The first week of the 2020-21 NBA season is in the books and there are some exciting things to come out of it. Some good teams were off-par, and some expected bad teams are undefeated. Along with that, we have seen the biggest halftime deficit in history in the Mavs-Clippers game as the Mavericks dominated to ge3t their first win. With that, we take a look at the Power Rankings after Week 1 of the new season with some surprising members of the top 10:
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Pace: 104.0 (12th) OffRtg: 119.5 (1st) DefRtg: 103.5 (9th) NetRtg: +16.0 (2nd)
After a disappointing loss on ring night, the Lakers have dominated teams with the best offensive rating in the league while boasting a top ten defense. The scary part is that they have not needed LeBron or AD to take over or even play for them to perform at this level as a team. Their new additions are proving themselves and the Lakers already look like favourites to defend their championship even after just one week.
Week 2: vs POR, @ SAS, @ SAS, @ MEM
2. Brooklyn Nets
Pace: 104.5 (10th) OffRtg: 112.1 (8th) DefRtg: 95.8 (1st) NetRtg: +16.3 (1st)
The Brooklyn Nets have looked unstoppable with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the floor, dominating teams on both ends of the floor. The Nets also boast strong depth beyond their two stars and their second unit has looked comfortable most of the time. They did lose a nail-biter again the Hornets but that was without both Durant and Irving so there is little need for concern. The Nets have emerged early as the main contenders for the championship and the East and it will be up to everyone else if they are to be stopped.
Week 2: vs MEM, vs ATL, vs ATL, vs WAS
3. Indiana Pacers
Pace: 105.2 (8th) OffRtg: 112.0 (9th) DefRtg: 101.6 (6th) NetRtg: +10.4 (5th)
The Pacers have surprised a lot of people in the first week of the season, dominating teams, especially on the interior. Over the first three games, the Pacers have averaged 68 points in the paint which is more than all but two of their games last season. Sabonis has been putting up MVP numbers and looks solid next to Turner which was a concern for many analysts. They can certainly improve from beyond the arc but if they continue to dominate teams inside then it should not be too much of an issue.
Week 2: vs BOS, vs CLE, vs NYK
4. LA Clippers
Pace: 98.2 (29th) OffRtg: 105.4 (21st) DefRtg: 115.6 (23rd) NetRtg: -10.2 (27th)
The Clippers redeemed themselves from the bubble with strong wins over the Lakers and Nuggets and would potentially be number one on this list had they not suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Mavericks. They faced a 50-point deficit at half time and over the course of that one game, all of their ratings took a serious dive. If they lose Kawhi for any more than a few games, the Clippers may be in trouble in the coming weeks, but all signs point to them making a swift comeback and rising back to the top of the power rankings.
Week 2: vs MIN, vs POR, @ UTA, @ PHX
5. Atlanta Hawks
Pace: 105.8 (6th) OffRtg: 116.6 (4th) DefRtg: 101.9 (7th) NetRtg: +14.7 (3rd)
We all knew the Hawks were going to be dangerous on the offensive end but what has surprised the league is how well they have performed on defense through the first week of the season. Even without some of their key players, the Hawks have been impressive and fun to watch in their first two games. Trae Young has started the season putting up MVP numbers and looks to be putting some effort in on defense while Bogdanovic looks like an early contender for the sixth man award. The Hawks have a tough week coming up with back-to-back games against Brooklyn but if they can split their 4 games this week then they will be very pleased.
Week 2: vs DET, @ BKN, @ BKN, vs CLE
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
Pace: 101.9 (17th) OffRtg: 111.9 (10th) DefRtg: 100.3 (2nd) NetRtg: +11.6 (4th)
The Cavs have potentially been the most fun team to watch in the first week of the season. In addition, no one though the Cavs would have the number two rated defense and a top ten offense. Collin Sexton has been putting up MVP numbers while shooting the lights out along with Darius Garland. While this clearly is not sustainable, it is great to see this young team perform without the pressure of expectations. The Cavs look to be a great league pass team this season.
Week 2: vs NYK, @ IND, @ ATL
7. Orlando Magic
Pace: 105.8 (5th) OffRtg: 114.2 (5th) DefRtg: 107.3 (15th) NetRtg: +6.9 (7th)
The Magic have surprised the league by going undefeated through the first week of the season. They have been strong on offence and average on defense which has guided them to be a solid team to matchup against. Vucevic has been their star, putting up MVP numbers in week one and Markelle Fultz has looked much improved as an offensive player and can help lead this team to stay a top ten offence in the NBA. The other thing to note is their success when trailing in the fourth quarter. They have come back to win from a deficit in all three of their games so far and that says a lot about their maturity as a team.
Week 2: @OKC, vs PHI, vs OKC
8. Phoenix Suns
Pace: 101.7 (19th) OffRtg: 106.2 (19th) DefRtg: 101.3 (4th) NetRtg: +4.9 (10th)
Chris Paul has proven that he is still a clutch player in Phoenix so far this season, coming up big in their first two games which went down to the wire. Devin Booker has also looked strong even with decreased production. The main area that the Suns can improve currently is on the interior which is where Deandre Ayton will be key. Currently, the Suns rank 28th in both free throw rate and shots attempted in the restricted area so if Ayton can improve his impact, this will be a dangerous team.
Week 2: vs NOP, @ UTA, @ DEN, vs LAC
9. Dallas Mavericks
Pace: 99.8 (26th) OffRtg: 114.0 (6th) DefRtg: 105.7 (12th) NetRtg: +8.4 (6th)
It might seem strange to place a below .500 team in the top ten of the power rankings but the Mavericks’ win against the Clippers was so dominating in fashion that they had to shoot up the list. Overall, the Mavs and Luka Doncic have had a relatively slow start which I do not expect to continue. On the plus side, Josh Richardson has impressed so far with his new team, averaging nearly 17 points on impressive efficiency. Dallas has a pretty soft schedule over the next week so Luka should be able to find his form and the team success should follow.
Week 2: vs CHA, vs MIA, @ CHI
10. San Antonio Spurs
Pace: 104.7 (9th) OffRtg: 110.2 (12th) DefRtg: 105.1 (11th) NetRtg: +5.1 (9th)
The Spurs have looked impressive in their first week of the season. Aldridge and DeRozan are playing near their best and have even been stretching the floor at times. The bench has also been a major strength with Rudy Gay a +44 in total and Patty Mills averaging nearly 15 points in just 24 minutes. Gregg Popovic appears to have gotten his mojo back and can hopefully continue to lead this team back into the playoffs after his first extended offseason this century. The real test for them will come this week with back- to-back games against the Lakers.
Week 2: vs LAL, vs LAL, vs UTA
11. Miami Heat
Pace: 101.5 (20th) OffRtg: 107.9 (17th) DefRtg: 103.4 (8th) NetRtg: +4.5 (12th)
This seems like a fair spot for Miami after they split their first two games without really showing us too much to project their season on. Starting Tyler Herro was a bold move that has not paid off quite yet, but I love them bringing Dragic off the bench as he is thriving in this position. It may be better to start Nunn or Bradley in place of Herro and allow him to excel in the same role that he had last year. The back-to-back against Milwaukee will be a true test to see where the Heat are this season.
Week 2: vs MIL, vs MIL, @ DAL
12. New Orleans Pelicans
Pace: 100.7 (23rd) OffRtg: 102.0 (27th) DefRtg: 101.3 (5th) NetRtg: +0.7 (14th)
Stan Van Gundy was tasked with fixing the defense of this team and so far, he looks to have had a significant impact as the Pelicans have boasted a top five defense through the first three games. Unfortunately, their stellar defense has come at a cost with their offense looking lacklustre and bottom four in the league. Having said that, Brandon Ingram looks to be an all-star again this season while Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson seem to have taken the next step in their development over the offseason. If they can get their offense going, the Pelicans look to be a team that no one is excited to face in the West.
Week 2: @ PHX, @ OKC, vs TOR
13. Philadelphia 76ers
Pace: 100.8 (22nd) OffRtg: 104.3 (23rd) DefRtg: 104.0 (10th) NetRtg: +0.3 (16th)
The Philadelphia 76ers have been an inconsistent team to start the season with their roster not really able to get on the same page through the first three games. Their defense is much better than their offense which was to be expected and they have a way to go on that end of the floor. Seth Curry has been a handy addition, providing some consistent shooting while their other shooter in Danny Green has struggled. Ben Simmons looks like he is still rounding into form while Joel Embiid looks like this could be his most dominant season yet if he can remain healthy. The Sixers could be a scary team if they can become a little more consistent as a team.
Week 2: vs TOR, @ ORL, vs CHA
14. Utah Jazz
Pace: 101.8 (18th) OffRtg: 113.2 (7th) DefRtg: 106.4 (14th) NetRtg: +6.8 (8th)
The Jazz are difficult to place on this week’s power ranking as they looked dominant in their first game against Portland but a few nights later, they looked lost against a mediocre team in Minnesota. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have looked okay so far but definitely have a lot of room to improve for the Jazz to make any sort of noise in the West. The major surprise for Utah so far this season has been Mike Conley who has looked like the Jazz’s best player through two games and he could be the key to the Jazz improving from last season if he can keep it up and become the true third star on this team.
Week 2: @ OKC, vs PHX, vs LAC, @ SAS
15. Milwaukee Bucks
Pace: 103.2 (15th) OffRtg: 118.6 (2nd) DefRtg: 114.0 (22nd) NetRtg: +4.7 (11th)
There are a lot of factors that play into the Bucks’ slow start. The angst surrounding Giannis’ contract decision and the multiple roster changes in the offseason most notably. However, the Bucks have looked very poor on the defensive end, which is uncharacteristic for this team, especially when you have the reigning defensive player of the year leading the roster. Giannis has also looked a bit slow to start the season, but I anticipate that will pick up the closer we get to the playoffs. The Bucks will be happy with Holiday and Middleton who have both been shining in the new season and look to be very solid pieces next to Giannis this season.
Week 2: @ MIA, @ MIA, vs CHI
16. Boston Celtics
Pace: 100.2 (24th) OffRtg: 108.0 (15th) DefRtg: 116.9 (26th) NetRtg: -8.9 (24th)
With Kemba Walker missing the start of the season, the Celtics have been missing a dedicated playmaker and Tatum has had to take on the load on offense. While Tatum and Brown have looked impressive, there is plenty of room to grow. Tatum has only taken four free throws and needs to improve his game on the interior and while the Celtics have had a tough schedule to open their season, there is still no excuse for poor shot selection so look for Brad Stevens to make some changes going into next week and until they get Kemba back in the lineup.
Week 2: @ IND, vs MEM, @ DET, @ DET
17. Denver Nuggets
Pace: 98.6 (27th) OffRtg: 110.6 (11th) DefRtg: 118.4 (29th) NetRtg: -7.8 (22nd)
Nikola Jokic looks like a serious MVP candidate through two games and was coming up clutch down the stretch against Sacramento but outside of him, the Nuggets look lost, especially on defense. They are struggling with rebounding and look lost on the defensive end a lot of the time. The offense will always be there for this team and will even improve as Murray and Porter find their feet, but it is the effort and energy on defense that will define this team’s season.
Week 2: vs HOU, @ SAC, vs PHX, @ MIN
18. Portland Trail Blazers
Pace: 98.6 (27th) OffRtg: 109.6 (13th) DefRtg: 118.8 (30th) NetRtg: -9.2 (24th)
The Trail Blazers are still not a good side on the defensive end despite the significant roster changes in the offseason, but the good news is that CJ McCollum looks to be back to all-star level next to Damien Lillard. In order to take the next step as a team, Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr will have to produce on defense like they were brought in to do and then you can rely on the offense of the backcourt to take the Blazers over the line in most games.
Week 2: @ LAL, @ LAC, @ GWS, @ GWS
19. Houston Rockets
Pace: 97.8 (30th) OffRtg: 117.8 (3rd) DefRtg: 117.4 (27th) NetRtg: +0.3 (15th)
There is only so much James Harden can do and their only game of the season so far against Portland proved that. The Rockets missed out on their first game due to COVID protocols and will be missing key players like Wall, Gordon, and Cousins for at least one more game and their only game against Portland was concerning. Harden had a massive night, notching 44 points and a career high 17 assists and Christian Wood looked exciting but outside of that, the Rockets struggled. Their defense is of most concern and will need to improve significantly if they want to make the playoffs this year. We will see how the Rockets look once they are able to produce their full roster for a game.
Week 2: @ DEN, vs SAC, vs SAC
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
Pace: 103.8 (13th) OffRtg: 102.3 (26th) DefRtg: 108.7 (18th) NetRtg: -6.4 (20th)
The Timberwolves suffered a tough loss in Karl-Anthony Towns who dislocated his wrist late against Utah and is expected to miss several weeks. With KAT injured, the offensive load falls on Russell and Edwards and that is a concern as even with Towns, their offense was among the worst in the league. Their win against the Jazz was reassuring and the Timberwolves can still realistically keep their sights on a top 10 finish in the West, but they will need to develop a lot of their young players in a hurry if they are to achieve that goal.
Week 2: @ LAC, vs WAS, vs DEN