Do You Believe in Magic? NBA Power Rankings – Week Three
Do you believe in magic? The Orlando Magic of course. The Magic are off to a blistering 5-2 start behind their young core. The Celtics and Spurs have also continued their magic of dealing with the loss of centerpiece players. Boston and Orlando are the big movers this week while the Heat are the big loser after a tough overtime loss to Minnesota Monday night.
- Golden State Warriors (5-3) (Last week’s ranking: 1) – The Warriors seem to be playing better over the past week, and they’re at their best when they are angry. A fight with the Washington Wizards featuring a Draymond Green ejection may have been just what the doctor ordered.
- Houston Rockets (5-3) (Last week’s ranking: 2) – The Rockets continue to hoist three-point shots at a historic rate. During Friday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets, the Rockets set a record for the fewest 2-pointers attempted in a game, with 28. The number of 3’s attemped? 57.
- San Antonio Spurs (4-3) (Last week’s ranking: 3) – Kawhi Leonard is inching closer to a return, but things are going fairly well so far in San Antonio. They were 4-0 before suffering back-to-back losses to the Magic and Pacers over the weekend.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (4-3) (Last week’s ranking: 4) – The Cavaliers are 27th in defensive rating. Anyone who watched them play the Knicks over the weekend probably thinks that number overrates their defensive ability. Cleveland has been getting shredded defensively and Coach Tyronn Lue needs to fix it. The Cavaliers are playing with fire by continuing to think they can flip the switch come playoff time.
- Washington Wizards (4-2) (Last week’s ranking: 5) – The Wizards suffered two tough losses but still look like the best antidote in the Eastern Conference for an eighth straight year of LeBron. If they want to get there, Coach Scott Brooks needs to fix a defense that has allowed over 100 points in five of six games. Part of that has been the pace but allowing that many points to the Lakers, 76ers, and Pistons does not bode well.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3) (Last week’s ranking: 6) – Oklahoma City’s kryptonite so far this season? The Timberwolves. They have beaten OKC twice through the season’s first six games. Other than that, the Big Three of Westbrook, George and Anthony are meshing together nicely.
- Memphis Grizzlies (5-2) (Last week’s ranking: 7) – Mike Conley and Marc Gasol may be two of the most consistent players in the league. The Griz lost Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and Tony Allen, but are still finding ways to get the job done.
- Boston Celtics (5-2) (Last week’s ranking: 11) – None of the Boston rotation players have a PER above 20 and yet they soldier onward for Coach Brad Stevens. Many expected the offense to leap forwards with Gordon Hayward. Losing him for the season obviously hurt but Stevens has changed the game plan and turned the Celtics into a defensive stalwart who currently ranks fourth in opponent scoring and the Celtics have held their opponents to under 100 points in all four victories.
- Los Angeles Clippers (4-2) (Last week’s ranking: 8) – The Clip Show was flying high after Blake Griffin sunk the Trail Blazers at the buzzer last Wednesday. Back-to-back losses against Detroit and Golden State have brought them back to earth slightly.
- Milwaukee Bucks (4-2) (Last week’s ranking: 9) – As encouraging a start as the Bucks have had so far, they have also notched losses to two teams that many expect to be above them in the standings. The losses to Cleveland and Boston raise the question of whether the Bucks can take the next step toward contention as presently constructed.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (4-3) (Last week’s ranking: 10) – The Timberwolves lost to the Pacers and Pistons last week without Jimmy Butler in the lineup, but at full strength they have owned the Thunder so far this season.
- Toronto Raptors (4-2) (Last week’s ranking: 12) – The Raptors will likely lurk in the background most of this season but give some credit to Coach Dwane Casey who nudged his players to shoot more threes. The percentages are not pretty but they will almost certainly improve from the sub 30 percent range they currently occupy and that should translate to more wins for Toronto.
- Portland Trail Blazers (4-3) (Last week’s ranking: 13) – The Blazers were a Blake Griffin prayer away from an undefeated week at home. Damian Lillard is playing at an MVP level, and this team should be taken seriously.
- Detroit Pistons (5-2) (Last week’s ranking: 20) – Who would have thought the Pistons would rest atop the Eastern Conference standings at the end of October? The Pistons could be for real since the improvement has mostly come from their best players and the early stretch has included wins over probably playoff teams and the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
- Charlotte Hornets (4-3) (Last week’s ranking: 19) – Early returns for the Dwight Howard experiment have been good. However, the real star for Charlotte is Jeremy Lamb. Lamb deserves immense credit for improving his game He was a fringe NBA player when he left OKC and now has earned himself the sixth man role once Nicolas Batum returns. His 17 points a game come off good but realistic shooting percentages including nearly 35 percent from three. Could coach Steve Clifford play smaller lineups once Batum is back to get them playing time together?
- Orlando Magic (5-2) (Last week’s ranking: 23) – While it is unlikely that Orlando keeps up its torrid shooting, (almost 44 percent as a team after finishing second to last a year ago at 33 percent) the Magic have finally seen their young players play up to their potential. Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic are both averaging near double-doubles in Orlando’s strong start.
- Utah Jazz (4-3) (Last week’s ranking: 14) – Rookie Donovan Mitchell is exploding onto the scene, but otherwise the Jazz are having major difficulties scoring the ball. Gordon Hayward is definitely missed in Utah.
- Denver Nuggets (3-4) (Last week’s ranking: 15) – The Nuggets lost to the Knicks on Monday night. The KNICKS. They’ve gotten off to a slow start, but starting a six-game homestand should help right the ship in Denver.
- New Orleans Pelicans (3-4) (Last week’s ranking: 17) – The Pels had a nice come from behind win in Boogie’s return to Sacramento. They have mounting injuries, but Cousins continues to keep them afloat.
- Philadelphia 76ers (3-4) (Last week’s ranking: 18) – The 76ers look like a potential playoff team behind Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons looks like the rookie of the year. Despite JJ Redick missing time and Markelle Fultz’ issues, there is reason for optimism in Philadelphia.
- Brooklyn Nets (3-4) (Last week’s ranking: 21) – Two big losses to the Knicks and Nuggets have quieted the playoff rumblings in Brooklyn but their next three games include two against the Suns and one against the Lakers, which should help them climb back up the rankings. One key Net during the stretch has been Spencer Dinwiddie, who has soaked up some of Jeremy Lin’s minutes and performed well as a backup point guard.
- New York Knicks (3-3) (Last week’s ranking: 26) – Kristaps Porzingis is showing off what he can do now that Carmelo Anthony is in Oklahoma City. He has averaged nearly 30 points a game to start the season and spent last weekend dethroning the king with a person 8-0 run to close out the Cavaliers.
- Indiana Pacers (3-3) (Last week’s ranking: 28) – Break up the Pacers! Wins over San Antonio and Minnesota have Indiana at .500. Meanwhile, Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo are both averaging over 20 points a game and could get some all-star buzz if their play continues.
- Miami Heat (2-4) (Last week’s ranking: 16) – Some of the Heat’s struggles are due to stiff competition but the main culprits are poor shooting (under 33 percent from three) and Dion Waiters. Waiters has not been the same player this year and the team relies heavily on him as a player who can penetrate and kick out. The injury to Hassan Whiteside obviously has not helped but without Waiters generating those looks, the Heat have struggled from the perimeter.
- Los Angeles Lakers (2-4) (Last week’s ranking: 24) – Lonzo Ball is continuing his up-and-down play, but the Lakers had a nice comeback victory against the Washington Wizards last week. Six games is a small sample size, but this team is not very good.
- Sacramento Kings (1-5) (Last week’s ranking: 25) – The Kings let a large lead slip away from them during DeMarcus Cousins’ homecoming over the weekend. They have a talented young core, but they have a long way to go.
- Phoenix Suns (2-4) (Last week’s ranking: 27) – The Suns are a dumpster fire. The only question right now is what they will fetch in return for Eric Bledsoe once they finally trade him.
- Dallas Mavericks (1-7) (Last week’s ranking: 22) – The Mavericks might be the worst team in basketball right now. If this slide continues, will Mark Cuban put aside his pride and shop Dirk Nowitzki?
- Atlanta Hawks (1-6) (Last week’s ranking: 29) – Dennis Schroeder is already mounting his all-star charge. Among Eastern Conference point guards, Schroeder is second in scoring, fifth in assists, and third in steals. If those numbers keep up, he could nab his first all-star bid this season.
- Chicago Bulls (1-4) (Last week’s ranking: 30) – Rejoice Bulls fans! Lauri Markkanen is here. The Finnisher has already endeared himself to Bulls fans with his stellar play and could provide just enough highlights to erase some of the pain of the long season.
Biggest Mover: Orlando Magic (7)
Biggest Flop: Miami Heat (8)
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