The 2019-20 NBA season is well underway, with four or five games completed for every team. Last week, I set the landscape of what I expected this season with my NBA Season-Opening Power Rankings. A week into the action (a little longer, I’ll explain in a minute) I’ll shuffle the teams according to what we’ve seen on the court so far.
The season kicked off last Tuesday, so it’s been nine or ten days of action, but I’ve decided the aftermath of the Thursday night games is a good time to evaluate the league. There’s less action on Thursday night, but typically important action unfolding on TNT’s weekly double-header.
The most wide-open NBA season in recent memory hasn’t dissapointed so far. The Los Angeles Clippers impressed early, beating the Lakers and Warriors, but also dropped a game to the Suns and showed they won’t hesitant to lighten Kawhi Leonard‘s workload. It could mean the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, or Houston Rockets end up with the best record in the Western Conference.
Karl Anthony-Towns is leading a resurgent Minnesota Timberwolves team, and the Miami Heat have been playing well with or without Jimmy Butler. Teams like the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, and Toronto Raptors are also exceeding expectations.
And while the Golden State Warriors drop-off was inevitable, who could’ve seen them becoming one of the worst teams in the league? You could’ve said that even before Steph Curry broke his hand.
Almost every team found a new spot in this week’s Power Rankings. There’s a new best team, new worst team, a team that rises 14 spots, a promising team that falls 12 spots, and of course the Warriors, who fall more than 20 spots.
Power Rankings Post-Week 1
- Philadelphia 76ers (4-0) [Last Week: 3]
- One week in, and we already have a new #1 team. Through four games, there’s a statistical argument to why Philadelphia is the best: they’re outscoring opponents by 11.0 points per game (2nd in the NBA) and holding opponents to 100.5 points per game. If the 76ers can keep this up defensively, they’re going to rack up a lot of wins this year.
- Los Angeles Clippers (4-2) [Last Week: 1]
- The Clippers dropped a game to the Suns, shockingly, as well as one to the Jazz where Kawhi Leonard sat out. Also keep in mind this all with Paul George still returning to the court in the coming weeks. Leonard led the Clippers to wins over the Lakers and Warriors to establish a new Western Conference favorite.
- Los Angeles Lakers (3-1) [Last Week: 5]
- Utah Jazz (4-1) [Last Week: 8]
- At 4-1, the Utah Jazz have the best record in the Western Conference so far. They’re primed for a great season and a Top 4 seed in the conference. Utah’s defense, already great with Rudy Gobert, gets eve better with Mike Conley next to Donovan Mitchell. Their lone loss came at the hands of the Lakers.
- Houston Rockets (3-1) [Last Week: 2]
- The pairing of Russell Westbrook and James Harden is working just fine as expected. The Rockets are also a defensive atrocity: as expected. They’re allowing an eye-popping 127.5 points per game, the most in the NBA. That number is inflated by their 159-158 win over the Wizards… but how do you give up 158 points to the Wizards in regulation?
- Milwaukee Bucks (2-2) [Last Week: 4]
- The Bucks still have Giannis Antetokounmpo, and they’re still going to finish near the top of the East this season. But through four games, they’re giving up 117.5 points per game. They have to get this number down to remain a top contender.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (3-1) [Last Week: 21]
- Making the biggest jump of the week, the Timberwolves rise 14 spots. They’re caught in a slew of one loss teams in the Western Conference, but Karl Anthony-Towns is continuing to improve as a dominant force in the league. Their first loss came to the 76ers, highlighted by a physical altercation between Towns and Embiid. I think that incident may actually spark a new era of Timberwolves basketball: a more relevant era for Minnesota.
- San Antonio Spurs (3-1) [Last Week: 11]
- Greg Poppovich and the Spurs are primed for yet another playoff season. San Antonio’s first loss after a 3-0 start came against Leoanrd and the Clippers, who outlasted the Spurs 103-97.
- Boston Celtics (3-1) [Last Week: 9]
- The Celtics are a rare team that didn’t rise or fall in this week’s Power Rankings. I do think they’ve playing well, rattling off three straight wins including one over the Bucks, after dropping their season-opener to the 76ers.
- Miami Heat (4-1) [Last Week: 16]
- I don’t want to put too much stock into just five games, but the Heat have looked pretty good. They started 2-1 in the absence of Jimmy Butler and are now 2-0 with him on the court.
- Dallas Mavericks (3-1) [Last Week: 13]
- Dallas is riding high after pairing Porzingis and Doncic. Three wins and just one loss: by two points to the Trailblazers.
- Toronto Raptors (4-1) [Last Week: 17]
- Life after Kawhi Leonard started just fine with a 4-1 start for the Raptors. They lost to their best opponent so far, the Celtics, but have been feasting on lesser teams.
- Portland Trailblazers (3-2) [Last Week: 6]
- Portland takes a bit of a tumble: they’re not playing poorly, just many more impressive teams in the early season so far. The Trailblazers are outscoring opponents by just 0.8 points per game so far.
- Phoenix Suns (3-2) [Last Week: 28]
- The Suns have already racked up three wins after I only projected them for 22 on the season. The win over the Clippers is definitely a head-turner, and Phoenix only lost by a mere point to both the Jazz and Nuggets.
- Denver Nuggets (3-2) [Last Week: 10]
- Denver slides a bit this week despite a 3-2 record. Overall, they’ve been outscored by 0.4 points per game, and are coming off back-to-back losses to the Mavericks and Pelicans.
- Detroit Pistons (2-3) [Last Week: 18]
- It’s easy to forgot about the Pistons dominant frontcourt of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, with a resurgent Derrick Rose running the point. So far, the Pistons are 2-0 against the Pacers and 0-3 against everyone else, losing by 8 or more to the Raptors, 76ers, and Hawks.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (1-4) [Last Week: 24]
- For all the buzz surrounding this team’s start, you’d think they’d have more than one win. But even at 1-4, Chris Paul and the Thunder have indeed played better than I thought they would. Single-digit losses to the Rockets, Jazz, and Trailblazers show the Thunder are no pushover.
- Atlanta Hawks (2-3) [Last Week: 26]
- As if it wasn’t apparent already, the Hawks have the NBA’s next superstar on their hands in Trae Young (26.8 PPG, 7.2 APG). Atlanta won their first two games, only lost to the 76ers by 2 points, and then dropped their next two games.
- Orlando Magic (2-2) [Last Week: 2-2]
- Don’t be fooled by two wins: they’re only against the Knicks and Cavaliers. Orlando is playing at a uniquely slow pace: their 95.8 PPG is the 2nd-lowest in the NBA (the Kings are the only other team under 100 PPG) and 93.8 PPG allowed is also the 2nd-lowest mark in the league (behind Utah’s 92.4 PPG allowed)
- Washington Wizards (1-3) [Last Week: 23]
- The Wizards scored 158 in regulation against the Rockets… but allowed 159 points. Washington has been playing very close games (+0.3 point margin per game) so more wins should be on the way.
- New Orleans Pelicans (1-4) [Last Week: 15]
- With only one win to their name, the Pelicans could be lower. But I don’t hate what I’m seeing on the court from them. They’re only being outscored by 2.8 points per game, and enjoyed a quality win over the Nuggets.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2) [Last Week: 29]
- The Cavaliers jump up seven spots with a 2-2 opening week. They’re technically tied for first in the Central Division, but their 129-112 loss to the Bucks showed there’s no actual competition.
- Charlotte Hornets (2-3) [Last Week: 30]
- The Hornets, my preseason pick for worst team in the NBA, have already exceeded some expectations with two wins in their first five games. But Charlotte is being outscored by 9.6 points per game, the worst mark in the Eastern Conference.
- Brooklyn Nets (1-3) [Last Week: 12]
- Kyrie Irving (35.2 PPG, 6.2 APG) just can’t do it alone in Brooklyn. The Nets slide 12 spots, but I really hope the team can turn it around and be competitive this year without Kevin Durant.
- Indiana Pacers (1-3) [Last Week: 14]
- I seem to have neglected to realize that Victor Oladipo is out for at least another month. That definitely hurts this Indiana squad, but I didn’t think they’d be this bad.
- New York Knicks (1-3) [Last Week: 27]
- In a season full of unpredictability, we can take solace in the fact the Knicks are exactly who we thought they were. Being outscored by 8.2 points per game, the second-worst mark in the Eastern Conference.
- Chicago Bulls (1-4) [Last Week: 22]
- The Bulls can be a fun team, but a have a ways to go to be a winning team. Their lone win this season came over the Grizzlies.
- Golden State Warriors (1-3) [Last Week: 7]
- Wow. Would you believe the five-time defending Western Conference champions are now the 3rd-worst team in the league? Things were already looking ugly even with Steph Curry on the court. After suffering a broken hand, wins will be very hard for the Warriors to come across. Down a whopping 21 spots this week.
- Memphis Grizzlies (1-3) [Last Week: 25]
- The post-Mike Conley era is off to a rough start. At least having Ja Morant makes the Grizzlies somewhat watchable.
- Sacramento Kings (0-5) [Last Week: 19]
- The only winless team remaining in the NBA, the Kings fall 11 spots all the way to the bottom. They’re being outscored by 17.0 points per game so far: the next worst team is the Grizzlies, being outscored by 13.8 points.
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Header Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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