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Power Rankings

NBA Power Rankings: Week 3

by Tommy Beer
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

It has been a wacky and unpredictable start to the 2017-18 campaign, which gives us plenty to discuss...


1. Memphis Grizzlies
2017-18 record: 5-1
The Grizz do have a blemish on their record (an embarrassing loss to the Mavs), but Memphis has also already knocked off the Warriors and beaten Houston twice. The "Grind-and-Grind" era may have unofficially ended, but opponents (much like Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant') are quickly finding out that it's still tough to tussle with the Grizzlies. Prior to last Monday, the Rockets had never scored fewer than 93 points a game under coach Mike D’Antoni, until Memphis beat them 98-90. Then, five days later, the Grizz held Houston to just 89 points. And Memphis won that game despite each of their five starters failing to score in double-figure. The Grizzlies reserves have outscored the opponents bench 246-126 through the first six games. Can Memphis continue to rack up wins by getting production from unexpected sources? James Ennis, Dillon Brooks, and Jarrell Martin rank third, fourth and fifth respectively on the team in total minutes played, behind Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.


2. Los Angeles Clippers
2017-18 record: 4-1
The Clippers stormed out of the gate, winning each of their first four contests, before finally falling to the Pistons on Saturday night. Surprisingly, the key to the Clips hot start has been their impressively impenetrable defense. Los Angeles is allowing just 92.8 points per 100 possessions, by far the best Defensive Efficiency rating in the NBA. The Clippers new and improved defense gets its best test yet on Monday night when they host the Warriors (10:30 pm est on NBA TV).


3. Houston Rockets
2017-18 record: 5-2
Despite only having Chris Paul in uniform for one game, the Rockets offense has been humming along (other than when they’ve had to face the Grizzlies). Houston has bludgeoned opponents by firing away at will from long range. The Rockets have knocked down a league-leading 303 triples this season. The Warriors rank a distant second with 238 made treys. Somehow, Mike D’Antoni’s troops are even more reliant on the 3-point shot this season than they were a year ago. In 2016-17, 46.2 percent of Houston’s shot attempts were from 3-point range. This season, 53.0 percent of their field goal attempts have come from behind the arc, including 59.0 percent of their total attempts over their last two games.


4. Golden State Warriors
2017-18 record: 4-3
It’s safe to assume the Warriors will eventually get on track and start bulldozing the rest of the league, but it hasn’t happened yet. The Warriors have been awesome offensively, leading the league in Offensive Efficiency by a wide margin. However, Golden State has an uninspired mess on the defensive end of the floor. The Warriors, who are allowing 108.4 points per 100 possessions, rank 26th overall in DefEff, behind such defensive juggernauts as the Bulls, Kings and Suns.


5. San Antonio Spurs
2017-18 record: 4-2
With a victory over the Heat on Wednesday, the Spurs improved to 4–0 for the second straight season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other teams in the last 20 years have won their first four games in two consecutive seasons: New Orleans in 2006–07 and 2007–08 and Golden State in 2014–15 and 2015–16. However, the Spurs then proceeded to get blowout by the Magic and nipped by the Pacers over the weekend.


6. Boston Celtics
2017-18 record: 4-2
The Celtics 2017-18 campaign got off to an awfully depressing start, when they lost to the Cavs and lost Gordon Hayward for the season on opening night, and were then beaten by the Bucks at home the following day. However, the C’s have reeled off four straight wins since then, with three of those of those victories coming on the road. Boston has gotten terrific production from rookie Jayson Tatum, and the team will get reinforcements this week with the pending return of forward Marcus Morris.


7. Toronto Raptors
2017-18 record: 3-2
The Raptors are just one game above .500, but it’s tough to drop them too far, considering their two losses came against the Warriors and the Spurs on the road.


8. Detroit Pistons
2017-18 record: 5-2
What constitutes a good weekend in the NBA? Beating the Clippers and the Warriors by a combined 16 points on back-to-back nights on the road. The Pistons also have a chance to build off this weekend’s momentous wins. They play five of their next six at home, and only one of those six opponents currently sports a winning record.


9. Milwaukee Bucks
2017-18 record: 4-2
How dominant has Giannis Antetokounmpo been this season? Well, he has outscored all players (teammates and opponents) in each of Milwaukee’s first six games. Per Elias, over the last ten seasons, the only other player to lead both teams in scoring in each of his first six games was Stephen Curry in 2015. Giannis is averaging a mind-boggling 34.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals, while shooting 63.1 percent from the floor.


10. Portland Trail Blazers
2017-18 record: 4-2
The Blazes have just two losses on their ledger, and those two defeats were by a combined four points. Portland should continue to rack up wins, as they are in the middle of a stretch where they play 10 of 11 games at home.


11. Oklahoma City Thunder
2017-18 record: 3-3
Russell Westbrook is darn close to once again averaging a triple-double (20.8 points, 12.2 assists and 9.8 rebounds per game). Carmelo Anthony is leading the team in scoring and has poured in over 20 points in each game this season. OKC just needs to find a way to better integrate Paul George into the mix to fire on all cylinders. PG-13 is averaging under 20 points per game and shooting 42.6 percent from the floor.


12. Washington Wizards
2017-18 record: 4-2
Other than a brutal loss to the Lakers, the only defeat for the Wiz came at the hands of the Warriors, and Washington held fourth-quarter leads in both of those games. In fact, each of the Wizard’s first five games was decided by five points or fewer, tying an NBA record. In their sixth game, Sunday night in Sacramento, the Wiz avoided setting a new record by demolishing the Kings, 110-83.


13. Orlando Magic
2017-18 record: 4-2
Orlando’s was arguably the league’s most pleasant surprise through the first fortnight of the season, ripping off four wins in their first five games, including a blowout victory over the Spurs at home. In the process, they became the first team to score at least 114 points in each of the first five games of a season since the Detroit Pistons accomplished that feat in 1985-86.


14. New Orleans Pelicans
2017-18 record: 3-3
Although the Pels pulled off their blockbuster trade last February, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have still played just 22 games together. The dynamic duo of Boogie and the Brow seem to be finding their rhythm, as both big men finally seem comfortable sharing the court, and are both putting up jaw-dropping numbers on a nightly basis. Over the weekend, Cousins became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to record a triple-double and a 40-point/20-rebound game in consecutive contests.


15. Cleveland Cavaliers
2017-18 record: 3-4
It was all good just a week ago. After an impressive pair of wins to start the season, the Cavs have dropped four of their last five, the latest being an embarrassing blowout loss to the Knicks at home on Sunday. Regular season lethargy is not entirely unexpected in Cleveland. In fact, dating back to last March, the Cavs are 13-17 over their last 30 regular season games. Yes, Cleveland still has five months to find and flip the switch before the end of the regular season, but there is cause for concern. The Cavs look utterly disinterested in exerting any effort on defense. The Nets are the only Eastern Conference squad with a worse defensive rating.


16. Minnesota Timberwolves
2017-18 record: 3-3
The Wolves were blown out in back-to-back games early last week, but then got Jimmy Butler back in the lineup on Friday and knocked off the Thunder (one of their two victories over OKC this season). Minnesota’s primary issue has been their putrid defense. The Timberwolves rank dead last in multiple defense categories, including DefRtg. They are allowing 114.3 points per 100 possessions, nearly three points worse than the Mavs, the second worst defensive team in the NBA. Coach Tom Thibodeau can’t be happy and will surely focus on immediate improvements.


17. Denver Nuggets
2017-18 record: 3-3
The Nuggets have yet to register a win over a team with a winning record but have shown signs of improvement of late. After scoring a total of seven points in the first two games of the season, Nikola Jokic is averaging 21.5 points and 12.3 rebounds over Denver’s last four. It was also encouraging to see Jamal Murray and Wilson Chandler snap out of early-season slumps in a win over the Nets in Brooklyn on Sunday.


18. Utah Jazz
2017-18 record: 3-3
Scoring just 88 points in a loss to the Suns last Wednesday was a reminder that Utah will have trouble finding consistent offense this season. On the other hand, they have a top-five defense, which should keep them in most games they play.


19. Charlotte Hornets
2017-18 record: 3-3
The Hornets have alternated wins and losses over their first six contests. One area where they have been remarkably consistent is on the glass. Per NBA.com, the Hornets have outrebounded their opponents by 10.5 rebounds per game. They rank second in the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage at 82.3 percent and fourth in overall rebounding percentage at 53.1 percent. Their rebounding edge is due mainly to the board work being turned in by Dwight Howard. D12 is averaging a whopping 16.2 rebounds per game.


20. Miami Heat
2017-18 record: 2-3
This Heat team is all too familiar with slow starts. Miami went 11-30 over the first 41 games of the 2016-17 campaign, before finishing the year by going 30-11 over the final 41 games. Miami became the first team in NBA history to have been at least 19 games under .500 and reach the .500 mark at any point during the same season. They have no interest in trying to repeat history this time around and would obviously prefer not to dig themselves a massive hole ."I don't want to have a season like last year, when it's late and we figure out things," Dragic told reporters Saturday night after a loss to the Celtics. "We've got to do it now, because it's important.” Miami is hoping to get Hassan Whiteside (knee) back shortly, which will obviously make an enormous difference.


21. Philadelphia 76ers
2017-18 record: 2-4
Some good news and some bad news out of Philly over the last week. Encouragingly, 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons has been phenomenal. He’s averaging 17.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists. On Saturday, he became just the second player in NBA history with at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in each of the first six games of his pro career. On the flip side of the coin, 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz is out indefinitely with "soreness and scapular muscle imbalance" in his right shoulder and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.


22. Indiana Pacers
2017-18 record: 3-3
Many predicted doom and gloom for the Pacers this season, but they have had a few bright spots already this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Despite being forced to play without Myles Turner (neck/concussion), Indiana ranks in the top five in the NBA in OffEff (107.8), team field goal percentage (48.3 percent), fast-break points (15.2), and scoring (111.2).


23. New York Knicks
2017-18 record: 2-3
Break up the Knicks! As of early last week, the Knicks were essentially considered dead and buried. Losers in each of their first three games, they held the honorable distinction of being the NBA’s last winless team. However, they stomped the Nets at home on Friday night and then traveled to Cleveland and shockingly beat the Cavs by 19 points at Quicken Loans Arena. Amazingly, it’s the first time the Knicks have won consecutive contests since the two games prior to Christmas (December 20th and December 22nd) of last year. With Melo no longer in NYC, Kristaps Porzingis has made it quite clear he’s ready to captain the ship. Porzingis is the first player in franchise history to score at least 30 points in four of the first five games of the season.


24. Brooklyn Nets
2017-18 record: 3-4
Had I updated these rankings last Wednesday, right after the Nets spanked the Cavs, Brooklyn would have been far higher on this list. At that point, they were above .500 and had won their first three home games in a season for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign. However, Brooklyn followed up that Cavs win with lopsided defeats to the Knicks and Nuggets. Which Nets team will show up next week?


25. Los Angeles Lakers
2017-18 record: 2-4
Unsurprisingly, Lonzo Ball has struggled with his shot over his first couple of weeks in the league. Ball is shooting just 31.1 percent from the floor, including 28.1 percent from 3-point territory, and 55.6 percent from the charity stripe. Add it all up, and it sums to a True Shooting percentage of 38.5 percent. That’s the worst among qualified players in the league this season. In fact, among all players that have logged at least 200 minutes this season, no other player has a True Shooting percentage below 48.8 percent.


26. Sacramento Kings
2017-18 record: 1-5
The Kings only win this season came against Dallas, one of the few teams below them in the rankings. Their worst loss was their most recent defeat. The Kings were down 63-32 to the Wizards at halftime on Sunday and eventually fell behind by 36 points, before losing 110-83.


27. Dallas Mavericks
2017-18 record: 1-6
The Mavs showed their upside by knocking off the Grizzlies last Wednesday, but have otherwise looked outmatched on a nightly basis. Rick Carlisle is a great coach, but he’ll have a tough time stringing together wins with this group.


28. Phoenix Suns
2017-18 record: 2-4
The Suns became a laughingstock when disgruntled point guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted “I don’t want to be here, ” and the team fired their head coach, within an hour of each other last Monday. Yet, somehow, Phoenix was able to string together back-to-back wins. Per NBA.com, Jay Triano became just the sixth coach in Suns history to start his tenure at 2-0. Phoenix then lost to the Blazers, but hung close throughout.


29. Atlanta Hawks
2017-18 record: 1-6
Having dropped five straight games, the Hawks own the league’s longest current losing streak. Things may only get worse in the near future. Six of the Hawks next seven opponents have records at or above .500, and five of their next seven games are on the road.


30. Chicago Bulls
2017-18 record: 1-4
The Bulls will suffer plenty of demoralizing defeats this season, but it will be tough to play worse than they did in a 101-69 defeat to OKC on Saturday. "We took a step in the wrong direction tonight," coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after the lopsided loss. "We didn't compete. We didn't stay together. We didn't fight through adversity as a team. We were careless. We were stagnant." Hoiberg went on to say that would have its "hardest practice of the year" on Monday. Chicago plays nine of their next 12 games on the road, and only three home games before Thanksgiving.