TST’s NBA Power Rankings, Week 2: Lakers tumble

The Lakers and 76ers start off 0-3 despite playoff hopes, while the Trailblazers and Jazz are 3-0

The NBA season hasn’t started out the way many people expected. Seen as title contenders, the 76ers lost 3 games last week, one even against the tanking Spurs by 9 points. The stats will tell you that James Harden is dominating through 3 games and although he does look good, his high usage percentage and ball-dominant play is costing the team much-needed ball movement. The 76ers will have to get other players involved to succeed such as Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris. A lot of people did expect the Lakers to be this bad to start the year attributing the team’s grim outlook to Russell Westbrook still being on the roster and not meshing with the team last season. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have looked fantastic, but the team has shot 25/118 from 3PT range (21.2%), by far the worst mark in the NBA.

The Lakers also rank dead last in overall field goal percentage and offensive rating, but somehow rank 2nd in overall defensive rating through three games. It seems inevitable with the pressure from Lakers fans that Russell Westbrook will be traded sooner rather than later (probably sometime this week) if the team wants to save their season. With the 5th ranked defensive rating, just a couple of offensive additions would put this team back in title contention as crazy as it sounds.

Meanwhile, Spurs are 2-1 and the Portland Trailblazers and Utah Jazz are both 3-0 to start the season. Damian Lillard hasn’t lost a step (34 points per game so far), Jakob Poeltl and Keldon Johnson look fantastic, while Jordan Clarkson, Jared Vanderbilt, Lauri Markkanen, and Colin Sexton have all looked solid for a team supposed to finish close to last in the Western Conference. Expected juggernauts, the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, and Milwaukee Bucks all look the part of a championship team. Let’s see where teams rank going into the second week of the season.

30. Houston Rockets, 0-3

The Rockets continue to see growth from second-year franchise player, Jalen Green, and Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason have both looked good as rookies too. However, the team doesn’t play any defense (already last in the NBA with a defensive rating of 120.8) and will continue to lose almost every game unless they can somehow outscore the other team.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder, 0-3

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 30 points and 6 assists per game to start the season despite the team being 0-3. This team has some promising young players in Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort, and Jalen Williams (who is coming off of a minor injury), but they are still a few years away from competing. The Thunder have the 26th offensive rating in the NBA at 106.6 and aren’t much better defensively. However, they’ll take losing the multitude of their games if it means pairing up injured rookie Chet Holmgren with Victor Wembanyam in the front court next season.

28. Orlando Magic, 0-3

The Magic have been in every single game and really should have won on Saturday against the Boston Celtics. Paolo Banchero has scored 20 points in each of his first 3 games, while Franz Wagner, Cole Anthony, and Wendell Carter Jr. seem to have initially improved on both ends of the floor. Jalen Suggs also had a good first game before going down with an injury. Nonetheless, the team ranks 21st in both offensive and defensive rating and should at least win one game this week because of their talent, even with a young core.

27. Los Angeles Lakers, 0-3

Trade Russell Westbrook. I’m sure you have heard many journalists say that before, but now more than ever he is costing this team games. The Lakers led 98-90 with under 4 minutes to go in the 4th quarter when Westbrook entered the game…they went on to lose 106-104 after Westbrook attempted a mid-range jumper early in the shot clock on a possession that they should have held the ball as long as possible. This seems like simple basketball stuff, but Westbrook is so domed up mentally and physically at this point that it makes sense to trade both first-round picks and his expiring contract for a Buddy Hield and Myles Turner package.

The Lakers would be 2-1 already simply with Buddy Hield, and if you add in another DPOY candidate in Myles Turner, this team actually could contend this season as crazy as it sounds. As mentioned in the introduction, the Lakers rank last in every single offensive category but have impressed defensively with the 2nd-best defensive rating in the NBA through 3 games. Darvin Ham’s defensive scheme is working, but they need 3-point shooting and more floor spacing, neither of which Westbrook can provide.

Of course, there is always the argument against the Lakers trading both picks, which would effectively make their chance of competing impossible without signing more superstars in the free-agent markets in future years. I trust the Lakers’ ability to attract superstars so I would trade the picks to raise this team’s ceiling for the next two years. I would expect Rob Pelinka to agree with me and hope he has seen enough, shipping Westbrook as soon as this week.

26. Sacramento Kings, 0-3

The Kings are 0-3 but there are some positives to take away from this season so far. De’Aaron Fox is averaging 31.7 points and 7 assists per game with an out-of-this-world TS% of 67.7 and 3PT% of 45.0, while rookie star Keegan Murray is already averaging 17.5 points and 1 block per game with a TS% of 70.3. through two games.

Domantas Sabonis has struggled, but it’s early and he should figure it out, and the rest of the team is still trying to figure out their role. Nonetheless, this Kings team gave up 89 points in one half to the Warriors last night and their 18th defensive rating is misleading as they are one of the five worst defensive teams in the NBA. This season will be about seeing Keegan Murray develop as a cornerstone player and De’Aaron Fox getting that first All-Star nod he has been waiting for.

25. Detroit Pistons, 1-2

The Pistons have been in games, but the positive so far is Jaden Ivey. Through 3 games, the rookie from Purdue is averaging 17.7 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists with a TS% of 59.1. The Ja Morant similarities are uncanny, though Ivey is more advanced as a playmaker in his first season than Morant was. They really found a star in Ivey, and Saddiq Bey seems to be picking right up where he left off putting up 18 points per game on a 62.7 TS%. Regardless, the Pistons still aren’t a good defensive team (27th in defensive rating) and have struggled with efficiency on offense as well (28th in team eFG%). Though they would love to make the play in tournament, the Pistons wouldn’t mind being in the draft lottery either.

24. Indiana Pacers, 1-2

Tyrese Haliburton is already one of the best two young point guards in the NBA (Ja Morant and him) with his lockdown perimeter defense (5 steals in the win over the Pistons on Saturday), advanced for his age playmaking (9.7 assists per game), and extremely efficient 3-level scoring (63.8 TS%, 57 eFG%, 41.2 3PT%, all while averaging 25.7 points per game to start the year). I would start my organization with Haliburton over LaMelo Ball, Cade Cunningham, Darius Garland, Anthony Edwards, and even Trae Young. I consider Luka Doncic more than just a point guard so he isn’t included in this category, but Ja Morant, only because of his game-changing offensive ability, is the sole young guard I would take over Tyrese Haliburton.

An advanced statistics darling, Haliburton values both ends of the floor equally and can become the best player on a championship team. It also helps that the Pacers absolutely dominated the NBA Draft selecting Bennedict Mathurin with the 6th overall pick, who has been the best rookie in the NBA so far this season (24 points, 6.3 rebounds per game with a TS% of 66, an eFG% of 63.5, and a 3PT% of 52.4 coming off of the bench).

Mathurin has the offensive star power to become one of the better offensive players in the NBA sooner rather than later. The Pacers rank 22nd in defensive rating and 8th in offensive rating this season (thanks to Haliburton and Mathurin) and are 1-2, but they wouldn’t mind adding Victor Wenbanyama to a future title-contending squad. Imagine a core of Wembanyama, Haliburton, and Mathurin. The NBA wouldn’t be ready for that.

23. Philadelphia 76ers, 0-3

James Harden is averaging 26 points and 9.3 assists per game while Joel Embiid is averaging 27 points and 13.3 rebounds per game to start the year. Neither of the 76ers stars have been particularly efficient ( Harden’s TS% only 60, and Embiid’s TS% only 53.4) and Tyrese Maxey is off to a slow start too (20.3 points per game, TS% of 56.4).

Nonetheless, the team needs to get other players more involved whether that’s De’Anthony Melton, P.J. Tucker, Tobias Harris, or even Montrezl Harell. The 76ers rely too much on their stars and other players cannot get into a rhythm. They are in the bottom half of all offensive and defensive categories despite spending the extra money to bring in more talent. It’s early, but the 76ers aren’t a good basketball team yet.

22. Charlotte Hornets, 2-1

The Hornets are 2-1 beating the Spurs and Hawks even without star LaMelo Ball (out due to an ankle sprain). Terry Rozier is stepping up for Ball averaging 23.5 points and 8.5 assists per game with a TS% of 50.5, while P.J. Washington (13 points, 4 rebounds per game with a TS% of 57.6) has stepped in nicely to cover some of the offensive slack. To start the 2022-2023 campaign, the Hornets have the 7th-best offensive rating and the 13th-best defensive rating, neither of which will be sustainable once they play elite teams.

21. San Antonio Spurs, 2-1

The Spurs are doing a very bad job at tanking for Victor Wembanyama as they rebounded from an opening-game loss to the Hornets with impressive wins against the Pacers and 76ers. Center Jakob Poeltl is averaging 16 points and 9.7 rebounds per game with a TS% of 63, while Keldon Johnson has stepped up as the primary scorer with Dejounte Murray in Atlanta, averaging 21.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game with a TS% of 59.4. The Spurs likely will lose a ton of games, but one thing is clear…no one can ever count out a Greg Popovich-coached team.

20. Washington Wizards, 2-1

The Wizards have seen Kyle Kuzma flourish to start the season as he is averaging 19.7 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game with a TS% of 59. Not many people believed Kuzma could continue to produce at the level he did last season with a healthy Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis on the roster, but he is proving people wrong. The Wizards beat the Pacers and Bulls to start the season before falling to the 2-1 Cavaliers yesterday. Bradley Beal continues to be a good playmaker (6.3 assists to go along with his 23.3 points per game) while Porzingis has been a force on both ends of the floor. A leap from 3rd year forward Deni Avdija would be helpful for this team to reach its ceiling and make the play in tournament.

19. Chicago Bulls, 1-2

The Bulls don’t look good to start this season, but thanks to the big 3 of DeMar DeRozan (27.3 points, 5.3 assists per game, 61.4 TS%) Nikola Vucevic (18.3 points, 9.7 rebounds per game, 59.7 TS%), and Zach LaVine (23 points in his only game played so far) they have the ability to stay in games without any depth.

Patrick Williams was expected to take a leap offensively and be a defensive anchor but has done neither so far, Coby White was supposed to provide occasional playmaking and scoring and simply isn’t, and Andre Drummond is a good rebounder but doesn’t provide much value elsewhere on the court. Without Lonzo Ball, this team lacks the ability to defend on the perimeter and shoot threes at a high level. Until they get Ball back (if they even do this season) the Bulls will simply be an average-above-average team with a 7-8 seed ceiling.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves, 2-1

Karl Anthony-Towns is struggling offensively to start the season (18 points and 7.3 rebounds per game with a TS% of 52) while Rudy Gobert is dominating on both ends of the floor (15.7 points and 18 rebounds per game). Anthony Edwards will improve as the season goes on and they really found a gem in Jaden McDaniels, the third-year forward from Washington.

McDaniels is already their best perimeter defender and has developed an almost knockdown 3-point jumper and some occasional playmaking as well. I still think that the Timberwolves gave up too much for Rudy Gobert, despite how good he is defensively. They gave up their two best perimeter defenders in Jared Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley, plus a slew of first-round picks and a knockdown shooter in Malik Beasley. This team stands at 2-1 but they very well could be 0-3 as they haven’t performed on either end of the floor that well to start the season.

17. New York Knicks, 1-1

The Knicks have only played two games, but Jalen Brunson (16 points and 7.5 assists per game, but with an abysmal TS% of 51.3) has produced as the lead playmaker and Isaiah Hartenstein is starring as a dominant defensive center alongside Mitchell Robinson. They have the depth and the talent to compete defensively every single night, but the Knicks are going to need R.J. Barrett to be a more consistent scorer to win games against good teams. If Barrett fails to take a leap offensively, then the Knicks could be on their way to the lottery.

16. Miami Heat, 1-2

Kyle Lowry isn’t the same player he used to be. It was evident in the Eastern Conference Finals last season and it is evident again now (12 points per game with a TS% of 49.6, one of the worst percentages in the NBA). Jimmy Butler (22 points, 4.3 assists, 59.1 TS%) and Tyler Herro (20.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 62.7 TS%) are doing their jobs as the two primary scorers for this team, but Bam Adebayo has been increasingly disappointing. After a couple of big games to start last year’s playoffs, Adebayo struggled in the last couple of games of the Eastern Conference Finals and is off to a disappointing start to this season as well (13.7 points and 8 rebounds per game with a TS% of 57). If the Heat want to avoid regressing in all facets of the basketball court, they must get more production out of their big man.

15. Portland Trailblazers, 3-0

Damian Lillard is averaging 34 points per game with a TS% of 63.5 and continues to his clutch shots and lead this team to victories. Jusuf Nurkic is averaging 11.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game with a TS% of 57.3, while Jerami Grant is performing to his abilities on both ends of the floor. Somehow the Blazers are 3-0 without Anfernee Simons being the player we all know he can be. He has been one of the most inefficient shooters with a high usage percentage in the NBA this season and needs to perform better to take pressure off of Lillard. Whether or not relying on Lillard is sustainable, what remains clear is that the Blazers will be in every game because of their star point guard.

14. Utah Jazz, 3-0

The Jared Vanderbilt effect really hits teams, doesn’t it? In all seriousness, not only is Vanderbilt playing extremely well as always (8.7 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals per game with a TS% of 68.1), Lauri Markkanen is playing like an All-Star (24 points, 9.7 rebounds per game with a TS% of 61.4) and Colin Sexton is starring in his role as well.

Kelly Olynyk is hitting big-time shots and is averaging 16.3 points per game with a TS% of 72.8, and the Jazz are one of the few teams that rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. It is still very early, but this team has an underdog mentality and wants to win every single game because they were counted out by their former teams. If that remains to be the case and the Jazz continue to win games, Danny Ainge will have to think about trading some of the team’s best players to secure a spot in the lottery.

13. Toronto Raptors, 1-2

The Raptors could easily be 3-0, but have lost two close games to the Nets and Heat and beat a very good team in the Cavaliers. They have had a very tough schedule to start the year, and it doesn’t get any easier with a matchup against the Heat and two games against the 76ers this week. The Raptors will have to prove to NBA fans that they are a top 10 team in that span as they are struggling on both ends of the floor (14th in defensive rating, 17th in offensive rating) to start the season.

The Raptors also want to see a leap from Rookie of The Year Scottie Barnes, but he is off to a rough start averaging only 14.3 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game with a TS% of 54.8. Gary Trent Jr. (18.7 points per game, 54 TS%) is the only guy helping Pascal Siakam (27.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 7 assists per game, TS% of 58.5) to start the year and the Raptors offense will need to improve to piece together some more wins.

12. Phoenix Suns, 2-1

The Suns came back and defeated the Mavericks to start their season, lost to the Blazers in overtime, then beat the Clippers by 17 in Los Angeles. Devin Booker is averaging 32 points and 5.3 assists per game with a TS% of 65.9 and is the multitude of this team’s offense. Chris Paul is still an amazing playmaker averaging 10.7 assists per game, but he’s going to have to take his scoring to another level (only 7.7 points per game) to take pressure off of Booker. Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges will need to be more assertive to take pressure off of Booker as well, otherwise, this team will struggle to build off of their strong start.

11. Brooklyn Nets, 1-1

The Nets have only played 2 games but it doesn’t look like Ben Simmons and Royce O’Neal are helping this team defensively (28th in defensive rating so far) like they were expected to. Simmons is averaging 5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game to start the season, while Royce O’Neal, who they traded a first-round pick for, is averaging 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game to start the year. Kevin Durant is putting the whole team on his back already, averaging 29.5 points and 3 blocks per game to start the campaign, and is playing the best defense he has played since the Golden State Warriors days. Through two games, the Nets have looked inconsistent as expected. Let’s see how they perform against the Grizzlies, Bucks, and Mavericks this week.

10. Atlanta Hawks, 2-1

The Dejounte Murray trade is already paying dividends as he is averaging 19.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 3.3 steals per game to start the season. Trae Young hasn’t been affected by another point guard in the backcourt as he is also putting up big numbers (25.3 points, 11.7 assists per game, 46.6 TS%) to start the year despite being wildly inefficient from the field. John Collins looks the best he has ever been (19 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game, 67.2 TS%) and the depth on this roster looks better than expected. If Trae Young and Dejounte Murray can continue to coexist like this with John Collins, Clint Capela, and DeAndre Hunter playing at their best, the Hawks are a sleeper to reach the Eastern Conference Finals yet again.

9. Memphis Grizzlies, 2-1

Besides an embarrassing 41-point loss to the Mavericks on Saturday night, the Grizzlies have seen Ja Morant continue to be the offensive superstar that he is (34.3 points, 7 assists per game, 67.7 TS%). All of the pieces around Morant are doing what they need to do besides Desmond Bane. Bane turned into one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA last season and was the most improved player in my opinion, but this year he is struggling immensely from the floor (14.7 points per game with a TS% of 40.9 and a 3PT% of 28.6. Bane will likely shoot out of his slump within the next couple of games, but if he doesn’t the Grizzlies are in major trouble.

8. Dallas Mavericks, 3-0

The Mavericks cruised to a 41-point victory over the Grizzlies on Saturday night thanks to Luka Doncic’s 32 points and 10 assists. Christian Wood has been fantastic as he finished that game with 25 points and 12 rebounds and is already averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds per game on the season. Spencer Dinwiddie is embracing his 6th man role, Tim Hardaway Jr. is back-hitting 3’s, and Dorian Finney-Smith is continuing to anchor this defense. The Mavericks have all the pieces necessary to do damage in the Western Conference and if Luka Doncic continues to play the way he has been playing (33.5 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists per game with a TS% of 62.1) then the Mavericks will contend for a title with the role players starring in their roles.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers, 2-1

Donovan Mitchell (33.3 points,7 assists per game, 62.8 TS%) has been as good as the Cavaliers could have hoped when they altered the organization’s mission and went all to be perennial title contenders. Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are the best interior defensive tandem in the NBA and Caris LeVert looks fantastic as well. I want to see more of this team when Darius Garland is healthy and how he and Mitchell can coexist on the floor throughout the season. I think it will work and surely the Cavaliers think so too otherwise they wouldn’t have traded for Mitchell. This is a dangerous team that is elite on both ends of the floor, and they will continue to rise up the Eastern Conference ranks if they can stay consistent.

6. New Orleans Pelicans, 2-1

Zion Williamson has looked the part of a young superstar already this season, but even when he isn’t on his game (such as Friday night scoring only 16 points and going 7-19 from the field), the Pelicans are so deep that other players are stepping up including Jonas Valancuinas in that same game going for 30 points and 17 rebounds. Brandon Ingram has looked even better this season as he averaged 28 points per game with a TS% of over 69 before he left the game with an injury last night against the Jazz. C.J. McCollum is continuing to score at will and the Pelicans have the 3rd ranked offensive rating in the NBA so far this season at 123.3. They have proven through 3 games that they can contend for a championship this season and they likely will if they stay healthy.

5. Los Angeles Clippers, 2-1

Through 3 games my pick to win the NBA Championship has looked good, but not as good as advertised on both ends of the floor. After struggling to shoot the ball in their season opener against the Lakers, I thought their problems were fixed on the offensive end after a dominant performance against the Kings, but the Clippers then only scored 95 points and lost by 17 to the Suns on Sunday night. They are 2-1 and would have continued to be #1 in my rankings had they started the season 3-0 regardless of how bad they have been shooting. Nonetheless, I never expected this team to be the #1 seed in the regular season as they are more suited and built to win a championship instead.

Paul George had 40 points in a win against the Kings on Saturday then couldn’t get going against the Suns offensively on Sunday. This could be attributed to playing back-to-back games, but George needs to be more consistent when other players aren’t shooting at a high level on the team. George is the guy the team turns to when things get rough, and he simply didn’t produce enough when it got rough against the Suns.

Kawhi Leonard is coming off of the bench and slowly getting into a rhythm, while John Wall looks very explosive offensively. This team has switchable 3 and D wings (unlike the other team that plays in the same stadium) in Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris, and Terance Mann. However, the big concern for this team was the backup center position and it showed when the Clippers tried to run Robert Covington at the 5 and got destroyed on the glass by Deandre Ayton. Ivica Zubac by himself isn’t enough to win big games in the playoffs against opposing elite big men like Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets or Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks (if they reach the finals). The Clippers will cruise throughout the season but as each month progresses, I want to see Kawhi progress back into the player he was two years ago.

4. Denver Nuggets, 2-1

Nikola Jokic is off to the races on another MVP campaign averaging 24 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 9.7 assists per game with a remarkable TS% of 72.5. None of these statistics should surprise you as Jokic had the highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of all time last season at 32.8. What is crazy to think about it’s he could actually top his own record if he continues to perform at this level. Michael Porter Jr. is knocking down 3’s at a high level (50% from 3PT range so far), Jamaal Murray is getting back into rhythm, Bones Hyland is a scoring machine off of the bench, and Bruce Brown Jr. is the exact sparkplug they have needed to push this team over the edge. It’s early but Denver is one of the best teams in the NBA and already has a signature win against Golden State in San Francisco.

3. Boston Celtics, 3-0

The Celtics are 3-0 but almost lost to the Orlando Magic on Saturday. Granted, the Magic have been in every single game despite their 0-3 record. Nonetheless, newly minted Head coach Joe Mazzulla wanted this Celtics team to turn into an offensive juggernaut after being deemed a defensive one last season. So far the Celtics are doing exactly that as this team has the best offensive rating and team TS% in the NBA at 124.3 and 65% respectively. Their defense should play better as the year goes on and when they get healthier but Jayson Tatum is already off to a hot start (34.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game with a TS% of 70.3), and Malcolm Brogdon is fitting in perfectly with his new team. The Celtics are yet again a problem regardless of who their head coach is.

2. Golden State Warriors, 2-1

The Warriors beat the Lakers and lost to the Nuggets at home, then proceeded to put up 89 points in the first half in a win against the Kings last night. They ended up winning 130-125 and saw Stephen Curry eclipse 30 points for the 3rd straight game to start this season. Curry looks exactly like he did in the NBA Finals, an offensive superhero who can beat you in any possible way, surgical in his ability to create space and knock down shots.

Andrew Wiggins has also picked up right where he left off, averaging 22.3 points per game with a TS% of over 61 to start the season, but it was Jordan Poole that finally got going in the win over Sacramento with a 24-piece that yet again proved how many weapons the Warriors have to beat anyone on any given night. The Warriors remain an elite team on both ends of the floor although their 14th-ranked offensive and defensive rating through 3 games would tell you otherwise (again its early and only through 3 games).

1. Milwaukee Bucks, 2-0

The Bucks look like the team from two years ago that won an NBA title: A superstar on both ends of the floor in Giannis Antetoukounmpo, an elite on-ball defender in Jrue Holiday, a clutch scorer that can play lockdown defense in Khris Middleton, and switchable 3 and D wings that can maintain defensive dominance and hit the occasional 3 when needed to win close games. It sounds like a perfect team, and if Middleton had stayed healthy last season the Bucks would have made the NBA Finals and could have beaten the Golden State Warriors. Yet again, the Bucks look like the best team in the NBA through two games with the 2nd best defensive rating in the NBA at 99.5 and a top-12 offense as well.

Note: Advanced Statistics used in this article are gathered from and

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