Home Sports NBA Power Rankings: Fearsome Celtics still on top, but Cavs creeping up;...

NBA Power Rankings: Fearsome Celtics still on top, but Cavs creeping up; Warriors starting to look like champs



1


Celtics
The Celtics ran their winning streak to nine games by beating the Pelicans on the road before losing to the Bulls on Monday night. They bounced back quickly, however, to handily defeat the Mavs on national TV on Wednesday, as Jayson Tatum went off for 37 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Boston now has the best offensive rating in NBA history, so yeah, safe to say things are clicking on that end. The scary part is that they’re 17th in defense, which we know won’t be the case as the season progresses and Robert Williams potentially returns to the lineup. Marcus Smart praised Jaylen Brown on Wednesday night, saying he’s an MVP-caliber player, along with Tatum, when he’s at his best. This team is a juggernaut, plain and simple. — 14-4
2


Cavaliers
After a brief skid, the Cavs are back to their winning ways, rattling off four straight this week against the Hornets, Heat, Hawks and Blazers. Last week JB Bickerstaff called out the defense, and the Cavs responded by allowing just 102 points per 100 possessions this week, while scoring 118.8. Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell each averaged over 27 points per game and shot over 40 percent from the 3-point line, while Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley both averaged a double-double. Cedi Osman had two big games off the bench, putting up 21.5 points per game against Miami and Atlanta. 13 12-6
3


Pelicans
The Pelicans lost to the Celtics last Friday, then averaged nearly 130 points in wins over the Warriors Lite and the Spurs. New Orleans is now fourth in the NBA in defense and sixth in offense (the only other teams in the top six in both are the Suns and Cavs), which is traditionally a recipe for tremendous success. Brandon Ingram put up 25.3 points and 6.7 assists per game this week while keeping up his red-hot 3-point shooting at 43 percent. Zion Williamson returned to the court to average 20.5 points and 6.5 rebounds on 68 percent shooting in just under 25 minutes per game. 1 11-7
4


Suns
The Suns continue to power through without Chris Paul and Cam Johnson, losing a shootout with the Jazz by a single point before beating the Knicks and Lakers. Devin Booker expectedly led the way with 31 points per game on 39 percent 3-point shooting, while Cam Payne put up 16.3 points and seven assists per game on 42 percent 3-point from deep in Paul’s place as the starting point guard. Mikal Bridges has also been excellent in an expanded role, averaging 17 points, six rebounds and 3.3 assists this week on 50 percent 3-point shooting. Despite the injuries, Phoenix finds itself leading the Western Conference. 8 11-6
5


Hawks
The Hawks beat the Raptors in overtime before losing to Cavs and then stopping the Kings’ winning streak on Wednesday. Trae Young averaged 31 points and 9.7 assists on 39 percent 3-point shooting in the three games, while rookie AJ Griffin has taken full advantage of extra minutes by putting up 15.3 points per game this week on 38 percent from beyond the arc. The offense still has room to improve, but the Hawks are defending relatively consistently this season, which should serve them well in the long run. 1 11-7
6


Kings
Vivek Ranadivé’s electricity bill must be through the roof after lighting the beam for seven consecutive games, but alas, it gets a short reprieve following Sacramento’s loss to the Hawks on Wednesday. The Kings have now been the most fun team in the NBA for two weeks, and they’re tasked with keeping up expectations as they move into a difficult portion of the schedule. De’Aaron Fox has simply been unreal, averaging 27.7 points, six assists and 5.7 rebounds this week on 47 percent 3-point shooting. Harrison Barnes has stepped up his scoring efforts, while Kevin Huerter continues to splash nets wherever he goes. Domantas Sabonis hasn’t scored as much as we’re used to, but he’s been an effective rebounder and playmaker, putting up 13.3 boards and 7.3 assists per game this week. 2 10-7
7


Bucks
The Bucks went 1-2 this week, beating the Blazers while losing to the 76ers and Bulls. Giannis Antetokounmpo had that strange Laddergate experience in Philadelphia, but he still averaged 32.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game for the week. The real concern is his poor free throw shooting, which led to the whole ladder incident in the first place, but he did go 6-for-9 in the loss to Chicago — an improvement on the 34 percent he shot over the three previous games. Jrue Holiday is still easing his way back into the lineup, averaging 13.7 points and seven assists in just under 30 minutes per game this week, while Brook Lopez continues his excellent season, putting up 16.3 points and 3.3 blocks per game this week on 41 percent 3-point shooting. 4 12-5
8


Timberwolves
The Wolves found success this week by getting defensive, beating the 76ers, Heat and Pacers while allowing just 100.6 points per 100 possessions (compared to 112 prior to this week). Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns continued to lead the team offensively, while Jaden McDaniels added 15.7 points and 1.7 blocks per game on 50 percent 3-point shooting. Minnesota has now won five games in a row, and appears to be figuring things out defensively. 13 10-8
9


Nuggets
The Nuggets were extremely short-handed to start the week, but managed to split with the Mavericks thanks to the strong play of Bones Hyland and Bruce Brown. Ironically, with the stars back in the lineup, Denver lost at home to the struggling Pistons and escaped by the skin of their teeth in overtime against OKC. Nikola Jokic stepped up his scoring efforts, averaging 35 points in the two games he played, to go along with 9.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists. Aaron Gordon was also excellent in his two games, putting up 24 points and 7.5 rebounds per game on 65 percent shooting. 2 11-7
10


Clippers
Kawhi was starting. PG was looking good. But we know we can’t have nice things in Clipper Land, so of course George and Leonard are now out “indefinitely.” The good news is that Reggie Jackson and Norm Powell are starting to come on, since they’ll need to take on the bulk of the scoring load with the two stars out. After a horrid start to the season, Powell is looking more like the player the Clippers traded for last season, averaging 24 points this week on 58/58/91 shooting splits. Jackson scored at least 20 points in three straight games before an 11-point effort in Wednesday’s loss to Golden State. 1 11-8
11


Jazz
The Jazz put some points on the board this week, finishing with a 121.1 offensive rating while splitting four games. Wednesday’s loss to the Pistons was particularly disappointing, and they’ve now lost five of their last seven games. Lauri Markkanen went off for a career-high 38 points on 15-for-18 shooting in a barnburner win over the Suns, and both he and Jordan Clarkson averaged over 24 points for the week. The usually streaky Malik Beasley ripped the cords for 22.8 points per game on 44 percent 3-point shooting, but Utah’s problem is on the defensive end, where it allowed 123.6 points per 100 possessions this week. 3 12-8
12


Pacers
All good things must come to an end, and the Pacers’ five-game winning streak concluded on Wednesday against the Wolves. It’s been an impressive run for Indiana, which beat the Rockets and Magic twice this week before the loss to Minnesota. Myles Turner has been putting on a show, averaging 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game this week (with one very impressive dunk over Rudy Gobert). Tyrese Haliburton is doing his best Chris Paul impression, dishing out 12.5 assists per game this week. 4 10-7
13


76ers
Ugh. The Sixers started off the week by beating the Bucks, but then lost Tyrese Maxey for a month with a broken foot and Joel Embiid for at least a couple games with a foot issue of his own. They joined James Harden on the sidelines as the remaining roster, led by Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton and Shake Milton, took down the Nets in a gritty effort before running out of gas in a back-to-back against the Hornets on Wednesday. In the last two games, Melton averaged 21 points and 3.5 steals per game on 40 percent 3-point shooting, while Milton added 19 points and seven assists per game on 43 percent shooting. They’ll need to keep that up with the starting backcourt on the IR. 1 9-9
14


Grizzlies
The Grizzlies beat the Thunder this week, while losing to the Nets and Kings. With Desmond Bane already out, Memphis received some good news when Ja Morant was able to suit up after missing just one game with an ankle sprain. They lost to the Kings in his return, but he nearly brought the Grizzlies back from the dead with an insane 20-point fourth quarter. Jaren Jackson Jr. has looked great since returning to the court, averaging 23.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, four blocks and two steals in two games this week. 5 10-8
15


Mavericks
The Mavs stomped the short-handed Nuggets last Friday at home, and then turned around and lost to the very same short-handed Nuggets the next game. Then they were non-competitive for the majority of the game in a national TV loss to the Celtics on Wednesday. The track is on repeat, as Luka Doncic continues to excel while receiving inadequate help from the rest of the offense. Christian Wood averaged nearly 20 points on highly efficient shooting in under 26 minutes per game this week, which raised questions as to why Jason Kidd isn’t playing him more. Of course Wood said he’d like to be on the floor longer, and this season the Mavs’ net rating improves by 7.6 points per 100 possessions with Wood on the floor. Getting him up over 30 minutes on a consistent basis might be a worthwhile experiment. 5 9-8
16


Trail Blazers
Who would have thought taking Damian Lillard out of your lineup would be detrimental to your team? The Blazers struggled in losses this week to the Jazz, Bucks and Cavs, with Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic and Jerami Grant taking the lead offensively once Lillard went down with another calf injury. Unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to keep up with three potent offensive attacks, as the normally stout defense might have run out of gas a bit. Josh Hart kept up his reputation by doing a bit of everything this week, averaging 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game. 11 10-8
17


Warriors
The Warriors are starting to look like the Warriors, partly thanks to a rotation tweak by Steve Kerr to get Draymond Green playing with the formerly futile second unit. They even picked up their first road win of the season (!) against the Rockets, before throwing up the white flag and resting all of their starters in a blowout loss in New Orleans. After much criticism, Klay Thompson appears to have his swagger back. He knocked down 10 3-pointers en route to 41 points in the win over Houston, and he shot 57 percent from beyond the arc in three games this week, something Kerr attributes to increased patience. Thompson, Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins set an NBA record by combining for 23 3-pointers against the Rockets, the most ever for three teammates. 6 9-10
18


Bulls
Well, well, well. How the turntables … People were ready to sell the Bulls for scrap following a devastating home loss to the Magic last Friday, after which Zach LaVine publicly complained about being benched in crunch time. However, they bounced back to pick up consecutive wins over the NBA’s two best teams — the Celtics and Bucks — to earn a much-needed confidence boost. DeMar DeRozan was an absolute monster, putting up 35 points per game on 53 percent shooting, while LaVine averaged 20 points and five assists on 38 percent 3-point shooting in the two big wins. 6 8-10
19


Nets
The Nets lucked out schedule-wise this week, playing three teams missing multiple stars, so they must be disappointed to have only gone 2-1. They put up a lackluster effort in a loss to the depleted 76ers, but Ben Simmons did play well in his return to Philly, putting up 11 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals. He’s been looking more like his old self recently, while Kyrie Irving returned to the lineup this week and led the team with 22 points per game on 43 percent 3-point shooting. The Nets have adopted an “everybody hates us” approach to postgame comments, so we’ll see how that serves them as the season progresses. 1 9-10
20


Wizards
The Wizards split with the Heat this week while also beating the Hornets to improve their record to a respectable 10-8 on the season. Kyle Kuzma took the lead offensively, hitting a game-tying 3-pointer from the corner to force overtime in the Miami win while averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game this week. Bradley Beal missed the first Miami game, but came back to average 26.5 points and 6.5 assists on 8-for-16 3-point shooting in the last two games. — 10-8
21


Raptors
Toronto lost to the Heat in OT on Saturday before being blown off the court by the Nets without Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes, who joined Pascal Siakam on the sidelines. Barnes had a monster game in the loss to Atlanta, putting up 28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists on 4-of-8 3-point shooting. OG Anunoby averaged 21 points in the two games, but failed to make a single 3-pointer and had more turnovers than assists. 8 9-9
22


Knicks
The Knicks lost to the Warriors and Suns to start the week, but finished up their five-game West Coast road trip with a win over the Thunder on Wednesday. The offense struggled in the two losses before exploding for 129 points against OKC, with Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett combining for 84 of them. Brunson averaged 24.7 points and 5.3 assists for the week, but couldn’t find the 3-point range, while Barrett seems to be on the uptick after struggling from distance for most of the season. 5 9-9
23


Heat
The Heat struggling to meet the minimum number of required players? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Miami scrapped and clawed its way through three losses this week before getting something resembling a regular rotation back in a win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Erik Spoelstra is a magician, but ultimately it’s nearly impossible to win in the NBA without the requisite talent. Kyle Lowry did his best to carry the offense, putting up 20.5 points and 7.5 assists while playing over 40 minutes per game. He and Caleb Martin were the only Heat regulars to play all four games this week. 4 8-11
24


Lakers
That thunderous boom causing your home to vibrate must be the monstrous footsteps of Anthony Davis, who has metamorphosed into a Godzilla-like creature while leading the Lakers to a 2-1 week. The highly maligned big man has done absolutely everything on both ends of the court, averaging a silly 35 points, 18.3 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and three steals per game this week on 64 percent shooting and 91 percent from the line. There’s not much more you can say, as Davis willed the Lakers to wins over the Pistons and Spurs before keeping them within striking distance against the Suns. Davis has suppressed any doubts about his ability to dominate, so the next question is whether he can do it with LeBron James back on the floor. 4 5-11
25


Pistons
Just when things were looking dire with a seven-game losing streak, the Pistons pulled off an improbable “altitude sweep” of the Nuggets and Jazz on back-to-back nights. Trying to understand the NBA is just a futile gesture at this point. The offense looked great in all four games this week, boasting a league-best 121.6 points per 100 possessions … and that’s with Cade Cunningham still out of the lineup. Bojan Bogdanovic was the leading scorer at 21.5 points per game, while a healthy Alec Burks has been a godsend, putting up 19.5 points in just 22 minutes per game this week on 50 percent 3-point shooting. 5 5-15
26


Magic
The Magic pulled out a miraculous win over the Bulls last Friday thanks to a couple of missed free throws and a Jalen Suggs game-winning, step-back 3-pointer with five seconds left. Unfortunately they couldn’t carry the momentum, as they followed that up with consecutive losses to a hot Pacers team. With Paolo Banchero and Cole Anthony still sidelined, Franz Wagner led the team with 23 points per game on 54/54/88 shooting splits, to go along with 4.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds. Bol Bol continued his strong season with 15.3 points, 10 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. — 5-13
27


Thunder
Defense was nowhere to be found this week for OKC, which dropped games to the Grizzlies, Knicks and Nuggets (in OT). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put up his usual gaudy numbers with 25.3 points, eight assists and six rebounds per game this week, but he shot just 38 percent from the field. Josh Giddey averaged 16.7 points and eight assists, while Lu Dort put up 15.3 points per game on 46 percent 3-point shooting. 5 7-11
28


Hornets
The Hornets lost close games to the Cavs and Wizards before beating a depleted 76ers team on the second night of a back-to-back. They’re still missing LaMelo Ball, but Gordon Hayward made his return from an eight-game absence this week, averaging 13.3 points and five assists on 43 percent 3-point shooting in the three games. Kelly Oubre Jr. continues to put points on the board, averaging 23.7 points per game this week on 50 percent shooting. 1 5-14
29


Spurs
After a strong start to the season, things have gone downhill quickly for the Spurs, who have now lost six in a row and 11 of their last 12. Players have been in and out of the lineup, but Devin Vassell was the only Spur who could get anything going offensively this week, averaging 21.5 points in two games while going 7-for-12 from 3-point range. Keldon Johnson struggled mightily this week, putting up just 9.3 points per game on 25 percent shooting. 4 6-13
30


Rockets
They couldn’t score against the Pacers, and they couldn’t get a stop against the Warriors. Two different stories, but both with the same result — one the Rockets are becoming accustomed to this season as they fall to a league-worst 3-14. Jalen Green cooled off considerably, going just 6-for-25 from the field in the two games, but rookie Jabari Smith Jr. showed some progress, averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. 3 3-14





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