Let’s face it — the best and most powerful teams in the NBA don’t really change from week to week. A handful of results in the middle of winter can only mean so much to a franchise’s championship hopes. What does shift regularly, though, is how much interest a squad can hold over the course of a season. Every Monday, BDL’s Most Interesting Power Rankings track the teams most worthy of your attention.
1. Golden State Warriors (last week: 1):
There’s some 1992-era Bulls stuff going on, ‘ere.
The league’s lone undefeated team is pairing excellence and watchability and they’re likely the reason you heard 97 million groans last week when everyone’s free League Pass went away. Champs don’t usually come like this – you respected the Spurs, you feared the Heat and Lakers, but you get to enjoy these Warriors.
Stephen Curry’s Player Efficiency Rating is still at 40, by the way.
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2. Cleveland Cavaliers (last week: 3):
They’ll still frustrate. LeBron James will do that canny passive/aggressive stuff, taking too many notes from the wrong pages of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan’s playbook, and Richard Jefferson now thinks it’s cool to break plays even at age 35. Watching what could be the game’s greatest ever figure things out with over 43,000 minutes to his name, though, endlessly fascinates me.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (last week: NR):
Say hello to your new second favorite team.
The Blazers lost 23 starters last summer and also Steve Blake, yet the group continues to compete while unleashing an offense that seems half made up of Terry Stotts’ side part trickery, and Damian Lillard’s I Got This-brand of dominance.
Last Thursday Meyers Leonard tried to pick a fight with Zach Randolph.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (last week: 7):
Until James Dolan hires Isiah Thomas to run the Knicks again, we will never see anything like these Lakers.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves (last week: 5):
Karl-Anthony Towns: 15.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, three blocks, 28 minutes a night. He’s hit nine of his 10 free throws and has just eight turnovers so far, in five games.
Cut and paste for when your dad asks you how “that guy from Kentucky” is doing.
6. Miami Heat (last week: NR):
Hassan Whiteside hit eight of his 15 shots on Sunday and his shooting percentage actually went down. Chris Bosh is back to being a double-double guy, he hit four three-pointers in Sunday’s win over the Raptors, and it’s wonderful to see his goofy presence back in our NBA lives. Even Josh McRoberts seems to be settling in after what could have been a career-altering knee injury. All we could ask is for a little more running, please.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder (last week: 2):
It feels like the Thunder shouldn’t be 3-3, but here we are. Billy Donovan has endured an expected rough start to the proceedings, he handed out DNP-CDs to Nick Collison and Anthony Morrow on Sunday, but this is just how it’s going to have to be in the West.
Russell Westbrook got your “still.”
8. San Antonio Spurs (last week: 13):
It was just fine to be a little worried about Manu Ginobili, the guy did turn 38 last June, and it’s been a full decade since we started making bad hairline jokes, but our fears (for the moment, at least) shouldn’t get the best of us. The man is averaging 20 points, 12 combined rebounds/assists and three steals per 36 minutes, while shooting 53 percent from the floor. He’s helped made up for a rather rough start from Danny Green (29 percent from the field).
9. Toronto Raptors (last week: 14):
Yeah, so we jinxed them, but that’s what we get for treating a very entertaining team to a very boring column. The Raps have last two after nailing their first five games of the season. James Johnson, new starter, hit 3-5 in Sunday’s loss to the Heat after declining to take a shot in his first 13 minutes of live action in 2015-16.
10. Atlanta Hawks (last week: NR):
Same as it’s ever been. Sweet movement, good guys, 7-1 record and six guys averaging double-figure points. It’s just, when it’s a Wednesday and 27 other teams are playing, you can’t help but
11. Utah Jazz (last week: NR):
Trey Burke (Burk?) has had an encouraging start, nailing half of his 20 three-pointers thus far this year. His work and the typical Jazz defense (currently ranked tops in the NBA) helped weather an iffy start from Gordon Hayward. The swingman has averaged 19 points on 56 percent shooting over the last two games, and his team is tied with 427 other clubs for second place in the West.
12. Washington Wizards (last week: 10):
“They’re free, man. The company has a suite up there. Come on.”
“It’s just …”
“Free beer, don’t have to tip, they’re playing the Spurs so it has to be a good game.”
“I don’t know if …”
“I’ll get us an Uber. They have these empanada things up there that are amazing. I don’t want to be the dork that goes up there alone, and Claire can’t get off work tonight.”
“I mean, I would, but …”
“Is Kris Humphries still starting?”
13. Detroit Pistons (last week: 4):
These Pistons continue to be dull, unappealing, unmoving.
Outside of the guy that is pulling off some prime-years Moses Malone work right now. Get a load of this dude:
Av-er-uh-ging 20 and 20.
Drummond and Reggie Jackson led the charge as Detroit outscored those loveable Trail Blazers by a 41-11 margin in the fourth quarter on Sunday evening. Also, we will be showing this photo every Monday morning between now and when the Pistons are eliminated from championship contention:
14. Dallas Mavericks: (last week: 26):
It’s nice to see, after four years of frustrations, the Dallas Mavericks finally sign a star to pair with Dirk Nowitzki.
15. Houston Rockets (last week: 12):
Anyone else want to freak out about some stuff that went wrong in the first week of November?
16. Phoenix Suns (last week: NR):
The Suns are stuck at .500 and their offense is ranked 19th in the NBA, so it might be time to go a little nuts and throw rookie Devin Booker (whom I believe can legally drive now) into the starting lineup. P.J. Tucker seems like a reach as a starter at small forward, and Booker has managed 19 points on 11 shots in 30 minutes of total play this season. This young, young season.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (last week: NR):
One mustn’t write off an entire season after less than a tenth of it has expired, but these Grizzlies look rather haggard at this point. It’s hard to pin the blame on coach Dave Joerger, or even the team’s front office – this group inherited a swell group of guys, and they did the best they could with what was a formidable core. This might be our generation’s (your generation, wait, what is my generation? I own a Nintendo.) version of the 1980s Milwaukee Bucks, and there’s no shame in that.
18. Los Angeles Clippers (last week: 6):
They whine too much. They help create memes that become annoying. The wear the worst uniforms in the history of the sport. I’m done with this team, I’m done with the Clippers.
(I would still totally watch the Clippers ahead of every other basketball team in existence.)
19. Sacramento Kings (last week: 9):
DeMarcus Cousins’ absence has had the expected affect – the Kings aren’t really much to behold as either a basketball team or entertaining viewing option without Boogie doing Boogie Things. The Kings have lost five of six to start the season, the squad plays miserable defense, and oh sweet look they just hired Tyus Edney as assistant GM.
20. Indiana Pacers (last week: NR):
Paul George’s last three contests: 31.3 points, 11 rebounds, four assists per game. These are the good old days, apparently, and the Pacers gave LeBron James and the Cavaliers just about all they could handle in a four-point loss on Sunday.
The issue here is that they still struggle to score, and can be a chore to watch. Monta Ellis needed a 10-17 game on Sunday to lift his shooting percentage over 33 percent.
21. Boston Celtics (last week: NR):
His stats might be slightly inflated by his team’s league-high pace, but if Isaiah Thomas keeps going like this (22 points in 29 minutes, 6.8 assists, two steals) it’s going to be very hard to keep him off of an All-Star team.
22. New York Knicks (last week: 8):
Kristaps Porzingis is bringing it, early. If you can get over 12 points and eight boards from a guy who was born a few weeks before Phil Jackson’s Bulls traded for Dennis Rodman, in 24 minutes a contest, I’d say you’d have to be happy. Even with a 2-4 record.
Does Phil Jackson get happy? I know he gets bemused, I’ve read his books, but is that in there? Now I have an image of Phil Jackson being tickled that’s just going to bug me for all of Monday.
23. Denver Nuggets (last week: 28):
This group is so, so less entertaining without Jusuf Nurkic around, which is a pretty compelling statement coming from a guy who heard Jusuf’s name for the first time 17 months ago. Emmanuel Mudiay has missed 70 percent of his shots so far, as yet another rebuilding process takes hold in Denver.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (last week: 29):
This is what happens when you hand the Ranking keys over to a guy that obsesses over jump hooks. The Sixers are terrible, and they probably won’t win a game this season, but watching Jahlil Okafor bound about delights me to no end.
I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to read the last ten words I wrote.
25. Chicago Bulls (last week: 11):
The Chicago Bulls came through with another batch of Martyr Ball on Saturday night, losing at home to a Minnesota squad they should have wiped the floor with. Derrick Rose takes possessions off on both ends of the floor, the team refuses to initiate offensive sets quickly enough and the defense and rebounding are humiliating. Then there is Joakim Noah, doing this.
Can you tell I’m from Chicago? Is this vein in my head supposed to be this big? Why does everything smell like burnt rye toast all of the sudden? Is that caraway seed?
26. Orlando Magic (last week: NR):
This team would be ranked 392nd if it weren’t for Aaron Gordon.
27. New Orleans Pelicans (last week: 15):
Anthony Davis turned in games of 43 points and 25 points over the weekend, but the Pelicans defense remains the worst in the NBA, and the team is the only winless squad in the Western Conference. In that playoff bracket, just a simple loss or tiebreaker fold can kill your chances, and it’s hard to imagine the Pelicans competing for anything of note after digging themselves a six-loss hole.
28. Milwaukee Bucks (last week: NR):
The Bucks might have to take November’s Lance Stephenson Award, if the first few weeks are any indication. The squad’s defense has dropped to 25th in the league with the addition of Greg Monroe, and Greivis Vasquez has made less than a quarter of his shots so far in 2015-16.
29. Charlotte Hornets (last week: 27):
Somehow, with two starters shooting in the 30s, the Hornets are sixth in offense. They’re taking and making heaps of threes, hitting free throws, and moving the ball. They’re still 2-4 and you only watch their games because it’s the morning after and you have to for your damn job.
30. Brooklyn Nets (last week: 30):
How is this team. How. How.
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