[Quick note: These are calculated based on results through Monday. Tuesday’s games are not reflected in today’s rankings.]
Welcome to our first official NBA Power Rankings. I say official because last week’s preseason rankings were mostly (completely) constructed out of my own damn opinion. This week, however, I’ve devised a simple formula, and created a top ten that is both a reflection of the happenings around the league and the numbers in the stat sheet.
That being said, the initial cut from 30 teams to the 15 teams in consideration came about from my own damn opinion, because as the writer of this column, my thoughts are fairly important. To narrow it from 15 to 10, I looked at each team’s record, average point-differential per game, offensive efficiency, and defensive efficiency. Each team was ranked from 1 to 30, where 1 was best in the league, and 30 was dead last. I then took an average of their rankings in each of the four categories and ordered them 1 – 10 from there. See? Simple formula. Doesn’t mean I’m happy with the results.
So without further exposition, your NBA Power Rankings.
- Golden State Warriors (1.25)
- This team is simply unstoppable. They are not only in the top two for both offensive and defensive efficiency, but they are also the only team to be in the top five of both categories. Oh, and Steph Curry has scored 148 points in the first four games. Okay.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (4.5)
- Can’t say we’re surprised here, though Monday night’s game against the 76ers was almost a media frenzy. Cleveland is never going to be a defensive juggernaut, and so this maybe the highest they climb in the rankings, but in a weak Eastern Conference, that’s perfectly fine with them.
- Toronto Raptors (5.25)
- They get the nod over our number three team based on recent success and star power. After last year’s first round exit (a sweep at that), nobody is ready to hype this team up just yet, but the truth is they only got better. Every East contender should have them on their radar.
- Utah Jazz (5.25)
- WHAT?? They are the one team keeping Golden State from having a perfect ranking (they lead the league in defensive efficiency). In fact, the only thing holding them back right now is their ability to score. They’ve faced nothing but Eastern conference foes so far and are about to face three straight Western foes before playing Cleveland and Miami. I guess we’ll see where they are next week.
- Los Angeles Clippers (5.5)
- Because Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook have lost their effing minds, Blake Griffin’s performance is receiving very little recognition. He’s averaging 29.5 points and 9.3 boards through four games and a PER of 35.37, despite sharing the court with two other All-Stars. The West goes through Golden State, but I think the Clippers pose their biggest threat.
- San Antonio Spurs (6.5)
- You’d think they’d drop off defensively by starting Lamarcus Aldridge and dropping Timmy to the five, but their defense is actually what has them ranked so high. I imagine Kawhi Leonard has something to do with that (did you see his work on Durant??), but sometimes a good system is a good system. I’m curious to see if their offensive woes even out or come to bite them as we proceed throughout the year.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (8.0)
- Westbrook and Durant are both among the league leaders in scoring this year, and as the great Zach Lowe has mentioned, they’ve never lost a playoff series post 2012 Finals in which all three of Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka were healthy. What’s hurting them right now is their defense (20th in efficiency right now), but I don’t think that will last for long. When they drop Durant to the four, they are virtually unguardable.
- Miami Heat (8.0)
- The Thunder get the nod because of their Western affiliation, but also because they opened up the season by handing San Antonio only their second (!!) opening night lost in the Duncan-Poppovich era. Miami has looked good so far, not struggling as much as we might think, which only bodes well for the future. Dwyane Wade isn’t the same, but still as efficient as ever. Not to mention, Justise Winslow looks like the real deal. He dropped all the way to 10??
- Detroit Pistons (8.5)
- Undefeated with two notable wins against the Hawks and the Bulls? Okay, Detroit, you might finally follow suit with what everyone said about you three years ago. Andre Drummond seems to like all the space Greg Monroe left him, and Reggie Jackson has found his coach in SVG. Monday starts the real test: a west coast trip that includes Golden State and the Clippers.
- Chicago Bulls (9.0)
- Some worried about their defense when it was announced that Joakim Noah was going to the bench, but truthfully much hasn’t changed. They are fourth in efficiency right now while their offense continues to be in the bottom half of the league. It will be interesting to see where they are next week as the sample size grows, but for now the Mirotic experiment seems to be going well.
NBA Trade Machine Gone Mad
Every week I’m going to play around with ESPN’s Trade Machine to see what kind of nonsense I can get away with. It’s actually quite a frustrating thing to do, because sometimes you find yourself being unfair to another team, but then you remember that it’s all pretend and you stop caring about hypothetical hurt feelings.
Today we feature more Carmelo Anthony!
First, let me apologize to Portland fans for this knife twist. You already lost the majority of your team, and now I’m taking away the last piece that keeps you relevant. As a consolation prize, I’ve offered you Kemba Walker, who may not be a Damian Lillard, but is certainly a solid point guard to build around should you find a splashy piece in free agency.
Mostly, I just wanted to build the Hornets up in dramatic fashion. The Knicks are in a state of rebuilding anyway, so getting a hurt MKG might actually be beneficial to them and adding Batum as the interim Melo replacement isn’t glamorous, but the salary and low committment has to be enticing, right?
Oh, if only.
Come back next week to see what another concoction I can come up with and maybe the power rankings will begin to make a little more sense as the sample size grows.
THE NBA IS HERE! GLORY TO ADAM SILVER!