NBA Power Rankings: Opening-week thoughts for all 30 teams

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Monday, October 28, 2019

We're just one week into the regular season, and we've already seen some historic debuts, an overtime buzzer-beater, plenty of coach's challenges ... and, of course, the unraveling of the Golden State dynasty before our very eyes.

Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Andre'Snellings, Royce Young and Bobby Marks, and The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings:Week 1 | Training camp | Free agency | Post-Finals

1. LA Clippers

Record: 2-1

Week 1 ranking: 1

The opening-night win over the Lakers felt like a statement beyond just general NBA contendership terms, but one localized directly at the supposed big brother across the hall. And to follow it up with a demolition of the Warriors, the Clippers were sending messages in bold. Perhaps that's the justification for the slip-up to the Suns, but it's also a reminder that while the Clippers are high-octane, they also have more yet to come as they await Paul George's debut.-- Young

This week: CHA, @UTAH, SA, UTAH

2.Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 2-0

Week 1 ranking: 3

It is only a two-game sample, but there is a sense of a mental toughness developing in Philadelphia. In the two wins against Boston and Detroit, the 76ers have outscored opponents by a combined 22 points in the second half. The win against the Pistons also showed how valuable the addition of Al Horford is to this team. Without injured Joel Embiid, Horford moved to the center position to score 23 points, grab nine rebounds and hold Detroit's Andre Drummond to a pedestrian 13 points.-- Marks

This week: @ATL, MIN, @POR

3. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 1-1

Week 1 ranking: 2

The Bucks produced the best record and scoring margin in the NBA last season, and they entered this season as the favorite in the Eastern Conference. They started with a tough win on the road in Houston and a surprising loss to the Heat at home, with Giannis Antetokounmpo producing monster numbers but fouling out of both games. Once they find their rhythm and Antetokounmpo gets the fouls under control, the Bucks project to be dominant on both offense and defense again this season.-- Snellings

This week: CLE, @BOS, @ORL, TOR

4.Denver Nuggets

Record: 2-0

Week 1 ranking: 4

The Nuggets don't have the luxury of sneaking up on anyone anymore but still handled their business opening week. A small taste of revenge against the Trail Blazers, where the offense hummed and shots dropped, and then the opposite where Denver overcame an off night to hold off the scrappy Suns in overtime. Denver is now one of the West's hunted teams, but with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray already in form, they look ready to embrace it.-- Young

This week: @SAC, DAL, @NO, @ORL

5. Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 2-1

Week 1 ranking: 5

Dwight Howard might have secured his much-needed breakthrough game with the Lakers, proving he can still be a force in the NBA. The journeyman eight-time All-Star had a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds while making all eight of his field goal attempts and blocking four shots -- he was plus-23 in 23 minutes -- during a win over Charlotte on Sunday night. Howard averaged 6.5 points and 2.5 rebounds over the first two games this season.-- Spears

This week: MEM, @DAL, @SA

6.Houston Rockets

Record: 1-1

Week 1 ranking: 6

Russell Westbrook (26 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists per game) lived up to high expectations as the Rockets split their first two games. James Harden hasn't played up to his standards so far this season, making only 3 of 26 3-point attempts. "He's just lost his rhythm a little bit," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Nothing to worry about. There's no way it's going to last this way. He's fine."-- MacMahon

This week: OKC, @WAS, @BKN, @MIA

7. Utah Jazz

Record: 2-1

Week 1 ranking: 7

Mike Conley's first two games in a Jazz uniform couldn't have been much uglier, as he misfired on all but four of his 27 field goal attempts and had almost as many turnovers (six) as assists (eight). Not that anyone with the Jazz was worried about the point guard's fit in Utah at that point. Conley looked like himself in Saturday's blowout of the Kings, when he had 12 points and eight assists. The Jazz hoped that Conley's arrival would benefit Donovan Mitchell, and the early returns on that are positive, with the young star guard averaging an efficient 23.7 points (68.1 true shooting percentage) in the first week.-- MacMahon

This week: @PHX, LAC, @SAC, @LAC

8.Boston Celtics

Record: 2-1

Week 1 ranking: 11

Chalk up Kemba Walker's 4-for-18 performance in a loss to Philadelphia to opening-night jitters. Since the loss, Walker has shot 19-for-39 from the field, 9-for-20 from 3 and averaged 27 points in back-to-back wins against Toronto and New York.-- Marks

This week: MIL, NY

9. San Antonio Spurs

Record: 2-0

Week 1 ranking: 15

The four-year, $64 million extension signed by Dejounte Murray might turn out to be quite the team-friendly deal. Murray, 23, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, has already proven himself as one of the NBA's premier defensive point guards. He's looked like a drastically improved all-around player during the Spurs' 2-0 start. He has been smooth offensively, averaging 5.0 assists and 18.5 points on 60% shooting in only 23.4 minutes per game.-- MacMahon

This week: POR, @LAC, @GS, LAL

10.Portland Trail Blazers

Record: 2-1

Week 1 ranking: 8

After going the distance in last season's playoffs, "Game 8" between the Nuggets and Blazers didn't go Portland's way, as Denver made plays and hit shots down the stretch. A convincing bounce-back over the shaky Kings and a clutch time win over the Mavs, however, is the kind of thing the Blazers do. It's why they keep making the playoffs, it's why they're always around 50 wins. Though if Zach Collins misses extended time because of a dislocated left shoulder, it'll be an early test for this Blazers' front line.-- Young

This week: @SA, @OKC, PHI

11. Toronto Raptors

Record: 2-1

Week 1 ranking: 13

The defending champs have started the season by winning two of their first three games, led by reigning NBA Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam. Siakam is looking to make another leap, and is averaging just under 29 points and 11 rebounds for the first week of the season. Sporting a deep and veteran cast, the Raptors could be poised for a stronger-than-predicted defense of their championship this season.-- Snellings

This week: ORL, DET, @MIL

12.Miami Heat

Record: 2-1

Week 1 ranking: 14

Beating Memphis on opening night with a dominant fourth quarter? Not all that notable. Beating Giannis and Milwaukee in overtime (on the road) after a dominant fourth-quarter comeback? Very notable. And this was without Jimmy Butler, by the way, who has been away from the team following the birth of his daughter. In the top-heavy East, there's a lot of room in the middle, and the Heat haven't generated much chatter. That might start changing with more weeks like this one.-- Young

This week: ATL, @ATL, HOU

13.Dallas Mavericks

Record: 2-1

Week 1 ranking: 16

Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis definitely haven't done anything to diminish the hope that the Mavs' young franchise cornerstones can develop into one of the league's elite duos in the not-too-distant future. They are the only pair of teammates to both rank among the NBA's top 10 scorers at this early stage, with Doncic averaging 29.3 points and Porzingis putting up 26.3. And you can see the chemistry starting to form between them: After assisting on only one Porzingis bucket in the first two games, Doncic had five dimes to the big man during Porzingis' 32-point performanceSunday.-- MacMahon

This week: @DEN, LAL, @CLE

14. Brooklyn Nets

Record: 1-2

Week 1 ranking: 9

Kyrie Irving'sefforts late in the fourth quarter against the Knicks salvaged a split for the Nets mini-two game homestand to start the season. If there is a concern moving forward, it's the turnover to assist ratio in Brooklyn: In those two games, Brooklyn averaged 20 assists to 21 turnovers, including 26 turnovers against New York. Last season, the Nets topped 20 turnovers only eight times, with a season-high 23 against Boston in early January.Another early Achilles heel for Brooklyn? The inability to close out games: The Nets blew fourth-quarter leads in all three games, eventually losing in OT to Minnesota and Memphis.-- Marks

This week: IND, HOU, @DET

15.Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: 3-0

Week 1 ranking: 21

The undefeated Timberwolves have achieved their early success with a balanced team effort around transcendent superstar Karl-Anthony Towns, who has put up dominant numbers to start his fifth season (32.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 blocks, 3.0 steals per game). Towns will turn 24 in November and will look to carry the Timberwolves to their second playoff appearance in the past three seasons.-- Snellings

This week: @PHI, @WAS

16. Atlanta Hawks

Record: 2-0

Week 1 ranking: 23

Trae Young has been living up to his nickname "Ice Trae" so far. Young averaged 38.5 points in 36.5 minutes over his first two contests, while shooting 70.7% from the field and 55% from 3-point range. But a big test comes early this week for Young and the undefeated Hawks: Philadelphia comes to town Monday night.-- Spears

This week: PHI, @MIA, MIA

17.Golden State Warriors

Record: 0-2

Week 1 ranking: 10

Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston are gone. Klay Thompson is out indefinitely because of a knee injury. Newcomers Willie Cauley-Stein and Alec Burks and veteran forward Kevon Looney are injured and out. Add the Warriors' youth, and their horrible start -- including 28-point blowout loss Sunday in Oklahoma City -- makes sense.-- Spears

This week: @NO, PHX, SA, CHA

18. Orlando Magic

Record: 1-1

Week 1 ranking: 18

Point guard has been a position of need for the Magic for years, andMarkelle Fultz has played two solid games off the bench thus far to give them some hope for the position moving forward. The former No. 1 overall pick, who has struggled to find his shot since entering the league with Philly in 2017, has scored 12 points in each game, even adding his first two 3-pointers of the season Saturday night in Atlanta.-- Snellings

This week: @TOR, NY, MIL, DEN

19. Indiana Pacers

Record: 0-2

Week 1 ranking: 12

The Pacers went winless during the first week of the season as they have tried to acclimate three new starters around their foundation of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, who are averaging a combined 39.5 points and 19 rebounds. New point guard Malcolm Brogdon was the star of the first week while averaging a strong double-double of 26 points and 10.5 assists. The Pacers will try to remain in the playoff hunt until injured star Victor Oladipo is able to return from injury.-- Snellings

This week: @DET, @BKN, CLE, CHI

20. Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 1-2

Week 1 ranking: 19

It's no big surprise the post-Westbrook era started with some bumps, with OKC's first two games featuring a cumbersome offense that ranked last in the league. But a blowout of the defenseless Warriors showed signs of what the Thunder are trying to move toward without a high-usage, ball-dominant player -- more passing, more cutting, more moving. Over the past four seasons, the Thunder were last in the league in passes per game, but are 17th so far this season, averaging about 36.5 more per game, according to Second Spectrum.-- Young

This week: @HOU, POR, NO

21.New Orleans Pelicans

Record: 0-3

Week 1 ranking: 17

It has been a bummer of a start for the Pelicans, particularly because of the knee surgery that will sideline No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson for six to eight weeks. But Brandon Ingram has been a major bright spot, averaging 27.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists through three games, displaying the talent level that led the Lakers to select him with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2016 draft.-- MacMahon

This week: GS, DEN, @OKC

22. Phoenix Suns

Record: 2-1

Week 1 ranking: 26

Suns fans probably couldn't have predicted a 2-1 start, which included handing the Clippers their first loss of the season.Devin Booker is averaging 23.3 points and 8.3 assists, but hats off to new head coach Monty Williams for getting his team off to the stunning start. Excitement in Phoenix is tempered, however, after the NBA announced Thursday that Deandre Ayton -- the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft -- has been suspended 25 games for a violation of the NBA's anti-drug policy after testing positive for a banned diuretic.-- Spears

This week: UTAH, @GS, @MEM

23. Detroit Pistons

Record: 1-2

Week 1 ranking: 22

The Pistons won their opener in Indiana but have since lost to the Hawks and Joel Embiid-less 76ers. They have struggled on defense, giving up at least 117 points in each game on a combined 49% shooting that is near the bottom of the league. The Pistons have been playing without the injured Blake Griffin, but new addition Derrick Rose has already earned some "M-V-P" chants from the home crowd while averaging 25.3 points through the first week.-- Snellings

This week: IND, @TOR, @CHI, BKN

24. Chicago Bulls

Record: 1-2

Week 1 ranking: 24

Lauri Markkanenhas opened the season averaging a double-double -- 17.7 points and 11.7 rebounds the first two games -- but could have averaged over 20-plus if he were shooting from deep the way he had previously. The 7-footer shot over 35% from 3-point range his first two seasons but missed 18 of 21 in his first three games this season.-- Spears

This week: @NY, @CLE, DET, @IND

25. Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 1-2

Week 1 ranking: 27

Memphis' overtime win Sunday over Brooklyn might be a game that Grizzlies fans talk about for a long time. It was a coming-out party for No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant, who displayed a phenomenal blend of athleticism and competitiveness in a duel with perennial All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. Morant scored 17 of his 30 points during the fourth quarter, when the Grizzlies came back from an eight-point deficit. He also blocked Irving's shot at the buzzer to send the game into OT. Morant's ninth assist was to Jae Crowder for the winning 3 at the buzzer.-- MacMahon

This week: @LAL, PHX

26.Washington Wizards

Record: 1-2

Week 1 ranking: 25

The Wizards started the season banged up and cobbled together a second unit of Who He Play For All-Stars, but they play hard and they play together -- basically the opposite of last season's team. And with it, Rui Hachimura has the look of an intriguing rookie who might be even better than the already optimistic expectations. Which, if that's the case, the outlook for the Wizards, previously one of the darkest in the league, might be a bit brighter.-- Young

This week: HOU, MIN

27. Charlotte Hornets

Record: 1-2

Week 1 ranking: 30

Despite a 1-2 start, there is something to like about the Hornets after Week 1: Head coach James Borrego has made a concerted effort to focus on their young players, primarily PJ Washington, Dwayne Bacon, Miles Bridges andDevonte' Graham. The four each logged over 20 minutes in the first two games.-- Marks

This week: @LAC, @SAC, @GS

28.Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 1-1

Week 1 ranking: 29

The Cavaliers turned back the clock in their home opener against Indiana. The 11-point win saw veterans Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson combine for 46 points and 26 rebounds (Thompson also made his first NBA 3-pointer!). The challenge for new head coach John Beilein will be continuing to find the right mix of minutes for a roster that is focused on player development but heavily laden with veterans on expiring deals. The Cavaliers have six players in the last year of their contract.-- Marks

This week: @MIL, CHI, @IND, DAL

29. Sacramento Kings

Record: 0-3

Week 1 ranking: 20

The Kings lost their first two road games by an average of 30.5 points, and new Sacramento coach Luke Walton pulled his starters with 8:39 left in the third quarter at Utah on Saturday night after they fell behind by 32. The Kings' offense is a work in progress: They've shot under 40% in two of their three games.-- Spears

This week: DEN, CHA, UTAH, @NY

30. New York Knicks

Record: 0-3

Week 1 ranking: 28

We would give the Knicks the benefit of the doubt if the lackluster second-half performance against Boston could be attributed to youth. That is not the case, as veterans Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis andMarcus Morris Sr.played a combined 20 minutes when New York was outscored 36-19 in the fourth quarter. The lone bright spot? The play of No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett: In the Knicks' three losses, Barrett has averaged 21.0 points while shooting 53.8% from deep.-- Marks

This week: CHI, @ORL, @BOS, SAC

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