NBA Power Rankings: Steph Curry injury highlights Warriors nightmare
Losing Kevin Durant probably felt like a bad dream for Golden State Warriors fans. Klay Thompson being out for most of this season recuperating from ACL surgery only adds to the misery.
Now with Stephen Curry suffering a broken hand injury, it has indeed been a nightmarish stretch for the Golden State Warriors.
Lady Luck has unofficially ghosted the Warriors and their title aspirations for this season, creating a vacuum near the NBA mountaintop. And plenty of teams are ready, willing and able to make that climb and fill that void.
Here’s a look at Week 2 of NBC Sports Boston’s Power Rankings, which takes a closer look at teams that run the gamut from those that look scary-good so far, to others at the opposite end of the spectrum that are just scary to look at because of how badly they are playing.
30. New Orleans Pelicans (0-4)
Last week: 24
Even with Zion Williamson sidelined for at least another month and Jrue Holiday dealing with some minor issues, the Pelicans are still able to score … a lot. After their first four games, they average 121.0 points per game which trails only the Houston Rockets (128.0). But the Pelicans defense has been absolutely pitiful with opponents scoring a league-high 128.3 points per game.
29. Sacramento Kings (0-5)
Last week: 17
No one was looking for the Kings to contend for a title anytime soon, or even be a solid lock for the playoffs. But what we’ve seen thus far has been surprisingly underwhelming for a franchise where the bar for success is low. There have been several contributing factors to their struggles, but the lack of scoring punch really stands out. The Kings are averaging 98.6 points per game, which ranks 29th in the NBA.
28. New York Knicks (1-3)
Last week: 27
It was good for the Knicks to give their fans something to cheer about (besides Boston’s Tacko Fall, who is loved by all). But an issue that won’t go away anytime soon is their prickly point guard dilemma where Dennis Smith Jr. is playing (badly most nights) while fan favorite Frank Ntilikina collects dust and cobwebs on the Knicks bench.
27. Washington Wizards (1-3)
Last week: 28
Bradley Beal is going to keep his fantasy league owners happy all season because of the across-the-board numbers he’ll be putting up night-in, night-out. But the Wizards have so many roster holes to fill that wins will continue to be few and far between even on nights like Wednesday, when Beal goes off for 46 points against Houston and still loses.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2)
Last week: 30
John Beilein gets the water cup shower following his first win. He follows that up with another win, albeit over a Chicago team that will be among the worst teams (again) this season. While that in itself makes it a win one should not get too giddy about, it’s an encouraging sign for a young team with a new coach trying to lay the foundation for what the Cavs hope will be future success.
25. Charlotte Hornets (2-3)
Last week: 29
Terry Rozier is determined to be one of the best point guards in the NBA. First he has to establish that he’s the best point guard on the Hornets roster, something that is no longer a given with the strong start by his backup, Devonte’ Graham, whose play has the Hornets giving more thought to playing them together more going forward.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder (1-4)
Last week: 25
Steven Adams’ left knee contusion doesn’t sound too serious, but this Thunder team can ill afford to be short-handed even if it’s for a small amount of time. The Thunder have to love what they’re getting out of Shai Gilgous-Alexander, who is averaging 21.6 points per game. But this team is in rebuilding mode no matter how they try and spin it.
23. Chicago Bulls (1-4)
Last week: 23
The Bulls’ youthful core hasn’t come together as well as most anticipated with Chicago having various problems all over the floor. But what has really hurt them, has been their inability to shoot the ball well in the fourth quarter. This season, the Bulls are shooting 35.3 percent from the field in the fourth quarter, which ranks 28th in the NBA.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (1-3)
Last week: 26
It may have taken a buzzer-beater by Jae Crowder to down the Brooklyn Nets, but Memphis’ youth was serving up some serious game that night. This group is going to take their share of lumps, without a doubt. But their core led by Ja Morant, who went toe-to-toe with Kyrie Irving all game, and Jaren Jackson Jr. will only get better with experience.
21. Detroit Pistons (2-3)
Last week: 20
With Blake Griffin still on the mend from offseason knee surgery, the Pistons will remain a competitive team. But they really need to make 3-point shooting a bigger part of their offense. They take 26.3 per game which ranks 28th in the NBA. But the lack of attempts has nothing to do with their ability to make them, which is clear by Detroit connecting on 41.8 percent of their 3-point attempts this season, which ranks second in the NBA.
20. Phoenix Suns (2-2)
Last week: 21
One of the better below-the-radar moves this offseason was Phoenix acquiring Aron Baynes from Boston. His impact has been huge at both ends of the floor for a Phoenix team that for years was a defensive sieve. Not so much this year. The Suns are 10th in the NBA in points allowed per game (106.2) and are ninth in points scored (115.4).
19. Golden State Warriors (1-3)
Last week: 9
The idea that the Warriors would get off to a rough start — when you consider all that has transpired in recent months — isn’t all that shocking. It isn’t the losses, but the fact that they have been tremendously lopsided. The Warriors are one of just three teams in the NBA (Sacramento and Memphis are the others) with a plus-minus that’s negative double digits this season.
18. Indiana Pacers (1-3)
Last week: 15
Myles Turner’s ankle sprain will likely keep him sidelined for a few games, only making a much-needed turnaround tougher to achieve. Despite the 1-2 frontcourt tandem of Turner and Domantas Sabonis, rebounding for the Pacers has been bad this season. The team’s rebounding percentage of 45.8 is second-to-last in the NBA just behind the Chicago Bulls (45.5).
17. Atlanta Hawks (2-2)
Last week: 18
Trae Young will miss some time nursing an ankle injury, but don’t fret Hawks fans. No, there’s no Trae Young clone out there (but it’s Halloween so who knows, right?). But what the Hawks do have is a team that defensively, is as good as we’ve seen from them in years. They are currently 10th in defensive rating (102.0) which is a far cry from where they were last year (113.1, 28th in the NBA).
16. Brooklyn Nets (1-3)
Last week: 14
Kyrie Irving is putting up numbers we’ve never seen from him before, delivering 35.3 points a night, which trails only Houston’s James Harden (36.8). But you have to wonder if the Nets can pull it together and be solid defensively as well as create more opportunities for others to get more involved offensively.
15. Orlando Magic (2-2)
Last week: 11
The Magic thus far have done what they were supposed to do this season. They beat up on bad teams like Cleveland and Washington, while suffering tough losses on the road at Atlanta and Toronto. This is a very balanced team offensively with four guys averaging double figures scoring and a fifth (D.J. Augustin) right behind them at 9.5 points per game.
14. Portland Trail Blazers (3-2)
Last week: 8
The Blazers remain a team that will live and die with the jumper. They were near the bottom of the league a year ago when it came to drives to the basket and this season they remain in the bottom 10. Shooting-wise, they were just outside the top-10 a year ago whereas now they are near the middle/bottom third of the league in shooting the ball.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-1)
Last week: 22
The Timberwolves’ lone loss came to Philly and that should count for something right? It would if the game wasn’t so lopsided in Philly’s favor. It was a great first week for Karl-Anthony Towns and company, but he has to be more poised in big, regular season matchups if the Timberwolves are ever going to contend out West.
12. Dallas Mavericks (3-1)
Last week: 19
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis form a potent 1-2 punch that has hit the ground running this season. Doncic is delivering 25 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game while the 7-foot-3 Porzingis is dropping 22.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.5 blocks per game. They will be consistently among the teams to watch out for this season.
11. Miami Heat (3-1)
Last week: 12
The Heat are good at unearthing talented players few have heard of. This season’s diamond in the rough? That would be Kendrick Nunn, who is averaging 21.0 points through the first four games while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 44.0 percent on 3’s.
10. Milwaukee Bucks (2-2)
Last week: 2
Before the season began, there were questions about how impactful the Milwaukee Bucks’ supporting cast would be for Giannis Antetokounmpo this season. The early returns have been underwhelming to say the least. By the end of the season, Milwaukee should be among the top two or three teams in the East. But they’re not there yet.
9. San Antonio Spurs (3-0)
Last week: 16
One might want to make a case for the Spurs needing to be higher based upon them being one of just two undefeated teams remaining. But then you look at their three wins came against the New York Knicks, the Washington Wizards and the Portland Trail Blazers. All three games were at home, and two of those foes — New York and Washington — are among the worst teams in the NBA. And the win over Portland came against a Blazers team that had played the previous night.
8. Houston Rockets (3-1)
Last week: 7
The James Harden-Russell Westbrook tandem is going to shatter scoring records all season. But the more you watch this team play, the clearer it becomes that they have to do something about their defense if they are to have any shot at making a deep postseason run.
7. Toronto Raptors (4-1)
Last week: 13
The Raptors continue to play with a chip on their shoulder, going chips all in on their us-versus-the-world approach to the game. Pascal Siakam has played like an All-Star and Kyle Lowry’s floor game has been a reminder to us all that he too ranks among the best playmakers in the game right now.
6. Boston Celtics (3-1)
Last week: 10
The second half surge has been the one constant for the Celtics this season. Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum deserve a lot of credit for the team’s fast start to the season. But their defense has been surprisingly strong out the gates. After their first four games, they have a defensive rating of 100.7 which ranks ninth in the NBA.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (3-2)
Last week: 1
We’re not even a full two weeks into the season and Kawhi Leonard’s load management has kicked in. We all saw how fresh and revived he was for the playoffs last year in Toronto. And besides, this Clippers team has plenty of scrappy players who can help fill the void from time to time when Leonard takes a night off.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (3-1)
Last week: 3
Anthony Davis has to be on the Week 1 short-list of MVP candidates. He’s putting up big numbers just like he did with the New Orleans Pelicans. But his dominance now seems to have a greater purpose in helping lead a Lakers team that’s still trying to figure out its identity.
3. Denver Nuggets (3-1)
Last week: 5
Tremendous talent up and down the Nuggets roster. They will continue to be one of the tougher teams to beat this season, led by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
2. Utah Jazz (4-1)
Last week: 6
The offensive talent in Utah is on the upswing and will continue to be led by Donovan Mitchell. But the foundation for this Utah Jazz team lies in their defense which is once again of the top-shelf, lockdown variety. After their first five games, they have a league-best defensive rating of 93.0.
1. Philadelphia 76ers (4-0)
Last week: 4
The quality of opponents they have beaten, with a full squad and without their top player Joel Embiid, serves as a reminder of how talented this team is and why they are considered one of the front-runners to be in the NBA Finals. They have an elite defense, versatile scorers and sneaky-good depth on the bench offensively and defensively. The Sixers are as complete a team as we have in the NBA this season.