The first NBA Power Ranking is always the toughest one to rank, with teams playing between two and four games so far. However, with the season back, here is my preliminary NBA Power Ranking!
* Stats and scores from games on 12/29 are not included.
1. Los Angeles Lakers Record: 2-2
Despite a pair of early losses to the Clippers and Trail Blazers, the Lakers still occupy the top spot on my ranking. Coming off a short offseason, this team still needs to find its rhythm with key additions of Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell getting adjusted.
2. Brooklyn Nets Record: 2-2
The Nets got off to a great start to the year with blowout wins over the Warriors and Celtics. Despite a loss to the Hornets, and another to Memphis with their stars sitting out, Brooklyn looks like a top contender. However, losing Spencer Dinwiddie is a considerable loss.
3. Miami Heat Record: 1-1
The reigning Eastern Conference champs took care of business on Christmas day after dropping their first game to the Magic. Jimmy Butler has battled an ankle issue early on, but this team has great chemistry and should continue to be a contender.
4. Los Angeles Clippers Record: 2-1
After winning their first two games against the Lakers and Nuggets, the Clippers suffered their worst loss in franchise history to the Mavericks. Kawhi Leonard suffered a brutal injury due to an elbow to the face; the team clearly needs him in the lineup.
5. Indiana Pacers Record: 3-0
The Pacers were slept on by many fans coming into the year, but they have shown early on that they are legit. They blew out two bad teams in Chicago and New York before scraping out a win against Boston on Sunday. Domantas Sabonis has been a beast, building off his all-star season from last year.
6. Milwaukee Bucks Record: 1-2
Despite a pair of early losses, the Bucks are still in the top tier of the power ranking. Giannis Antetokounnpo has yet to gain the touch on his shot, especially from the free-throw line. Currently 21/36 (58.3) from the charity stripe, he needs to improve for the Bucks to have a chance at a deep playoff run.
7. Philadelphia 76ers Record: 2-1
The Sixers have benefited from an easy schedule so far, despite losing to the Cavaliers without Joel Embiid. Issues from last season remain present, specifically the spacing on offense. Ben Simmons needs to improve as a shooter for this team to be a contender.
8. Boston Celtics Record: 1-2
The Celtics are a bank shot three away from starting the season 0-3. However, they’ve had a difficult schedule and arguably should have won against Indiana. With Kemba Walker out, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are both averaging over 25 ppg for this team.
9. Utah Jazz Record: 2-1
The Utah Jazz have started the year 2-1 after hanging on late against the Thunder on Monday. The issue with this team is its depth. Jordan Clarkson is a 6MOY contender; however, the rest of the bench doesn’t provide much for this team.
10. Phoenix Suns Record: 2-1
11. New Orleans Pelicans Record: 2-1
Despite a Christmas day loss to the Heat, the Pelicans have had quality wins over the Raptors and Spurs. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram have each been impressive, averaging over 21 ppg for New Orleans.
12. Atlanta Hawks Record: 3-0
A much improved Hawks team has gotten off to a great start, undefeated to start the year. Trae Young continues to shine, putting up a ridiculous 34 ppg through three games. It will be interesting to see how the Hawks match up against more challenging opponents.
13. Orlando Magic Record: 3-0
A team that flies under the radar, the Orlando Magic are also 3-0 to start the season. Rookie Cole Anthony has looked great, averaging 9 ppg and 4.7 apg in 18 minutes per game off the bench. Orlando prides itself on their defense and could sneak into the playoffs this season.
14. Portland Trail Blazers Record: 2-1
After an opening day loss to the Jazz, the Trail Blazers bounced back with wins over Houston and the Lakers. C.J. McCollum has gotten off to a hot start, averaging 29 ppg, including a pair of clutch shots against the Lakers on Monday.
15. Denver Nuggets Record: 1-2
The Nuggets have gotten off to a less than ideal start to the season, 1-2 through three games. Jamal Murray has gotten off to a sluggish start, shooting 39.5% from the field. Once he gets going, this team should improve along with him.
16. Dallas Mavericks Record: 1-2
The Mavericks rebounded from an 0-2 start to the season by annihilating the Clippers by 51 points on Sunday. With Kristaps Porzingis still out, this team may struggle early on in the year, especially on nights where Luka Doncic struggles.
17. Cleveland Cavaliers Record: 3-0
The early season’s biggest surprise is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are 3-0, including a blowout win over the 76ers. Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Andre Drummond have all gotten off to great starts, but in all likelihood, this is a fluke performance by Cleveland.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves Record: 2-1
First overall pick Anthony Edwards has looked solid as the Timberwolves have won two of their first three games. However, with Karl-Anthony Towns out indefinitely due to a left wrist injury, the Timberwolves may struggle early on in the season.
19. Sacramento Kings Record: 2-1
Highlighted by a buzzer-beater win against Denver on Wednesday, the Kings have gotten off to a 2-1 start. Several players have chipped in for this team, including the 12th overall pick, rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who is averaging 9.7 ppg off the bench.
20. Toronto Raptors Record: 0-2
The Raptors have yet to win a game, having suffered early-season losses to the Spurs and Pelicans. Despite their minor struggle, Toronto flies under the radar and should not be looked over in the East.
21. San Antonio Spurs Record: 2-1
The Spurs get little to no national attention but are off to a good start at 2-1 on the young season. Notably, Lonnie Walker IV seems to have broken out, averaging 15.3 ppg in the starting lineup this season.
22. Memphis Grizzlies Record: 1-2
The Grizzlies take an unexpected tumble in the power ranking after Ja Morant suffered an ankle injury that will keep him out for 3-5 weeks. With Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. out, guys such as Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton and Brandon Clarke will have to step up.
23. Golden State Warriors Record: 1-2
Problems that hurt the Warriors last season appear to remain unfixed as the team has struggled through three games. Kelly Oubre Jr. and Andrew Wiggins are ice cold, while Stephen Curry has yet to find his range from three. With Klay Thompson out, it’s going to be tough for the Warriors to make the tough Western Conference’s playoffs.
24. Charlotte Hornets Record: 1-2
After the team drafted LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier seems to have taken his game to the next level, putting up 26.7 ppg through three games. However, with Cody Zeller out 4-6 weeks, Bismack Biyombo will have to step up as the Hornets’ center. Not ideal!
25. Houston Rockets Record: 0-2
James Harden has been on fire, but the Rockets are in a tough spot right now with several guys out due to mandatory quarantines. With rumors continuing around the league, a James Harden trade seems very possible, especially if the Rockets get off to a slow start.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder Record: 1-1
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit a game-winner against the Hornets, but OKC came up just short on Monday against the Jazz. OKC has one of the youngest teams in the NBA and likely won’t be very good this year, but clearly, they have some young talent for the future.
27. New York Knicks Record: 1-2
28. Washington Wizards Record: 0-3
The addition of Russell Westbrook has done little to nothing for the Wizards, who are off to an 0-3 start. While he’s averaging a triple-double, Westbrook is shooting an abysmal 36.6% from the field, has yet to make a three, and has committed 11 turnovers in two games.
29. Chicago Bulls Record: 0-3
The Bulls have yet to win a game early on, and are 0-3 to start the year. They don’t have a ton of talent but hope that their young guys can improve. Coby White has struggled from the field but should still be in line for a solid season in 2020-21.
30. Detroit Pistons Record: 0-3
The Pistons had a confusing offseason, bringing in several power forwards and centers. That plan has already proven to be a disaster as this team has a log jam of big men and zero spacing to go around. If this continues, Detroit may have the worst record in the NBA this season.
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