The second week of the 2020-21 NBA season is behind us and boy were there some highlights. LeBron continues to defeat father time, Steph Curry put up a career-high 62 points and some expected lottery teams remain in the top part of the league. So, let us dive in and take a look at the updated power rankings after week2. Who has risen and who has taken a dive?
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 1
Pace: 101.2 (20th) OffRtg: 115.7 (3rd) DefRtg: 104.5 (6th) NetRtg: +11.2 (2nd)
LeBron James, at 36 years old, is continuing to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to success. He is not taking any time off, ranking 12th in the league in minutes played but it does not seem to be affecting him as he is so far putting up MVP numbers through the first two weeks of the season. The supporting cast of Schroder and Harrell have been taking some of the load of LeBron and AD with Schroder even taking over the playmaking duties from LeBron at times and it is working. They are top six in both offense and defense and with their current dominance, I see no reason why they do not still deserve to be atop the power rankings and favourites to defend their championship.
Week 3: @ MEM, vs SAS, vs CHI, @ HOU
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 13
Pace: 102.3 (11th) OffRtg: 107.2 (16th) DefRtg: 99.7 (1st) NetRtg: +7.5 (3rd)
Early in the season, Joel Embiid is making a case for MVP. When he has played, the Sixers are undefeated as he dominated both with and without the ball. When opponents double-team him, he makes plays for open teammates and when he is not double-teamed, he obliterates his opponent at the rim for an easy bucket. In fact, the Sixers rank second in the league in ball movement which is surprising as it was not a strength of theirs last season. Ben Simmons appears to be rounding into form and the pieces that Morey has brought in to surround Embiid and Simmons have been really effective, most notable Seth Curry who has provided some reliable shooting next to Simmons who also drained his first three of the season this week. The Sixers have shot up the rankings and it is well deserved.
Week 3: vs CHA, vs WAS, @ BKN, vs DEN
3. LA Clippers
Last Week: 4
Pace: 97.2 (30th) OffRtg: 114.0 (5th) DefRtg: 111.4 (21st) NetRtg: +2.6 (9th)
Only three teams have the same record in the Western Conference as the Clippers, and they have beaten the other two in the Lakers and Suns. Paul George has been doing damage, leading the Clippers for Kawhi, and putting his name in early MVP conversations, especially after his dominant 39 point showing against the Suns. Nicolas Batum has come up clutch and has actually been performing at a serviceable level after several disappointing seasons with Charlotte. He may even retain the starting spot once Marcus Morris returns from injury. If Kawhi can get his mojo back, even with the mask, then the Clippers will continue to look dangerous and threaten the Lakers.
Week 3: vs SAS, @ GSW, @ GSW, vs CHI
4. Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 8
Pace: 97.4 (29th) OffRtg: 110.7 (13th) DefRtg: 103.4 (3rd) NetRtg: +7.3 (4th)
The Suns faced a tough schedule in week 2, going against four projected playoff teams in the Western Conference and they came up victorious in all but one of them. Even in their loss to the Clippers, the were impressive, coming back from a 31-point deficit to only lose to a clutch shot from Nicolas Batum of all people. The Suns look to be an offensively focused team but so far this season, they have been lacklustre, instead impressing on the defensive end, ranking 3rd in the league in defensive rating. If they are able to get their offense together, than the Suns start to look like a serious yet surprising contender in the West.
Week 3: vs TOR, @ DET, @ IND
5. Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 15
Pace: 104.7 (4th) OffRtg: 118.9 (1st) DefRtg: 105.6 (9th) NetRtg: +13.4 (1st)
The Milwaukee Bucks have found some form in week two, setting the record for made three-pointers in a game against the Miami Heat and have been consistent from deep so far this season. Giannis Antetokounmpo is also rounding into form and getting closer to his MVP number from the past two seasons. The Bucks, who were a defensive team last season are also now first in the league in offense so if they can get their defensive mojo back to its’ best, they will be unstoppable in week three where they face a relatively soft schedule.
Week 3: vs DET, vs DET, vs UTA, vs CLE
6. Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 5
Pace: 102.7 (9th) OffRtg: 116.7 (2nd) DefRtg: 109.4 (17th) NetRtg: +7.3 (5th)
The Atlanta Hawks’ offense has been on fire over the last week with it being basically the only thing getting them over the line in some of their games, most notably against Brooklyn. Trae Young has continued his run of MVP stat lines but was subdued by the Cavs who avoided fouling him throughout the game so it will be interesting to see if more teams follow this strategy. All of the Hawks’ players are performing well with good shooting efficiency and John Collins is working well with Clint Capela. The Hawks still have a few pieces yet to play for them but already look like a very strong team in the East.
Week 3: vs NYK, vs CHA, @ CHA
7. Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 3
Pace: 101.4 (16th) OffRtg: 112.6 (6th) DefRtg: 105.4 (7th) NetRtg: +7.2 (6th)
The Pacers rank pretty solidly in most areas of the game and that is the main reason behind their consistent play and positive record. Domantas Sabonis has also been a major reason for the Pacers’ success, putting up incredible numbers in week one and not backing off too far in week two. TJ Warren will miss some considerable time after having surgery on his left foot so we will see how the Pacers respond to losing one of their leading scorers. Overall, the Pacers have just been working great together as a team, getting contributions from all over the floor and they are a really exciting team to watch so far in the season.
Week 3: @ NOP, vs HOU, vs PHX
8. Utah Jazz
Last Week: 14
Pace: 100.0 (25th) OffRtg: 112.0 (7th) DefRtg: 106.7 (11th) NetRtg: +5.3 (7th)
The Jazz have been strong over the last week, ranking seventh in offensive rating and their best players haven’t even looked at their best. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are still warming up, but that hasn’t stopped the Jazz from ranking amongst the best in the league in net rating. Mike Conley has shouldered a lot of the load and has continued to look like a third star for this team through two weeks. If Mitchell and Gobert can rise to meet Conley offensively, then the Jazz will be a tough matchup for any team.
Week 3: @ BKN, @ NYK, @ MIL, @ DET
9. New Orleans Pelicans
Last Week: 12
Pace: 98.6 (28th) OffRtg: 105.9 (21st) DefRtg: 103.7 (4th) NetRtg: +2.2 (11th)
The New Orleans Pelicans appear to have adopted the defensive style of teams like Milwaukee and Toronto where they protect the rim at all costs which allows more three-point shots. It appears to be working as well with the Pelicans looking drastically improved on the defensive side, ranking fourth in the league in defensive rating so far this season. Brandon Ingram has also continued to look impressive, ranking 5th in Trend Basketball’s MVP rankings after 2 weeks and will almost certainly be an all-star this season. Now it’s just up to the offense to catch up and the Pelicans will be a force in the West.
Week 3: vs IND, vs OKC, vs CHA
10. Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 6
Pace: 100.1 (24th) OffRtg: 104.2 (26th) DefRtg: 101.8 (2nd) NetRtg: +2.4 (10th)
After two weeks, the Cavs somehow still rank second in the league defensively after taking down the offensive juggernaut that is Atlanta. Their three bigs in McGee, Nance and Drummond have really lifted the defense and are doing a great job of forcing turnovers and creating on the break. Darius Garland has cooled off slightly, but Collin Sexton continues to put up great offensive numbers in season number three. The offensive will ultimately need to come from somewhere else though if the Cavs are to remain successful.
Week 3: @ ORL, @ ORL, @ MEM, @ MIL
11. Boston Celtics
Last Week: 16
Pace: 100.1 (23rd) OffRtg: 111.6 (10th) DefRtg: 112.0 (26th) NetRtg: -0.4 (15th)
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been absolutely incredible over two weeks. Brown is looking like the best mid-range shooter in the league, shooting an incredible 79% on all mid-range shots with an effective field goal percentage of 66.3%. Tatum continues to come up clutch in key moments and has now sealed the game for the Celtics on multiple occasions. The Celtics still need to improve their defense significantly if they are wanting to compete and they have a tough schedule coming up which will give them the chance to prove they are an early contender.
Week 3: @ TOR, @ MIA, vs WAS, vs MIA
12. Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 2
Pace: 105.2 (8th) OffRtg: 111.6 (9th) DefRtg: 107.3 (12th) NetRtg: +4.3 (8th)
After a dominant first week of the season, the Nets are now really struggling. They have only won one of their games since losing Spencer Dinwiddie and they really are not buying into defense. They appear to be trying to beat teams purely on offense and that was put to the test against Atlanta where they spit the two-game series. Durant and Irving continue to put up strong numbers, but it doesn’t matter too much if they aren’t lifting their teammates and contributing to putting wins on the board. With a mixed week ahead, the Nets will need to lift significantly, especially on defense if they want to silence their critics.
Week 3: vs UTA, vs PHI, @ MEM, vs OKC
13. Orlando Magic
Last Week: 7
Pace: 103.9 (6th) OffRtg: 107.9 (15th) DefRtg: 107.5 (13th) NetRtg: +0.3 (12th)
The Magic were somehow the final team in the league to face defeat and now reality has set in with two crushing defeats to Philadelphia and OKC. They have lost their early touch on offense and fallen to about league average after a strong start to the season on that end. While they remain with a positive net rating, but it looks to be going downhill as there has been no one to really step up and take hold of this team over the last week. Players like Gordon, Vucevic and Fultz will need to take control and lead this team if they are wanting to get back on track soon.
Week 3: vs CLE, vs CLE, @ HOU, @ DAL
14. Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 9
Pace: 100.2 (22nd) OffRtg: 106.3 (19th) DefRtg: 106.2 (10th) NetRtg: +0.1 (13th)
The greatest offense in the history of the league is struggling so far this season along with Luka Doncic. They rank last in three-point percentage and their key shooters can’t seem to make a shot. Fortunately, the Mavs were able to get some wins on the board that seemed convincing but may have just been lucky. With Luka out due to injury and a somewhat tough schedule coming up, I can’t see the Mavs miraculously recovering without some magic from Luka or Richardson and of course Porzingis when he returns.
Week 3: @ HOU, @ DEN, vs ORL
15. Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 17
Pace: 98.6 (27th) OffRtg: 115.4 (4th) DefRtg: 115.8 (29th) NetRtg: -0.4 (14th)
The Denver Nuggets continue to be absolutely terrible on defense and they really need to clean it up if they want to make some noise in the Western Conference. Nikola Jokic continues to be dominant and Jamal Murray has finally started to heat up but when those two are on the bench, the team is abysmal, being outscored by roughly 21 points per 100 possessions while Jokic is on the bench. While their offense is great, it clearly isn’t the answer to winning basketball games so Mike Malone will need to make some serious changes moving forward and their upcoming schedule is the perfect chance to test some things out.
Week 3: vs MIN, vs DAL, @ PHI, @ NYK
16. Houston Rockets
Last Week: 19
Pace: 101.4 (18th) OffRtg: 110.8 (12th) DefRtg: 111.8 (22nd) NetRtg: -1.0 (16th)
The Rockets continue to be a frustrating team due to the James Harden saga, but it is hard to ignore good basketball when you see it. At times, the Rockets have looked impressive. John Wall has looked great coming back from an extended injury break and Christian Wood is looking like a borderline all-star and most improved player candidate early in this season. The Rockets still have defensive issues, but it has improved slightly from last week and may continue to do so as the new head coach works out his rotations. They need some more time, but the Rockets could be quite good this season.
Week 3: vs DAL, @ IND, vs ORL, vs LAL
17. Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 21
Pace: 101.4 (17th) OffRtg: 108.3 (14th) DefRtg: 109.5 (18th) NetRtg: -1.2 (17th)
Tyrese Haliburton is making his case early for rookie of the year but not for his number, for his impact on winning. He missed the game most recently against the Rockets and it really showed despite him barely having played with the team. They will need him back soon if they want to make any sort of impact this season. The Marvin Bagley saga will put a screw in the works, especially with team chemistry and could hurt the Kings in the long term. The next game against Golden State will be telling as to where the team is at this season.
Week 3: @ GSW, vs CHI, vs TOR, vs POR
18. New York Knicks
Last Week: 23
Pace: 98.9 (26th) OffRtg: 103.0 (27th) DefRtg: 105.5 (8th) NetRtg: -2.5 (19th)
The Knicks who have been abysmal on defense for over a decade are all of a sudden top ten in the league and a lot of that is due to Thibodeau. He has given this team an identity for the first time in a long time and so far, it is working. Julius Randle is creating serious all-star buzz while Robinson and Barrett are making a name for themselves. He is also giving the rookies time to grow and develop while slotting in vets like Burks and Rivers to keep the team stable. Overall, the Knicks are finally worth tuning into and while I still don’t expect them to make the playoffs, I’m excited to see how they grow this season.
Week 3: @ ATL, vs UTA, vs OKC, vs DEN
19. Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 18
Pace: 101.5 (15th) OffRtg: 111.8 (8th) DefRtg: 115.7 (28th) NetRtg: -3.9 (23rd)
Dame and CJ have been lighting it up for the Blazers so far this season and both warrant all-star discussions early. Their weakness has been on the defensive end with only two teams ranking lower on defense. Giving up 62 points to Steph Curry can be forgiven but giving up 137 points to a poor Warriors team is inexcusable. The good news is that the Blazers have a pretty easy schedule coming up with 10 of their next 12 on home turf so we will see if they can get it together on defense.
Week 3: vs CHI, vs MIN, @ SAC
20. Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 27
Pace: 107.4 (2nd) OffRtg: 105.1 (23rd) DefRtg: 115.2 (27th) NetRtg: -10.1 (29th)
Stephen Curry went to a whole different level against the Blazers, putting up a new career high of 62 points while also ending his streak of 80 free throws made. Draymond Green has also come in and impacted this team instantly despite not pu