The Suns are showing the NBA that last year’s Finals run was no fluke. They hold the league’s second-best winning percentage, led by a stout defense that entered its game against the Nuggets on Sunday night third in the league. Phoenix’s offense remains one of the most beautiful to watch, as they are No. 3 in the league in assist ratio and No. 2 in assist/turnover ratio.

3. Brooklyn Nets

Current record: 12–5

Previous ranking: 2

Following Tuesday’s loss to the Warriors, coach Steve Nash said he didn’t think the Nets were in the Warriors’ “category yet,” adding, “We got a lot of work to do.” Indeed, Brooklyn entered Sunday’s action No. 14 in offensive rating and No. 10 in defensive rating. James Harden, though, seems to be slowly rounding into form.

4. Utah Jazz

Current record: 11–5

Previous ranking: 11

The Jazz have won their last three wins in convincing fashion, picking up victories over the 76ers, Raptors and Kings. Saturday’s 18-point victory over Sacramento was a prime example of just how many weapons are at coach Quin Snyder’s disposal, as eight players scored at least nine points.

5. Chicago Bulls

Current record: 12–5

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Previous ranking: 5

​​As my colleague Chris Herring noted last week, Bulls wing DeMar DeRozan leads the NBA in fourth-quarter field goal percentage among the 42 players who’ve taken at least 50 shots in fourth quarters this season. It’s a mark that certainly bodes well for Chicago as it hopes to continue its hot start to the season.

6. Miami Heat

Current record: 11–6

Previous ranking: 8

Through 17 games, the Heat are one of just three teams to have both a top-seven offense and defense. Their roster is loaded with top talent and they have benefited from a bounce-back year from Tyler Herro, who is averaging 21.6 points per game, up from 15.1 last season.

7. Washington Wizards

Current record: 11–5

Previous ranking: 6

The Wizards continue to be one of the league’s biggest surprises, holding an 11–5 record just more than a month into the season. While there’s plenty of reasons for their success, Montrezl Harrell has been an absolute sensation for Washington, averaging 17.1 points and 8.4 rebounds in 28.4 minutes per game off the bench. For his effort, he’s currently No. 5 in win shares, behind only Jimmy Butler, Nikola Jokić, Stephen Curry and Rudy Gobert.

8. Los Angeles Clippers

Current record: 10–7

Previous ranking: 7

The Clippers knocked off a depleted Mavericks team Sunday behind 29 points from Paul George and 23 points from Reggie Jackson. The two not surprisingly make up Los Angeles’s most-used duo, having logged more than 450 minutes together with a +1.7 net rating.

9. Milwaukee Bucks

Current record: 9–8

Previous ranking: 12

The Bucks are slowly finding their rhythm, but it’s tough to jump to a ton of conclusions about the reigning champions. Instead, consider this: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton have played in just five games and 73 total minutes together this season. Yet despite the incredibly small sample that trio is +22.5 when on the floor together.

10. Boston Celtics

Current record: 9–8

Previous ranking: 18

Despite Jaylen Brown’s being sidelined because of a hamstring injury, the Celtics have clawed back to 9–8 on the season behind a recent 3–1 stretch. Boston’s offense has played better of late, recording a 113.2 offensive rating over that span, compared to a mere 104.9 offensive rating before Nov. 15.

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball goes in for a layup in the first quarter against the Brooklyn Nets.

11. Charlotte Hornets

Current record: 10–8

Previous ranking: 15

LaMelo Ball has continued to be uber-productive early in his second season. Over his last five games, four of which have been victories, Ball is averaging 19.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists. Monday’s matchup vs. the Wizards presents an early-season test featuring two of the league’s biggest early surprises.

12. Atlanta Hawks

Current record: 8–9

Previous ranking: 19

Key to the Hawks’ recent four-game win streak has been the improved play of Clint Capela. The 27-year-old center has scored in double digits in each of those victories, recording an average of 14 points in the paint throughout that stretch. In his 13 games before that, Capela had averaged just 8.8 points from the painted area. His renewed presence on the inside bodes well for Atlanta as they look to rise up the standings.

13. Denver Nuggets

Current record: 9–8

Previous ranking: 4

The Nuggets lost their fourth consecutive game Sunday night. However, the team’s most recent two defeats can be explained, in part, by the absence of reigning MVP Nikola Jokić, who is nursing a sprained right wrist. Jokić has been having another MVP-level season, averaging 26.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists.

14. Dallas Mavericks

Current record: 9–7

Previous ranking: 10

The Mavericks dropped to 9–7 on the season after a six-point loss to the Clippers on Sunday. The loss was the team’s third straight, all coinciding with star guard Luka Dončić’s missing time due to ankle and knee injuries. Those results are not surprising, of course, considering Dončić leads the NBA in usage rate this season at 35.6%.

15. Portland Trail Blazers

Current record: 9–8

Previous ranking: 22

Portland’s been among the NBA’s best teams on offense this season, logging a 110.9 offensive rating entering Sunday. But its defense has remained underwhelming, currently standing at No. 25 in the league at 110.4 points per 100 possessions. The Blazers’ three-point defense has been especially porous, allowing opposing teams to shoot 38.6% from three, the third-worst mark in the NBA heading into Sunday.

16. Cleveland Cavaliers

Current record: 9–8

Previous ranking: 9

Injuries have plagued the Cavaliers early this season. On Friday, the team announced that 22-year-old guard Collin Sexton will need season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Sexton had been second on the team in scoring, at 16 points per game. After starting out 9–5, the Cavaliers have lost three straight games. Upcoming contests versus the Nets, Suns, Mavericks and Heat make for a daunting stretch that could sink Cleveland further down the standings.

17. New York Knicks

Current record: 9–8

Previous ranking: 14

Through one month of the season, it is the Knicks’ offense, not their defense, which has been the more productive side of the basketball. It’s a surprising fact for a Tom Thibodeau–coached team, but it’s also hard to imagine New York having a below-average defensive unit much longer.

18. Philadelphia 76ers

Current record: 9–8

Previous ranking: 13

Has anybody benefited more from Ben Simmons’s absence than Tyrese Maxey? The 21-year-old guard is averaging 18.4 points per game, up from 8.0 last season, and he’s seen his minutes total more than double. Still, a recent COVID-19 outbreak has cut into Philadelphia’s depth and keeps last year’s top seed from moving up in the standings.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) walks off the court after being ejected from the game during the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena.

19. Los Angeles Lakers

Current record: 9–9

Previous ranking: 16

Among the interesting differences between the Lakers of last year and the Lakers of this year is the discrepancy that’s been created on the glass. Last season, Los Angeles allowed the second-fewest offensive rebounds per game, while this season (entering Sunday) it has allowed the third-most. A similar flip-flop can be extended to its rebounding totals more generally. The good news, more broadly, is that LeBron James returned to action Friday night. The bad news is that James was ejected from Sunday’s win over the Pistons for striking Detroit big man Isaiah Stewart in the face while fighting for rebounding position and could possibly face a suspension.

20. Memphis Grizzlies

Current record: 8–8

Previous ranking: 21

The Grizzlies played their worst game of the season against the Timberwolves on Saturday, falling by 42 points. The loss was certainly disappointing for a Memphis team that had picked up early-season wins over the Clippers, Lakers, Nuggets and Warriors. The Grizzlies currently have the league’s worst defense, allowing 113.8 points per 100 possessions, and while their offense is league-average, Memphis often finds itself playing catchup.

21. Toronto Raptors

Current record: 8–10

Previous ranking: 17

As I detailed last week, Raptors forward OG Anunoby is cementing himself as one of the NBA’s brightest young stars. Among the most impressive parts of his development is how he’s grown as an offensive creator. Anunoby came into Sunday’s action averaging a career-high and team-high 20.1 points per game. As notable as any other marker, a career-best 41.2% of his made field goals have come on unassisted baskets.

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22. Minnesota Timberwolves

Current record: 7–9

Previous ranking: 25

The Timberwolves enter Monday night’s game with the Pelicans riding a season-high three-game win streak. However, those wins didn’t exactly come against the NBA’s elite. Nevertheless, they're trying to keep pace with the rest of the Western Conference and avoid an early-season drought.

23. Indiana Pacers

Current record: 7–11

Previous ranking: 20

Coach Rick Carlisle benched his starters with more than eight minutes to go in the third quarter of Friday night’s loss to the Hornets in a move that center Myles Turner deemed a “wake-up call.” Indiana responded with a win over the lowly Pelicans on Saturday, but it’ll get a better sense as to where it stands this week with matchups against the Bulls, Lakers, Raptors and Bucks.

24. Oklahoma City Thunder

Current record: 6–10

Previous ranking: 23

The Thunder have played better than many expected coming into the season, already amassing six victories. However, they still have the league’s second-worst offense, averaging 99.2 points per 100 possessions. Other than star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and first-round pick Josh Giddey, their roster is relatively thin on creators.

25. Sacramento Kings

Current record: 6–11

Previous ranking: 24

The Kings fired coach Luke Walton on Sunday, one day after an 18-point loss to the Jazz. Walton went 68–93 in his two-plus seasons with Sacramento and, like all of his recent predecessors, failed to make a playoff appearance. Alvin Gentry will take over as the team’s interim head coach. If they want to make their first postseason since 2006, Gentry will look to get more out of guard De’Aaron Fox, who has seen his scoring dip from 25.2 points per game last year to 19.7 this season.

26. San Antonio Spurs

Current record: 4–11

Previous ranking: 26

The 4–11 Spurs might not have a true standout scorer, but they certainly have a multitude of quality options on offense. Seven players are averaging double digits, including four who are 25 years old or younger. It hasn’t, and likely won’t, translate to a ton of short-term success this season, however.

27. Detroit Pistons

Current record: 4–12

Previous ranking: 27

Over the last 10 days, the Pistons doubled their win total on the season—picking up victories over the Raptors and Pacers. They also remained competitive against the Warriors on Friday night (albeit Golden State didn’t play Draymond Green or Stephen Curry). Still, Cade Cunningham has gotten off to a solid start to his first season averaging 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game entering Sunday’s game vs. the Lakers.

28. Orlando Magic

Current record: 4–13

Previous ranking: 28

Among the most encouraging aspects of the young Magic roster is the instant production of rookie forward Franz Wagner. The No. 8 pick in the 2021 NBA draft is averaging 13.2 points per game, the second-most on the roster, on 44.3% shooting from the field.

29. New Orleans Pelicans

Current record: 3–15

Previous ranking: 29

New Orleans picked up an impressive 94–81 victory over the Clippers on Friday, but there has been very little to cheer about for the Pelicans this season. Among the issues, they have the league’s second-worst defense, which is allowing 111.5 points per 100 possessions.

30. Houston Rockets

Current record: 1–15

Previous ranking: 30

The Rockets entered the fourth quarter of Friday’s game against the Knicks with a rare lead. They couldn’t hold it, however, and eventually dropped their 15th game of the season. Afterward, rookie Jalen Green said he felt he could take on “more of a leader role” for the franchise. Green is certainly still figuring out how to acclimate himself to the NBA, but it’s encouraging to see him want to play a bigger role.

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What's Next For the Kings? 
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Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry Lead NBA MVP Race

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