Let’s jump right into Sports Illustrated’s latest NBA power rankings …
How good has Anthony Edwards’s start been? Through 10 games Edwards racked up 276 points, 60 rebounds and 53 assists. The only other 22-year-old players to ever collect those types of numbers? Michael Jordan and Luka Dončić.
The Celtics are not just beating teams. They are bludgeoning them. Even after grinding out wins over Toronto and Memphis last weekend and a surprising loss to Charlotte on Monday, Boston’s scoring margin is an NBA-best (+10.6) and tracking as one of the highest in league history. Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum’s MVP credentials include a 45-point lead in total plus/minus. Pretty good times in Beantown.
Joel Embiid is scoring (an NBA-best 31.9 points) and rebounding (11.2 per game). And now he’s playmaking? Embiid is averaging a career-high 6.2 assists, which Embiid’s Sixers teammates see as a concerted effort to be more of a facilitator. “He’s not worried about scoring 50 every night,” said Danuel House Jr. “He wants to win.”
The Bucks have won the last eight straight games Damian Lillard has played in and are 10–2 overall with Lillard in the lineup. Even better, Lillard’s three-point shot is starting to heat up: Lillard has connected on at least 36% of his threes the last four games and cracked 50% twice.
The Thunder are legit. Chet Holmgren is getting (deserved) attention for his blistering start but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s efficiency numbers are up from last year’s All-NBA season and he leads the league in steals. With a top-five defense and the NBA’s most accurate three-point attack, Oklahoma City isn’t going anywhere.
The frustration of a 1–3 stretch seemed to boil over in the first half of Monday’s win over Detroit, with both Michael Malone and Nikola Jokić getting tossed. The Nuggets miss Jamal Murray but Christian Braun has started to pick it up, scoring 15 against Detroit, his fourth straight game in double figures.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. was billed as an NBA-ready rookie when the Heat drafted him, and he is. Jacquez is averaging 9.6 points in a shade under 25 minutes per game while shooting 35.7% from three. He’s earned the trust of Erik Spoelstra, too, averaging 8.4 minutes per game in the fourth quarter, best among rookies on a playoff contender.
Have the Mavs come back to earth? Dallas rode a relatively soft early season schedule to a 9–3 start. But back-to-back losses to Milwaukee and Sacramento exposed the Mavericks’ defensive issues. Issues that Dallas may not have the personnel to fix. A two-game trip to LA this week will be revealing.
Sacramento got its teeth kicked in by New Orleans on Monday but you can’t complain about a 3–1 road trip that included wins over the Lakers and Mavericks. De’Aaron Fox is relentlessly attacking the rim, ranking in the top-10 in drives to the basket and points scored off drives this season.
Want a weird statistic? The Lakers’ leader in on-court net rating this season is Christian Wood (+7.6), who trails just LeBron James (+23.8) in on/off differential (+16.2), per NBA.com. Weirder still is the Lakers’ net rating has been statistically better with Anthony Davis off the court (+0.1) than on (-2.6). That left adductor injury Davis has been battling feels like it could be a season-long issue.
The NBA’s top-rated defense is in … Orlando? The Magic are tied with Minnesota for the NBA’s top defensive rating and are forcing an NBA-best 17.2 turnovers per game. Orlando doesn’t give up offensive rebounds and are limiting opponents to a league-low 21.8 assists per game. Now the Magic have to squeeze more out of the NBA’s 25th-ranked offense.
There has to be genuine concern in Phoenix about Bradley Beal’s back injury, which has limited Beal to three games this season and will keep him out through at least the end of the month. Devin Booker, who made his return last week, has picked up the slack, increasing his scoring while averaging just under 10 assists per game.
The Pacers picked up quality wins over Milwaukee and Philadelphia in the last week, but Sunday’s loss to Orlando was a reminder that Indy has a long way to go defensively. How about Obi Toppin? Acquired from the Knicks for next to nothing, Toppin dropped 27 on the 76ers and ranks in the top 10 in the league in field goal percentage.
Raise your hand if you knew who Craig Porter Jr. was before the start of the season. That’s what I thought. Porter Jr. has stepped into Cleveland’s injury-ravaged backcourt, scoring 21 points in a surprising win over Denver on Sunday, filling a badly needed void at backup point guard. Not bad for a 23-year-old rookie on a two-way contract.
The Knicks finally got some returns on the four-year, $50 million investment they made in Donte DiVincenzo last summer, with DiVincenzo racking up 39 points in back-to-back wins over Washington and Charlotte. New York’s offense can certainly use all the help it can get.
Took some heat on X this week for suggesting Alperen Şengün is a reliable three-point shot from being a Nikola Jokić-like problem. But it’s not a crazy comp. Sengun has a deep bag offensively, is a willing—and improving—passer and gobbles up rebounds on the defensive glass. Check Jokić’s third-year stats. Şengün’s are comparable. In some categories better. And did we mention he’s 21?
The Pelicans blew out Sacramento on Monday in Jose Alvarado’s return to the lineup. The Pels held De’Aaron Fox to 14 points in that one and, over the last five games, New Orleans has a top-five defensive rating.
When Ty Lue said he wanted James Harden to be James Harden, he probably meant what he saw in the first quarter on Monday, when Harden assisted on five of the Clippers’ first 11 buckets in a win over San Antonio, spreading the ball around nicely. Now the Clippers need to get Terance Mann going. Mann was scoreless against the Spurs and has one point in his last three games.
The Hawks are 1–3 over their last four games with the lone win coming against Detroit. Atlanta, again, has a very good offense (sixth in efficiency) and the Hawks, again, have a very bad defense (24th). Atlanta had high hopes in its first full season under Quin Snyder but so far it feels like more of the same.
Warriors win! Thhheee Warriors win! Channeling my inner Michael Kay (New Yorkers get it) to declare Golden State’s six game losing streak over after the Dubs edged a weary Rockets team. Klay Thompson (20 points) sprung to life in that one and the Warriors have to hope it will spark Thompson, whose shooting numbers are career lows.
That season-opening win over Minnesota feels like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? Toronto put 142 points up on Detroit—seriously, does everyone kick the crap out of Detroit—but the Raptors have struggled to score this season, particularly in the half court. OG Anunoby’s return should help. Anunoby is connecting on 37.1% of his threes this season.
Lonnie Walker IV is making a compelling case for the Sixth Man award, averaging 16.6 points off the bench while leading all scorers who averaged less than 25 minutes per game. What’s hurting Brooklyn, though, is a defensive rating (115.3) that’s worse than Detroit’s.
Miles Bridges had 14 points and 15 rebounds in Charlotte’s win over Boston on Monday and has scored in double figures in all three of his games since returning from suspension. Steve Clifford isn’t easing him back into the rotation, either: Bridges played 45 minutes against the Celtics.
After attempting 20 shots against Orlando last Friday, embattled Bulls guard Zach LaVine attempted just 19 total in back-to-back games against Miami. Interesting. Alex Caruso, the player everyone wants to trade for, is up to 50% shooting from three.
Keyonte George is good. Utah’s rookie point guard collected an eye-catching 70 assists through his first 13 games. Since entering the starting lineup George is averaging 10.2 points and 8.8 assists in 30.0 minutes. Hitting on mid-first-round picks matter, folks.
A 2–2 week, including a win over the Clippers, offered some hope for injury-ravaged Memphis, which is now down Marcus Smart. Santi Aldama has benefitted from an enhanced role, connecting on a career-best 37.5% of his threes and giving the Grizz some versatility in the frontcourt.
On one hand, DeAndre Ayton is gobbling up rebounds and providing credible interior defense. On the other, his shots remain inexplicably down, his scoring output has plummeted and he has attempted just nine—nine!—free throws this season.
The Spurs are third in the NBA in assists, trailing just Denver and Indiana. But it feels like Victor Wembanyama would benefit from having a more traditional point guard playing alongside him.
Jordan Poole’s shooting numbers have been dreadful to start the season. Poole is connecting on 39.6% of his shots (lowest since his rookie season) and 28.4% of his threes (ditto). Poole’s teammates have been supportive but Poole’s first shot at being a leading man has been a disaster.
Fun fact: The Pistons have six players taken in the top-seven of the draft since 2018. Not so fun fact: Detroit is riding a 12-game losing streak with an offense that can’t score on anyone. Said Cade Cunningham, “We’re bad.”