1. Los Angeles Lakers
Previous Ranking: 1 (Same)
The Lakers were able to move back up into a tie for the first seed in the West this week after going 3-1 against some mediocre teams. LeBron James has shown this tendency to try to get players involved through the first three quarters, and isn’t really in attack mode early on. Down the stretch however, he will start to takeover games, hitting clutch shots against both the Grizzlies and Bulls to hold them off and secure the wins. James is starting to look more and more like himself from last season, and is once again looking like an early MVP candidate.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Previous Ranking: 3 (Up 1)
Blowing leads continue to be an issue for the Clippers, as they had two big leads this week, and would allow both of their opponents to comeback and make the game competitive. To start the week, the Clippers played the Suns, and at one point, had a 31 point lead over them. They would then allow the Suns to comeback and take a lead before the Clippers would respond and sneak out a win. They weren’t as lucky later in the week against the Warriors, who they had just beat two nights prior. They would go on to blow a 22 point lead, and eventually lose the game 115-105 in a bad loss. The Clippers will need to figure out this issue, as it was a major reason why they got bounced by the Nuggets in the bubble last season.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Previous Ranking: 5 (Up 2)
Although the Sixers have played one of the easiest schedules, they have taken care of these mediocre opponents and beaten most of them. They have gotten themselves to the top of the Eastern Conference standings behind one of the best defenses, if not the best defense in the league. Joel Embiid has put himself in the early MVP conversation, averaging 24.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game and shooting over 50% from the field and 45% from three. With guard Seth Curry getting Covid-19, he along with several other key rotational players will have to quarantine, which will hurt the Sixers short term.
4. Phoenix Suns
Previous Ranking: 4 (Same)
The Suns had a chance to pick up a statement win over the Clippers to start the week, but ultimately their comeback fell short and they lost by 5. On the brightside it is nice to see them being competitive with a top tier team out West. They seem liked the real deal and have gotten a much more balanced scoring effort, as players like Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, and Cameron Payne have stepped up and provided when needed.
5. Boston Celtics
Previous Ranking: 6 (Up 1)
After having a somewhat shaky start to the season, the Celtics responded and rattled off a four game win streak this week. Although most of these wins came against some lackluster competition, they did get a quality win over the Heat, thanks to great performances from Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and a game-winning tip in by rookie guard Payton Pritchard. The team will be without Tatum for 10 to 14 days, along with other rotational pieces, as they have to quarantine for health and safety protocols, so expect them to lose more games than usual these next two weeks.
6. Milwaukee Bucks
Previous Ranking: 6 (Same)
The Bucks have gotten off to a much slower start than expected. After giving up a lot of assets to acquire Jrue Holiday, they haven’t utilized him as much as they should be. For reference, last year Eric Bledsoe, who was part of the trade package to get Holiday, had a higher usage rate than Holiday has now. They need to get Holiday more involved, as he can contribute on the offensive side of the ball more than a guy like Bledsoe did for them last year.
7. Brooklyn Nets
Previous Ranking: 2 (Down 5)
After a scorching hot start, the Nets have cooled off and looked somewhat dysfunctional. Team chemistry seems to be off, and Kevin Durant has had to miss time due to a required quarantine. Kyrie Irving also missed a couple of games due to personal reasons, which he came out and said was just him not wanting to play. The loss of Spencer Dinwiddie seems to be much more important than it seemed at first glance, and Coach Steve Nash will need to try and find some answers to fix this team quickly.
8. Indiana Pacers
Previous Ranking: 13 (Up 5)
Clutch play by the Pacers helped them pick up a couple of big wins this week. Against the Pelicans, Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner would each hit big threes to help force overtime. In overtime, Malcolm Brogdon would hit the game winning shot with 1.7 seconds left in overtime to lift the Pacers over the Pelicans. Against the Rockets, it would again be Brogdon coming up big down the stretch to help secure the win. The Pacers trio of Brogdon, Oladipo, and Domantas Sabonis has helped Indiana get off to a hot start.
9. Miami Heat
Previous Ranking: 8 (Down 1)
The Heat have gotten off to a shaky start this season. The loss of Jae Crowder has hurt this team a lot more than it should have. The defense and three point shooting he provided at the power forward spot was a major reason for their success in the bubble. He helped space the floor for easier driving lanes, while also being a positive defender on the other side of the floor. The Heat have resorted to starting Kelly Olynyk at the four, who does provide spacing, but is a poor defender. Although he is a solution for the team right now, the Heat should look to try and find a better fit somewhere down the line and have Olynyk return to being a spark plug off the bench.
10. Dallas Mavericks
Previous Ranking: 14 (Up 4)
It seems that Luka Doncic has gotten out of his slump to start the season, and with that the Mavs have finally started to get some quality wins. Doncic would record a 30 point triple double to help lift the Mavs over the Rockets, and would then respond with a 38 point 13 assist game in a comeback win over the Nuggets. With Luka seemingly returning to his MVP level of play, the Mavericks will once again be a threat in the Western Conference.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
Previous Ranking: 9 (Down 2)
The Blazers would start the week by allowing Steph Curry to torch them from deep, and would follow up the loss to the Warriors with a bad loss against the Bulls. After having a 20 point lead in the first half, the Blazers would fall apart in the second half and throw away a winnable game against a young Bulls team. Guard Damian Lillard responded to this loss in a big way, with a 39 point game against the Timberwolves, drilling seven 3’s to help the team get a bounce back win.
12. Denver Nuggets
Previous Ranking: 10 (Down 2)
The Nuggets would be the beneficiary of injuries and Covid quarantines this week. They would play the Timberwolves without Karl-Anthony Towns and get two victories thanks to stellar performances from Nikola Jokic. Then on Saturday they would play the severely undermanned 76ers squad, who were missing both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and only had seven available players. The Nuggets would pick up an easy win, and hopefully these wins will provide a confidence boost for the Nuggets and help them turn things around.
13. Golden State Warriors
Previous Ranking: 17 (Up 4)
What a week it has been for Steph Curry and the Warriors. To start the week, Steph came out against the Blazers scorching hot, dropping a career high 62 points in a win on 18-31 shooting from the field and 8-16 from three. He would follow that performance up with another 30 point game in 31 minutes in a victory over the Sacramento Kings. After losing the first of two games to the Clippers, the Warriors would comeback from a 22 point deficit, with Curry leading the way with 38 points and 11 assists. Curry is looking like an early MVP candidate, and will have to continue to play like one to win games.
14. Utah Jazz
Previous Ranking: 15 (Up 1)
Thanks to a 32 point 7 assist performance by Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz were able to get a huge win against the Bucks to end the week. Mitchell, who has struggled with his efficiency this year, hopefully can build off of this game and turn things around. So far Mitchell has been shooting only 39.5% from the field and 33.7% from three. He would shoot 12-24 and 4-9 from three in the win over the Bucks, which should be a good sign for Jazz fans.
15. Houston Rockets
Previous Ranking: 12 (Down 3)
John Wall has continued to play well coming back from his injury. He is averaging 21.2 points per game and 5 assists per game on 48% shooting from the field. On the other hand, DeMarcus Cousins has not looked good at all. He is only averaging 5.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on terrible shooting percentages of 29% and 22% from three. Granted he has only played 13 minutes per game due to Christian Wood’s emergence as a star, but he has certainly disappointed to start the season.
16. Orlando Magic
Previous Ranking: 18 (Up 2)
With such a hot start to the season, there were high hopes for this Magic team this season. However, these expectations would come crashing down when promising young guard Markelle Fultz when down with an injury at the start of the first quarter against the Cavs. It was later confirmed that he tore his ACL and would unfortunately be out for the rest of the season. This is very tough to see for a guy who just seemed to be turning his career around after several injury problems to start his career.
17. New Orleans Pelicans
Previous Ranking: 16 (Down 1)
The Pelicans would go winless this week, losing all three games in heartbreaking fashion. Against the Pacers, New Orleans would blow a 6 point lead with 20 seconds in regulation, and then ultimately lose at the hands of a Malcolm Brogdon game winner. The Pelicans would then go on to blow an 18 point lead to the Hornets and lose in 118-110 despite Zion Williamson’s 26 points and 8 rebounds. The Pelicans have put themselves in good positions to win, but they need to start finishing some of these games down the stretch.
18. Atlanta Hawks
Previous Ranking: 11 (Down 7)
The Atlanta Hawks have had a major fall from grace this past week. After beating the Brooklyn Nets in what seemed like a statement win from the team, they have fallen apart and not looked the same at all. Trae Young in particular has looked bad, as his scoring and efficiency were terrible in all three losses. The team has not looked like the same Hawks who came out on fire at the start of the season and will be looking for players like Rajon Rondo and Danilo Gallinari to return and fix the problems when healthy.
19. New York Knicks
Previous Ranking: 26 (Up 7)
The biggest surprise in all of basketball has to be the success of the New York Knicks. They have picked up some quality wins early on this season and have people wondering if Julius Randle is really going to be an all star. He is currently averaging 22 points 12 rebounds and 7 assists and is a triple double threat every night. Randle, along with some help from RJ Barrett, have brought back Knicks basketball (for now at least) and have generated some buzz around a team that was the laughing stock of the league
20. San Antonio Spurs
Previous Ranking: 23 (Up 3)
The Spurs had one of the most impressive weeks in basketball so far. They were able to beat both the LA teams behind strong performances from Patty Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge. Mills had himself a career night against the Clippers scoring 27 points and knocking down a career high 8 three pointers to help get the victory. Mills would come up big again, as he would be clutch shots down the stretch in their overtime win against the Timberwolves.
21. Cleveland Cavaliers
Previous Ranking: 21 (Same)
Cavs guard Darius Garland has been out with a shoulder injury this week, which has really hurt the team offensively. The team hasn’t scored over 100 points since the start of the new year, and are very reliant on Collin Sexton to generate their offense. They lost 3 of their four games this week, and will continue to struggle until Garland returns. Thankfully for the Cavs he should be returning within the next week, so their offensive woes should die down.
22. Toronto Raptors
Previous Ranking: 20 (Down 2)
Toronto has probably been the most disappointing team this season. For a team that was considered a surefire playoff lock, they have come out the gate and looked nothing like one. Although they have had a difficult schedule, it has been surprising to see the Raptors unable to win more than two games. On the brightside, it seems that Pascal Siakam might have turned it around after a solid week and a 32 point 9 rebound night in a loss against the Suns.
23. Charlotte Hornets
Previous Ranking: 24 (Up 1)
The emergence of Lamelo Ball has helped carry the Hornets to three wins this week. Against the Pelicans and his older brother Lonzo Ball, Lamelo put up a near triple double, with 12 points 10 rebounds and 9 assist off the bench. Two nights later against the Hawks, Lamelo would put up 22 points 12 rebounds and 11 assists, for his first career triple double in a win. This made him the youngest player ever to record a triple double, which is a record his older brother used to hold.
24. Sacramento Kings
Previous Ranking: 19 (Down 5)
After a promising start, the Kings have cooled off significantly. Sacramento has been unable to guard anyone this year, as they are giving up on average 121 points per game to opposing teams. This week they suffered three blowout losses, giving up over 125 points in all three of those losses. They will have to start on the defensive end if they have any plans of turning this around.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder
Previous Ranking: 28 (Up 3)
Oklahoma has once again put out a team that was better than what most people originally projected. They have been competitive in almost every game they have played so far. Guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has done a little bit of everything for the Thunder, averaging around 20 points 5 boards and 6 assists this season. His passing has looked much improved from last year, and he looks primed to make that next jump soon.
26. Chicago Bulls
Previous Ranking: 25 (Down 1)
With several rotational pieces such as Lauri Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky out due to Covid protocols it was expected for the Bulls depth to be an issue. Despite missing these pieces, the Bulls were very competitive this week, and got a major comeback win against the Portland Trail Blazers. Coby White has really impressed so far, scoring a career high 36 points in a loss to Sacramento. His development this season will be a big thing for fans to watch for.
27. Washington Wizards
Previous Ranking: 27 (Same)
Russell Westbrook has not looked like the same player he was last season. He looks far more passive and is not driving the ball as much as he usually does. Despite his struggles, much of the offensive load will be placed on his shoulders, with Bradley Beal being required to quarantine due to close contact with Jayson Tatum, and Thomas Bryant being out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
28. Detroit Pistons
Previous Ranking: 30 (Up 2)
Jerami Grant has continued to show why he got paid big money this offseason. Grant is averaging 24.8 points and 6.4 rebounds on the season and helped lead the Pistons to an upset victory over the Suns. He would have 31 points and 10 boards in the win, and would play an all around great game. In other news, rookie guard Killian Hayes will be out indefinitely with a torn hip labrum, which is a big blow to Detroit.
29. Memphis Grizzlies
Previous Ranking: 29 (Same)
The Grizzlies were able to secure their first home win of the season against the shorthanded Nets this Friday. Dillon Brooks led the way with 24 points as Memphis beat Brooklyn 115-110. The injuries continue to pile up for the team however, as Jonas Valanciunas had to leave midway through the game due to health and safety protocols.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous Ranking: 22 (Down 8)
The Timberwolves have hit rock bottom, and have the league worst losing streak, losing their last 7 games in a row. The team did get back star center Karl-Anthony Towns this Saturday, but he will be on a minutes restriction for the first few games he is back. Hopefully Towns can be the missing piece for the team and help them try and get back into playoff contention.