With most teams having played at least seven games at this early point in the season, we now have some solid data to work with in terms of trends we are likely to see moving forward. This past week we saw a couple of buzzer-beating game-winners, including a banked three from Lance Stephenson and a gorgeous 20-foot step back from Utah’s Gordon Hayward to beat the Cavs. We also witnessed Kobe Bryant put up 39 points against the Suns, nearly scoring 40 for the first time in over a year and a half.
A few teams have surprised us, including the Raptors (6-1), the Kings (5-2) and even the Heat (5-2), but the disparity between West and East is as large as ever.
Here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Golden State Warriors (5-1): Without David Lee, the Warriors have been outstanding, led by the backcourt duo of Steph Curry (with a league-leading 27.7 PPG) and Klay Thompson. A loss to the Suns ended their perfect 5-0 start, but the team’s maturity from last year is apparent as they continue to grow.
2. Chicago Bulls (6-2): Despite more Derrick Rose injuries, the Bulls are off to the type of start we could have expected. Pau Gasol has played well, averaging 18.4 PPG and 11.1 RPG, and Jimmy Butler has stepped in to take care of the offensive load in Rose’s absence.
3. Houston Rockets (6-1): James Harden continues to be the man, averaging 25.4 points a game while Dwight Howard continues to put up respectable numbers on his own. We’ll see what the Rockets can do once they are seriously tested.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (6-1): The Grizzlies have gotten back to their roots, pulling out tough, dirty wins. Despite averaging just 93 PPG, good for 26th best in the league, Memphis is off to an excellent start.
5. San Antonio Spurs (3-3): Don’t fret, Spurs fans. A .500 start isn’t something any of us are familiar with, but the Spurs have been resting their starters (even in a nationally televised game against Houston) with the big picture in mind. They’ll be back at the top of the standings in time.
6. Toronto Raptors (6-1): A solid core group of DeMar Derozan, Kyle Lowry, and Terrence Ross has the Raptors off to a very exciting start. Their great start has people wondering if it is just a case of early season momentum or not, but either way, this team is headed towards a comfortable playoff spot.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-3): Everyone knew this was going to take a little time, so the .500 start is nothing to worry about. Coming off of his first triple-double of the season, LeBron seems to be getting back into his comfort zone. The “Big Three” is on the right track to finding their comfort zone as a team.
8. Portland Trailblazers (4-3): Lamarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard continue to power this Blazers team which is averaging a second-best 10.4 three-pointers per game. They will need to get more solid production from role players if they are going to separate themselves from the rest of the West.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (4-3): It’s all fun and games with the high-flying Clippers, and you seemingly know what you will get from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin on a nightly basis. When will it be their time to shine, though? The Clippers need a wake-up call if they are going to prove that this is their year.
10. Miami Heat (5-2): Things are going smoothly for Miami thus far in the post-LeBron era. Luol Deng put up a season-high of 30 points in a win over the Mavs, while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh meanwhile have continued to do their thing. Perhaps the Heat have been underestimated and disrespected a little too much with “The King’s” absence.
11. Sacramento Kings (5-2): Rudy Gay and Demarcus Cousins have the Kings off to their best start in years. Solid point guard play from Darren Collison has kept them stable, making this young and confident squad an early playoff contender.
12. Dallas Mavericks (4-3): The Mavericks are better than their record might suggest this early on, as Dirk Nowtizki approaches the mark of becoming the ninth-highest scorer in NBA history. Chandler Parsons and Monta Ellis have to continue gelling with the rest of the squad in order to get this team into the playoffs.
13. Phoenix Suns (4-3): It’s all about the backcourt in Phoenix. Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green have the Suns off to a very exciting start despite their 4-3 record. The Morris brothers and Miles Plumlee give them solid frontcourt depth, but this team will only go as far as their guards will get them.
14. Brooklyn Nets (4-2): Deron Williams is playing better than we’ve seen in quite some time from him. The Nets need to continue relying on Williams and Joe Johnson if they are going to play to the level that their talent on paper says they should be at.
15. Washington Wizards (5-2): Picking up Paul Pierce from Brooklyn has given the Wizards the toughness and experience they once lacked. John Wall and Bradley Beal have a chance to make this team a surprising one going forward.
16. New Orleans Pelicans (3-3): Anthony Davis is averaging 24.9 PPG, behind only Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant, and James Harden. With all his early MVP talk, the Pelicans have the confidence that they can make a push for that eighth and final playoff spot.
17. Utah Jazz (3-5): Gordon Hayward could quite possibly be a star in the making. A chase-down block on LeBron James and a sweet game-winning fadeaway gave the Jazz their most exciting win thus far, but the supporting cast simply hasn’t given them much to be excited about other than the play of the former Butler star.
18. Atlanta Hawks (3-3): It seems like it’s just going to be another one of those years in Atlanta. Middling play, middling numbers, and middling talent have them headed for another seemingly meaningless playoff spot in the East.
19. Boston Celtics (3-3): It’s great to see Rajon Rondo back out there running the Celtics’ show alongside Jeff Green to the tune of a league-leading 11.2 APG and most recently knocking off the Bulls in Chicago. Rookie Marcus Smart is out now with a sprained ankle, but solid role players have this team off to a good-looking start to make a playoff push.
20. New York Knicks (2-6): Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher weren’t going to solve the Knicks’ problems overnight, but no one predicted that they be averaging a league-worst 91.1 PPG at this point. A big win in Cleveland got New York off on the right foot, but they have a long ways to go before they’re going to be considered a serious contender.
21. Charlotte Hornets (3-4): Lance Stephenson and Kemba Walker give the Hornets something to be excited about, but they don’t have the talent to compete even in a weak East.
22. Milwaukee Bucks (3-4): Head Coach Jason Kidd has the Bucks off to a decent start, but the team has struggled to score, averaging just 93.9 points per game.
23. Oklahoma City Thunder (2-5): Hold on, Thunder fans, just hold on. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant’s return from injury couldn’t come soon enough, as OKC has gotten off to a rough start. Once they’re back though, these Thunder will no doubt shoot up this list.
24. Indiana Pacers (2-6): The losses of Lance Stephenson and Paul George hurt enough, but with David West out, the Pacers are miserable. If the injury bug strikes again, this team could be headed for a full year of frustration.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-4): A last-second loss to the Bulls was the difference between starting the year at 2-4 or at a respectable .500. The Wolves have exciting talent, but we’ll be checking in to this team more for highlights than anything.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (1-5): The Lakers’ five losses came against top ten western conference teams, and they put up a decent fight in several of those games. Kobe is putting up shots at an insane rate, as he usually does, but after picking up its first win against Charlotte, this team looks like it has started to figure some things out.
27. Orlando Magic (2-5): Not too much to expect from Orlando. Nikola Vučević leads the way with 18.6 PPG, but this young team isn’t capable of contending in either conference.
28. Detroit Pistons (2-5): The Pistons have some exciting players, but they don’t have the team mindset that is needed to win games more often than sporadically. Good luck, Stan Van Gundy, your vocal chords are going to get a lot of work this year.
29. Denver Nuggets (1-5): The Nuggets can’t keep relying on Ty Lawson to do everything, as their once prolific offense is no more. They still have the talent to make a push for the playoffs, but with the same record as the much maligned Lakers, it’s not looking very good.,
30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-7): The 76ers are going to keep on fighting for wins, but not much is expected of this team which seems to be heading towards another lottery pick in 2015.