Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) and forward Tobias Harris (34) react after Jackson scored against the New York Knicks during the fourth quarter.(Photo: Julie Jacobson, AP)
The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers — y’know, the two teams destined for a fourth consecutive NBA Finals showdown — don’t look like two teams destined for a fourth consecutive NBA Finals showdown.
The Warriors have already lost three games (in seven tries), which didn’t happen until Dec. 1 (Game No. 19) last season and Jan. 13 (Game No. 39) the year before. The Cavs, meanwhile, haven’t just lost four of their last five games, but they’ve lost those games to the likes of Orlando, Brooklyn, New Orleans and New York.
In that grand scheme of things, odds are none of that matters. Teams rarely look the same in October as they do in April, May or June.
But as far as early-season power rankings are concerned, it matters a great deal.
Editor’s note: Week 2 power rankings, as ranked by the USA TODAY Sports NBA desk and a panel of voters from the USA TODAY Network (listed at the bottom of this page), are as of Monday, Oct. 30.
1. Houston Rockets (5-2) | Last week: 2
We can’t truly gauge this team until Chris Paul returns from his knee injury, so until then, we’ll just sit back and watch the three-balls fly. The Rockets, whose lone losses have come to Memphis, are attempting a league-high 43.6 three-pointers per game. The next closest team? Toronto, with 34.6.
2. Memphis Grizzlies (5-1) | Last week: 9
As far as encouraging signs go, Chandler Parsons’ 24-point outing in 19 minutes in a win over Houston on Saturday was as good as it gets. The oft-injured forward, who signed a four-year, $94 million deal two summers ago, shot 9-for-11 from the floor, including 6-for-8 from beyond the arc, in what was, by far, his best game as a Grizzly.
3. Golden State Warriors (4-3) | Last week: 1
From the turnovers (third-most in the NBA at 18.4 per game) to the defensive struggles (26th in defensive rating), the defending champs are hardly firing on all cylinders. Could jet leg from that preseason trip to China be to blame for their slow start? Maybe some complacency? Perhaps a bit of both?
4. Los Angeles Clippers (4-1) | Last week: 10
Welcome to the early-season MVP conversation, Blake Griffin. You should stay awhile. The eighth-year forward is averaging 24.8 points on 48.3% shooting, 9.6 rebounds, 4.4 badists, and has expanded his range to the three-point line, where he’s sank 12 of his 29 attempts.
5. San Antonio Spurs (4-2) | Last week: 4
Four of San Antonio’s first six games (including both losses) came on the road, but they head back to the comfy confines of the AT&T Center on Thursday, where they’ll tip off a six-game homestand with a game against Golden State.
6. Boston Celtics (4-2) | Last week: 14
Remember when the Celtics fell to 0-2 after the devastating season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward? That was four games — and four wins — ago. Kyrie Irving is looking more and more comfortable in his new home, rookie Jayson Tatum has had little trouble transitioning from college to the big leagues, and Jaylen Brown has been one of the NBA’s most improved players thus far.
7. Detroit Pistons (5-2) | Last week: 16
With three consecutive wins over the Timberwolves, Clippers and Warriors, the Pistons — embracing their no-star mentality — have been one of the league’s most pleasant surprises. As has Tobias Harris, who’s averaging 20.9 points on 49.6% shooting and has made 19 of his 41 three-point attempts (46.3%).
8. Milwaukee Bucks (4-2) | Last week: 6
Giannis Antetokounmpo is stealing all the headlines, and rightfully so, but we mustn’t ignore the continued development of Malcolm Brogdon. The 24-year-old point guard who last season became the first player drafted outside of the first round (in the common draft era) to be crowned Rookie of the Year, might just be Milwaukee’s second-best player.
9. Washington Wizards (4-2) | Last week: 5
Late-game collapses led to losses to the Lakers and Warriors, spoiled the Wizards’ hot start to the season and exposed some weaknesses that need to be sorted out. But that doesn’t change the fact that Washington is one of the top teams in the East, and — if Otto Porter Jr. (18.7 points, 7.5 rebounds per game) continues his stellar play as the team’s third option — this group could gun for the top seed in the East.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (4-2) | Last week: 11
Shooting guard CJ McCollum has yet to score below 20 points and is shooting 50.6% from the field and 56.5% from three through five games. His backcourt counterpart, Damian Lillard, hasn’t had the same luck in the percentage department (37% from the field), but we don’t anticipate that lasting very long.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-4) | Last week: 3
The start of the season has been rocky, no doubt. But before you panic, just remember: There are a lot of new faces on this team, and injuries, namely those to Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose, have hindered the Cavs thus far. There’s still a long way to go.
More: Why Cavaliers fans shouldn’t panic after slow start
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3) | Last week: 8
Russell Westbrook became the first player in NBA history to log a triple-double against all 29 NBA teams with his 12-point, 13-rebound, 13-badists outing on Saturday against Chicago — his third triple-double in six games. And so it continues …
Last SlideNext Slide
13. Toronto Raptors (3-2) | Last week: 7
One of the most notable early-season mysteries: Three-time All-Star Kyle Lowry is averaging 12.4 points on 35.5% shooting after a career-best 22.4-point, 46.4% season.
14. Orlando Magic (4-2) | Last week: 17
The Magic rank fourth in the NBA in three-pointers made (12.2 per game), second in three-point percentage (43.5%), second in offensive rating (111 points scored per 100 possessions), and third in net rating (plus-9.8). They’ve taken down Cleveland and San Antonio, and Aaron Gordon already has one of the season’s best performances (41 points, 14 rebounds) under his belt. Yeah … just as we expected.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (3-3) | Last week: 19
DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis (averaging a combined 57.7 points, 26.8 rebounds, 7.7 badists and 4.1 blocks) have been phenomenal, and, health permitting, will only get better as the season goes along. Don’t forget: They’ve only been together for 23 games.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-3) | Last week: 12
Aside from two wins (by a combined five points) over Oklahoma City, The T’Wolves have struggled, especially defensively, where they rank last in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions (114.3). Some of that can be attributed to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who missed Minnesota’s back-to-back losses to Indiana (130-107) and Detroit (122-101) with an illness. But does this team have bigger issues?
17. Utah Jazz (3-3) | Last week: 13
Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell has already found a significant spot in the rotation, and we’re loving every minute of it.
18. Denver Nuggets (3-3) | Last week: 15
Starters Wilson Chandler and Jamal Murray finally broke out of their slumps on Sunday against Brooklyn, combining for 44 points on 15-for-25 shooting. It was Chandler’s first game scoring in double figures this season, while it was Murray’s first time shooting over 35%.
19. Charlotte Hornets (3-3) | Last week: 20
With Nicolas Batum (elbow) expected to return in late November or early December, sixth-year guard Jeremy Lamb has made the most of his opportunity in the starting lineup, averaging 17.2 points (on 45.7% shooting), 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 badists.
20. Miami Heat (2-3) | Last week: 18
Hbadan Whiteside started off the season with a bang, tallying 26 points and 22 rebounds in a loss to Orlando. He hasn’t played since due to a bone bruise in his left knee, though head coach Erik Spoelstra says he’s “encouraged” by the big man’s progress.
21. Brooklyn Nets (3-4) | Last week: 23
Wednesday’s down-to-the-wire win over Cleveland, without point guard D’Angelo Russell in the lineup, was a night to remember for a franchise that hasn’t had many in recent years. It may be a small sample size, but this team ranks in the top 10 in offensive rating, three-pointers made and three-point percentage.
22. Indiana Pacers (3-3) | Last week: 21
Victor Oladipo is no Paul George, but he’s making that lopsided summer trade look all the more reasonable. The fifth-year guard has found new life in Indy, and he’s captured the hearts of the Pacers faithful in the process. Don’t believe us? Just ask those who were in Bankers Life Fieldhouse for his game-winning three-pointer on Sunday night.
23. Philadelphia 76ers (2-4) | Last week: 22
Frustrating as it may be, at least Sixers fans have some clarity on the Markelle Fultz injury saga, and the fact that he has no structural damage to his right shoulder is an encouraging sign. Until his return, all eyes will continue to be on Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ben Simmons, who looks nothing like a player who made his pro hoops debut two weeks ago.
24. New York Knicks (2-3) | Last week: 27
Sunday’s win over the Cavs in Cleveland was just what the Knicks needed as their season began to spiral. Kristaps Porzingis continued his dominance with 32 points and 12 rebounds, Tim Hardaway Jr. (34 points, eight badists) had his best performance as a Knick, and rookie Frank Ntilikina saw valuable minutes for the second consecutive game.
25. Los Angeles Lakers (2-4) | Last week: 26
Don’t let a three-point overtime win against Washington fool you: These Lakers aren’t going to win many of the games that they shouldn’t.
Last SlideNext Slide
26. Sacramento Kings (1-5) | Last week: 24
The Kings — in full lose now, win later mode — rested veterans Zach Randolph and George Hill during Sunday’s loss to Washington, while the only players who saw more than 20 minutes are either in their first, second or third year in the league.
27. Phoenix Suns (2-4) | Last week: 30
The bright side of the Suns? The team is 2-1 after firing head coach Earl Watson, which may be the only time they’ll be above .500 all season.
28. Atlanta Hawks (1-6) | Last week: 25
Sailing hasn’t been smooth for the Hawks, who have lost six straight and must face Houston, Cleveland and Boston all within the next week. The race to the bottom of the standings starts here.
29. Dallas Mavericks (1-6) | Last week: 28
The Mavericks got their first win of the season on Wednesday — a 103-94 victory over a gritty group of Grizzlies — and rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. stole the show, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the second half. Now, how long do we have to wait until win No. 2?
30. Chicago Bulls (1-4) | Last week: 29
The silver lining behind these lottery-bound Bulls has been rookie forward Lauri Markkanen. The 7-footer has been Chicago’s best player thus far, averaging 15.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and three three-pointers per game — numbers that rank second, first and first among all rookies.
This week’s voters: USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick, Jeff Zillgitt, Michael Singer and AJ Neuharth-Keusch; Detroit Free Press’ Vince Ellis; The Record’s Steve Popper; The Indianapolis Star’s Clifton Brown; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez; HoopsHype’s Jorge Sierra, Raul Barrigon and Alex Kennedy.