It was another exciting week in the NBA as the west continues to once again show its dominance in the early stages of the season. Here are the power rankings for week 3:
Big Jump of the Week: Denver Nuggets (+8)
Dud of the Week: New York Knicks (-7)
1. Golden State Warriors (8-2, +0): The Warriors just continue to bring the rain, shooting a league-best 49.9% from the field. Steph Curry (24.8 ppg) and Klay Thompson (23.6 ppg) are filling it up at extremely efficient rates, helped out by solid inside play from Andrew Bogut and good role playing all-around. Just wait until David Lee makes his return to see how good this team can really be.
2. Memphis Grizzlies (10-1, +2): While the Grizzlies have noticeably gone back to their old grind-and-grit ways, resulting in a league-best 91.5 points allowed per game, they were impressive offensively in a dominant showing against the Rockets on Monday, scoring at least 31 points in the first three quarters on the way to a 119-93 win. This team continues to be physical enough to hang with anyone, and like the Spurs, they don’t need to show too much flash while doing so.
3. Portland Trailblazers (8-3, +5): Damian Lillard has been on fire during the Blazers current five-game winning streak, knocking down 56.3% from downtown during that stretch. His all-star level play has helped his team remain near the top of the highly competitive west despite injuries to starters.
4. Chicago Bulls (8-3, -2): Over the past few seasons, we have seen two reocurring themes in Chicago: Derrick Rose injury frustration and Tom Thibodeau’s sideline magic. Even with a starting lineup missing Rose and Pau Gasol, the Bulls took down the Clippers in LA in a surprising 105-89 game. No matter who is in the lineup it seems, Thibodeau will continue to reel in the wins.
5. Dallas Mavericks (8-3, +7): Just like the Spurs, the Mavericks just seem to never go away. Led by Dirk Nowitzki and his efficent 19.6 ppg on 54.7% shooting, Dallas is currently ranked first in points per game (109.3) and +-, slightly edging out the Warriors in both statistics. If this team continues to gel the way it appears to be gelling, it might just find its way back to the top of the western conference.
6. Houston Rockets (9-2, -3): Houston did not look good as it averaged just 78.5 ppg in two ugly wins over Philadelphia and OKC. The Rockets didn’t look any better on the road against Memphis, with the defense being ripped to shreds by the much slower-paced Grizzlies. While there has been a lot of talk about Kobe Bryant’s offensive inefficiency this year (38.9% fg, 3 TO per game), James Harden surprisingly enough is having a worse shooting year (37.2% fg) and turning the ball over more (4 TO).
7. San Antonio Spurs (6-4, -2): The Spurs went 3-1 on a four-game road-trip, including wins over the Warriors and the Clippers, proving that their relatively “terrible” record after 10 games will be just another unimportant statistic supposedly signifying their decline come playoff time. These are the Spurs, we’re talking about. They can do whatever they want, it’s not like anybody will really notice.
8. Toronto Raptors (8-2, -2): After dropping two spots in the rankings this week despite being in first place in the East, its not that the Raptors aren’t continuing to exceed expectations. It’s simply a case of the more proven western conference teams having too much talent to give room to a young and talented group of players that is averaging the fifth-most points per game (106) and is third best in turnovers per game (11.3).
9. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-4, -2): The Cavs four-game win-streak came to an end against the Nuggets on Monday, but they’ll see what they can do in their first test against the defending champs on Wednesday. LeBron James has upped his offensive output, moving into second-place behind Kobe in scoring (27.1 ppg), and looks like he is finally settling in to the type of offensive form we’re used to, no matter what jersey he’s wearing.
10. Los Angeles Clippers (5-4, -1): The Clippers had a quiet week, splitting games with a win against Phoenix and a loss to the Bulls. Chris Paul’s putting up his usual 17 and 10 a game, while Blake Griffin leads the way at 23.1 ppg, but LA’s upcoming seven-game road-trip could tell us a lot about where this team is at this point in the season.
11. Washington Wizards (7-2, +4): The happy times continue to come for the Wizards as they beat down on the East’s weaker opponents, but seven wins in eight outings is good no matter who you play. John Wall and Paul Pierce aren’t shooting great at 43% and 34.4% from the field, respectively, but the team is ninth in opponent scoring and has found ways to win in close games.
12. New Orleans Pelicans (6-4, +4): Yes, Anthony Davis will continue to be in MVP discussions for this year and likely many years to come. He’s leading the league in blocks (3.9 per game) and is behind only LeBron and Kobe in scoring at 25.5 points a game. The Pelicans may have their eyes set on a playoff push behind the dominance of the man with the unibrow.
13. Sacramento Kings (6-5, -2): Excitement has died down in Sacramento, and with good reason, as the Kings have lost four of their last five games. The 1-2 punch of DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay is going to need a little more support moving forward if the Kings are going to become a serious contender in the west.
14. Phoenix Suns (6-5, -1): It continues to be a committee of contributors for Phoenix, with five players averaging at least 13.5 points per game and none averaging over 15.6. The three-point shooting which seems to fill their highlight reels has dropped to 34%, good for 19th-best. Perhaps the green light that Gerald Green (39.7% fg) seems to have claimed for himself needs to be changed to yellow if the Suns are going to find a winning formula.
15. Miami Heat (6-5, -5): In the last four seasons, the Heat could afford to have Dwyane Wade sidelined for short periods of time without slowing down too much. That’s not the case anymore. With Wade out of the lineup, the Heat dropped two straight as they relied on Chris Bosh and Luol Deng to lead the offense. Wade’s health will be the key to Miami’s success this season.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (6-5, +6): It’s been a solid stretch for the Bucks with four wins in their last five games, including handing the Grizzlies their only loss of the season and beating the Heat on the road. Milwaukee’s defense has been excellent this season as it has only allowed 100 points to an opponent in three out of 11 games.
17. Atlanta Hawks (5-5, +1): A four-game winning streak was snapped in a blowout loss to Cleveland last Saturday, but things got worse for Atlanta when they became only the second team this season to lose to the Lakers 114-109 at home. Al Horford isn’t 100% yet, but Atlanta’s lack of talent outside of their frontcourt continues to hurt their cause.
18. Utah Jazz (5-7, -1): The more you watch Utah, the more you wonder what Gordon Hayward could accomplish on a higher-quality team. The Jazz continue to be a low-lottery potential team without a huge amount of hope of making the playoffs.
19. Brooklyn Nets (4-6, -5): The Nets are in the middle of a four-game losing streak, with three of the losses coming to west coast teams. Up next is a home matchup with a hot Bucks team that might tell us more about what we can expect from the veteran squad.
20. Orlando Magic (5-7, +7): Things are a little more exciting in Orlando than they’ve been in recent memory, as the team is leading the league in three-point shooting at 41.6%. The Magic have three efficient leading scorers in Nikola Vucevic (18.8 ppg), Tobias Harris (18.4) and Evan Fournier (17.3), and Victor Oladipo could return against Milwaukee. The Magic have some upside with Vucevic establishing himself as a top center in the East.
21. Denver Nuggets (3-7, +8): Things weren’t looking pretty for the Nuggets as they dropped six straight games to start November, but a win on the road against Cleveland on Monday should give them some confidence moving forward. Lets hope Nuggets head coach and former UCSB Gaucho Brian Shaw can hold on to his job.
22. Indiana Pacers (4-7, +2): The Pacers have certainly turned things around a bit, highlighted by a 99-90 road win against Chicago on Saturday. After last season, nobody could have foreseen that Chris Copeland would be leading this team in scoring at 14.2 ppg after 11 games, but that’s where we are. Once David West and George Hill are back in the lineup though, this team will finally show us what we can expect in a Paul George-less year.
23. Boston Celtics (3-6, -4): The Celtics came close against Cleveland and Phoenix, dropping both games by a total of five points. Boston is shooting 48.4% from the field this year, good for third in the league, but their defense also allows the third-most points in the league at 109.4 per game.
24. Charlotte Hornets (4-7, +3): The Hornets have dropped three out of their last four games to western playoff teams, so their recent slump can’t be blamed too much on their play. Their main problem lies in the fact that Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are the only players in the starting lineup shooting above 40%, and the team is just 24th in shooting overall.
25. Detroit Pistons (3-8, +3): Things could definitely be worse for the Pistons, who have simply failed to come up clutch in games they could have won. Detroit has been within five points in the last five minutes in nine of their 11 games this year, but they will likely need a better formula down the stretch of games; one that hopefully does not involve Josh Smith jumpers.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-9, -3): Hold on just a little longer, Thunder fans. Durant and Westbrook are working out again as they eye returns to the court, but OKC has a large hole to dig itself out of once their stars return.
27. New York Knicks (3-9, -7): Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson knew they would have a lot of work to do in New York, but they couldn’t have expected a start this bad. The Knicks have lost eight of their last nine games, the large majority of which were against eastern conference opponents. They are worst in three-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 42.7% as they continue to lose winnable games.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (2-9, -2): After what can only be described as one of the saddest 40-point games in NBA history as Kobe Bryant dropped 44 in a 136-115 loss to the Warriors, the return of Swaggy-P helped the Lakers notch their second win of the year against Atlanta. Nick Young’s chemistry with Kobe in their first game together, as well as Bryant’s subsequent shooting efficiency (10-18 fg, 28 points) could mean good things for the Lakers as they try to make the most out of Kobe’s final chapter.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-7, -4): The Timberwolves are last in opponent field goal percentage (51.1%), even worse than the Lakers’ horrid defense. They have an interesting match against a struggling New York team on Wednesday as they look to end a five-game losing streak.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-10, +0): It’s looking like it’s going to be one of those years where we are all watching to see if the 76ers will break their own record for least wins in a full, 82-game season. All they need to do is reach double-digit wins to save themselves from the dreaded record of 9-73. After reaching double-digit losses as fast as they possibly could, 9-73 doesn’t look so bad right now.
Michael Jorgenson remains hopeful that a Kobe Bryant-LeBron James NBA Finals is still possible in this lifetime. He is also hopeful that you can pick up sarcasm through text.