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NBA Power Rankings – 11/27

With each team having played 15 games, Moke Hamilton publishes our first power rankings of the season.

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With Thanksgiving having come and gone, we have officially reached the first checkpoint of the young NBA season. In the spirit of the holiday, we will give thanks for three things that have caught our eyes early in the season.

First, let’s thank Phil Jackson and his front office for drafting Kristaps Porzingis for the New York Knicks. Thus far, though it’s early, Porzingis looks less like the project that we all thought he was and more like a bona fide contender for the Rookie of the Year award.

Second, we will give thanks to the Eastern Conference for what appears to be a resurgence. Entering play on November 27, there are 10 teams in the East that have at least a .500 win percentage, while there are only six such teams out West. Does that mean anything?

Finally, of course, we give thanks to the Golden State Warriors, who have set a new record with a 16-0 start to their current season. According to Stephen Curry, the team might have their eyes set on winning 33 straight games, the record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.

Here are our first power rankings of the 2015-16 season:

 

1. Golden State Warriors (16-0)

Now that they reached 16-0, everyone is going to be looking at 33 straight wins and 72 total wins as milestones for these Warriors. Anything is possible, but if they manage to get past the Suns and Kings over the next few days, they have a daunting seven-game road trip coming up, so 33-0 is not likely.

Last Week: —

 

2. San Antonio Spurs (12-3)

While everyone pays attention to the Warriors, the Spurs are also dominating once again. Kawhi Leonard’s 21.8 points per game is indicative of him taking his game to the next level. Don’t be surprised if these guys end up winning a championship again.

Last Week: —

 

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (11-4)

Talk about high standards? Word on the street is that LeBron James was “disgusted” with his team after their 103-99 loss as the Raptors on Wednesday night. The loss drops the Cavs to 11-4 on the season. Mind you, that’s still good enough for tops out East.

Last Week: —

 

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (10-6)

As great as Russell Westbrook has been this year, Kevin Durant is averaging more points (28.2 versus 28.1) and he is doing it on less shots (20.4 to 18.4).

Last Week: —

 

5. Chicago Bulls (9-4)

On Monday, the Bulls will begin a stretch where nine of their following 10 games will be played at home. Already one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, we wouldn’t be surprised to see them head into Christmas as the top seed, though the Cavs will, no doubt, have something to say about that.

Last Week: —

 

6. Indiana Pacers (9-5)

Paul George’s 40-point effort on 14-for-19 shooting in Tuesday’s 123-106 win at the Wizards reminded everyone (it seems) of how great he is. Fortunately, we can assure you that we never forgot.

Last Week: —

 

7. Miami HEAT (9-5)

The HEAT may have gotten crushed by the Pistons on Nov. 25 by a score of 104-81, but we still believe that when it’s all said and done, with Hassan Whiteside in the middle, they may be the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. It’s really just a matter of their collective health.

Last Week: —

 

8. Toronto Raptors (10-6)

After adding DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors are fulfilling our expectations of them, especially after the impressive 103-99 victory over the East-leading Cavs on Nov. 25. They might be fifth out East at the moment, but they’ve looked like one of the top teams.

Last Week: —

 

9. Charlotte Hornets (9-6)

Credit the brass in Charlotte for locking up Steve Clifford on a three-year contract extension. Winners of four straight heading into Friday night’s battle with the Cavaliers, the Hornets were smart to extend Clifford the moment that his name came up as a potential target for the Rockets.

Last Week: —

 

10. Atlanta Hawks (10-7)

After beginning the season 8-2, the Hawks are just 2-5 over their last seven games. They’ve played down to the level of their competition at times, but we tend to think that they’ll be fine in the long run, even without DeMarre Carroll.

Last Week: —

 

11. Memphis Grizzlies (9-7)

The Grizzlies will play five of their next six games on the road and will attempt to build some momentum over the next few weeks. Playing .500 basketball, for this team, isn’t really much of an accomplishment.

Last Week: —

 

12. Dallas Mavericks (9-7)

A three-game pre-Thanksgiving road trip saw the Mavs lose three straight games. They’ll have a chance to make it up, though, with the next three coming against the Nuggets, Kings and Blazers. Let’s see if Deron Williams and Raymond Felton can help these guys stay afloat.

Last Week: —

 

13. Detroit Pistons (8-7)

Andre Drummond. Andre Drummond. Andre Drummond. Stan Van Gundy’s squad is quietly 3-6 over their last nine games, but holy crap, Andre Drummond. He’s still averaging 18.1 points and 17.8 rebounds per game.

Last Week: —

 

14. Boston Celtics (8-7)

Some late-game heroics helped the Celtics avoid the dubious distinction of being the team that the Philadelphia 76ers got their first win against. On Wednesday night, they sent the Sixers to the Thanksgiving break after narrowly beating them, 84-80. Sigh of relief.

Last Week: —

 

15. New York Knicks (8-8)

The recent four-game road trip ended with a 2-2 split, and Kristaps Porzingis has become a stud. At some point, we need to apologize to Phil Jackson. He has assembled a team that is playing hard, and Porzingis has exceeded expectations. Now, if only Carmelo Anthony could shoot better than 41 percent.

Last Week: —

 

16. Utah Jazz (7-7)

The Jazz added to the misery of the Clippers back on Nov. 25, with the victory pulling the Jazz to .500 on the season. They’re still a dark horse candidate for a playoff spot out West.

Last Week: —

 

17. Washington Wizards (6-6)

We are still waiting for the Wizards to give us some sustained consistency. It’s getting a bit tired at this point, especially since we were expecting this team to go to the next level this season.

Last Week: —

 

18. Phoenix Suns (7-8)

There’s not much to complain about when Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe are combining to give you 45 points per game. They’re still hanging tough out West, but will be locked in a season-long dog fight.

Last Week: —

 

19. Los Angeles Clippers (7-8)

With a six-game home stand set to begin on Nov. 27, the Clippers will have some much-needed home cooking and an opportunity to practice and attempt to build some positive momentum. They may have looked like trash lately, but we remain believers that they’ll right their ship.

Last Week: —

 

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-8)

By the time this season is over, Karl-Anthony Towns will have run away with the Rookie of the Year award and will already be mentioned along the likes of Anthony Davis as big men who entered the league and made an immediate impact.

Last Week: —

 

21. Orlando Magic (7-8)

With Scott Skiles attempting to inject some life into his lineup, he benched Victor Oladipo. We’re not sure if we like the move, but Oladipo scored 24 points off of the bench and the Magic beat the Knicks, so it’s difficult to argue with the results.

Last Week: —

 

22. Denver Nuggets (6-9)

The Nuggets will visit the Sixers on Dec. 5, so we already have that game circled as the time when, perhaps, the Sixers remind us all that they are capable of winning a basketball game.

Last Week: —

 

23. Milwaukee Bucks (6-9)

Looks like Jason Kidd’s kids still have some learning to do. Winners of just six of their first 15 games (with only three of those wins coming over winning teams), maybe the Bucks aren’t a shoe-in to return to the playoffs in an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference?

Last Week: —

 

24. Portland Trail Blazers (6-10)

If you haven’t been paying attention to the Blazers, you’ve missed out on the majestic rise of C.J. McCollum. His 19.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game will only improve as he continues to become an everyday contributor at the NBA level.

Last Week: —

 

25. Sacramento Kings (6-10)

Rajon Rondo has four triple-doubles on the season and eight games with at least 12 assists. Not bad for a point guard that everyone proclaimed to be washed up, huh?

Last Week: —

 

26. Houston Rockets (5-10)

Losers of seven of their last eight games, the only thing that could make this season worse for the Rockets would be losing to the Sixers on Friday night. Not even the curse of Lil B is that strong though, right? RIGHT?!

Last Week: —

 

27. New Orleans Pelicans (4-11)

The recent three-game win streak over the Spurs and a home-and-home against the Suns was the first time all season that the Pelicans won consecutive games. Now, it’s time to see if Alvin Gentry can sustain the momentum.

Last Week: —

 

28. Brooklyn Nets (3-12)

The most appropriate term for the Nets this season, thus far, would be “dumpster fire.” However, let’s not forget that they were a three-foot tip-in away from beating the Golden State Warriors just a few weeks ago. We’re still trying to figure out how this team can play so good but still so bad. Go figure.

Last Week: —

 

29. Los Angeles Lakers (2-12)

We are in the minority who believe that Kobe Bryant still has something left in the tank; we just think, at his old age, it’s taking him awhile to get warmed up. We’ll give him until Christmas before we proclaim him truly washed up. The bright side for the Lakers? Their draft pick this year is top-three protected.

Last Week: —

 

30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-16)

Jahlil Okafor got into a “street fight” after his team’s heart-breaking loss to the Celtics on Nov. 25, but if that fighting spirit carries over, the Sixers will probably break their losing streak soon. At least, we hope.

Last Week: —

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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