As we are close to a month into the NBA season, with most teams at the 15-game mark, the sample is enough to draw some early conclusions about why teams meet expectations or underperform, and set the bar for the rest of the way. After watching the games and taking a look at their statistics, we have ranked the 30 teams based on their performance so far. Let’s begin.
Here are the NBA November Power Rankings
1. Golden State Warriors
1st in the Western Conference, 12-3 record
During the first games of the season, the Warriors looked poised to replicate their record-breaking 73 win season. Steph Curry’s injury, however, has put the breaks on such aspirations, as once again the team looks significantly less scary without their catalyst. They are still the best team in the league, and their health seems like the only thing that can get in their way towards another ring, even though the Green-Durant clash seems concerning.
2. Toronto Raptors1st in the Eastern Conference, 12-3 record
Questions over Kawhi Leonard’s health and coach Nick Nurse’s readiness for the responsibilities of a head coaching job have quickly been quieted. The Toronto Raptors look unbeatable, being great both on the offensive and the defensive end, while they boast one of the deepest rotations in the league.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
2nd in the Eastern Conference, 10-4 record
The Bucks are enjoying life under coach Mike Budenholzer and they have placed themselves among the NBA’s elite. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a superstar, and the fear he strikes on opposing defences along with a great ball movement generate a ton of open looks from three-point range. When the Bucks are hitting their shots they look like the most fearsome team in the NBA.
4. Portland Blazers
2nd in the Western Conference, 10-4 record
Blazers are probably the hottest team in the NBA right now, after a slow start, beating the Bucks, the Clippers and Boston Celtics in their last three contests before falling to the Lakers. Lillard has been playing like the MVP no one is talking about. Only LeBron, Westbrook and Harden have scored more points than him in the past four seasons. Teams still can’t score efficiently on them and they have again one of the most prolific offences in the league. In a western conference full of turmoil, they look poised to take the next step.
5. Denver Nuggets
3rd in the Western Conference, 9-5 record
Denver cooled off after the first 10 games when they looked like Golden State’s greatest threat in the West. They are on a four-game losing streak. It might be bad karma from Jamal Murray’s controversial decision to hunt his 50th point in the closing moments of their victory against the Celtics, or, realistically they are beginning to feel the absence of Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas. Similarly, the team’s brightest star, Nikola Jokic remains prone to streaks of passive games, and the Nuggets need him to be consistently aggressive to rise to the upper echelon of the West.
6. Boston Celtics
4th in the Eastern Conference, 8-6 record
Despite seeming destined for the Finals, the Celtics have actually been facing issues integrating Gordon Hayward back to the lineup after his horrific injury, as he is still trying to round into form. Brad Stevens has to solve the puzzle of designing an offence where all his star wings can be productive without relegating anyone to a bench role. Still, time is on his side and most of the time talent wins out in the end.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder
4th in the Western Conference, 9-5 record
The Thunder are comfortably in the playoff picture despite dropping their first four games, Russell Westbrook missing half of the season so far and hitting by far the lowest percentage from behind the arc. Their secret? They play intense defence, they take care of the ball and they are chasing the offensive rebounds hard. Dennis Schroder’s addition on an expensive contract seemed redundant in the summer, but it provides a much needed creative hub whenever Westbrook is out. Also of note: Trading Carmelo Anthony away might be a great example of addition by subtraction.
8. Indiana Pacers
3rd in the Eastern Conference, 8-6 record
The league knows what to expect from the Pacers this year, but no regression is on the books for them as Victor Oladipo proves he is a legitimate superstar, shouldering an incredible offensive workload, maintaining above-average efficiency. The roster makeup, however, limits the Pacers to the status of a solid but unspectacular playoff team. Myles Turner hasn’t met the expectations as the second star for coach Nate McMillan, and the emergence of third-year big man Domantas Sabonis is not enough to propel them into contender status.
9. Memphis Grizzlies
5th in the Eastern Conference, 8-5 record
Predicted by many to easily miss the playoffs and coming off of two tough seasons with aging stars, the Memphis Grizzlies have an uncanny ability to beat good teams, with the Bucks being their latest victim. Marc Gasol in a competitive setting remains one of the most fearsome creative bigs in the league, even if he can’t score as well as he used to close to the basket and Mike Conley is finally healthy again. They have found a gem in Jarren Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson is there to plug every hole, except scoring.
10. Philadelphia 76ers
5th in the Eastern Conference, 9-7 record
Whatever happened during the Sixers’ first 15 games doesn’t really matter as they pulled the Timberwolves out of their misery, by acquiring Jimmy Butler in exchange of Dario Saric and Robert Covington, two important pieces of their starting line-up. The future is a blank canvas for Brett Brown, who now has one of the most fearsome trios on both ends of the floor in the league in Butler-Simmons-Embiid. However, the addition of another ball-dominant star in the lineup makes the task of integrating the problematic Markelle Fultz even harder. Is there enough space for him to test the waters?
11. Los Angeles Clippers
6th in the Western Conference, 8-5 record
The starless Clippers are playing much better than expected, beating good teams and having all three of Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris scoring over 19 points per game. Surprisingly, their most productive player might just be the underheralded Montrezl Harrell who comes off the bench and beats opposing bigs into submission.
12. Los Angeles Lakers
7th in the Western Conference, 8-6 record
The Lakers are learning to play together faster than expected after assembling a weird roster around LeBron James. The addition of Tyson Chandler has improved their interior defence and will help keep Javale McGee’s minutes manageable. The biggest concern is how two ball-dominant future stars in Ball and Ingram can fit around LeBron with less ballhandling duties. However, they can beat anyone when the best player in the world goes into beast mode.
13. San Antonio Spurs
9th in the Western Conference, 7-6 record
The San Antonio Spurs went through the most extensive roster shakeup of the Greg Popovich era, losing long-time pieces in Leonard, Green, Ginobili, and Anderson. Injuries have hit hard on the Spurs, who are regularly missing the services of Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol, and Jakob Poeltl. Derrick White’s return was a welcome surprise. The Spurs will still execute schemes with minimal errors and that gives them extra points. As long as DeMar DeRozan plays on this level, they still remain among the best bets for a playoff appearance, but not much more.
14. New Orleans Pelicans
11th in the Western Conference, 7-7 record
The Pelicans are struggling to find their rhythm after injuries to Davis and Payton, dropping six straight after starting the season 4-0. They are unstoppable when they are rolling offensively, but they cannot stop anyone on defence, ranking among the worst defensive teams in the league. Payton’s return should help, but it is not enough to propel them to the top tier of the West.
15. Utah Jazz
10th in the Western Conference, 7-7 record
Poised to be the greatest threat to the Warriors, the Utah Jazz have not enjoyed a strong start to the season. Their defence has suffered the most from the recent “Freedom of Movement” rule change, as they excelled at little bumps and grabs that threw offences off-balance. These issues highlight their offensive liabilities. Rubio is not as effective as last year and teams are ready for Donovan Mitchell. They should be ok, but a shocking 50-point loss to the Mavericks emphatically exposed their issues.
16. Detroit Pistons
6th in the Eastern Conference, 7-6 record
It has been an up and down season for the Detroit Pistons. Blake Griffin has enjoyed some incredible games, and Andre Drummond is scoring like never before and grabbing 6 offensive rebound per game. The drop-off in talent after them, though, is steep. Reggie Jackson looks like a back-up and none of their options on the wing positions can create or score efficiently.
17. Sacramento Kings
8th in the Western Conference, 8-6 record
The Sacramento Kings being in the playoff picture and having a positive record a month into the season is a pleasant surprise for a team that was expected to be in the bottom of the standings. Dave Joerger has the Kings running, unleashing the lightning-quick D’Aaron Fox who emerges one of the top young point guards in the league. On a similar note, Willie Cauley-Stein is ready for a big paycheck this summer.
18. Houston Rockets
12th in the Western Conference, 6-7 record
On the other hand, the Houston Rockets is the biggest disappointment of the season so far. It is incredible for a team that won 65 games a year before and pushed the Warriors to 7 games in the Conference Finals to look so disjointed. They won’t remain that bad, but their position is a testament to the intensity of the issues. The loss of two key pieces in Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza and fitness issues with Chris Paul and James Harden have contributed to their dismal performance so far. The Rockets have brought assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik back from retirement to fix their defensive issues.
19. Charlotte Hornets
7th in the Eastern Conference, 7-7 record
As usual, the Hornets will not wow anyone with their performance. They play solid basketball and rely on Kemba Walker’s explosions and solid execution of their plays to win games. They are probably the most average NBA team in all respects.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
14th in the Western Conference, 6-9 record
The Timberwolves are finally freed from the Jimmy Butler saga and they can begin functioning as a normal team again. The acquisitions of Saric and Covington bring shooting and depth to a team that needed both elements, however, coach Tom Thibodeau is known to criminally underutilize his backups. Derrick Rose’s performances have been the greatest reason to smile so far for Minnesota.
21. Miami Heat
9th in the Eastern Conference, 6-8 record
Josh Richardson is playing like a star for the Miami Heat, being their best offensive and defensive option. However, they look unimpressive compared to their dynamic performance the past season. They would probably have to package some pieces of their shooting guard collection for more help in their positions of need if they want to be a serious playoff team.
22. Dallas Mavericks
13th in the Western Conference, 6-8 record
Don’t read too much into the rumours of players not getting along with Luka Doncic. The Slovene is probably already the Maverick’s best player, and any such issues should iron themselves out as the team becomes more successful. It is going to be a season of great wins and ugly losses for the Mavericks, who have no real incentive to make the playoffs but are too well coached to be really bad. Also, let’s enjoy Dirk’s last season once he is back from a foot injury.
23. Brooklyn Nets
10th in the Eastern Conference, 6-9 record
Caris LeVert went down with a horrific ankle injury, sinking the Nets’ chances for a playoff appearance with him. From then on it becomes a now or never chance for D’ Angelo Russell to show why he was drafted 2nd overall in 2015, and a scene for talented big man Jarrett Allen to showcase his talent.
24. Orlando Magic
8th in the Eastern Conference, 7-8 record
The Magic have been punching above their weight so far this season, taking advantage of a schedule that put them up against teams that have issues to iron out. Their latest victory against the Sixers was impressive. Coach Steve Clifford is always helping his teams eliminate their mistakes, but that can only take them so far. Mo Bamba looks as promising as advertised.
25. Washington Wizards
11th in the Eastern Conference, 5-9 record
The Wizards look like the saddest team in the league. They are way too talented to place 11th in the conference even after a three-game win streak. All but one of their victories have come against teams that are predicted to be in the bottom of the standings.
26. Phoenix Suns
15th in the Western Conference, 3-11 record
Igor Kokoskov is probably disappointed the player he coached to guide Slovenia to the 1st place in Eurobasket ended up on the Mavericks, where he is thriving. The Suns picked Ayton with the #1 pick instead and while his numbers look great, it is almost painful to watch him play defence. Still, a trio of Booker, Bridges and Ayton looks like a solid base to build for the future.
27. Chicago Bulls
12th in the Eastern Conference, 4-11 record
The Bulls are predictably ineffectual as Zach LaVine came back to earth after a scorching start. Their roster is talented, but they have too many young players and minus defenders to be consistently competitive. The bright spot? Wendell Carter Jr. looks like a future star.
28. Atlanta Hawks
14th in the Eastern Conference, 3-11 record
The exciting play of rookie Trae Young is the main reason to tune in when there is a Hawks game. His shooting hasn’t translated yet to the NBA level, but his natural passing vision is already elite, to the point that sometimes even his teammates are surprised they are open. Vince Carter dunking at the age of 42 is another attraction for the viewer now, as the team builds for the long-term.
29. New York Knicks
13th in the Eastern Conference, 4-11 record
New coach David Fizdale is not enough to create a productive team out of spare parts in New York, as Porzingis is recovering from injury and might miss the whole season. Frank Ntilikina is already a great perimeter defender, but he hasn’t shown much improvement as creator nor a scorer. It is an opportunity for rookies Knox, Robinson and Trier to prove they are building blocks for the future.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers
15th in the Eastern Conference, 2-12 record
Tyronn Lue left the Cavaliers just in time to save his reputation. The Cavs barely look like an NBA team right now as Kevin Love, their lone star, is recovering from injury. Their goal is not to be historically bad this season and find a nice player in the next draft.
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