NBA Power Rankings: Golden State Is In The Top Spot, But Who Deserves Number 2 In Week Two?

Warriors, DRE
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These are not the top 10 teams in the NBA. These are the top 10 teams in the NBA last week.

The Warriors, sure. There’s nothing cute we can write in this space that’ll encompass what Golden State has done as the lone unbeaten team left in the 2015-16 campaign. When they play up to their elite level, we’re actually starting to shrug; if they look disjointed, but inevitably get stops and grind out a low-scoring win, we worry about their legs; we’re not nervous about anything except how they’re tempting the Gods of Fate with this continued injury-free existence. (Apologies, Andrew, but as a big tough Australia native, you’re culturally expected to be recovering from a bashed face and concussion. Still, we totally hear you; knowing what we know now about concussions, it would scare the bejesus out of us, too.)

No, Golden State is locked and loaded. They have enough of a chip on their shoulder — after hearing “they were lucky, they never faced the Clippers or Spurs, everyone they went against was banged up” — they’re not liable to drop off much this season, and they’re now making cuts and dishing the ball… like Steph shoots in pregame. Everything’s reflexive, there’s no time to ponder, and their offensive fluidity stems organically around their spectacular backcourt.

Plus, we love how Harrison Barnes has been looking. He’s making the right pass and not getting bogged down trying to make the spectacular finish; even though he’s athletic enough to pull off those mid-air Monta Ellis layups, he’s finding the shooter in the corner when his man rotates over, or dumping it to the big. Nothing’s forced. He just doesn’t seem as rushed as he did last year.

That’s not to say he’s been perfect, but he’s doing better and the improvement is noticeable. Winning has a way of making everyone relaxed, but Barnes is playing like a man who saw Jimmy Butler get paid — like, paid — and he’s thinking the same thing might happen this summer if he can show teams he’s a viable offensive instigator off the high screen, and warrants max money.

Anyway, the Warriors aren’t really the story because they’re everyone’s story. That’s what happens when you’re the defending champs with the defending MVP playing beyond what those designations stand for. But there are 29 other teams, and their second weeks went well, too, or at least well enough to be considered in the top third of the Association between Nov. 2 and Nov. 10, today.

Week 2 Power Rankings

All games from Nov. 2 – 9.

1. Golden State Warriors


kevin love, lebron james BIG
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2. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are in the No. 2 spot because they went 4-0 this week, but those wins came against Philadelphia (twice), Indiana and the Knicks. Not exactly the gauntlet of the Western Conference. If you didn’t already know, the Dubs haven’t even played an Eastern Conference team yet. But they have LeBron James, and he just became the 20th player in NBA history to eclipse 25,000 points. Also, he doesn’t turn 31 until Dec. 30. And the whole Love-LeBron chronicle appears to be in the past.

3. Houston Rockets

After their 0-3 start, the Rockets beat the Thunder and the Clippers, two top-tier Western Conference challengers, in the same week they went 4-0. Hey, one week doesn’t decide a season! I know this a crazy concept to grasp, which is why doing our power rankings in one-week ranking intervals is only going to mess with so many people’s heads. Right now, it’s fine, but in mid-January when the Hornets got 3-0 one week and rise to the top of the rankings, some of our readers will consider it a flagrant debasement of the power ranking structure. But this is a good way to read about every team, something we find important here at DIME. Oh right, Houston. The Rockets live or die by James Harden still. Dwight is now the NBA’s biggest dunce, but not the kind conspiring against Ignatius J. Reilly. He’s a fool without the Shakespearean preface, so just a fool. The Rockets might have the backing of analytics, a savvy GM, a new guard to help alleviate the strain from one of the best players on the planet in James Harden, but people are still gonna roll their eyes at them coming out of the West.

4. Utah Jazz

The team that causes Jack to use multiple exclamation points un-ironically leads the NBA with the lowest defensive rating in the game. Rudy Gobert is turning Jack’s preseason DPOY pick into prescience (he did it privately, unfortunately). Opponents are shooting 30.9 percent at the rim against him, the best such mark among players who defend against at least five rim attempts per game and have appeared in five games (God, we’re so early in this season).

They were tested Tuesday night against Cleveland, losing Gobert in the process, and now they have to go against the rest of some better Eastern Conference teams this coming week when traveling to Florida to face Miami and Orlando before going north to Atlanta. If they can go 3-1 on that road trip, the demise of the East is very real and very present, but it’ll bode well for the countless writers who picked them in the preseason to squeak into the Western bracket.

5. Atlanta Hawks

Before getting upset by Minnesota on Monday night, they had won seven-straight, including over the Heat and Wizards. Not exactly incredible, but for a time there, they were averaging more assists per game than the Warriors. Could it be? Could the Hawks have already started to resemble the squad that was unquestionably playing the best in the Association near the All-Star break in early February? Their defense needs to get better if they’re really going to reach that level, and that’ll mean stopping young teams like Minney. Still, Coach Bud should be happy. So far, the loss of DeMarre Carroll has been offset by the superb play of his former backup, Kent Bazemore.

6. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs went 2-1 this past week and Gregg Popovich is invoking the name of the GOAT when talking about two-way star Kawhi Leonard. And it’s not that crazy, either, especially considering Pop qualifies the assessment, largely rendering moot any outrage from people born before 1985. Leonard is just interestingly void of a public personality, you’re almost hoping he continues to shun the spotlight. It just works really well with the Borg metaphor we’ve been using for the Spurs for the last five years.

We could talk about Aldridge and his absorption into the collective known as the Spurs. I know he thought he’d get his shots, but it’s the Spurs, meritocracy rules supreme. He needs to focus on defense and moving the ball, and his little mid-range will start falling eventually.

7. Detroit Pistons

Aside from running into the Warriors machine, the Pistons continued to look impressive in week two, as Andre Drummond reached some rarefied air while picking up his second-straight Conference Player of the Week award.

Also, if you haven’t already read Jack’s essay on how Drummond has improved and what he can do to get any better, we’ll wait while you read it now. So good, right? And then DRE went out and shot 14-of-19 that Sunday because he didn’t like Jack’s belief that he needed to get more consistent on the low block.

Detroit is fun, ya’ll, and we think we even saw Andy get excited about basketball for the first time since 2005. Let’s hope they keep making these rankings all season long.

8. Portland Trail Blazers

DAME! McCollum! Stotts is getting his Dr. Jack Ramsay on. Except, the Blazers were one of the worst defensive teams over the last week, and they’re in the bottom third of the league through the season’s first two weeks. But, they beat the Timberwolves and Jazz on the road earlier in the week before falling to a good Pistons group and a tough one in front of a sparse crowd in Denver.

We’re cautiously excited about these fellas. They’re in the West, so caution is necessary even for the defending champs, but they’ve performed a lot better than most expected after losing four of their five starters over the summer.

9. Miami Heat

The Heat only went 2-2 in their second week with losses coming to the visiting Hawks and in Indiana, but they allowed the fewest points per possession in the Association during those games, and the offense is still fitting together. Justise Winslow is making Michael Jordan look foolish. He’s got the highest net rating of anyone still left on the team — that’s right, ‘Rio was leading the pack before getting dealt to Memphis, and he’s already forcing Erik Spoelstra to play him more than expected. That’s a good problem to have.

The five-man lineup of Luol Deng, Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside and Winslow is plus 41.7 in 38 minutes together so far this season, the highest rating of any five-man group with more than 10 minutes together on the court. The Heat might be elite, and not just in the East, so keep an eye on Spoelstra’s substitution patterns over the next few weeks. We think he might have some fun wrinkles coming once the dust from the Chalmers trade settles.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves

Why the hell not? Did you see KG when they were handing Atlanta their first loss in seven games? That’s no creampuff of an opponent, either. A few other things to note: Karl Anthony-Towns seems like a young player who hears something from KG or Sam Mitchell and immediately applies it to his game. There’s very little lost once the instruction or advice is doled out, too. That’s not to say he’s smarter than the regular rookie, just that he’s a quick study.

And Andrew Wiggins is lifting off in both senses of the expression.

The T-Wolves are as much fun as the winter weather in Minnesota can be bleak. And maybe it’s that dichotomy that makes us so happy for Timberwolves fans. Or, perhaps, it’s because since honorably discharging Kevin Love to Minnesota, the team’s on-court infrastructure improved noticeably under the care of Flip Saunders. R.I.P., good sir; we all miss you.

Honorable Mention: the Boston Celtics. They ranked ninth in offensive rating and fourth in defensive rating for the week. It’s too small a sample size to reward them just for that, but keep an eye on Brad Stevens’ bunch.