Jan
13
2021

NBA Power Rankings: Jan. 3-10

The NBA season is well underway and this is the first edition of the Border Fuel power rankings. Let’s dive in.

30. Detroit Pistons

Record: 2-8

The only highlight to the Pistons season so far is Jerami Grant, who has led the team in scoring for nine of the ten games. Blake Griffin has seemed to disappear as he ranks fourth on the team in both usage rate and time of possession.

29. Toronto Raptors

Record: 2-8

This is not the Raptors we have been accustomed to. The offseason losses of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol are hurting as they continue to struggle to close games out. They are 0-4 in games decided by five or fewer points.

28. Washington Wizards

Record: 3-8

The Wizards have had a horrible start to the season. They started with a five-game losing streak before defeating both Minnesota and Brooklyn.

Since then, the Wizards lost straight games, including two stellar performances from Bradley Beal, scoring 60 points against the 76ers and 41 points against the Celtics. Last night, they got a big win over the Suns which move them up.

Bradley Beal said that the team can’t guard a parked car, Thomas Bryant is out for the season due to injury, and with rumors spiraling about the job security of Head Coach Scott Brooks, it doesn’t look good for Washington.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: 3-7

The Timberwolves started strong with two wins, including one over the Jazz. Since then, they went on a seven-game losing streak before winning on Sunday against the Spurs.

26. Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 4-6

The Grizzlies are dealing with the injury bug as they are without star Ja Morant and big man Jaren Jackson Jr. They have struggled since losing Morant, but Desmond bane is playing well off the bench, shooting just under 50 percent from deep range.

25. Chicago Bulls

Record: 4-7

The Bulls started with three straight losses, but have improved over the past couple of weeks. They may be 1-3 in their last four games, but those three losses were by a combined nine points.

24. New York Knicks

The Knicks started 5-3 and showing signs of a potential fight for the playoffs. However, two straight blowout losses have brought the thumbtack down to earth. Julius Randle is playing the best basketball of his career, which is great to see.

23. Sacramento Kings

Record: 5-6

The Kings have found themselves a gem in Tyrese Haliburton. The No. 12 overall pick from this year’s draft has already secured a starting spot in a three-guard rotation with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Other than that, they have struggled to find any source of consistency.

22. Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 5-6

The Cavalier started on fire at 3-0, but since then have lost six of their last eight games. They have issues with injuries to star players Collin Sexton and Darius Garland that have had their effects. Andre Drummond is playing terrific basketball, shooting over 52 percent from the field.

21. Atlanta Hawks

Record: 5-5

The Hawks made multiple splashes during the offseason and started hot with a 4-1 record. Since then, they have lost four of their last five games. On top of the struggles on the court, Bogdan Bogdanovic is out with a broken knee and Danilo Gallinari is resting an ankle injury.

20. Houston Rockets

Record: 3-5

The Rockets are struggling. They started the season with COVID issues, and the change in coaching is having its effects. The offense is not scoring well with both Harden and Wall on the floor, and, on top of that, the defense is really bad.

19. New Orleans Pelicans

Record: 4-5

The Pelicans started the season 4-2, but have dropped three straight games. They have devastatingly dropped those games against the Pacers, Thunder, and Hornets.

The team has struggled with taking care of the basketball and rebounding. Part of this is with the rotation Zion playing the five spot. He is committing turnovers and is outrebounded, contributing to those problems.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 5-4

The Thunder started 1-3 as they continue to rebuild after trading away multiple pieces this past offseason. this past week has turned the tide for Oklahoma City as they went 4-1 on their road trip.

17. Orlando Magic

Record: 6-5

The Magic were the league’s hottest team with a 4-0 start, but they have fallen off since then. They currently stand at 6-5, losing five of their last seven games. Orlando lost the starting point guard, Markelle Fultz, to a torn ACL after losing Jonathon Isaac a couple of months ago.

16. Charlotte Hornets

Record: 6-5

The Hornets have turned it on recently, and part of it is the emergence of Lamelo Ball. He became the youngest player ever to record a triple-double on Saturday after putting on a great performance against his brother the previous night. The Hornets have won four straight and showing a lot of promise.

15. San Antonio Spurs

Record: 5-5

DeMar DeRozan has been playing really well to start this season. He tied his career-high with the team against the Timberwolves and has already hit nine threes this season, matching the amount he made last year.

14. Brooklyn Nets

Record 5-6

The Nets have had a tough go the past week or so. Kevin Durant was out three games due to the NBA health and safety protocols, and Kyrie Irving missed games due to personal reasons. The team has fallen under .500, and the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie is having some effects as well.

13. Portland Trail Blazers

Record: 6-4

The Trail Blazers backcourt has been carrying the land for the team offensively this season. It has either been Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum as the leading scorer in every game this season. This is a very good team that can make a run in the playoffs, but they have to address two areas.

The bench needs more production. Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony need to step up. Melo did have 20 points in the team’s win over Toronto on Monday, but other than that, the production hasn’t been there.

Also, they need to find ways to score in the paint as they are second to last in scoring inside the paint at nearly 40 percent.

12. Golden State Warriors

Record: 6-4

The Warriors have an interesting offense, to say the least. It is a lot of letting Curry run around until he is open and get him the ball so he can shoot. It has worked a lot, but on Sunday, with a 2-for-16 shooting performance, players like Andrew Wiggins and Eric Paschall seeped up and helped get them the win.

11. Miami Heat

Record: 4-4

The Miami Heat may have finally found their starting lineup. They have had the same four guys starting each game (Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo), but have gotten the much needed offensive boost from Kelly Olynyk.

Jimmy Butler has been nursing an ankle injury for most of the team’s first eight games, but he is averaging over 23 points per game despite poor shooting that is not inside the painted area.

10. Denver Nuggets

Record: 5-5

Despite being without a fully healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., who is out due to the health and safety protocols, the Nuggets are playing good basketball. Nikola Jokic has been laying an MVP level and is leading the team that has four on its last five games after starting 1-4.

9. Dallas Mavericks

Record: 5-4

The Mavericks started slow with a 2-4 record, but are hitting their stride as they are on a three-game winning streak. Tim Hardaway has been balling out, scoring at least 30 points in two of those games. As the Mavericks are trending up, they get back The Unicorn back as he is ready to return and make his season debut.

8. Utah Jazz

Record: 6-4

After a slow start to the season, Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has started to heat up. He has put up a pair of 30-point performances the past week, but the team has yet to get a sustained winning streak going so far.

7. Indiana Pacers

Record: 6-4

The Pacers have been playing much better basketball than I thought after losing T.J. Warren. Oladipo and Sabonis are both averaging over 20 points and five rebounds per contest, leading the team offensively. They have lost two straight games, which drops them a little bit.

6. Phoenix Suns

Record: 7-4

The Suns have been impressive to start this season. They started 5-1, including a four-game winning streak. The emergence of Mikal Bridges has been huge for the Suns on the offensive end. The trio of CP3-Booker-Ayton is playing as expected, but the key for them has been to get another guy involved offensively, and Bridges has stepped up. They would easily be a top-five team if they didn’t lose to the Wizards by 21 points on Monday.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 7-4

Before the COVID-19 outbreak amongst the team, the 76ers have had a really good start. The offense has looked much smoother with Doc Rivers, which has been evident as they are consistently scoring over 110 in victories.

Tobias Harris has been off to a hot start this year averaging 19 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, shooting over 50 percent from the floor and nearly 45 percent from beyond the arc.

4. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 7-4

The Bucks offense has been extremely dangerous this season. They are scoring at an insane rate at over 121 points per contest. Giannis is averaging over 26 points and 10 rebounds and Khris is shooting the basketball terrifically, averaging 22.5 points per game off 49.2% shooting from the three-point range.

3. Los Angeles Clippers

Record: 7-4

The Ty Lue era in Los Angeles is underway and so far, it has been really good (outside of the Mavericks loss). Paul George appears to be back as he is shooting over 49 percent from the field, including 51 percent from deep.

The return of Marcus Morris big for the team as they are fully healthy for the first time this season. However, the bench is having trouble scoring, and the defense has been shaky at best.

2. Boston Celtics

Record: 7-3

The Celtics may be in the limbo of COVID-19 issues, but they have been playing great basketball. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are playing at All-Pro levels and the team is having a ton of success without Kemba Walker.

Once this team gets Walker back, watch out because Boston is looking really good and primed for a deep run in the playoffs.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 8-3

The Lakers own the league’s best record and are dominating, winning six of their last seven games. The best duo in the NBA in LeBron and AD is playing terrific. James is averaging 24 points and 7.7 assists per game with Davis at 22.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest.

The contributions from offseason attributions of Montrezl Harrel and Dennis Schröder have also fueled the team with Harrel averaging 12 points and 8 boards, along with Schröder putting up 14/5/4 per night.

The Lakers on the defensive end are not pretty, but AD called them out and bounced back with a solid defensive performance, so it could be a turning point. Regardless, this team is playing great basketball, and a repeat is in their sights.