NBA power rankings: first edition


Chris Warner

Roughly a month into the 2015-16 NBA season, the true hierarchy league is starting to take shape, and we’ve got something to say about it.

Each Monday for the rest of the season, members of our sports desk will rank all 30 NBA teams and analyze their performance.


1    NBA Power Rankings - Gold State Warriors 15-0 Where do I begin?  Being undefeated in the loaded Western Conference, having the reigning MVP posting 40-point performances on almost a nightly basis and proving that even 23-point deficits don’t seem to phase them — these Warriors are historically impressive. So are there any weaknesses with the reigning champs? Well, their coach is still recovering from surgery. (CV)
2 NBA Power Rankings - San Antonio Spurs 10-3 Like every year, the Spurs are quietly staying amongst the tops of the NBA standings with only one bad loss this week to the Pelicans. Kawhi Leonard is also quietly becoming a superstar. He’s averaging 21.3 points per game, the most by a Spur since 2008 when Tony Parker averaged 22 per game. This team has great depth and with Aldridge still learning the playbook, they can still get better.  (JH)
3 cle 10-3  Despite LeBron’s meltdown last week in which he earned a technical foul for walking off the court in frustration during the team’s win over the Hawks, the Cavs are cruising atop the East just waiting to get healthy. It’s obvious that LeBron is quite worried about Golden State, though, evidenced by his outspoken team criticism and antics. (CW)
4 Atlanta_Hawks_2015_Logo.svg  9-6 Point guard Dennis Schroder has filled in admirably for the injured Jeff Teague, averaging 13.7 points and 8.3 assists in the past three games, but the Atlanta Hawks still ride the backs of their star forwards. The Hawks will continue to improve once Teague and Korver return to full strength, but in the meantime you can almost pencil in a double-double from their starting front court every night. The Hawks look like a version of last year’s team without the surprise factor. (BC)
5 heat  8-4 One word can describe the Heat this season: dangerous. The Heat are deep and boast the impressive combination of proven stars and young studs in their lineup. Hassan Whiteside has ascended to the upper echelon of centers while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are experiencing Tim Duncan-type rejuvenation on the other side of thirty. The X-factor for the Miami Heat is Goran Dragic, who still hasn’t truly found his role. The Heat are playing extremely well and will only get better as they aim to compete for second best in the East. (BC)
6 Chicago_Bulls_logo.svg  8-4 The Bulls seem to be putting everything together. Even without Derrick Rose against the undefeated Warriors, the Bulls kept it as close as they could. Joakim Noah has been showing some positive signs off the bench, which would give the team a big boost. Gasol and Noah, the team’s starting frontcourt last season, have barely been on the floor together this year and it seems to be paying off.  (JH)
7 Indiana_Pacers.svg 8-5 The Pacers are having a decent start to their season thanks to a resurgent Paul George. After his gruesome injury last season, George has returned to great form, averaging 24.8 points a game with 8.5 rebounds. This team will rise and fall with his production. (BG)
8 tor 9-6 The Raptors are playing average defense this season but have a pair of 20-per-night scorers in guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Although DeRozan and Lowry don’t necessarily showcase efficient offense, the pair is able to carry the load most nights. A trio of single digit losses this week to Sacramento, Golden State and Utah weren’t enough to drop the Raptors down in the middle of the pack, as they’re still a playoff caliber team when playing well. (BC)
9 Dallas_Mavericks_logo.svg 9-5  Dallas must be sold out to getting Dirk back to the playoffs one last time. Rick Carlisle has guys like Zaza Pachulia, Javale McGee, and Dwight Powell putting forth major contributions, and the team has somehow managed to win six of their last seven. (CW)
10  Washington_Wizards_Logo.svg  6-4 Washington is currently on a three-game winning streak and looking to have another average year. John Wall continues to play to his expectations as Bradley Beal is shooting 47 percent from 3-point land. The Wizards can make some noise in the East if they continue to shoot high percentages and fix their mediocre defense. (BG)


11 Oklahoma_City_Thunder.svg  8-6 With what looked like a pretty manageable four games against teams that had been struggling, it seemed like the Durant injury wouldn’t be too much of an issue.  But when you allow 104.5 points a game during the 1-3 stretch, along with Russell Westbrook struggling in a game against Marcus Smart, Durant’s return couldn’t come sooner. (CV)
12 nyk-logo  8-6 The Knicks rise in the rankings after reeling off a perfect 4-0 week which included wins over Western Conference teams Houston and Oklahoma City.  Defense has been the key, holding opponents to just 42 percent shooting over the four wins.  The Knicks can further substantiate their improvements as they have a three-game stretch against Florida teams. (CV)
13 bos  7-6 After getting off to a surprising start to the season, the Celtics dropped two out of their last three games and have now lost guard Marcus Smart for the next couple of weeks with a leg injury. Somebody will have to fill the void of Smart to keep the Celtics in the hunt. (JH)
14 cha  7-6 Who are these guys? The Hornets had the NBA’s 28th ranked offense last season. This season? Fourth best. Charlotte has transformed their offense into a 3-point shooting monster ranking third in the NBA in 3-pointers made per game. (LS)


15 Detroit_Pistons_logo.svg  7-6  The Pistons are an enigma. They’ve pulled off impressive wins against the Cavs and Hawks already this season, yet have managed to also drop games to the Lakers and the Kings. Andre Drummond is making the case for the league’s best center and Reggie Jackson has emerged as a legitimate point guard, but can they find consistency from the rest of their squad? (CW)
16 phx  7-6 Phoenix is exceeding all expectations through the first few weeks of the season. Brandon Knight is having a career year and is clicking in the backcourt with Eric Bledsoe. The defense is still not great and they have to prove they are still legit. They have been playing inconsistent recently with a loss this weekend to the lowly Pelicans, but they are still very much in the playoff hunt. (JH)
17 Memphis_Grizzlies.svg 7-7 Chalmers to the rescue! The former Miami Heat guard has resurrected Memphis from the ashes. Since the addition of Chalmers in the lineup the Grizzlies are 4-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Spurs, and are playing decisively better than their puzzling start.  Marc Gasol has regained form dropping his first career triple-double in a win over Houston. However, Memphis will need to regain a defensive edge to move up in the ranks. (BC)
18 uta  6-6 In the three games that Gobert couldn’t finish or dress, the Jazz went 0-3. They narrowly won their next two after his return but lost to Dallas, going 2-1 on the week. One thing to note: Hayward is shooting just 39 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3-point range. (CV)
19  i  6-7  After starting the season 4-0, the Clippers are 2-7 since and are struggling to get their big offseason acquisitions to click. Blake Griffin is having a monster year but having DeAndre Jordan on the floor in fourth quarters is hurting them with his lack of offensive ability. The Clippers can’t just rely on Griffin and Paul and will probably need to make a trade soon for another scorer to be an actual contender or this will be a very disappointing season. (JH)
20 Denver_Nuggets.svg  6-8 “Sweet and sour” describes the 2015 season thus far for the Nuggets. Their coveted first round pick Emanuel Mudiay has shown flashes of brilliance distributing the ball as well as scoring the rock. However, his 1.44 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks him 72nd in the league. Danilo Gallinari has also shown signs of the size and scoring potential everyone raved about when he first entered the league. (BC)
21 Minnesota_Timberwolves.svg  5-8 It feels like Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have taken the league by storm this season. Towns is posting rookie numbers that look like a certain teammate of his used to. The future is bright in Minnesota, evidenced by their ability to keep games close and compete against top NBA competition. (LS)
22 Orlando_magic_logo  6-7 Nothing too exciting has happened for Orlando as they set out to finish below .500 this season. Evan Fournier is averaging nearly 20 points a game and has played above and beyond his expectations. Besides Fournier, no players have stepped up and given the Magic the edge they need to become a notable team. (BG)
23 200px-Sacramento_Kings.svg  5-9 BOOGIE! Despite non-stop drama, Demarcus Cousins is carrying the offensive load for the Kings as they start to climb back from an ugly stretch to start the season. (LS)
24 Milwaukee_Bucks_logo15  5-8 For a team that was supposed to be up-and-comers in the East, a 5-8 start isn’t ideal. Losing three in a row doesn’t help either. The Bucks need to find ways to score outside if they want any hope of returning to the playoffs. (LS)
25 200px-Houston_Rockets.svg  5-9 The Rockets fired head coach Kevin McHale with hopes of improvement. No improvement has been made in Houston yet as the team holds a 5-9 record. James Harden is shooting 27 percent from beyond 3-point and has provided little help to the struggling Rockets. (BG)
26 Portland_Trail_Blazers.svg  6-9  After seven straight losses, Portland seemed to figure themselves out over the weekend, posting back-to-back wins. Only problem? They were against LA teams that are struggling just as much as they are. Lillard is a stud and McCollum has shown promise, but this team has no front court, something that will plague them all season long. (CW)
27 nop  3-11 Injuries are destroying the Pelicans right now. Anthony Davis can only do so much with a roster that lacks healthy NBA level talent at the moment. (LS)
28 200px-Brooklyn_Nets_newlogo.svg  3-11  The Nets starting five would all be great role players on other teams, outside of maybe Brook Lopez, which explains their abysmal record. They were able to pull out a win against Boston Sunday after being crushed 120-95 by them on Friday, but outside of a win here-or-there for morale purposes, this team will be in a state of consistent decline. At least they’re not Sixers bad. (CW)
29 lal  2-11 The team ball philosophy seemed evident in the win over the Detroit Pistons Sunday … then the rest of the week came with LA losing a very winnable game at Phoenix before giving up a 40-point fourth quarter, and blowing a second half lead against the Raptors.  This week the Lakers have a shot to be a part of history as they look to upset Golden State on Tuesday. (CV)
30 Philadelphia_76ers_Logo  0-14 The Sixers have yet to win a game and are on pace to match their worst start in franchise history (0-17). Jahlil Okafor is having a strong rookie season, but besides that nothing is looking good for Philly. (BG)

Contributors: Chris Warner, Lee Sanderlin, Cameron Vaughn, Ben Cogsdale, Brent Gilmore, Jason Huber