Modern dance pioneer Martha Graham famously said, “The only sin is mediocrity.” Well, let’s hope she’s not watching NBA games from the afterlife.
As of this writing, there are 13 NBA teams — nearly half the league — within two games of .500. The NBA is swimming in a vile sea of mediocrity, which has allowed teams like the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors to separate themselves in the early going. It also makes doing the Power Rankings extremely difficult when that many teams have similar records.
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One part that wasn’t difficult was distinguishing the No. 1 team. The Suns took down the Warriors in one of the best games of the year so far to run their winning streak to 17 games and claim the undisputed top spot in this week’s rankings. Fortunately for us, those two teams play twice more this month, including a rematch in San Francisco on Friday.
Making the biggest jump this week were the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have gotten a lot of their roster back after being devastated by injuries and protocols. They picked up three impressive wins to move all the way to No. 9 after checking in at No. 22 last week. Another team moving up, for a change, is the Los Angeles Lakers, after going 2-1 this week despite losing LeBron James to health and safety protocols.
On the other side of the coin lie the Toronto Raptors, who fell seven spots to No. 25 after a winless week. Hopefully the coming weeks help clear the logjam of mediocre teams stuck in the middle of the standings.
Here are this week’s NBA Power Rankings.
*Please keep in mind that our Power Rankings are based on the team’s performance the previous week, not the entire season.
|To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and that’s exactly what the Suns did against the Warriors in one of the best games of the young season thus far. It was all the more impressive considering Devin Booker only played 10 minutes in that game before exiting with a hamstring injury. Phoenix also beat the Knicks and Nets on the road this week as its winning streak currently sits at a ridiculous 17 games. All hail the new No. 1, who look more than capable of getting back to the NBA Finals.||1||18-3|
|The long run at the top for the Warriors finally comes to an end after losing to the Suns in a well-played game that could be a playoff preview. Before that, Golden State had run its winning streak to seven games, and now sits alongside Phoenix with an 18-3 record. With Steph Curry struggling against the Suns, Jordan Poole continued his hot shooting and averaged 19.7 points for the week on 43 percent from deep. Otto Porter Jr. played well off the bench, averaging 12 points and 7.3 rebounds on 39 percent 3-point shooting in nearly 26 minutes per game this week.||1||18-3|
|The Nets split their two games this week, losing to the Suns and beating the Knicks, as Blake Griffin has seen himself fall out of the rotation. Griffin’s absence, coupled with Joe Harris’ injury, has resulted in more minutes for DeAndre’ Bembry, who averaged 12 points and seven rebounds this week. James Harden struggled from 3-point range in the two games, but averaged a triple-double of 23 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11 assists, while Kevin Durant put up 33 points, eight assists and seven rebounds per game. It’s safe to say Brooklyn hasn’t played its best basketball this season, yet it sits atop the Eastern Conference with a 15-6 record.||—||15-6|
|The Bucks rattled off three more wins this week to bring their winning streak to eight games, and their early-season struggles suddenly seem like a thing of the past. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been as dominant as ever, averaging 30 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists this week on 67 percent shooting. Milwaukee also added big man DeMarcus Cousins, who put up seven points and four rebounds in just under 15 minutes in his debut on Wednesday as the team awaits the return of Brook Lopez.||3||14-8|
|Utah started off the week with a rough, one-point home loss to the Pelicans, but redeemed itself the very next night before handling the short-handed Blazers on Monday. After struggling to score in the loss to New Orleans, Utah put up 127 and 129 points, respectively, in their next two wins. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 22.3 points and six assists per game this week on 38 percent 3-point shooting.||1||14-7|
|The Hawks beat the Grizzlies and Pacers this week, while losing to the Knicks at home. Atlanta’s now won eight of its last nine, and beat Indiana despite the absence of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Cam Reddish. Trae Young has been absolutely brilliant of late, averaging 32.3 points and nine assists on 54/46/84 shooting splits this week. Clint Capela has been a monster in the middle, putting up a double-double of 15.7 points and 16 rebounds to go along with 2.7 blocks per game this week.||1||12-10|
|The Bulls took down the Magic and Hornets this week, thanks to explosive offensive efforts, but they suffered a three-point loss to Miami in between. Nikola Vucevic has looked good since returning from health and safety protocols, averaging 17.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists this week on 7-for-13 3-point shooting. DeMar DeRozan continued his strong play with averages of 26.3 points and 5.7 rebounds this week.||3||14-8|
|Overall it was a good week for the Wizards, who beat the Thunder, Mavericks and Timberwolves, while losing to the Spurs. Washington managed to pick up three wins despite Bradley Beal shooting 28 percent from 3-point range for the week, thanks largely to strong play from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Daniel Gafford. The Wizards are tied with the Bucks and Bulls for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Who would have thought?||6||14-8|
|Lest you think the Cavs’ early success was simply a fluke ready to come back to reality, they put up a 3-0 week capped by impressive road wins over the Mavericks and Heat. Jarrett Allen has been a terror on the inside, averaging 22 points, 12 rebounds and 2.7 blocks this week on ridiculous 27-for-34 shooting. Rookie Evan Mobley made his much-anticipated return to the lineup, averaging 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and 3.3 blocks in three games. For the season, the Cavs have allowed 6.8 fewer points per 100 possessions with Mobley on the floor.||13||12-10|
|The Heat started off the week with a big win over the Bulls, but things quickly went downhill from there. They lost to the Nuggets without Jimmy Butler due to a tailbone injury, later found out Bam Adebayo is going to miss at least a month with a thumb injury, then were blitzed by the Cavaliers at home without Butler and Adebayo. Did we mention Tyler Herro only played in one game this week? This team was already thin, and Adebayo’s absence makes everything more difficult. Gabe Vincent has been a nice spark, averaging 15 points this week on 50 percent 3-point shooting, and they’re going to need contributions from up and down the roster to stay afloat while Adebayo is out.||1||13-9|
|Despite a strong showing against the defending champion Bucks on Wednesday, it was not a good week for the Hornets, who beat the Wolves before suffering three straight losses. It doesn’t take much digging to figure out the problem for the Hornets, as they allowed 128.9 points per 100 possessions in the losses. It doesn’t matter how good your offense is if you’re defending like that. LaMelo Ball put up career highs in points (36) and 3-pointers (eight) in the loss to Milwaukee, while averaging 20.8 points, 12 assists and 7.3 rebounds for the week.||5||13-11|
|The Celtics scored exactly 88 points two times in six days, but managed to win one of those games to come away with a 2-1 week. The loss came to the Spurs, which isn’t ideal, but they bounced back to beat the Raptors and then edge the 76ers in a low-scoring, 90s throwback on Wednesday. Perhaps the best news for Boston is that the roster was completely full for the win over Philadelphia during a season chocked full of player absences for various reasons.||1||12-10|
|The Knicks lost to two tough opponents in the Suns and Nets this week, with a solid win over the Hawks in between. The big development is that Kemba Walker has been removed from the rotation, as the team reportedly explores trade options for the veteran guard. Alec Burks has made the most of his increased opportunity, averaging 19 points this week on 50 percent 3-point shooting. Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose have also received more minutes due to Walker’s absence.||1||11-10|
|The Wolves picked up narrow wins over the 76ers and Pacers this week, while losing to the Hornets and Wizards. Karl-Anthony Towns averaged nearly 30 points and nine rebounds for the week while shooting 44 percent from 3-point range, and appears to have avoided major injury after a nasty fall in the closing minutes against Washington. D’Angelo Russell averaged 21 points and 8.3 assists this week, while Anthony Edwards added 19 points per game, but struggled from the field.||6||11-11|
|Dallas started off the week with losses to the Wizards and Cavs, but bounced back with a whopping 32-point win over the Pelicans on Wednesday. Luka Doncic looks like he’s rounding into form, averaging 28.7 points, 11.3 assists and six rebounds for the week on 48 percent 3-point shooting, but Kristaps Porzingis couldn’t throw it into the ocean from long distance. Ultimately the defense let them down in the two losses, allowing 120 points to Washington and 114 to Cleveland.||2||11-9|
|The Grizzlies were blown out by the Hawks at home to start the week in a game that saw Ja Morant suffer a scary knee injury. Fortunately it was diagnosed as a sprain, which will sideline Morant for a few weeks rather than the entire season. Memphis showed no ill-effects from his absence, beating the Kings and Raptors in consecutive games. Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks all averaged 19 points or more in the two wins, with Jackson and Bane ripping the nets from 3-point range.||3||11-10|
|The Lakers just can’t seem to develop any continuity, with LeBron James now expected to be out at least 10 days while in the health and safety protocols. Ironically, one of the Lakers’ best performances of the season came without James in a 25-point win over the Kings on Tuesday, just a few days after losing to Sacramento at home in triple-overtime. The Lakers are going to need players besides Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook to step up in James’ absence, and on Tuesday it was Malik Monk, who scored 22 points on 6-for-10 3-point shooting.||3||12-11|
|The Blazers lost to the Warriors and Jazz to start the week before beating the Pistons, but the big news is that Damian Lillard is expected to miss at least 10 days with lower abdominal tendinopathy, an injury he’s been dealing with all season. Norman Powell and Nassir Little have also missed time recently, leaving Portland severely depleted offensively. CJ McCollum expectedly picked up the majority of the burden in the win over the Pistons with 28 points and six assists, while Ben McLemore made the best of the opportunity with 17 points on 4-for-9 3-point shooting in 18 minutes.||3||11-11|
|Joel Embiid returned from health and safety protocols in a big way, dropping 42 points and 14 rebounds in a double-overtime loss to the Timberwolves, but the 76ers finished up with a 1-2 week after a win over the Magic and a rugged loss to the Celtics. Embiid averaged 23.7 points, 15 rebounds and 4.7 assists for the week, but shot just 34 percent from the field as he works his way back into shape. Seth Curry continued his hot season, averaging 18.3 points on 57/50/83 shooting splits.||3||11-11|
|The injury bug has hit the Nuggets in a big way, as they’re now expected to be without Michael Porter Jr. and PJ Dozier for the season, in addition to Jamal Murray’s uncertain status. On top of that, Austin Rivers and Bones Hyland are in health and safety protocols, and the missing players led to Wednesday’s loss in Orlando to cap off a 1-2 week. Nikola Jokic did return to the lineup for the last two games and did everything he could, averaging 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.||1||10-11|
|Things aren’t great in Clipperland after a 1-3 week, including losses to the lowly Pelicans and Kings. Paul George missed the Sacramento loss to rest, and his 27 percent 3-point shooting in the first three games of the week suggests he might have needed it after carrying the offense almost single-handedly for the entire season. The Clippers are going to need more consistency from Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris in order to keep the offense at a functional, sustainable level.||4||11-11|
|The Spurs only played two games this week, coming away with convincing wins over the Celtics and Wizards to end a six-game losing streak. Both wins were sparked by stout defense and a balanced scoring attack, with Dejounte Murray leading the team with 25.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and seven assists per game. Jakob Poeltl has made his presence known after a lengthy absence, averaging 10.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game this week, while anchoring the improved defensive effort.||7||6-13|
|Break. Up. The. Rockets. Three more wins this week, and Houston has now won four in a row after winning just one of its first 17 contests. They beat the Hornets in overtime, then won consecutive games over the Thunder despite Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood missing the second half of their matchup on Wednesday. Wood was playing his best basketball of the season before the injury, averaging 28.5 points, 18.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks on 5-for-9 3-point shooting in the first two games of the week. Garrison Mathews has become a fixture in the rotation since Jalen Green was forced to miss time with an injury, averaging 17.7 points per game this week on 52 percent 3-point shooting.||3||5-16|
|Indiana started the week with a win over the Raptors, but suffered consecutive losses to the Bucks, Wolves and Hawks after that. Rick Carlisle’s squad has failed to figure things out so far this season despite a pretty good starting lineup on paper. Malcolm Brogdon led the team with just under 20 points and seven assists per game this week, while Domantas Sabonis put up a historic 25-rebound triple-double in the loss to Minnesota en route to averages of 16.3 points, 15.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists for the week.||1||9-15|
|Toronto dropped all three games this week, to the Pacers, Celtics and Grizzlies, as the offense continued to sputter. Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes both averaged over 19 points and shot better than 40 percent from the 3-point line, but Pascal Siakam struggled to find his shot, going just 2 for 14 from deep over the three games. Still without OG Anunoby and now Gary Trent Jr., the Raptors just haven’t been able to keep up offensively as they’ve lost seven of their last 10.||7||9-13|
|The Pelicans split with the Jazz to start the week, followed by a win over the Clippers and a blowout loss to the Mavs. Jonas Valanciunas went insane in the Clippers win, scoring a career-high 39 points while going 7 for 7 from 3-point range in the first half. Brandon Ingram had a solid week, averaging 22 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 49 percent shooting from the field, though he, Valanciunas and Nickeil Alexander-Walker were the only Pelicans to average double figures.||1||6-18|
|The Kings started off the week with a thrilling triple-overtime win over the Lakers, then closed things out with a victory over the Clippers, who were resting Paul George. In between were blowout losses to the Grizzlies and then the Lakers, in a rematch. Harrison Barnes missed all four games and Moe Harkless missed three, allowing coach Alvin Gentry to experiment with some different lineup combinations. De’Aaron Fox and Richaun Holmes both averaged over 21 points per game this week, while Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton struggled from the field.||3||9-14|
|Orlando saw its losing streak stretched to seven games before capping off the week with a comeback win over the Nuggets at home. Jalen Suggs suffered a broken right thumb in a loss to the 76ers and will miss extended time, but at least Cole Anthony returned to the lineup for the win over Denver, putting up 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while committing just one turnover. Wendell Carter Jr. and Franz Wagner each averaged over 17 points per game for the week.||2||5-18|
|Detroit hasn’t fared well on its West Coast swing, losing to the Clippers, Lakers and Blazers this week to run the overall losing streak to seven games. Offense has mostly been the problem, with a paltry 96.1 rating in this week’s three losses. Jerami Grant led the team with 22 points per game, while Cade Cunningham added 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game on 38 percent shooting, but they haven’t received much consistent help of late.||1||4-17|
|The Thunder aren’t expected to win a whole lot of games this season, but they’re probably kicking themselves for not beating the Rockets at home on Wednesday, when Houston’s two best players didn’t even take the court the second half. Instead the Thunder have now lost seven games in a row, with the offense struggling to put points on the board despite 25.3 points and five assists per game this week from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.||3||6-15|