On the 8’s: Month 1
I will post monthly power rankings on the 8th of every month. This month, we check in after a few weeks of basketball. These rankings were HARD, a month is barely enough time to get a sense for teams. So many West teams could suddenly get hot and climb into the top ten.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (Prev: 21, -9)
There are a few dumpster fires in the NBA but none seems to be as predictable and egregious as the Cavs. Combining aging vets used to playing large important minutes with young talent needing time and an ownership directive to win now is sure to work out! Oh but also, we fired the head coach. There is always a steep drop off whenever LeBron James isn’t on your team but the Cavs are a disaster. This isn’t even mentioning their promise to trade Korver and their awkward promotion of Larry Drew to interim coach.
29. Washington Wizards (Prev: 16, -13)
Disgusting. The Wizards are unwatchable, boring, and annoying. Wall and Beal claim to be underrated and undervalued but the chemistry issues with this team come directly from them. Recognition comes with teamwork, not running a one-man show. I wanted to rank them dead last but they are far more talented than Cleveland and could easily work their way back up the East.
28. Phoenix Suns (Prev: 24, -4)
Phoenix is young and bad, but that was roughly to be expected. A lot of people expected them to start a little bit better this year but with the West being so overwhelming, everyone is feasting on the Suns. Their defense is terrible and they have no point guard but Booker and Ayton should be monsters for years to come. The future is sunny in Phoenix even if the present is cloudy.
27. Orlando Magic (Prev: 25, -2)
The Magic didn’t start as strongly as last year but they don’t look much better. They still lack a top tier point guard and with so many available, it leads one to wonder when they will make the push for a trade (Terry Rozier anyone?). The youth looks solid, Bamba and Isaac will be nice pieces to build with but this team needs even an All-Star to start climbing out of mediocrity.
26. Chicago Bulls (Prev: 26, 0)
All offense, no defense. Exactly what we expected of the Bulls (despite all their injury woes). However, Zach LaVine is putting together an All-Star case and Wendell Carter Jr. looks like he will be a great player in the middle. Once Markkanen returns from injury, we will get a better glimpse of the future. It’s likely this future exists without Jabari Parker too, he just can’t play defense to save his life.
25. Dallas Mavericks (Prev: 23, -2)
LUKA FOR ROY. The Mavs are not very good outside Doncic but he is starting to take over and show just how amazing he can be. Dennis Smith Jr. still needs time to grow into more of a distributor but the two of them could become a vicious pick and roll tandem. I hope Dirk gets to play this year, it would be something to see Doncic and Nowitzki on the same court.
24. Atlanta Hawks (Prev: 28, +4)
Trae Young is fine, putting up the volume stats most expected. He is a good distributor and absurdly spaces the floor but rookies need time. Tauren Prince continues to improve but the Hawks just aren’t very good yet. They are building things patiently but it’s tough to feel really good when they gave up Doncic. Having two possible lottery picks next year might be enough to make that up.
23. New York Knicks (Prev: 27: +4)
The Knicks play hard and mostly smart, a sign that David Fizdale is the right coach for them. However, they just don’t have enough talent without Kristaps Porzingis. Tim Hardway Jr. is having a career year and Kevin Knox should be good for years but that isn’t going to translate to enough wins right now. The Knicks biggest problem is their owner and it might end up costing them some key free agents next summer.
22. Brooklyn Nets (Prev: 29, +7)
Brooklyn might compete for a playoff spot, they look awesome. Caris Levert could potentially be an All-Star in the East and D’Angelo Russell has had a few games where we can see his potential. They will finally have a draft pick this upcoming summer but they certainly aren’t trying to tank. Oh yeah, Jarrett Allen is a monster too.
21. Miami Heat (Prev: 20, -1)
I’ll be honest, I’ve barely watched the Heat this year. I’ve had a chance to watch most teams but the Heat are just boring. They are a team that needs to move off some of their better role players for a superstar and they know it. Jimmy Butler seemed like a sure deal to go there but it hasn’t happened yet so they are just hanging out in mediocrity, winning some and losing some.
20. Detroit Pistons (Prev: 18, -2)
Blake Griffin is alive! The Pistons started the year 4–0 then subsequently lost 5 in a row. They have plenty of talent and Blake could put up All-Star numbers with health but they just aren’t going to push into the East elite. Andre Drummond continues putting up crazy scoring/rebounding numbers but his +/- continues to waver. Obviously, numbers don’t mean everything but this has been a trend and it might be a source of some issues long term for them.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (Prev: 17, -2)
What a weird team. Sometimes they come out firing on all cylinders and take it to teams but then other times, they just fall apart. KAT is clearly affected by the Jimmy Butler saga and Andrew Wiggins, while improving, doesn’t look like a top 3 option for a team. The best story for the Wolves this year: Derrick Rose. I am concerned people aren’t paying enough attention to his off-the-court issues but his on-the-court work has been legendary. The Wolves are full of drama and it is showing every night.
18. Sacramento Kings (Prev: 30, +12)
The Kings are handily the best story of the year so far. They are really fun to watch, compete hard, and win games. De’Aaron Fox looks like he will be a top tier NBA point guard for a long time and Marvin Bagley is doing just fine for a rookie. Adding Nemanja Bjelica completely changed their team and opened up space that just wasn’t there before. As a Sixers homer, I’m sad he didn’t stick around but it is always fun to watch teams beat expectations. Over the next month, we will see if they can keep it up.
17. Los Angeles Lakers (Prev: 6, -11)
There is no doubt the Lakers might be the most fun team to watch in the NBA (outside GSW) but it hasn’t translated to much winning yet. Adding Tyson Chandler has given them a little more rim protection they desperately need. JaVale McGee is having a career year so far beyond his past years, the only question is how long he can keep it up for. LeBron is LeBron. Kuzma and Hart are playing excellent basketball but the Lakers need more from Lonzo and Ingram. I expect this team to climb back up the standings over the next couple months.
16. Charlotte Hornets (Prev: 22, +6)
Kemba Walker is putting up MVP numbers but the rest of the Hornets are just solid. It is difficult to say whether Kemba can be the best player on a championship team but with some better talent around him, maybe they could compete in the East. I am a fan of James Borrego and Malik Monk and expect more growth from this team over the year. It is always fun to watch the Hornets in the playoffs and they have one of the coolest courts in the NBA so go Hornets?
15. Utah Jazz (Prev: 8, -7)
Maybe if the Jazz had beaten the Warriors a few weeks back, they would have rattled off a bunch more wins but for now, they have had a really hard schedule. Every player on their team contributes and can go off for a huge night. There aren’t many players more fun to watch than Joe Ingles, he just does things the way they should be done. Gobert continues to be a DPOY caliber player and seems to have improved his hands some on the lobs. That brings us to Donovan Mitchell. The Spida is picking up where he left off last year and will absolutely be their superstar.
14. Los Angeles Clippers (Prev: 19, +5)
The Clippers are so much fun to watch, all of their players are solid contributors who play their roles beautifully. They are coached well and just need a superstar or two to move into elite territory (it’s that simple right?). It may not happen this year but there is plenty of buzz around most of the premier free agents and the Clippers. They will always compete hard and Boban is one of the funnest players to watch so I expect them to hover around the middle, patiently waiting for their savior(s).
13. New Orleans Pelicans (Prev: 10, -3)
Outside of Anthony Davis (who is the closest thing to a real life 2K MyCareer player on Rookie), the Pelicans have solid options but they need more to truly compete. They are better than most of the 2000’s LeBron-led Cavs teams but in this modern NBA, one superstar just isn’t enough. Mirotic and Randle are both looking great playing next to AD but if all 3 of them are on the court, they won’t be able to keep up defensively. Keeping Boogie would have helped some but they really need a secondary isolation wing scorer. Any chance of a deal for Jimmy Butler perhaps?
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (Prev: 5, -7)
Similar to Houston, OKC started off the year very slow. They didn’t have Westbrook and the schedule wasn’t easy (the Kings are somehow not an exception) so there is reason to believe it’s just a bad start. They’ve won 6 straight and the core is really starting to gel. Schroeder looks like a great trade for them and should continue fitting in well.
11. Houston Rockets (Prev: 3, -8)
Houston had one of the ugliest starts, losing 5 of their first 6. They’ve had injury problems but they looked tired out the gates. Their only goal is to beat the Warriors, a task that seems to only get harder. I feel like they haven’t quite recovered from the very close and intense series last year. They’ve started to pull it back together and it helps to have their core trio of Harden, Paul, and Capela on the floor together. They will be fine. Oh yeah, Carmelo is just alright as expected.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (Prev: 13, +3)
I wasn’t really sure where to put Memphis at the start of the year since so much hinged on how Conley and Gasol would come back from injuries. They have played well to date and Marc Gasol is showing better passing touch than ever. It may be hard for this team to maintain their win pace with a long season and a stacked West but for now, they are back.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (Prev: 14, +5)
Portland has come out the gates swinging. Convincing wins over the Bucks, Lakers, and Rockets show this team is not going to fall apart after last years sweep. Lillard and McCollum have gotten even better while Nurkic and Zach Collins have improved in their front court. It is tough to say how far this team can go but making the playoffs and getting out of round one would be a huge success.
8. Indiana Pacers (Prev: 9, +1)
The Pacers have been really solid, led by Victor Oladipo continuing to slay teams and the mic. Domantas Sabonis is an absolute beast who has all the clever passes and screens to pop open teammates. Myles Turner has been just alright but the season is young. They will fight hard in every single game and be an absolute nuisance but it is hard to imagine a ceiling where they are a top 5 team.
7. Philadelphia 76ers (Prev: 7, 0)
6–0 at home and 1–5 away. Their away losses haven’t been to bad teams yet (depends on how you rank Detroit) but it can be telling of some issues. Their turnovers are still their biggest problem but this team is defensively a nightmare and Embiid is playing longer and better than last year. Fultz is doing just fine and his defense has been solid but the 76ers are much more dangerous when Redick is out there running around screens. We will see how long Brett Brown will keep his starting lineup and how much it affects their games.
6. San Antonio Spurs (Prev: 12, +6)
Why do we ever doubt the Spurs? DeMar DeRozan has been fully unleashed and looks great running the offense for Pop. His assist numbers are way up and should continue staying that way with the team missing a true point guard. Aldridge is still doing Alridge things and Pau Gasol continues to somehow keep playing basketball despite being ancient. The Spurs may drop off as the year goes on but for now, they are gunning hard for a top 4 seed in the West.
5. Denver Nuggets (Prev: 15, +10)
I love watching Denver play. They are ferocious, fast, and crafty. Nikola Jokic is working his way to the top of the all time passing big men list but he needs to score more. He only attempted one shot last night against Memphis; that just isn’t right. I am all about Jamal Murray going for 50 and love his competitive spirit. This team is surprising a lot of folks, myself included, but can they keep it up?
4. Boston Celtics (Prev: 2, -2)
Boston has been disappointing, but only because their talent level is the second best in the NBA. The regular season should be important since home court advantage against Philly, Milwaukee, or Toronto would give them a key advantage. Kyrie seems to be coming out of his early slump, which may have just been the result of returning from an injury. This is the kind of team that can hit 24 3’s in a night and beat anyone.
3. Milwaukee Bucks (Prev: 11, +8)
Are we witnessing the “next Warriors” being born? The jump from Jason Kidd to Mike Budenholzer is even more drastic than I could have guessed. Giannis is making his case for MVP and Khris Middleton is a legit star with the coldest ice in his veins. Teams will figure out how to attack their lengthy defense (CJ McCollum blasted them from the midrange) but as long as Giannis and Middleton stay healthy, they should be a top 5 team.
2. Toronto Raptors (Prev: 4, +2)
The Raptors are straight terrifying. Even without Kawhi, they are blowing teams out. Their depth is astounding, Kyle Lowry seems rejuvenated, and it is clear Nick Nurse should be an NBA head coach. In his last 3 games, Serge Ibaka has gone 29/35 (83%). There’s something good in the Toronto water.
- Golden State Warriors (Prev: 1, 0)
Duh again. Damn are they fun to watch though.