Another Monday, another edition of Sampson’s Power Rankings. Offense is still up across the NBA, and a handful of teams are starting to separate themselves from the pack already.
#3 Boston Celtics
The only team allowing fewer than 100 points per game this season, the Celtics still have yet to string together consecutive dominant performances. But they have too much talent to leave outside of the top-3. Kyrie Irving has looked better this week, and Gordon Hayward may be finding his footing after looking rusty through the first few games of the season. They have too many weapons for the offense to look this mediocre for long, and they’ve managed to hang onto third place in the Eastern Conference in the meantime.
#2 Toronto Raptors
Serge Ibaka is playing like man possessed. After a tough opening night, Ibaka is averaging 18 points and nearly eight rebounds a night while holding down the starting center spot for the Raptors. Of course, Jonas Valenciunas isn’t doing to shabby in his new reserve role either; averaging 14 points per game in only 18 minutes a night. Kyle Lowry finally looks healthy, the offense is more efficient, and…oh yeah…Kawhi Leonard looks like his old self.
#1 Milwaukee Bucks
What a difference a year makes. A year ago, the Bucks had an offensive rating of 109.8 and a defensive rating of 110.1. This season? The offense comes in at 115.6 and their defensive rating is a robust 100.6. Coach Mike Budenholzer has been a revelation for this team, encouraging them to push the pace and fire away from beyond the 3-point line. Last season the Bucks averaged fewer than 25 3-point attempts a night. This season, they’re shooting 41 a game. Add Giannis to that mix, and you have the best team in the Eastern Conference.
#3 Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers are again relying on the All-NBA level play of Damian Lillard. Dame is averaging 28 points a night on what would be a career high 48 percent shooting. The difference between this season and years past is that he’s not carrying the load alone. Portland’s bench, behind Evan Turner, Zach Collins, and Nik Stauskas, is in the top-10 in bench minutes, scoring, field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage. If CJ McCollum can get it going and they can hold their own against Milwaukee and Boston this week, we’ll know this team is for real.
#2 Denver Nuggets
The future appears to be now for the Denver Nuggets. “Future” stars Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are averaging a combined 35 points per game. Nikola Jokic is a nightly triple-double threat working out of the high-post, and veteran Paul Millsap is healthy and accepting of a lesser role. Most importantly, Mike Malone has his guys bought into playing defense – ranking third in the league – at least for now. Isaiah Thomas is still recovering from his hip injury. His return could disrupt the defensive chemistry that the Nuggets are showing.
#1 Golden State Warriors
As a team, the Warriors are shooting 52 percent from the field. Perhaps more astonishingly, they’re shooting 41 percent from the 3-point line. AS A TEAM. Predictably, the Warriors lead the NBA in offensive efficiency. They’re just outside the top-10 in defense and it seems like injury or severe dysfunction on that end is the only thing that can possibly slow them down.
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