WHEN teams reach 16.4 games they will be exactly 20% of the way through their season. I do not plan on writing these power rankings when there is 4:48 left in the second quarter of each teams’ 16th game (yes I did the maths, it wasn’t worth taking the time to figure out, but you get it) so were each team sits right now will have to be close enough. This isn’t the rankings based on where I think teams will finish, but their place 1-30 after their first 14-18 games.
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30. Chicago Bulls
WE knew Chicago was bad, but against OKC the Bulls shot 28.2% from the field, the second-worst mark in the past five seasons (27.1%, Grizz vs. Warriors in Feb ’14). Yes, the 2017-18 Bulls are THAT bad. Also, I think Bobby Portis broke Mirotic’s face because he wanted the extra minutes at power forward. You’re next Lauri Markkanen.
29. Dallas Mavericks
DIRK isn’t getting the farewell tour he deserves. There is a positive Mavs fans, Dennis Smith looks like a young-Raptors Vince Carter everytime he rises for a dunk. Any team that has J.J. Barea and Wes Matthews clanking over 20 shots each night is going to struggle to win lots of games though.
28. Sacramento Kings
SACRAMENTO were always going to find life hard in their first full season without Boogie. Now 36-year-old Zach Randolph is their best scoring threat, meaning the Kings are dead last in the league at scoring. With their young core of Hield, Fox and Cauley-Stein not ready for bigger roles yet, the pain will continue.
27. Los Angeles Clippers
I had so much hope in the ‘Blake Griffin’ led Clippers. With CP3 no longer casting a shadow over Grif looked uber impressive as they started 4-0. They have just one win in their past 12 tries. Something’s gotta give and they things are shaping it might be the head coach.
Image from si.com
26. Atlanta Hawks
THE Hawks are a weird team. They have an impressive win over Cleveland and a 46-point flogging of Sacramento mixed in with a loss to the Bulls when they managed just 86 points. They have depth and solid looking young dudes but who is their best player? And more importantly is that player really any good? (sorry Schroder/Bazemore)
25. Phoenix Suns
PHOENIX washed their hands of Eric Bledsoe and Earl Watson after the most embarrassing start in franchise history. At 7-11 the Suns are overachieving with Devin Booker and T.J. Warren scoring in impressive bunches and Alex Len finally looking like an NBA player. I can smell a 2-15 stretch just around the corner.
24. Utah Jazz
WITHOUT Rudy Gobert healthy Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell may help the Jazz shoot the worst field goal percentage in a single year. Losing Gordon Hayward in the offseason and the best defensive center for over a month means Utah’s ceiling is much closer to the roof this year.
23. Los Angeles Lakers
ALL hail Lonzo! Yes, the rookie who is averaging 8.9 points and is shooting 31.3% from the field, 22.8% from downtown and 46% from the free throw line is the clear future of the Los Angeles Lakers. I’m surprised LeBron James hasn’t left the Cavs already to join Lavar Ball’s eldest test tube baby.
22. Brooklyn Nets
I think that we are sleeping on Brooklyn a little bit as a basketball community. They play fast, they play hard and they have absolutely no reason to tank this year. The Nets just don’t have enough (healthy) players to fit their game plan right now. A 6-10 start gives them a platform to take the next step in their rebuild.
21. Charlotte Hornets
WRITING about the Hornets season so far was maybe the hardest of all the teams. Dwight looks good, then great, then awful, then great again, then unplayable. Kemba Walker is balling out (see Chciago Bulls game) and looks unguardable at times and yet they still find themselves under .500. Getting Batum back from injury should see them build into the playoff team I thought they would become.
20. Miami Heat
I’LL admit I haven’t paid a ton of attention to Miami so far this year. I do know their big three of Dragic, Waiters and Whiteside doesn’t strike fear into the heart of foes and the heroics that Spoelstra helped them achieve in the second half of last year may have been a fluke. In the next two weeks, they play Boston (home), Minnesota (away), Cleveland (away), Golden State (home) and San Antonio (away). Check back with me then.
Image from miamiherald.com
19. Memphis Grizzlies
I thought the end of the ‘grit and grind’ era would see the Grizz plummet. Instead, Gasol looked like an MVP candidate early on and Tyreke Evans is arguably in career best form. They have come back to Earth lately and with Conley injured the Memphis outfit I expected to see might show their true colours.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder
I still have high hopes for OKC. The 54 wins I predicted them producing might not happen with the Thunder at 7-9 right now. Their biggest issue isn’t the new ‘Big 3’ trying to co-exist, rather who (apart from Steven Adams) can actually contribute. Abrines has the same PER as Ian Mahinmi, wing players Roberson and Grant are shooting under 25% from three and Raymond Felton that looks like he ate Raymond Felton in the offseason.
17. Indiana Pacers
INDIANA might be winning the Paul George trade early on. Both Oladipo and Sabonis can actually be good basketballers when they aren’t just standing in the corner waiting for a Westbrook bullet pass. Who knew! If Myles Turner can find his mojo then the Pacers can be a playoff team.
Image from hoopshype.com
16. Orlando Magic
RIGHT in the middle of the pack is fitting for the early surprise packet of the league. Orlando burst out of the gates with their unconscious 3-point shooting, only to cool off and lose their last five in a row. If Aaron Gordon’s play can’t keep the Magic win’s flowing then they are the perfect trade team with assets aplenty.
15. New Orleans Pelicans
YOU’RE the GM of the New Orleans Pelicans. You’ve got the best big man duo in the league for this season, so surely you compliment your studs with players who can shoot from outside right? Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen and Ian Clark don’t fit the mould and thus the Pels are fighting for a playoff spot that they should have a two-handed grip on.
14. Milwaukee Bucks
THE Bucks defense couldn’t be saved by Giannis Antetokounmpo becoming a cheat code and the early MVP front-runner. Before Eric Bledsoe arrived in town there was a danger of Jason Kidd losing his job but after a 4-0 stretch, everything seemed copasetic. Back-to-back losses and a now 8-8 record mean Kidd is far from out of the woods.
13. New York Knicks
The season seemed perfectly poised for the Knicks to stink, patiently give Porzingis more games to become the franchise guy and find him another young killer sidekick. Well no one was ready for the Latvian gangbanger to take the league by storm and single handily help New York back to relevance. Who said unicorns are a mythical creature?
12. Washington Wizards
JOHN Wall has played bad early on, but it hasn’t mattered for the Wiz. Brad Beal (god I feel bad writing this with my finger crossed knocking on wood) looks like a true star now that he is healthy and the Wizards bench pieces are serviceable. I’m buying as much Washington stock as I can at this point.
11. Portland Trailblazers
MUCH like Washington the ‘sidekick’ of the stellar backcourt in Portland is the one getting all the attention early on. Lillard’s mediocre play has seen McCollum playing out of his mind shooting the 3rd best clip from behind the arc in the league. The Blazers are sitting tied for the lead in one of the most competitive divisions in basketball with a winnable slate of games coming up.
10. Philadelphia 76ers
CALM down Philly fans. I understand Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons look like a duo we have never seen the likes of before, but I still need to see them do this for a longer period of time before I’m buying my ticket on the 76ers bandwagon. Still, the way this young pair are playing they are No. 1 on the team league pass rankings every night.
9. Denver Nuggets
I watched the Nuggets play against the Pelicans last weekend with awe. Their young starting backcourt looked like Steph Curry clones, complemented by a goofy 7-foot Serbian who thinks he’s Magic Johnson running the break. Add Millsap and other depth to the mix and this no-fuss, quiet team is poised to make noise now.
Image from theintelligencer.com
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
HERE’S the annual blueprint for Cleveland since LeBron returned to the team. Start off weird, make a few roster moves, lose to a team or two that you shouldn’t, start clicking in March/April, make the Finals. Until I see otherwise this is the formula I continue to believe in.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
AT 10-7 the Timberwolves are another newly structured team that is muddling through the start of the year. I still don’t understand how a team coached by Thibs is so bad at defense with Karl Anthony Towns looking slightly off. Once it all clicks though I look forward to a two-week, seven-game stretch when he averages 28/13 and everyone remembers he is a machine.
6. Detroit Pistons
DIDN’T see this coming. Detroit has lost three of their last four and have a tricky schedule ahead. That doesn’t take away the Pistons 10-3 start with Andre Drummond shooting free throws like Steve Nash and Tobias Harris shooting 3’s like, well, Steve Nash. They won’t stay this high up the standings, but credit’s due for their hot start.
5. San Antonio Spurs
THERE is no way that San Antonio can be graded or judged until Kawhi is back from his unusual quad injury. In true Spurs fashion though they are winning around two-thirds of their games fuelled by the LaMarcus Aldridge redemption tour. In Pop we trust.
4. Toronto Raptors
THROUGH the first portion of the year there is no reason to believe that the Toronto Raptors are going about their business any differently than they have in the last few years. What will likely turn into a 51-31 season will probably equate to a first or second round exit. Still, they are playing like they want that vulnerable crown in the East.
3. Houston Rockets
I stand by my claim that Houston posses the best chance of dethroning the Warriors in the playoffs. Without Chris Paul, the Rockets went on an 11-4 run and have won their first two games with him back by a combined 48 points. Harden is the MVP favourite right now and in my opinion, 60+ wins is a real possibility.
2. Golden State Warriors
WHAT can I say? Golden State is the same beast. They were down 20+ to Philly only to burn the 76ers with 47 points in the third and go on to win. They were missing KD against the Nets last night and Steph scored 39. Klay is actually shooting the ball better than he ever has and Draymond is still doing his nightly thing.
1. Boston Celtics
DUH. Not even a Cavaliers fan like me can ignore their dominance. 16 straight wins for Boston have featured almost every type of win throughout their streak after starting 0-2. Anyone who can get Kyrie Irving to try on defense should be Coach of the Year in my eyes. Stevens might have his sights set on a much bigger trophy the way the Celtics are rolling right now.
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