As we approach mid-November, each NBA team has played at least seven games. From Reggie Jackson in Detroit to Khris Middleton in Milwaukee to Gordon Hayward in Utah, injuries have already become an issue in the early going. There have been some good surprises (such as the Charlotte Hornets, who clock in at 6-1 through seven games) and some not so good ones (how is it that the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards continue to struggle?).
Now that we have an idea of who the NBA teams are, Basketball Insiders drops its first weekly Power Rankings. Check back each Friday afternoon to see how your favorite team stacks up against its competitors across the league.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (Overall: 0-7, Last Week: N/A)
The Sixers haven’t exactly made a habit of winning games in November and December, but we are all in on Joel Embiid and have to acknowledge how competitive these guys have been.
29. New Orleans Pelicans (Overall: 1-8, Last Week: N/A)
The Pelicans got their first win of the season on Thursday night at the Bucks, but it was Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical’s Friday morning report that Jrue Holiday is returning to the team next week that is the better news.
28. Dallas Mavericks (Overall: 2-6, Last Week: N/A)
The Harrison Barnes era in Dallas hasn’t gotten off to a fantastic start, and it’s not a good sign when your team makes more headlines for banning respected journalists as opposed to spirited play. Bright side: Dirk is on his way back.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (Overall: 2-5, Last Week: N/A)
Perhaps the T-Wolves are this season’s version of the Pelicans? Maybe they’re a team whose potential made us lose sight that becoming a winner in the league takes time? And can someone explain how they are allowing 108.5 points per 100 possessions (24th in the league)? We need help (just like they do).
26. Miami HEAT (Overall: 2-5, Last Week: N/A)
Dwyane Wade’s return to Miami on Thursday night was about as emotional as one would expect. The 98-95 loss to the Bulls was somewhat expected, but if there’s a silver lining it would have to be the improved play of Justise Winslow. He’s nearly doubling and tripling his scoring and assists from last season.
25. Washington Wizards (Overall: 2-5, Last Week: N/A)
If things don’t change in D.C. soon, the team needs to consider making a drastic change. There is simply no reason or excuse for these guys to rank in the bottom half of offensive efficiency. The lone bright spot? Their two wins have come over tough competition (Hawks, Celtics).
24. Denver Nuggets (Overall: 3-5, Last Week: N/A)
The Nuggets have six players averaging double figures points with another player (Nikola Jokic) at 9.9 per game. We love the strength in numbers approach, but without an alpha-scorer and a superstar, these guys will continue to pull up the rear in the Northwest.
23. Phoenix Suns (Overall: 3-6, Last Week: N/A)
It’s gonna be a long season out in Phoenix, but the 20-year-old Devin Booker (who was our pick for Most Improved Player) will make it enjoyable to watch.
22. Orlando Magic (Overall: 3-5, Last Week: N/A)
After winning three straight, the Magic have lost their last two. Word on the street is that if there’s no playoff berth this season, general manager Rob Hennigan may be shown the door. Of those two scenarios, the latter appears more likely at the moment.
21. Brooklyn Nets (Overall: 3-5, Last Week: N/A)
With everyone in the world expecting the Nets to be a lottery team, let’s acknowledge the brilliant job Kenny Atkinson has done coaching these guys. And let’s also acknowledge that the Nets are proving that, despite the names on the back of the jersey, if you play with effort, you’ll have a chance to win in the NBA.
20. Sacramento Kings (Overall: 4-6, Last Week: N/A)
The only thing more suspenseful than waiting to see where the Kings trade Rudy Gay is going to be watching to see if they manage to lose all five of the games on their upcoming homestand. Beginning Wednesday, they host the Spurs, Clippers, Raptors, Thunder and Rockets.
19. Boston Celtics (Overall: 3-4, Last Week: N/A)
The Celtics sputtering shouldn’t come as a major surprise considering they’ve been without Al Horford, who has been absent due to a concussion. No need to panic in Boston quite yet.
18. New York Knicks (Overall: 3-4, Last Week: N/A)
Wednesday’s win over the Nets (playing without Jeremy Lin) was one the Knicks absolutely needed. Not because of any crosstown rivalry, but because 3-4 looks much better than 2-5. Far too often, their effort leaves something to be desired and that’s not good considering what’s at stake for the franchise.
17. Indiana Pacers (Overall: 4-4, Last Week: N/A)
If only the Pacers played defense as well as Paul George kicked basketballs into the stands… Indy honestly hasn’t played a difficult schedule and, on paper, should be at least 6-2. The bright spot thus far would probably be Myles Turner with his 16.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (Overall: 4-4, Last Week: N/A)
For the Bucks to fulfill their potential, Jabari Parker will have to fulfill his. His 33-point, nine-rebound effort on Thursday night was a welcomed sight, with the only unfortunate thing being that it came in a loss to the lowly Pelicans. We are still waiting for the Bucks to turn the corner.
15. Memphis Grizzlies (Overall: 4-4, Last Week: N/A)
With just two games over the past week, the Grizz got some much-needed practice time. They still seem to be a step slow, but we’ll attribute that to head coach David Fizdale still figuring things out.
14. Detroit Pistons (Overall: 4-4, Last Week: N/A)
Both Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond have played about as well as you could expect, but without Reggie Jackson, there’s only so far this team can go. Jackson recently began limited on-court activities but is still weeks away from returning.
13. Chicago Bulls (Overall: 5-4, Last Week: N/A)
On Thursday night, Dwyane Wade made his only visit to Miami this season in what was an emotional 98-95 victory. They’ve been inconsistent thus far, have lost four of their last six and have a six-game road trip beginning on Tuesday. We’re still trying to figure them out.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (Overall: 5-4, Last Week: N/A)
Wednesday’s 31-point drubbing at the hands of the Clippers and the 23-point home loss to the Dubs on November 1 show us that the Blazers may not be ready for the top tier out West just yet. We’d also like to see a little more from Evan Turner; 6.4 points per game ain’t cutting it.
11. Utah Jazz (Overall: 5-4, Last Week: N/A)
Despite missing the first six games of the season, Gordon Hayward hasn’t skipped a beat – 25.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and three dimes per game comes in handy, especially when Rudy Gobert is proving himself to be the NBA version of the Eiffel Tower. The early returns are in: these guys are good.
10. Los Angeles Lakers (Overall: 5-4, Last Week: N/A)
These aren’t Kobe Bryant’s Lakers… And that might be a good thing. Luke Walton’s team is playing hard, playing together and have scored victories over the Rockets, Hawks and Warriors. No other team in the league can boast that, even if they did lose to the Jazz.
9. Charlotte Hornets (Overall: 6-1, Last Week: N/A)
We admit that the Hornets haven’t had an incredibly difficult strength of schedule to start, but Kemba Walker has looked every bit like an All-Star and after losing Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee, it’s fair to say they’ve wildly exceeded expectations (through seven games).
8. San Antonio Spurs (Overall: 5-3, Last Week: N/A)
Kawhi Leonard’s game-tying layup didn’t drop on Wednesday night, and the Rockets took a 101-99 decision from Gregg Popovich’s team. Still, they’re holding opponents to a sixth-best 97.6 points per game and ranked eighth in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’re flirting with 60 wins. Again.
7. Houston Rockets (Overall: 5-3, Last Week: N/A)
We have no problem admitting when we’re wrong. And as it relates to the Rockets, we were wrong. Their defense has been better than expected and James Harden is proving quite the capable floor general. The MVP thus far, “the Beard” is giving you 30.6 points per game along with 13 assists.
6. Atlanta Hawks (Overall: 6-2, Last Week: N/A)
Sure, they lost to the Lakers and Wizards, but when you follow that up by beating the Rockets and Tuesday night’s 110-106 victory over the Cavs, the Hawks solidified themselves as a team to watch out East. I’ll admit that I had my doubts about the partnership between Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, but these guys look phenomenal.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (Overall: 6-2, Last Week: N/A)
We are big believers in Team Westbrook, but their 6-2 start may be fool’s gold. Still our favorite in the Northwest, only one of their wins have come over a team that made the playoffs last season (Clippers) and in each of their two losses (Warriors and Raptors), they’ve looked outmatched.
4. Toronto Raptors (Overall: 5-2, Last Week: N/A)
Considering that DeMar DeRozan has a career scoring average of 18.3 points per game and that last season’s 23.5 points per game was his career-high, we are surprised to see him as the league’s leading scorer at 34.1 points per game. More importantly, the Raptors have continued to look like the second best team out East.
3. Golden State Warriors (Overall: 7-2, Last Week: N/A)
After looking a step slow against the Lakers in the 117-97 drubbing on Nov. 4, the Dubs have shot a combined 47-98 from three-point land in the three games since—all wins. Steph Curry’s three-point streak ended, as did Kevin Durant’s 20-point streak, but these guys have their eyes set on other history.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (Overall: 6-1, Last Week: N/A)
After barely squeaking out a win against the Sixers, the defending champs lost their first game of the season to the Hawks on Tuesday. Still, they’ve looked head and shoulders above everyone else in the conference.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (Overall: 7-1, Last Week: N/A)
Despite a pretty difficult strength of schedule, the Clippers own the league’s best record. Not to take anything away from the Thunder (the only team to beat them), but the win came on the third game in four nights. Team CP3 are clearly the top dogs in the league right now.
#28 – Jacob Evans – Golden State Warriors
With the 28th overall pick, the Golden State Warriors selected Cincinnati Junior Jacob Evans.
Evans represents a solid pick for nearly any NBA team. Evans fits in the mold of a potential 3-and-D role player. Evans improved in his time at Cincinnati, culminating in his junior year, where he scored 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Evans spent three seasons at Cincinnati and rounded himself into a versatile two-way player who can bring a lot of value at the NBA level.
Evans is a very cognitive player, especially on the defensive end. He has a better grasp of his limitations than most players at this stage of their respective careers and is able to maximize his individual defensive ability within a team concept. Evans generally makes the right rotations, double-teams at the right times and funnels his opponents to where his teammates are when he cannot contain the ball-handler on his own. With the right coaching, he could become a valuable defensive wing in an NBA rotation sooner than some anticipate.
Additionally, Evans is more than just a shooter. He led his team in assists last season and has some skill as a playmaker. Evans will be more of a shooter and finisher in the NBA, but the ability to make the right pass, swing the ball when he isn’t open and take the ball off the dribble when necessary make him an intriguing prospect. This is especially true when you consider how valuable a player like Khris Middleton has become over the years, adding layers to his 3-and-D skill set each season.
The Warriors aren’t in need of an influx of talent but are happy to add Evans regardless.
#27 – Robert Williams III – Boston Celtics
With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.
With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.
Although there were early week rumors that the Celtics might try to trade up, they’ve ultimately elected to find a difference-maker at the end of the first round instead. For a team that nearly reached the NBA Finals despite debilitating injuries to Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, Boston’s roster didn’t need a wholesale change on draft night. But at No. 27, they’ll be more than happy to leave with the mysterious-but-talented Williams.
Last year, Williams was viewed as a potential first-rounder before he returned to Texas A&M for his sophomore year. In 2017-18, Williams averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds on 63.2 percent from the field, fueling the Aggies to a 22-13 record. During this current pre-draft process, Williams looked poised to become a mid-first-round selection once again — but his stock faded as the big night got closer. In fact, Williams even decided to watch the draft with his family, even though he was a green room invitee.
His stock has undoubtedly dropped as of late, but this may end up being the steal of the draft — naturally, he dropped right into general manager Danny Ainge’s lap. Williams, 6-foot-10, is a freak athlete that’ll bring a new look to an already fearsome defensive unit in Boston. At A&M, Williams won back-to-back SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and averaged 2.5 blocks per game. Of course, he’ll get the opportunity to learn from the hard-nosed Al Horford, a five-time All-Star and the defensive linchpin for Boston — a win-win situation for all.
Williams, 20, joins an extremely young core in Boston that also includes Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum, among others.
#26 – Landry Shamet – Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers select Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick.
With the 26th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select guard Landry Shamet of Wichita State.
Shamet, if he is able to fulfill his potential, should provide the Sixers with some much-needed shooting, as their rotation was noticeably starved for another deadeye sniper.
A career 43.7 percent three-point shooter, Shamet sank 44.2 percent of his shots from downtown last season, and he did so while firing nearly six attempts from deep a game. Sliding Shamet at the guard position alongside franchise point guard Ben Simmons allows for another weapon at Simmons’ disposal.
Standing at 6-foot-5 and 21 years old, Shamet has the size to play either guard spot in the NBA (especially given Philadelphia’s lengthy and versatile lineup). Along with his shooting ability, Shamet also led the American Athletic Conference with 166 assists last season. With Markelle Fultz still a question mark for Philadelphia, Shamet provides a secondary ball-handler and playmaker, whether in the starting lineup or in the reserve unit.
The first round of the 2018 NBA Draft was a whirlwind for the Sixers, and they ultimately land two guards of very separate varieties: an upside-laden athlete in Zhaire Smith, and a skillful “veteran” rookie whose skillset is established.