NBA Power Rankings: Risers and fallers after a wild opening week



The LA Clippers, thanks to an impressive 2-0 start — a season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers and a Christmas Day triumph against the Denver Nuggets — might have had the inside track for No. 1 in our latest NBA Power Rankings.

In a matinee showdown, the Dallas Mavericks built a 50-point halftime lead on the Clippers en route to a 124-73 victory, representing the Clips’ worst loss in team history.

And they weren’t alone during a wild Sunday slate that saw the Milwaukee Bucks lose to the New York Knicks by 20 and the Cleveland Cavaliers take down the Philadelphia 76ers by 24.

So where does that leave us? Here’s where all 30 teams stand one week into the 2020-21 campaign.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin, Eric Woodyard, Royce Young and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

The Lakers’ offense sputtered on opening night, mustering just 109 points on 46.9% shooting (31% from 3) against the Clippers, before exploding in their next two games. L. A. hung 138 points on Dallas in its next game, having three guys score 20 or more and five reach double digits, and then 127 points on Minnesota — in a game that Anthony Davis sat out — with six players scoring 10 or more. — McMenamin

The Nets ended it with a distasteful loss to the Hornets, but the opening week of the season provided a significant win. The Nets looked fantastic in their first two games, blowing out the Warriors and taking over in the second half against the Celtics. But more than that, in all three games, Kevin Durant showed no signs of struggle in returning from his Achilles tendon injury. And his partnership with Kyrie Irving took off running, with the duo playing off each other and in good rhythm. The loss to the Hornets did bring to light the concern some have with the Nets, though: a lack of a consistent third scorer. — Young

If the first two games were a psychiatric test to see where the Clippers were at mentally after their bubble meltdown, Tyronn Lue’s team passed. They watched big leads dwindle but held on to spoil the Lakers’ ring night and Denver’s Christmas. But after losing a bloodied Kawhi Leonard during that win over the Nuggets, the Clippers didn’t show up for their Sunday matinee home opener, trailing by a historic 50 points at halftime and suffering their worst loss in franchise history to Dallas. — Youngmisuk

Milwaukee is 1-2 to start the season after a 20-point loss at New York on Sunday, the Bucks’ second-largest loss under coach Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks are the fifth team over the past 30 seasons to be a 13-point favorite or greater and lose by 20-plus points, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Milwaukee is still trying to find a groove with its new additions, notably former All-Star Jrue Holiday. Reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo also is trying to lead his team in the right direction after a shortened offseason. — Woodyard

Erik Spoelstra’s team found its rhythm on Christmas Day in a nice win against the Pelicans. Duncan Robinson’s development continues to give other teams fits from the outside, and rookie Precious Achiuwa’s activity is a good sign moving forward. The Heat will continue to keep a close eye on Jimmy Butler’s minutes — especially after he had to leave Friday’s game with an ankle injury. — Friedell

It’s been a disappointing opening week for Philadelphia under Doc Rivers, as the 76ers looked fairly unimpressive in beating the Wizards and Knicks, before getting routed by the Cavaliers. Something else to monitor is Joel Embiid’s back, as he was a late scratch from Sunday’s game in Cleveland with back tightness. — Bontemps

Boston is one miracle, banked-in 3-pointer away from being 0-3 to start the season. Yes, the Celtics played three top-tier teams in the East, but the combination of a lack of depth and a lack of scoring punch, particularly without Kemba Walker, is glaring. Until he is back healthy, this team is likely going to struggle. — Bontemps

Bojan Bogdanovic might need some time to regain his form after recovering from the surgery on his shooting wrist that prevented him from playing in the bubble. Bogdanovic, who wasn’t cleared for contact until early in training camp, is only 8-of-30 from the floor through the Jazz’s first two games. — MacMahon

Nikola Jokic hasn’t skipped a beat, just missing out on starting the season with consecutive triple-doubles by one rebound. But Jamal Murray looked like he left his shot in the bubble, until he finally got going in the second half against the Clippers. So far through two games, Denver’s defense misses glue guys such as Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and Torrey Craig. Michael Porter Jr. needs more than the nine shots he got against the Clippers. — Youngmisuk

Indiana jumped out to a strong start with wins over New York, Chicago and Boston. The Pacers had 21-0 and 18-0 runs on Saturday against the Bulls. Indiana became the first team with multiple runs of 18-0 or better in one game since the Hawks did it against the Grizzlies on March 1, 1998, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. — Woodyard

This just in, the Suns can lose games. Phoenix dropped its first regular-season game since March 10 after winning eight in a row in the bubble. They also avenged that one loss a night later by upending the same Kings squad that bested them. So far, Chris Paul has shown off his Point God status with 27 assists and just five turnovers in the Suns’ first three games. — Lopez

After an embarrassing Christmas blowout loss to the Lakers, the Mavs had an intense practice focused on the defensive end of the floor. Dallas responded by routing the Clippers by 51. “We showed who we are,” Luka Doncic said after Sunday’s win. “People judged us off the first two games of the season. It’s a long season, but we’ve got to keep going like that. We’ve got to play defense. That’s our specialty from now on.” — MacMahon

CJ McCollum’s supernova 44-point eruption — including the game winner — against the Rockets gave the Blazers a decent opening week, after shrugging off an ugly 20-point loss to the Jazz. But both games revealed some early worries for Portland. Like in past seasons, the Blazers’ bench was inconsistent. The bench was an offseason focus with a few additions, and it will possibly jell as the season goes; but it’s not a great sign when Gary Trent Jr., one of your top bench weapons, plays only six minutes and goes scoreless against Houston. — Young

The Pelicans have won their first two games of the season by leaning on Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson — and by playing defense. In both of their wins, the Pelicans have held their opponents to under 100 points. They only did that four times in 72 games a season ago. Some of that has to do with pace, but the Pelicans were committed to getting better on the defensive end this season, and they appear to be doing so. — Lopez

A pair of disappointing losses to open the year have Toronto two games under .500 for the first time in seven years. Is that a sign of regression for the Raptors or just a sloppy start? A showdown with the Sixers and a rematch with the Pelicans this week will provide an opportunity to find out. — Bontemps

After the Hawks didn’t get invited to the bubble, Trae Young had to wait around for more than nine months to play an organized basketball game. He started out his regular season with a bang, though — scoring 37 points on 12 field goal attempts. That’s the most points ever on 12 or fewer shot attempts in the shot clock era. He followed that up with a 36-point performance to lift the Hawks to a 2-0 start. — Lopez

DeMar DeRozan went 9-of-35 from deep last season, just a little over half an attempt from deep per game. He already has attempted eight 3-pointers so far this season, as he seems to be taking more of what the offense is giving him. He also is making the right decisions, averaging 9.0 assists per game as he leads the charge for a Spurs team balancing the veterans’ minutes with those of some of their younger players. — Lopez

The hottest team in basketball through one week? The Magic can make a strong case after coming back from a 17-point deficit to start the fourth quarter in a win over the Wizards. Steve Clifford’s team is playing tough early and getting a big boost from young guard Markelle Fultz and veteran Terrence Ross. The pair combined for 52 points in Sunday’s victory. — Friedell

James Harden and Christian Wood might not end up being teammates for long, but the Rockets’ prized free-agent acquisition appears to be a phenomenal offensive complement to the perennial MVP candidate. Seven of Harden’s 17 assists in the Rockets’ opener went to Wood, who had 31 points on 14-of-22 shooting, including six dunks. “[Wood] does a lot of things well,” said Harden, who had 44 points. “He made me look good tonight.” — MacMahon

When De’Aaron Fox — fresh off signing his five-year, maximum extension this offseason — was good, so were the Kings. The young point guard averaged 22.5 points on 44% shooting and seven assists through Sacramento’s 2-0 start. Then, in Game 3, he was less than stellar — 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting, 4 assists, 5 fouls, 5 turnovers — and the Kings lost to Phoenix 116-100. Sacramento’s success, or lack thereof, will follow the Fox. — McMenamin

The left wrist injury to Karl-Anthony Towns disrupted a really positive opening week for the Wolves, with his importance put on full display in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Lakers. But the Wolves are young and growing, and there are encouraging takeaways, particularly Anthony Edwards’ solid start to his career. Plus, Towns’ injury isn’t as bad as initially feared. He should be back soon, and the Wolves can look to regain some of that momentum. — Young

The Cavs are 3-0 to start the season for the first time since 2016-17 (and the first time without LeBron James on the roster since 2000-01). Collin Sexton has averaged 27 points, Andre Drummond has averaged 14.7 rebounds and Darius Garland has averaged 8.3 assists in wins over Charlotte, Detroit (in double-overtime) and a Philadelphia team missing Joel Embiid. Kevin Love (strained right calf) will undergo an MRI this week. — McMenamin

Ja Morant is off to a sensational start to his sophomore campaign, setting a Grizzlies record for most points (72) in the first two games of a season. But the short-handed Grizzlies have fallen apart when Morant rests. The Grizzlies have been outscored by 30 points in the 27 minutes with their young star on the bench. — MacMahon

Damion Lee’s game winner Sunday night over the Bulls saved the Warriors from an 0-3 start. Stephen Curry is going to get rolling after a slow start, as evidenced by his 36 points on Sunday, but it’s Kelly Oubre Jr.’s shooting that is concerning for the Warriors. He is now 0-for-17 from behind the arc to start the year and continues to look uncomfortable as he tries to acclimate to Steve Kerr’s system. — Friedell

Russell Westbrook is back to his triple-double ways in D. C., and Bradley Beal isn’t having any problem scoring alongside his new point guard. But the Wizards still can’t get stops when they need them. They have surrendered 40, 38 and 43 points in the fourth quarter in their three losses to the Sixers and the Magic. The Wizards are still not at full strength with Davis Bertans on a minutes restriction and Rui Hachimura (eyes) still out. — Youngmisuk

There’s a strange purgatory for tanking — ahem, repositioning — teams where the actual current existing team with actual current existing players is still playing games and trying to win them. After a weird — and somewhat fitting — start in which their first game was postponed, the Thunder are 1-0 after Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hit a game winner against the Hornets. That’s the thing with a tanking team: There will still be some good nights, but the last few minutes, when OKC nearly blew a 13-point lead in 90 seconds, were a good illustration that there will be plenty of rough ones too. — Young

Who would’ve thought Tom Thibodeau’s first win as head coach of the Knicks would come in a blowout victory over Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks? While rookie Obi Toppin’s calf injury is a disappointment, Julius Randle has been terrific to start the season for New York — as has Alec Burks off the bench. — Bontemps

The Hornets got a much-needed win on Sunday night over Kevin Durant and the Nets that saved the start to their season. After registering two straight losses to the Cavaliers and a rebuilding Thunder team, Gordon Hayward showed the kind of star potential the Hornets are banking on by dropping 28 points, seven assists and six rebounds on one of the league’s most intriguing teams. — Friedell

After a busy offseason, the Pistons are still working through growing pains with plenty of new faces in the lineup. Detroit dropped its season opener at Minnesota then its home opener in double overtime on Saturday to Cleveland. New general manager Troy Weaver has created a buzz around the team, but there’s work to be done before guys start jelling. — Woodyard

Despite a new coach and a new front-office regime in place, the Bulls were outscored by 39 points through the first two games. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that’s tied for the worst point differential through the first two games of a season in franchise history. It also happened in 2001-02, when the team went 21-61. But Sunday night’s loss — a 1-point heartbreaker to the Warriors — might have hurt most of all. — Woodyard

This week: @WAS, @WAS, @MIL, DAL

This Post was originally published on espn.com


Like it? Share with your friends!

1.1k SHARES
0
1.1k SHARES, 0 points

What's Your Reaction?

Damn! Damn!
0
Damn!
Boo! Boo!
0
Boo!
lol lol
0
lol
Cry Cry
0
Cry
Dislike Dislike
0
Dislike
Like Like
0
Like
confused confused
0
confused
fail fail
0
fail
fun fun
0
fun
love love
0
love
omg omg
0
omg
win win
0
win

Comments 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA Power Rankings: Risers and fallers after a wild opening week

log in

Captcha!

reset password

Back to
log in