NBA week three power rankings! In this edition of my weekly power ranking, I will be featuring every NBA team’s most improved player through three weeks.
*Stats and records and from games on 1/12/21 are not included.
1. Los Angeles Lakers Record: 8-3 Previous: 1
The Lakers earned the top spot for the third week in a row, possessing the NBA’s best record and winning six of their last seven. After barely playing last year, Talen Horton-Tucker has been a solid bench contributor, putting up 8.1 ppg in 16.9 minutes per game.
2. Los Angeles Clippers Record: 7-4 Previous: 2
The Clippers had a decent week, going 2-2, but come in at the second spot for the second straight week. After looking like he may not get another chance in the NBA, Nicolas Batum has been a pleasant surprise for the Clippers, averaging 10.3 ppg as their starting power forward.
3. Milwaukee Bucks Record: 7-4 Previous: 5
The Bucks got back on track last week after a slow start, going 3-1, including a blowout win against Orlando. Donte DiVincenzo continues to grow on both ends of the floor and has been on fire from deep, shooting 46.3% from downtown on the season.
4. Philadelphia 76ers Record: 7-4 Previous: 3
With several players out due to COVID-19, the 76ers dropped three consecutive contests as Adam Silver refused to postpone their games. Before contracting COVID, Seth Curry looked great for the team, averaging 17.0 ppg and shooting a league-leading 59.5% from beyond the arc.
5. Boston Celtics Record: 7-3 Previous: 8
The Celtics won their first two games last week before having two postponed for COVID protocols. Early on, Jaylen Brown looks like the favorite to win MIP as he’s averaging 26.3 ppg and leading his team to the East’s best record.
6. Phoenix Suns Record: 7-4 Previous: 4
The Suns hit a minor bump in the road, going 2-2 last week, including losses to both the Wizards and Pistons. Quietly, Mikal Bridges has shown significant improvement in year three as he’s upped his scoring to 15.1 ppg while swatting away 1.2 shots per game.
7. Utah Jazz Record: 6-4 Previous: 9
After a pair of losses to the Knicks and Nets last week, Utah rebounded to beat the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. Jordan Clarkson is an early candidate to win Sixth Man of the Year, as he’s averaging 16.8 ppg off the bench.
8. Indiana Pacers Record: 6-4 Previous: 6
After a hot start, the Pacers dropped back-to-back games last week to Phoenix and Sacramento. Almost all of the Pacers’ starting five are candidates, but I’ll go with Malcolm Brogdon, who puts up 23.5 ppg and should make his first all-star team.
9. Golden State Warriors Record: 6-4 Previous: 13
Draymond Green‘s return has the Warriors playing great basketball as they have now won four of their last five games since starting 2-3. In year two, Eric Paschall continues to look like a steal at pick 41, averaging 12.1 ppg this season.
10. Portland Trail Blazers Record: 6-4 Previous: 15
CJ McCollum has been the best player on the Trail Blazers this year, and that showed on Monday when he hit a game-winner against Toronto. At age 29, McCollum should be in line to earn his first all-star nod as he’s averaging 28.1 ppg.
11. Brooklyn Nets Record: 5-6 Previous: 7
With Kyrie Irving out for personal reasons, the Nets continue to play inconsistent ball as they went 2-2 last week. Since being elevated to the starting lineup, Jarrett Allen has looked great, averaging 13.3 ppg and 10.0 rpg in the month of December.
12. Dallas Mavericks Record: 5-4 Previous: 16
With Kristaps Porzingis back and Dallas sporting a three-game winning streak, the Mavericks should be in a great position to go on a tear. In his third NBA season, Jalen Brunson has taken a jump as the Mavericks’ sixth man, averaging 11.1 ppg.
13. Miami Heat Record: 4-4 Previous: 10
The Heat went 1-1 last week before having a game postponed due to COVID, with the roster decimated due to health and safety protocols. After losing his spot in the rotation last year, Kelly Olynyk has stepped up, averaging 11.6 ppg and 5.4 rpg on the year.
14. Orlando Magic Record: 6-5 Previous: 11
After their great start, the Magic finally fell back down to earth as they have lost three consecutive contests. As Orlando’s sixth man, Terrence Ross is having the best year of his career, currently averaging a career-high of 16.5 ppg.
15. Denver Nuggets Record: 5-5 Previous: 18
After a slow start to the year, the Denver Nuggets have gotten back on track, winners of four of their last five matchups. Another top candidate to win MIP is Michael Porter Jr., who averages 19.5 ppg on 56.6% from the field and 42.3% from three so far.
16. Charlotte Hornets Record: 6-5 Previous: 29
The Hornets are the biggest risers in my power rankings history as they went 4-0 last week, rising 13 spots. After an inconsistent first year in Charlotte, Terry Rozier has played great, averaging 19.5 ppg while shooting 43.5% from deep.
17. Atlanta Hawks Record: 5-5 Previous: 14
Trending in the opposite direction of Charlotte, Atlanta has lost five of their last seven after a 3-0 start. While Trae Young and John Collins have gotten off to slow starts, Deandre Hunter has stepped up, putting up career-highs across the board in year two.
18. New Orleans Pelicans Record: 4-5 Previous: 12
Another team in a slump is the New Orleans Pelicans, who lost three straight before having a game postponed due to COVID. No one has taken a big step forward from last year, but Zion Williamson looks a bit better defensively, averaging 1.3 steals per game.
19. Sacramento Kings Record: 5-6 Previous: 19
The Sacramento Kings are an odd team to evaluate in that they have had a few great wins and a few ugly losses. While a rookie can’t win Most Improved Player, Tyrese Haliburton has exceeded all expectations, posting a 3.6 OBPM through nine career games.
20. San Antonio Spurs Record: 5-5 Previous: 26
Like the Kings, the Spurs have had a few great wins and a few ugly losses, making it tough to tell if they have a chance at making the playoffs. At age 24, Dejounte Murray is having the best year of his career, averaging 16.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 5.1 apg so far.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder Record: 5-4 Previous: 27
Despite having a young roster, the Thunder have remained competitive, winning all three of their games last week. Almost all of OKC’s young guys have shown improvement, but Luguentz Dort stands out the most as he’s averaging 12.4 ppg through nine games.
22. Houston Rockets Record: 3-5 Previous: 21
Another tough team to evaluate, Houston struggled last week, losing two of three games. Besides Jaylen Brown, Christian Wood is the top contender to win MIP as he’s averaging 23.3 ppg and 9.7 rpg in his age 25 campaign.
23. New York Knicks Record: 5-6 Previous: 20
After their surprising 5-3 start to the year, the Knicks finally came back down to earth, losing three straight matches. Julius Randle is the main reason they have been competitive as he is putting up 22.1 ppg and 11.2 rpg through 11 games.
24. Memphis Grizzlies Record: 4-6 Previous: 28
With Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. out, the Grizzlies have been able to stay competitive as they went 2-2 last week. At age 27, Kyle Anderson is having the best year of his career, putting up career-highs across the board while remaining an elite defender.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers Record: 5-6 Previous: 17
Another team that has come back down to earth, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ early success was not long-lived. However, both Collin Sexton and Darius Garland have shown remarkable improvements, as both point guards are averaging career-highs for Cleveland’s backcourt.
26. Toronto Raptors Record: 2-8 Previous: 22
Easily the biggest disappointment of the year has been the Toronto Raptors, as Pascal Siakam has missed potential game-winning shots in back-to-back games. Arguably the lone bright spot for Toronto has been Chris Boucher, who averages 14.3 ppg off the bench.
27. Chicago Bulls Record: 4-7 Previous: 23
After a comeback win over Portland last Tuesday, Chicago struggled, losing three straight games without Lauri Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky. Zach LaVine has gotten better each of the past three seasons, and this year has been no exception as he’s averaging 27.7 ppg.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves Record: 3-7 Previous: 25
Anthony Edwards had his rookie moment against the Spurs as the Timberwolves have lost seven of their last eight games. In his first full season with Minnesota, Malik Beasley continues to play well as he’s putting up 19.4 ppg through ten games.
29. Washington Wizards Record: 3-8 Previous: 24
Russell Westbrook has been an absolute disaster for Washington as the Wizards went 1-3 last week, with their only win coming when Westbrook did not play. While he was already an all-star, it’s hard not to give a nod to Bradley Beal, who leads the league in scoring, averaging 34.9 ppg.
30. Detroit Pistons Record: 2-8 Previous: 30
For the third straight week, the Pistons earn the bottom spot on my ranking, despite beating the Phoenix Suns on Thursday. In his first year with the team, Jerami Grant has looked great, averaging 25.1 ppg as a top MIP candidate.
Follow me on Twitter @PodolskyDanny
Come discuss this and much more at the Overtime Heroics forums!