NBA Power Rankings: The Best and Worst Teams After Two Weeks – Sports Illustrated - Techy Hunters


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

NBA Power Rankings: The Best and Worst Teams After Two Weeks – Sports Illustrated

Week 3 of the NBA season tips off with seven of the hottest teams in the league residing in the East—at least according to the top 10 in the latest edition of SI’s Power Rankings. There’s a new No. 1 in town, jumping up 10 spots from its debut in last week’s rankings. And thanks to SI’s proprietary ranking system (aka a bunch of writers averaging out their ballots), the Nets and Lakers come in at curious spots on this list, at least according to one writer (me, Rohan). 

On to this week’s ranking …

1. Miami Heat

Current record: 5–1
Previous ranking: 11

The Heat are blowing the doors off opponents, thanks to a hilariously stingy defense and an offense that finally found its three-point shot in a Saturday win against the Grizzlies. Miami is undefeated with Kyle Lowry in the lineup, and Jimmy Butler’s two-way dominance has him looking like an early MVP candidate.

2. Utah Jazz

Current record: 5–1
Previous ranking: 3

The Jazz have more or less picked up where they left off last regular season. Through the first two weeks of the season, Utah is leading the league in percentage of field goals coming from three, which it led the NBA in last year. The Jazz are second in net rating and dominating despite uncharacteristic inefficiency from Donovan Mitchell.

3. Golden State Warriors

Current record: 5–1
Previous ranking: 2

Stephen Curry remains atop all players in scoring after two weeks of the NBA season. Excluding his five-game 2020 season, Curry is currently shooting a career-worst 39.7% (lol) from three. Once his shot “returns,” he could run away with the scoring title.

4. New York Knicks

Current record: 5–1
Previous ranking: 12

In a shocking twist, the Knicks are the rare Tom Thibodeau team that’s an offensive juggernaut. New York enters Week 3 third in offensive efficiency, with a defense in the bottom 10. The additions of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker have paid off so far, particularly as they light teams up from beyond the arc.

5. Chicago Bulls

Current record: 5–1
Previous ranking: 6

Chicago responded to a tough loss against the Knicks with an impressive win against the Jazz, Utah’s first loss of the year. Unfortunately for the Bulls, forward Patrick Williams is expected to miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury. Small-ball looks to have worked for Chicago so far, but the Bulls may need more size as the season progresses.

6. Denver Nuggets

Current record: 4–2
Previous ranking: 1

After bruising his knee and playing only 15 minutes in a loss to the Jazz, reigning MVP Nikola Jokić played in both of Denver’s next two games, leading the Nuggets to back-to-back wins to close Week 2. Jokić has scored less than 20 points only once this season—when he played 25 minutes during a blowout of the Mavericks.

7. Washington Wizards

Current record: 5–1
Previous ranking: 9

The Russell Westbrook trade continues to pay major dividends for the Wizards, winners of three straight. Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are third, fourth and fifth on the team in scoring, respectively. KCP also made the game-sealing defensive play to secure a double-OT winner against the Celtics.

8. Charlotte Hornets

Current record: 5–2
Previous ranking: 4

Even if Miles Bridges is only 75% as good as he’s been during Charlotte’s first six games, he will likely run away with the Most Improved Player award. Bridges’s 25.5 points a night are more than double what he averaged in 2021. Betting on himself ahead of restricted free agency appeared to be a smart choice.

9. Philadelphia 76ers

Current record: 4–2
Previous ranking: 10

The Sixers earned a small measure of revenge for last summer’s postseason exit by walloping the Hawks 122–94 Saturday. Joel Embiid’s turnovers are slightly down so far compared to last season. With Ben Simmons out, his playmaking—and ability to pass out of double teams—is perhaps the biggest key to Philly’s success.

10. Brooklyn Nets

Current record: 4–3
Previous ranking: 13

James Harden finally shot some free throws last week, and the Nets also secured a win against the Pistons Sunday, despite Kevin Durant getting ejected for elbowing and shoving Kelly Olynyk. However, Harden is still averaging less than 20 a night, and the offense that was historic last season is now scoring at a worse rate than the likes of the Pacers, Magic and Zion-less Pelicans.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves

Current record: 3–2
Previous ranking: 14

After posting a bottom-three defensive rating in 2021, the Wolves currently own the fourth-best mark in the NBA. It seems all but impossible for that dramatic of a switch to hold up for a full campaign, but it’s deeply promising that multiple Minnesota lineups are thriving at stopping opponents with Karl-Anthony Towns as its anchor.

12. Dallas Mavericks

Current record: 4–2
Previous ranking: 17

Dallas is 4–2, though its two losses have been pretty one-sided contests. Luka Dončić has had an especially slow start to the season, averaging his worst field goal percentage and fewest points per game since his rookie year. It’s not a cause for panic yet, though it’s troubling to see how much worse the Mavs’ offense is performing compared to last season.

13. Milwaukee Bucks

Current record: 3–4
Previous ranking: 5

Injuries are ravaging Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have played only 21 minutes together across two games through two weeks of the season. Holiday, opening-night starter Brook Lopez and playoff hero Bobby Portis have combined to appear in only four games. The Bucks will be fine at full strength.

14. Los Angeles Lakers

Current record: 4–3
Previous ranking: 20

The Lakers rebounded from an embarrassing loss to the Thunder with back-to-back wins against rebuilding Rockets and Cavaliers teams. Credit to Los Angeles for actually taking care of business, and to Frank Vogel for ditching DeAndre Jordan from the starting lineup for the win against Houston. Anthony Davis should be starting at center much more regularly.

15. Portland Trail Blazers

Current record: 3–3
Previous ranking: 16

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An early pairing to keep an eye on: The Damian Lillard–Larry Nance Jr. duo has a 16.3 net rating in 58 minutes this season, with elite efficiency on both ends of the floor. Lance makes a lot of sense as a big playing off Lillard, and he may deserve a chance to play with the rest of the starters.

16. Toronto Raptors

Current record: 4–3
Previous ranking: 21

The Raptors are winners of three straight, beating up on the dregs of the East by notching two wins against the Pacers and one against the Magic. Rookie Scottie Barnes has been a revelation, leading the team in scoring and rebounding with 18.1 points and 8.9 boards a night.

17. Atlanta Hawks

Current record: 3–3
Previous ranking: 8

Whether it’s the new foul rules or early-season sluggishness, it’s notable that Trae Young is averaging only 4.3 free throw attempts a night right now, half of how often he went to the line in 2021, and what would be the worst mark of his career.

18. Memphis Grizzlies

Current record: 3–3
Previous ranking: 7

After an exciting start to the season, Memphis had a couple of bad losses last week—a 20-point defeat against Portland, a 26-point shellacking at the hands of Miami. While Ja Morant has been spectacular, the Grizz miss Dillon Brooks, who hasn’t played yet this season due to a broken hand.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers

Current record: 3–4
Previous ranking: 24

The streaky Cavs lost their first two games, won three in a row and have now dropped their last two. Honestly, the wins are all gravy at this juncture. More important, Evan Mobley looks like the steal of the 2021 draft. His defensive versatility is drawing rave reviews around the league, to the point where he’s already looking like a franchise cornerstone.

20. Sacramento Kings

Current record: 3–3
Previous ranking: 19

Sacramento hasn’t won a home game yet and is somehow still 3–3 on the season. De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes both haven’t looked the same as their old selves this year. Fox because he is struggling, Barnes because he looks like an All-Star No. 1 option.

21. Phoenix Suns

Current record: 2–3
Previous ranking: 15

Phoenix’s starting five, so great during its run to the Finals, currently has a minus-10.6 net rating. If it’s any solace to Suns fans, the team started slowly last year before picking up steam a month into the season. Still, it’s troubling to see these struggles from a team with so much continuity.

22. Boston Celtics

Current record: 2–4
Previous ranking: 22

A messy week for Boston, which lost two straight to the Wizards, including a double-OT thriller, giving the Celtics two losses in double overtime already this season. Boston just can’t seem to get everyone healthy. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Rob Williams, all key contributors, have all missed at least one game.

23. Los Angeles Clippers

Current record: 1–4
Previous ranking: 23

Paul George is fifth in the NBA in scoring but not much else has gone right for the Clippers. Their last two losses have been blowouts, Reggie Jackson looks nothing like the player he was during the playoffs and injuries are taking a toll, with Marcus Morris the latest to join Serge Ibaka and Kawhi Leonard on the bench.

24. San Antonio Spurs

Current record: 2–4
Previous ranking: 25

San Antonio finally stopped a four-game skid with a win over a wounded Bucks team. The Spurs’ losses have generally been close, though, a testament to the friskiness of this roster. What remains to be seen is if any of the young talent is capable of taking a serious leap.

25. Indiana Pacers

Current record: 1–6
Previous ranking: 18

The Pacers are 1–6, but three of those losses have come by a combined five points. This team is not far away from being something, especially considering Malcolm Brogdon has missed the last two games, and Caris LeVert has played only one time (and on a minutes restriction to boot).

26. Houston Rockets

Current record: 1–5
Previous ranking: 27

The Rockets’ only win against the season has come against the Thunder, a game both teams undoubtedly wanted to lose when it comes time for their lottery odds. Houston’s destiny this season seems to be that of the team others use to get their season back on track.

27. New Orleans Pelicans

Current record: 1–6
Previous ranking: 28

Not sure how the Pelicans stop the bleeding without Zion Williamson, and now Brandon Ingram, who is dealing with a bruised hip that kept him out of New Orleans’s latest loss. A four-game road trip through Nov. 8 doesn’t exactly help matters.

28. Detroit Pistons

Current record: 1–5
Previous ranking: 29

No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham finally made his NBA debut last week, and it was underwhelming, as he scored only two points in 19 minutes, shooting 1-of-8 from the field. Cunningham was then held out of Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn, the second half of a back-to-back.

29. Orlando Magic

Current record: 1–6
Previous ranking: 26

Despite being 1–6 with the second-worst point differential, Orlando’s starting five of Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony has a net rating of 21.5 in 80 minutes. Any positive signs from the young core is something for Orlando to hold on to.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder

Current record: 1–5
Previous ranking: 30

Do not be fooled by Oklahoma City’s dramatic comeback win against a Lakers team missing LeBron James. The Thunder’s minus-14.5 point differential is by far the worst in the NBA. 

More NBA Coverage:
Roundtable: NBA’s Early Surprises and Disappointments
10 Early NBA Season Trends to Watch
How the Hornets Became the NBA’s Most Entertaining Team
Knicks Are Rising Thanks to a Drastic Change

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