It’s been a remarkably topsy-turvy start to the NBA season. The best teams in the league keep losing, and a lot of teams no one was planning to pay attention to can’t stop winning. Let’s see where this bonkers sequence of NBA basketball has left the league.
🚨🚨🚨 BULLS CRUNCHTIME OFFENSE🚨🚨🚨 pic.twitter.com/qiTDHO9q4w
— Jake Hirsohn (@JakeHirsohn) November 1, 2017
30. Chicago Bulls. Record: 1-5. Net Rating: -15.1.
Oh dear, this team is so terrible. It’s not all bad news: 2017 first-round pick Lauri Markkanen has looked much better than anyone expected. The team may even start to improve as the year goes on. Coach Fred Hoiberg has them moving the ball and shooting tons of threes. So when they start to develop some chemistry and stop turning the ball over so much — currently 29th in the league in turnovers — they will probably start to win some games they shouldn’t.
29. Dallas Mavericks. Record: 1-8. Net Rating: -10.2.
Teams coached by Rick Carlisle aren’t supposed to be this bad. But the Mavericks are, and it isn’t clear how they’re going to get better. It looked as if this team could have a path to 40 wins. But that path is looking dark and winding, and there may be a “closed” sign in front of it soon.
28. Sacramento Kings. Record: 1-7. Net Rating: -14.3.
The Kings’ record is going to be just as bad, if not worse, than teams 28-30 on this list. But Sacramento has to be feeling pretty good regardless. De’Aaron Fox looks incredible and needs to be starting immediately. And he has two fun running mates in Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein. This team’s odd veteran signings aren’t translating to wins, but if the young guys continue to develop and they end up with a top-three pick, it will be good times in California’s capital.
27. Phoenix Suns. Record: 3-4. Net Rating: -6.6.
Phoenix has been playing like a professional basketball team again after the rapid firing of coach Earl Watson, but don’t be fooled. The Suns are a disaster, and Watson was not the only problem. Every team experiences the new coach bump, but this team is going to coming crashing back down very soon.
26. Atlanta Hawks. Record: 1-7. Net Rating: -6.3.
Atlanta is going to be consistently more competitive than they should be because they’re coached by Mike Budenholzer. But they also have the 25th ranked offense in the league, and gave the Chicago Bulls their first win of the year last week. This is going to be a long season.
25. Los Angeles Lakers. Record: 3-4. Net Rating: -3.0.
Lonzo Ball and this young, mismatched, bizarre Lakers team have been weirdly competitive through seven games despite the struggles of center Brook Lopez. But they’re currently the ninth-best defense in the league, and that just isn’t sustainable with their personnel.
24. Brooklyn Nets. Record: 3-5. Net Rating: -4.5.
Listen: this team rules. They’re fun, and dumb, and young, and if you’re off of your game, they can take advantage of you. But they are not good. They have no hope on defense, and they play too many non-NBA level guys to consistently outscore teams. But their future is bright.
23. Miami Heat. Record: 3-4. Net Rating: -2.8.
Yes, Heat center Hassan Whiteside has barely played so far. But overall, it just looks like this team might be closer to the team they were for the first half of last year, than the team they were in the second half. They’ve taken care of business against bad teams, but they’ve shown no ability to hang with good teams.
22. Philadelphia 76ers. Record: 4-4. Net Rating: -2.8.
When the 76ers have had Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Robert Covington on the floor, they’ve been plain awesome. Simmons has looked as good as anyone could have hoped, and is on track for a Rookie of the Year trophy. After a slow start, Embiid is finding his groove again. But last Wednesday night, Philadelphia had a five-point lead on the Houston Rockets with 30 seconds to go, and they lost. That’s just the type of thing that’s going to happen to a team who doesn’t have the experience or depth to win games yet.
21. Cleveland Cavaliers. Record: 3-5 Net Rating: -7.0.
The 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are this high on this list purely out of respect to LeBron James. Frankly, they’ve had a much worse season than a few of the teams they’re ahead of. The Cavs absolutely stink, and there is no clear path to getting better right away. Eventually, this team will probably just start playing better ball. Right now, they’re terrible.
20. New York Knicks. Record: 3-4. Net rating: -5.2.
After winning three games in a row, Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks were ready to let the good times roll. Unfortunately, the Rockets had other plans and stopped their winning streak dead in its tracks. Still, New York’s start has been better than expected.
19. Denver Nuggets. Record: 4-4. Net Rating: 0.5.
The Nuggets finally got their first good win of the season last night against a reeling Toronto Raptors team. It bumped their struggling offensive rating up to seventh in the league. But so far, this team has looked off and underwhelming.
— NBA (@NBA) October 29, 2017
18. Indiana Pacers. Record: 5-3. Net Rating: 5.3.
Good for the Pacers. Good for them for playing hard, looking competent, and starting the season hot after a tough offseason. But they’ve had an easy schedule and don’t really have an impressive win to stand by — though credit is due for beating the San Antonio Spurs, no matter how much they’re reeling at the moment. Most importantly, nothing they’re doing seems particularly sustainable. Their schedule is about to pick up, and this team should be back in the bottom five before too long.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves. Record: 5-3. Net Rating: -4.8.
The new look Timberwolves are struggling to make it work. If it wasn’t for some serious late-game heroics, this team could be 0-8 right now. But they’ve won those games, and they’re in the books. Their overall outlook is also hurt by the two games Jimmy Butler was absent for, in which they got creamed. The Wolves have a lot of talent, but if their defense doesn’t improve, they will stay right around this spot in the power rankings all year.
16. Utah Jazz. Record: 5-3. Net Rating: 3.1.
After losing Gordon Hayward, the Jazz predictably have the 26th best offense in the league. They also have the fourth best defense, and enough discipline to take advantage of flawed teams. Rudy Gobert and the Jazz will consistently get wins, but they just don’t have enough scoring to win in the modern NBA.
15. New Orleans Pelicans. Record: 3-5. Net Rating. -1.2.
There’s a lot of good stuff to latch onto in New Orleans. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are not only having great individual seasons, they are also playing great together. Jrue Holiday looks fantastic after a slow start, and role players like E’twuan Moore, Ian Clark, and Jameer Nelson have made positive contributions. But the Pels are going to have to start winning games consistently, and they just had their worst effort of the season against the Orlando Magic.
14. Portland Trail Blazers. Record: 4-4. Net Rating: 6.0.
Don’t be fooled by the Blazers net rating, which currently ranks seventh in the league. So far, this team has beaten the Suns twice, the Pacers, and a Pelicans team without Anthony Davis. Jusuf Nurkic has looked awful, and this season is off to a nasty start for Portland. If Nurkic doesn’t bounce back, this team won’t win more games than they did last year, and for the first time in four years, they’ll be left out of the playoffs.
13. San Antonio Spurs. Record: 4-3. Net Rating: -1.3.
It’s time for Kawhi Leonard to come back. The Spurs are running out of ways to win without him. Overall, this seven-game stretch has been positive considering the resurgence of LaMarcus Aldridge and the emergence of Dejounte Murray. But they need Kawhi back.
12. Detroit Pistons. Record: 5-3. Net Rating: 1.8.
The Pistons had a very bad year last year, and it was reasonable to think they would have another one this year. So far, the jury is still out. They pulled off an incredible feat, beating the Golden State Warriors the day after beating the Los Angeles Clippers, both on the road. Then they went and lost to the Lakers. That’s not good. But what matters is which we will see more of last year. The Pistons that beat the Warriors, or the team that lost to the Lakers.
11. Charlotte Hornets. Record: 5-3. Net Rating: 3.5.
Charlotte has exclusively one goal right now: stay afloat until Nicolas Batum comes back. This roster simply can’t function at a high level without him. With that said, the Hornets will take 5-3 against a tough schedule with a signature wins against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Milwaukee Bucks.
10. Los Angeles Clippers. Record: 5-2. Net Rating: 8.7.
The Clippers takes need a serious cooling period. They aren’t better without Chris Paul. Every team they have beaten has already been written about on this list. Still, Blake Griffin looks awesome in his new role, Deandre Jordan is still awesome, and a lot of their new pieces are clicking. There is reason to have faith in this team, but we haven’t learned much about them yet.
9. Milwaukee Bucks. Record: 4-4. Net Rating: -1.6.
The question in Milwaukee right now is, “Does Giannis Antetokounmpo have enough help?” The answer? Yes. Giannis has a young, interesting, versatile cast. He doesn’t have enough help to win a title, but enough help for everyone to just stay calm right now. The only concern right now: if this team doesn’t finish top-ten in defense, it may be time for a new head coach.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder. Record: 4-3. Net Rating: 9.9.
Having the second best net rating in the league but still being just a game over .500 feels just about right for the Thunder. The best sign for them: their defense, which was a much bigger question mark than their offense, looks phenomenal. If the offense can find a way into the top-five, this team could be terrifying.
7. Houston Rockets. Record: 6-3. Net Rating: 3.3.
The Rockets have been without Chris Paul, and they still look really good. The loss to the Sixers is their only bad one, and that’s forgivable for a team missing their second best player. It’s been a world of positives for the Rockets, but none of it will matter until Paul gets healthy.
Kyrie Irving with the steal, behind-the-back dribble and lob to Horford for the dunk! pic.twitter.com/OCANc21dft
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) November 2, 2017
6. Boston Celtics. Record: 6-2. Net Rating: 9.9.
The first thing that happened to the Celtics this year was Gordon Hayward destroying his leg. And they haven’t missed a beat. They started the year with two good losses, then quickly transitioned into a defensive juggernaut. Now they’ve torn off six straight wins. We will see how long a defense built around so many young guys can last, but we can just enjoy it for now.
5. Washington Wizards. Record: 4-3. Net Rating: 4.3.
If the Wizards continue to be an elite defensive team, they are going to beat the Cavs in the playoffs. They’ve got two bad losses on their resume, but they came from a lack of effort, not ability. The Wizards know they can win games, and they’re going to win plenty that count.
4. Toronto Raptors. Record: 4-3. Net Rating: 6.4.
Can we all agree to never doubt these regular season Raptors ever again? They swapped out their whole veteran supporting cast for a bunch of young guys, and they stayed exactly the same: for better and for worse. This crew has the second worst three-point percentage in the league. But they’re still going to win more than 50 games, and look good doing it.
3. Memphis Grizzlies. Record: 5-3. Net Rating: 4.6.
Speaking of teams you should never doubt, the Grizzlies have subverted expectations and look timeless for the eighth year in a row. They’ve had one of the most promising starts of any team in the league, especially when you factor in two things: Memphis has been missing JaMychal Green, projected as their third best player before the year, and, more importantly, Mike Conley isn’t even playing up to his own standards yet.
2. Orlando Magic. Record: 6-2. Net Rating: 9.6.
It’s important this early on in the season to not get too excited about a small sample size, but you also have to give credit where credit is due. The Magic have the fourth best net rating in the league. They’ve beaten the Cavs and the Spurs. The three-point shooting is going to regress, It’s a certainty, but their defense currently sits at ninth in the league. If that doesn’t regress, Orlando has a playoff team.
1. Golden State Warriors. Record: 5-3. Net Rating: 10.5
These guys haven’t even shown up to the office yet and they’re still outscoring teams by 10.5 points per 100 possessions. They’ve got two of the three best players in the league and the best defensive player in the world. They’ve looked awful a bunch of times, but, much like the Warriors, you can wake me when the playoffs start.