Some would say that after ten games in the season, the sample size is too small to be able to make any generalizations about a team’s potential success. This does not stop every large news organization from continuously making guesses and lists about the best teams in the association by overinflating the importance of early season stats, single game performances and the general “feel” that a team looks good. Ten games represent over 10% of the regular season, and should be a much better barometer than pre-season rankings or even power polls after opening night. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. These polls are mostly created for people to have something to argue about. As Andrew Lynch says over at Fox Sports: “Let the arguing commence.”
Instead of taking a shot at this ourselves, here at Golden State of Mind (GSoM), we are going to simply make fun of the lists that are out there on the internet by showing how little everyone knows, while at the same time coming up with a few things that everyone seems to agree on.
Here are the major power rankings from around the league for the week of November 14th, in no particular order:
- NBA Power Rankings: Cavs, Clips keep Warriors stuck at No. 3 (ESPN)
- NBA Power Rankings: If Warriors are on their way, Clippers have already arrived (CBS)
- Power Rankings: Clippers climb to No. 1 (NBA)
- NBA Power Rankings: All hail LeBron and the Cavs (SI)
- NBA power rankings: A familiar ‘Big Three’ climbs to No. 1 in the West (FOX)
Things Everyone Seems to Agree On
The Hawks are pretty good
Are we ready to call Atlanta a surprising team? They did add an All-Star in Dwight Howard in the offseason to a roster that was already a playoff team. It could be argued that Howard is a better fit in the defensive-minded roster than Horford (a tough argument, but it could be made!) and that coming home has rejuvenated Howard’s spirit.
Atlanta seems to be in everyone’s Top 5, fitting in a tier that includes the Raptors, Spurs and even the Hornets in some places. They hold a 7-2 record, good for second place in the East behind the Cavs. They have the league’s second best defensive rating, second best SRS, fourth best Pace and they score the second most points in the league. My only comment here is that they have faced the 76ers twice, the Wizards twice and the Lakers once. But what do I know? They also beat the Cavs in Cleveland. Still, I’m hesitant and need to see them keep this up over 30 games.
This is from Matt Moore at CBS Sports:
“The Hawks aren't thriving because of Dwight Howard or the shift to Dennis Schroder. They're thriving because they play lockdown defense and the principles of what Mike Budenholzer has put in place are rock solid. Most of the team knows one another, and there's repetition and consistency. Things can surely go stale, but there's real value in having the same personnel on the floor and sideline every night, game after game, night after night, year after year.”
The 76ers are the worst
Trust the process! Embiid is a beast, though, and this team is a sneaky-good League Pass team. They fight in games harder than they did last year, so that’s a plus. It is really sad that Simmons isn’t out there, and getting Noel back soon should help some.
This is from John Schuhmann from NBA.com on the positives:
“Friday's game against Indiana looked like another "Oh, Sixers" moment, as they blew a five-point lead with less than 25 seconds left with another late-game turnover and the dumbest foul of the season. But they forsook Joel Embiid's minutes restriction to bring him back for the last two minutes of overtime to score the final five points of their first win. Thus far, The Process has had a bigger impact on defense, where the Sixers have allowed 8.1 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (101.0) than with him on the bench (109.1).”
The Warriors are the third-best team — but they are getting better!
So, apparently, rumors of a Golden State collapse have been greatly over exaggerated, and now pundits are starting to agree that the Warriors are slowly figuring it out. Just nobody is ready to call them a top-two team yet because of the Clippers’ start (more on that later). The upcoming road trip to Toronto, Boston, Milwaukee and Indiana will be huge test for the team. All four teams are in the top 8 in the East, and it should be a grind. If the Warriors end up above .500 for the trip, it not only will be a success but confirmation that they have figured some things out.
Boston is not a top-10 team until Al Horford returns
And ... just in time for a Warriors’ match-up on Friday! A rough start to the year for a team slated to be so good, 5-5 isn't going to cut it for a title contender. The Celtics lost a tough one to the Pelicans last night without two of their top six scorers in Horford and Jae Crowder, leaving their offensive options as Isaiah Thomas and, well ... yeah, that’s about it. Their defense has been atrocious, up almost six points per game while currently having the worst Def Rating allowed in the association (last year they ranked fourth). If they get back their rotation cogs, however, things could improve.
Marc Stein from ESPN laid it out like this:
“The Celtics get their second crack at Golden State on the Warriors' upcoming four-game swing through the Eastern Conference that also includes stops in Toronto, Milwaukee and Indiana. Boston has actually played the Warriors tough in each of the last two seasons, but it'd be a shame if Jae Crowder -- dealing with an ankle issue while Al Horford continues to recover from a concussion -- can't play after his memorable offseason rant about Kevin Durant's decision to join the Dubs.”
I would agree — the game on Friday night will be a huge one. Have the Warriors figured it out yet, or is Boston poised to right the ship after a rough start?
Things Nobody Can Agree On
Who is the top team in the NBA? The Clippers or the Cavs?
Between the five sites polled above, the split is almost even — three (ESPN, SI & Fox) agree LeBron James’s team is the best and two (CBS & NBA) believe the Clippers’ hot start has them as the league’s best. Let’s make the case for each:
Clippers — This team allows the league’s lowest PPG while scoring one of the highest. They’ve had big wins on the road in Portland, Memphis and San Antonio. Blake Griffin is scoring out of his mind (20.2 PPG, a plus-94 in four games last week), and Chris Paul is doing everything: averaging 19.2 PPG while chipping in close to 9 assists per game.
Cavs — They have LeBron James. They are coasting along to 8-1 while barely caring about half of these contests — they played at the 76ers, destroyed the Knicks on opening night. They have one of the best offenses in the league and when they bother to play defense, they usually win.
My vote is for the Clippers being the best team in the league right now in the same ways that kids get participation trophies. They arguably are the same team they were last year, but they are trying harder and that has produced better results — so they deserve credit. The Clippers face Memphis, Sacramento, Chicago and Toronto this week. Like the Warriors, judge them after they get through the next rough patches.
Matt Moore from CBS Sports explains:
“Straight up, this team reminds me of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks. From the aging point guard to the star power forward whose impact is overlooked, to how everyone has dismissed them because of past playoff performances. All the way down. In November of 2011, I said the Mavericks were playing like a legitimately dangerous playoff team. Then Nowitzki got hurt and everyone overlooked them for six months. Don't lose sight of how this team is playing, not just in terms of wins, but the style and fun energy they're playing with.”
How are the Spurs not a top-three team?
I guess you can only have so many winners in this league. The Spurs have eight wins at this point while having already played eleven contests compared with the Cavs’ nine. They aren’t scoring that much (20th in the league in PPG) and have already dropped three games at home to top Western teams. With that said — they are the Spurs! Many of the lists don’t even have the Spurs in the top six despite the fact that they have the second-most wins in the league so far.
Marc Stein from ESPN explains:
“Although the Spurs did manage to avoid their first four-game home losing streak since way back in 2002 by beating Detroit on Friday night, they've still got us asking an unusually high number of Spurs questions. Namely: Is Tony Parker's slow start just a slow start? And: Are Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge likely to prove they're a good fit together on the same front line? Most of all: Why haven't we seen more of the team that utterly smoked Golden State on opening night?”
Garbage Time Musings
- Can we just start JaVale already? C’mon Kerr! I know you read these articles, so you will appeal to my requests. Do it because Zaza Pachulia looks so depressed out there, and McGee makes these games much more fun to watch.
- I like a world where the Knicks are good. The Knicks are not good, and that makes me sad. You mean aging stars in a failing offensive system don’t produce results?!
Taken from NBA.com, presented without comment:
- Toughest schedules so far this year: 1. Washington, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Dallas.
- Easiest schedules so far this year: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Atlanta, 3. Golden State.