By: Louis Prejean
Another week of NBA action is in the books. Some teams shook off a rocky start to the season and are now getting it together, while others are showing flaws we did not see in week one. There is a lot going on so far in the NBA and we are here to give you who the best teams are right now based off the first two weeks of the 2015-16 season. These are the NBA power rankings for week two of the NBA.
1. Golden State Warriors
As the only undefeated team left in the NBA, this should come as no surprise. The Warriors are 8-0 and Curry is looking for MVP number two. It is not just about Stephen Curry, though. The “others” surrounding the reigning MVP deserve some mention. The Warriors are playing the best team basketball with players like Draymond Green and Andre Igoudala showing no signs of a championship hangover. Green is showing he is becoming a complete NBA player with averages of 11.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. Now on to the best reserve in the NBA, Andre Igoudala. Igoudala’s stats do not jump off the page, but one important statistic does. Andre Igoudala has the highest plus-minus out of all reserves in the league at over plus-14. The laser focus and dominance this team is playing with is having people believe they can win 70 games or more this season. We will see, but for now one thing is for sure; they are the best team in the NBA.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have rolled off six straight wins and are looking like the team everyone expected. They are one of the best teams in the league even without their All-Star point guard, Kyrie Irving. They are the fourth best defense in opponents points per game. The Cavs are only allowing opposing teams to score 92.9 points per game. On the offensive side, the Cavaliers are only 14th in scoring at 102.1 points per game, but they are 3rd in offensive rating at 107.4. Kevin Love seems to be increasingly more comfortable with this team. Tristan Thompson is productive off of the bench with over 8 points and 10 rebounds per game in 25 minutes. Finally, LeBron James is putting up his numbers and getting the rest he needs to stay healthy for their inevitable playoff run. All of these factors contribute to Cleveland jumping to number two in our power rankings.
3. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks are 7-2 and before the tough 117-107 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, they rattled off seven straight wins. Even in that game, the Hawks came back from a 30-point deficit at the half and took the lead in the fourth quarter. The Hawks are 5th in scoring at 103.9 points per game and 13th in opponents points per game. The most important statistic is the Hawks are second in the league in assists at 26.5 per game. The passing of Atlanta is their identity. The ability to share the ball around and make opposing teams defend every side of the court is top notch. The play from the forever underrated trio of Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford is one reason for the Hawks’ hot start. On the other hand, you can chalk it up to the play of the entire team. This is Atlanta’s best start as a franchise since 1997-98 and they are not looking to slow down now.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are 5-2 and there might be some concerns at this point about Chris Paul’s health. Paul sat out against the Houston Rockets due to a sore groin. He did play the next game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Here is what makes the Clippers so good, their roster is one of the best in the NBA. Blake Griffin is a definite MVP candidate and has shown he can lead a team with his improved playmaking. DeAndre Jordan is still being the anchor for the Clippers’ defense, which could improve. Jordan is averaging 13.5 rebounds per game and over 3 blocks. The Los Angeles Clippers are the only team to give the Warriors a fight this season by only losing by four points. Los Angeles ranks third in total offense with their points per game at 107.3. The Clippers have the talent to become the best team in the league and it is only a matter of time before they put it all together.
5. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs just cracked the top five in this week’s power rankings, as they are 5-2 to start the season. Their two losses are on the road in Oklahoma City and on the road to Washington on a game winner from Bradley Beal. The Spurs have not put their offense together, but they are surprisingly third in defense. The Spurs are only giving up 92.3 points per game. Their offense is not as great as people thought it would be at this point. San Antonio is 12th in points per game at 101.7 and 7th in assists per game. That is not bad, but the Spurs average 16.5 turnovers per game as a team, which ranks 9th most in the NBA. The offensive numbers are not all that impressive and in today’s NBA you need to put up points. However, defense wins championships and the Spurs can climb the rankings in the coming weeks if they keep this defensive effort up. There should be zero worries about their offense under the likes of Gregg Popovich, Leonard, Duncan, and Aldridge.
6. Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons may be the best story in the early NBA season. Stan Van Gundy seems to have managed to turn this team around under his terms and style of play. Let’s not forget the last time Gundy had a great big man in Dwight Howard, he reached the NBA Finals. The Pistons will not make the Finals, but they will make noise in the Eastern Conference. They are 5-2 and rank as the 5th best defense in the league. Opposing teams are only scoring 94 points against them. Andre Drummond is averaging 20.3 points and 20.3 rebounds per game and has put himself in elite company by posting three 20-20 games in the first six games of the season. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have done that in the first six games of a NBA season. Reggie Jackson is looking to be worth his contract given to him in the offseason and Marcus Morris does not need to play with his brother to shine. Again, not saying the Pistons are title bound or playoff bound just yet , but what Stan Van Gundy has done in Detroit is amazing.
7. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors were just ranked 4th in last week’s power rankings, but the recent play of the other teams combined with DeMarre Carroll’s plantar fasciitis injury drops them down to seven. The Raptors seemed to have missed Carroll in the one game he was out. They suffered a 96-76 loss to the Miami Heat without Carroll in the lineup and there is no doubt his presence would have helped in that game. The Raptors are still 5-2 and sit among the top of the Eastern Conference and have one of the better backcourts in the NBA with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Finally, Toronto is home to a top ten defense by only allowing 95.1 points per game to opposing teams. The Raptors have a lot going for them despite the news of DeMarre Carroll.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder were off to a … thunderous start to the season in week one, but it is crazy how much can change in a week. The Thunder have loss three of their last four games and stand at 4-3 for the season. The reason for this tough stretch for Oklahoma City is poor defense and lack of ball movement. One of the reasons Scott Brooks was fired was because of the lack of an offensive system. The ball stuck too much while Durant and Westbrook ran isolation plays instead of moving the ball from one side of the court to the other. Now they bring in Billy Donovan to solve that issue, but nothing seems to have changed. The Thunder have a tendency to rely too much on Durant and Westbrook’s scoring ability instead of creating easier opportunities for others. They also have one of the worst defenses in the league and rank 25th on opponents points per game, by giving up 107.9 points per game to the opposition. Not good. The Thunder do have a talented roster and top offense. They also still have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder will be just fine.
9. Houston Rockets
After a 0-3 start in week one, the Rockets are looking like the team we expected to see coming into the 2015-16 season. Houston has won four straight and more importantly James Harden has found his rhythm. Two of those wins were against the Thunder and the Clippers, which no one gave the Rockets a chance to win after their poor start. Harden has also bounced back nicely and is now averaging 29.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game. Let’s not forget the play of Dwight Howard. In only 29 minutes per game, Howard is averaging 17 points per game and 12.3 rebounds with 1.5 blocks. The surprise play of Marcus Thornton has lifted the Rockets’ spirits. Thornton is averaging 16.6 points per game and he is shooting 40% from the three point line. The Houston Rockets are till playing poor defense by giving up 108.6 points per game, but we can expect their defense to pick up with the Rockets playing better overall basketball.
10. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls are a tricky team. They started 3-1 and looked like a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference. Now, there are a lot of questions surrounding the Bulls. In the offseason, they fired their defensive-minded head coach in Tom Thibodeau and brought in a offensive-mired coach in Fred Hoiberg. Now the questions are about their defense not being as dominant as it use to be. Chicago is giving up 101.4 points per game, which ranks 16th in the NBA. How’s their offense under Hoiberg? Not much better. They are scoring 100 points per game and that only ranks 18th in the league. It will take time for these players to get adjusted to a new system under Fred Hoiberg, but they are still 5-3. Also, the Chicago Bulls are one of the deepest teams in the NBA. Just give it time, but another poor week and the Bulls will find themselves outside of the top ten.
You can follow me @LouisPrejean.
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