The Golden State Warriors are the unanimous number one team in this week’s NBA Power Rankings, but they need to prove themselves against a tough schedule if they want to stay on top. Will their struggles lead them down the path of vulnerability? Meanwhile, LeBron James and his new squad have already taken care of business in Cleveland. The Miami Heat came out strong after Pat Riley was brought back by signing Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Who will come away with bragging rights at season’s end?
The “nba power rankings 2021” is a weekly ranking of the top NBA teams. The Golden State Warriors are dominating the league, while Pat Riley’s Miami Heat are looking like geniuses again.
It’s Halloween, and while some NBA teams are dressing up as frighteners, others are just groups of NBA players that are terrifying their fans. We’ve had our fill of unbeaten teams since the Chicago Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz on Oct. 30. On the other hand, top overall selection Cade Cunningham scored two points in his NBA debut, while the Detroit Pistons defeated the Orlando Magic to go into the win column. So no one is going to go 0–82 this season. After two weeks, how do the NBA Power Rankings look? Six teams have a single defeat. Only seven people have ever won a game.
In the midst of it all? It’s ranged from nice to awful to ugly. (Cue the scary whistling soundtrack from Clint Eastwood’s 50-plus-year-old classic.) Basically, here’s what we’ve discovered thus far: There’s a long way to go before April 10, when the regular season concludes with a complete 15-game schedule. We’re simply trying to notice some patterns, appreciate the good, process the bad, and weather the storm.
Thunder, Magic, Rockets, Pelicans, and Pistons are the ping-pong ball chasers.
Oklahoma City is ranked 30th (1-5, 29th last week) Orlando is number 29. (1-6, 30th) Houston is number 28. (1-4, 16th) New Orleans is number 27. (1-6, 28th) Detroit is number 26. (1-4, 25th)
The NBA’s poorest adjusted net rating belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Per 100 possessions, they’ve been outscored by 16.2 points. Four of their five defeats have been by double digits, while their lone victory came after trailing by 26 points. Orlando throws the ball over much too often, does not force enough turnovers from their opponents, and is the uncommon club that seems incapable to defend at any level.
The Houston Rockets have dropped three consecutive games by double digits after blowing out Oklahoma City. The good news is that in a 31-point loss to the Jazz, Kevin Porter Jr. only had one turnover. The bad news is that he had to hurt his ankle and play just 19 minutes to keep that total down. Sure, the experiment with KPJ as a point guard should be going better. The New Orleans Pelicans miss Lonzo Ball, while the Detroit Pistons need to find more methods to throw the round orange ball in the round orange hoop.
Mavericks, Clippers, Pacers, Nets, and Bucks are all looking for lottery luck.
Early in the season, the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks may be suffering from a hangover. | Getty Images/Patrick McDermott
Dallas is number 25. (3-2, 23rd last week) Los Angeles Clippers (#24) (1-4, 21st) Indiana is number 23 on the list (1-6, 15th) Brooklyn is number 22. (3-3, 19th) Milwaukee is number twenty-one (3-3, 20th)
Yes, it is a squad from this category with a winning record. That’s because the Dallas Mavericks are known for their dramatic losses. They can’t, of course, shoot or prevent other teams from doing so. Dallas is 28th in adjusted effective field-goal percentage on one end and 24th on the other. This isn’t good. That one blowout victory belongs to the Los Angeles Clippers. Kawhi Leonard can’t wait to return.
Rick Carlisle’s honeymoon didn’t last long, as the Indiana Pacers have dropped to the basement of the Eastern Conference after four consecutive defeats. The Brooklyn Nets had a losing streak, then a winning streak, then a lather, rinse, and repeat cycle. Their defense isn’t producing many transition chances, and neither is their defensive rebounding. The reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks have lost two consecutive games at home after a 2–1 road trip. Perhaps the banner should be hung at Fiserv Forum every night.
Celtics, Kings, Grizzlies, Lakers, and Cavaliers are all on the bubble.
Boston is number twenty-first (2-4, 27th last week) Sacramento (19.) (3-2, 18th) 18. Memphis, Tennessee (3-3, 6th) 17. Los Angeles Lakers (3-3, 22nd) Cleveland is a city in Ohio (3-4, 26th)
The most major upward mover in the NBA Power Rankings this week is in this tier, as well as one of the two largest regressions. The Boston Celtics won a few games before losing in double overtime to the Washington Wizards on Oct. 30. Because opponents live at the foul line, the Cs could use a bit less grasping. The Sacramento Kings have a winning record of over.500! That’s all there is to it.
The Grizzlies and Rockets each dropped 12 positions. Either every opponent is having their greatest shooting night against Memphis, or the Grizzlies defense is the gruesome cause for every opponent’s best shooting night. It doesn’t matter if you can’t stop anybody, Ja Morant has been stunning. The grit-and-grind process seems to have occurred a million years ago.
The Los Angeles Lakers were defeated by the Oklahoma City Thunder despite leading by 26 points. This team wasn’t expected to set the record for the greatest blown lead in club history. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been incredibly successful at playing big.
Suns, Spurs, Nuggets, Hawks, and Hornets are at the bottom of the bracket.
This season, Miles Bridges has been so excellent that he just shouts at the ball to get it to do what he wants. | Getty Images/Grant Halverson
Phoenix is number fifteen (2-3, 24th last week) San Antonio is number 14 on the list (2-4, 14th) Denver is number thirteen (4-2, 12th) 12. Athens, Georgia (3-3, 8th) Charlotte is number eleven (4-2, 9th)
The Phoenix Suns are starting to figure things out, but they still need to get some stops. The Spurs of San Antonio are doing a lot of things correctly. One of them isn’t finishing games. Nikola Joki’s knee injury did not turn out to be as serious as it seemed, saving the Denver Nuggets from a significant scare.
Trae Young dodged a ban after colliding with a referee, but he lost $15,000 in the process. Since the NBA banned players from creating fouls, he’s been suffering a little. For the Charlotte Hornets, Miles Bridges is enjoying a career year. However, as good as Charlotte’s offense has been, regularly winning track meetings is difficult.
The Wizards, Timberwolves, Raptors, 76ers, and Bulls are all sneaky contenders.
Washington, D.C. (5-1, 13th last week) Minnesota is number nine (3-2, 3rd) 8. The city of Toronto (4-3, 17th) 7. The city of Philadelphia (4-2, 10th) 6. The city of Chicago (5-1, 4th)
The Wizards, ahem, ex-Lakers, are displaying some toughness. During Washington’s three-game winning run, Montrezl Harrell averaged 23.3 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Spencer Dinwiddie has the offense going nicely, but for a disappointing return to Brooklyn. The Wizards may be frightening if Bradley Beal begins hitting shots.
After a strong start, the Minnesota Timberwolves started to return to the norm, despite a fine victory in Milwaukee. The Toronto Raptors have been all over the place this season. They can’t shoot, but they clear the defensive boards and smash the offensive glass like no one else in the NBA. That compensates for a lot of bad shooting.
The 76ers vented their frustrations on the Hawks, but Joel Embiid’s knee is a ticking time bomb. In Philly’s previous three games, he’s shot 38.5 percent. The Chicago Bulls are one DeMar DeRozan jumper away from going up 6–0, but Patrick Williams’ season-ending wrist injury has placed their depth under scrutiny.
The New York Knicks are ranked No. 5 in the NBA.
Who has two thumbs and shoots 57.9% from the three-point line? Kemba Walker, who is a significant reason why the Knicks are the NBA’s best 3-point shooting team. | Getty Images/Sean Gardner
(5-1, tied for 2nd last week)
The New York Knicks defeated the Chicago Bulls in a thrilling game. They boast the top adjusted offensive rating in the NBA, play solid defense, and place a premium on the ball. The Knicks should make more turnovers, and they reach rather than move their feet a bit too frequently, but these aren’t major issues.
At this moment, the Kemba Walker-Derrick Rose tag team is doing well. They’re averaging 27.3 points and 6.2 assists per game, and they’re both hot from three. Walker is averaging 57.9% on 6.3 long balls a game, while Rose is averaging 54.2 percent on four 3s per game. Are we surprised that New York leads the NBA in 3-point shooting (40.7%)? With the aging point guards shooting at will, it’s not going to happen.
Golden State Warriors, No. 4
(5-1, last week’s 11th)
The Golden State Warriors have championship potential if Klay Thompson 2.0 resembles his pre-“let’s just hurt everything in my leg” incarnation. He may not be an NBA 75 pick, but it’s no accident that the Warriors have missed the playoffs in both of the two seasons he’s been out after five consecutive trips in the NBA Finals.
Draymond Green sets the tone, and he’s capable of making a free shot now and then. That 7-of-19 shooting is a worrisome indication for a guy who is still in charge of a majority of the offense. Jordan Poole is only hitting 24.3 percent of his 6.2 three-point tries a game. When a player makes his 35.1 percent shooting from previous season appear like an exception, it’s less than ideal. As a result, there are still reservations in the Bay Area.
3. Trail Blazers of Portland
The Portland Trail Blazers are surviving Damian Lillard’s frigid start thanks to CJ McCollum’s hot hand. | Getty Images/Abbie Parr
(previous week’s score: 3-2, 7th)
The Trail Blazers lost to the Kings at home and were thrashed by the Clippers on the road. But they’ve also beaten the Suns and Grizzlies to a pulp. On Oct. 29, Portland avenged the blowout in LA with a 19-point thrashing of the Clippers. The Blazers will have an early test this week when they travel to Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Cleveland for a three-game, four-night Eastern trip.
Early on, it’s CJ McCollum who is doing the heavy lifting. McCollum is averaging 24.2 points per game while shooting 44.9 percent from three-point range. Damian Lillard is only shooting 26.2 percent from beyond the arc. At 37.5 percent over nine seasons, that’s more of a cold streak than a trend. What happens if they both start cooking? With Lillard chipping the paint off the rims, Portland is ranked seventh in adjusted offensive rating.
Utah Jazz, No. 2
(4-1, first place last week)
Coach Quin Snyder rested 34-year-old point guard Mike Conley against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 30, and the Utah Jazz had their worst offensive performance of the season. Donovan Mitchell shot 9-of-27 from the field and 2-of-11 from beyond the arc. He scored 30 points, demonstrating that sheer volume does add up. Jordan Clarkson led a disappointing bench effort by hitting 5-of-19. Bojan Bogdanovic was a frigid 5-of-14, Joe Ingles was 3-of-9, and Jordan Bogdanovic was a cool 5-of-14.
In today’s NBA, shooting 28.9% from 3-point range is difficult to top. With 20 turnovers, it’s almost hard to win. The Jazz were able to keep close because to the Bulls’ attempts to assist them, with Nikola Vuevi and Lonzo Ball both finishing 8-of-30.
The Miami Heat are ranked first.
The Miami Heat have risen to the top of the NBA Power Rankings, with three players averaging at least 20 points per game. | Al Bello/Getty Images
(5-1, tied for 5th last week)
Some pundits questioned Pat Riley’s judgment in acquiring Kyle Lowry to partner with Jimmy Butler. Who knows how far away they are? Ahem. Moving on, the Heat are the top defensive club in the NBA. They also have the second-best offensive rebounding rate and enable opponents to have the second-worst offensive rebounding percentage.
Miami makes opponents uncomfortable, cleans up its offensive glass issues, and controls the defensive backboard. Doing so will help you win a lot of games. Butler, Bam Adebayo, and (checks notes twice) sixth man Tyler Herro are the Heat’s three players averaging at least 20 points each game.
Miami will be difficult to overcome if Lowry (26.9% from deep) and Duncan Robinson (32.1 percent on 8.8 triple attempts per night) can get hot (pun intended). “I find your lack of rim protection alarming,” as a certain dark lord may remark. The Heat could use a shot-blocker, but they may be able to defend well enough without one.
Cleaning the Glass and NBA.com provided statistics, as well as Basketball Reference.
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