By: Louis Prejean
Another week of NBA action is done and we are nearly one month into the season. Only a few teams have been consistently winning, while the rest of the league are still trying to find their rhythm. It is still way too early to tell which teams will emerge as the best, but we will now rank the top ten teams in the NBA after three weeks.
1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are allergic to losing. They have rattled off 11 straight wins to open up the season and they clearly have the best record in the NBA at 11-0. The Brooklyn Nets gave them a scare as that game went to overtime, but the Warriors outscored the Nets 10-2 in the extra period to secure the win. Stephen Curry is still doing Stephen Curry things and Draymond Green is putting his name in early as a All-Star with his improved all-around game. Really not much more to say that has already been said, the Warriors are the best team and who knows when they will lose?
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
Second place was close this week as it came down to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs. The Cavs and Spurs both have the same record of 8-2, but Cleveland is doing more with less talent so far in the season. LeBron James is leading this team to one of the franchise’s best start ever. The Cavs are eighth in scoring at 102.8 points per game and they are holding teams to 95.6 points, which ranks fourth in the NBA. One player that also deserves a lot of credit besides James and Kevin Love is Mo Williams. Williams has held down the point guard spot for Cleveland while Kyrie Irving recovers from his injury. Mo Williams is the third-leading scorer on this team by averaging 15.6 points per game and adding 5.1 assists per game. He deserves just as much credit as Love and James for the Cavaliers’ hot start.
3. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are slowly climbing their way to the top of the power rankings week after week. The Spurs are 8-2 and have won their last five games. What is crazy about this season is Tim Duncan is the fourth leading scorer on the Spurs. He is only playing a little over 26 minutes per game, but the efficiency is still there. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard are looking more and more comfortable with each game as the leaders on this team. San Antonio is the number one defense in the NBA after three weeks and they are allowing teams to score just 91.8 points per game on them. The Spurs offense is improving as the season plays out. They are scoring 102.3 points per game, which is 10th in the NBA. The San Antonio Spurs are gunning for the number two spot and maybe reach the Warriors sometime this season. We will have to see, but right now the Spurs are playing amazing basketball.
4. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks are 8-4 and have shown signs that they can be just as good as any team in their first twelve games of the season. Their balanced offensive attack has opposing team off balance. Atlanta has six players averaging over ten points per game, which ties the Charlotte Hornets for the most by a team this season. While their defense may show they are in the middle of the league, the Hawks force the most turnovers at 17.7 per game. They know how to get in the passing lanes and disturb the offensive rhythm of the opposing team. They can also get easy baskets on offense by forcing these turnovers. The Hawks are ninth in the NBA in scoring and they can credit their defense for some of that. The Hawks need to be a little more consistent going forward, but they deserve a top five spot on our list this week.
5. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat have found their way back to this week’s power rankings after missing last week’s. The Miami Heat are looking impressive and while the back court of Wade and Dragic may not be working out the way everyone planned, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside are becoming one of the best power forward/center combinations in the NBA. The Heat are winning games based on their number two defense and they are allowing a NBA best 90.2 points per game to their opponents. The Heat also have the Eastern Conference’s number two point differential. Erik Spoelstra deserves a lot of credit because he is doing one of his best coaching jobs so far this season. Wade is averaging under 30 minutes per game and Bosh is the Heat’s leader in minutes per game at 32.4. Spoelstra is doing a great job at managing his players’ minutes and making sure everyone stays healthy. There is no question that if the Miami Heat stay healthy, they can compete with anyone in the NBA.
6. Chicago Bulls
Has the Eastern Conference improved or what? The Chicago Bulls are part of the reason the East is gaining more respect and becoming a stronger conference. The Bulls are 7-3 and they are winning even though Derrick Rose is struggling with his shooting. The Bulls are not a top ten offense or defense, but they find ways to make the game tougher for opponents and earn their wins. Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol are leading the way on the offensive side for the Chicago Bulls, but let’s not forget about Doug McDermott. He is final getting playing time and it is showing. McDermott is averaging 10.8 points per game on 53% shooting from the field and 57% from three in 20 minutes per game. The Bulls have a big week 4 ahead of them, as they face the Suns and the Warriors. We will see just how good the Bulls really are coming up.
7. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers are struggling a little bit this past week. The Clippers are 1-4 in their last five games, but injuries to two starters will cause that to happen. Chris Paul and J.J. Redick are not at 100% and the Clippers are dealing with the effects of it. Luckily, they have one of the best players in the NBA in Blake Griffin. Griffin is second in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating behind Stephen Curry. Los Angeles Clippers still have a talented roster of players and one of the league’s best offenses. They need to fix up their issues on the defensive side of the ball, but the 6-4 Clippers just need to get healthy and they will remain a top ten team in this league.
8. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference and have a respectable 7-4 record. They have dealt with DeMarre Carroll’s injury and they are now looking to return to the team they were when they started 5-0. They still are a top ten defense and only give up 97.1 points per game to their opponent, which ranks 7th in the NBA. The back court of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan definitely have no let anyone down this season. They averaged over 40 points and 10 assists per game combined. The play of Jonas Valanciunas should not go unnoticed. He is averaging over 14 points and 9 per game in only 27.4 minutes of action. The Raptors can really prove they are a top ten team this week by performing well against the Warriors. The Raptors expect to get back on track and this week coming up will test them.
9. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are stringing together one of the best stretches of the early NBA season. A lot of credit has to go to their head coach, Brad Stevens. The job he is doing in Boston is making him rise to the top tier of NBA coaches. Stevens is taking a roster full of rotational players and having them play together as a cohesive unit. The Celtics have won five of their last six games and hold a record of 6-4. This stretch of games include wins against the Bucks, Thunder, Hawks, Wizards, and Rockets. The are 5th in the NBA in assists per game and 5th in opponents points per game. They only allow 96 points per game and score 102.6 points on offense. The Boston Celtics are on the rise and that should go without question.
10. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns make their NBA power rankings debut and crack the top ten with a record of 6-4. With the fall of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Suns have emerged led by their amazing play of their back court. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are making a case for being the best point guard/shooting guard combo in the NBA. Bledsoe is averaging 23.2 points, 6.2 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. Knight is averaging 19.1 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. The scoring of T.J. Warren off of the bench is key to the success of the Suns. Warren is scoring 10.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in 21.2 minutes. Jeff Hornacek has this team playing well and scoring with the best of them. The Suns are 4th in the NBA in points per game with 104.2 per contest. They also rank 5th in defensive rating. Phoenix allows 98.5 points per 100 possessions. The Phoenix Suns are playing well in their first ten games and deserve to be recognized in this week’s power rankings.