We're three weeks into the season and we're already onto our third team at the top of NBA.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.
Parity was a popular term tossed around leading up to the start of the regular season and that's certainly held up over the first several weeks.
Case in point? The Eastern Conference.
While most figured that the West would be an 82-game free-for-all (note: it still is!), the East felt more cut and dried at least at the top where it would presumably be the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers and then everyone else.
The Boston Celtics have won seven straight, the Miami Heat look to be a legitimate threat and the Toronto Raptors look every bit the part of a worthy defending champion. The path towards the Larry O'Brien Trophy is wide open...
...in both conferences!
So without further ado, here's the latest on each team in the top 10 before rolling through 11-30.
10. Dallas Mavericks
Last week's ranking: 11th
Last week: 2-1 (win vs Magic, loss vs Knicks, win at Grizzlies)
This week: at Celtics, at Knicks, Raptors
Let's start this off by playing a little game of "which player is better"?
All of those stats except Player Efficiency Rating are per 36.
Player A is Luka Doncic this season. He's 20-years-old and in his second year in the NBA.
Player B is LeBron James in 2004-05. At that point, he was 20-years-old and in his second year in the NBA.
On a per-game basis, he's still scoring more than a 20-year-old LeBron did despite playing 7.5 fewer minutes. What's happening with Doncic right now in Dallas is incredibly special.
9. Miami Heat
Last week's ranking: 6th
Last week: 1-2 (loss at Nuggets, win at Suns, loss at Lakers)
This week: vs Pistons, at Cavaliers, vs Pelicans
It was not a great week for the Heat who were pummeled on the road by both the Nuggets and Lakers, the second of which came on the second night of a back-to-back following a win over the Suns.
Outside of that strong showing in Phoenix, it's been a relatively slow start for Jimmy Butler. If you take that game out of the equation, Butler is averaging 16.4 points per game on 38 percent shooting. Despite the sluggish start for their new star, the Heat are still getting it done defensively as they rank inside the top five in defensive efficiency, which has kept Miami competitive while it waits for its offensive orchestrator to find his footing.
8. Denver Nuggets
Last week's ranking: 10th
Last week: 3-0 (win vs Heat, win vs 76ers, win at Timberwolves)
This week: vs Hawks, vs Nets, at Grizzlies
Nikola Jokic just would not let the Nuggets lose this week.
First came the game winner with two seconds left against the 76ers to complete the 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter...
👏JOKER👏- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 9, 2019
Then came the game winner to help escape Minnesota with an overtime win after the Nuggets collapsed at the end of the fourth quarter...
Nikola Jokić: The ultimate closer!!#MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/nJfF9M8PB2- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 10, 2019
Jokic might not fit the mold of your typical closer but it's worth pointing out that since the start of last season, his five game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds leads the NBA.
Six of their next seven games are at home giving, meaning the Nuggets could be on the verge of a much stronger start following a pair of nail biters.
7. Utah Jazz
Last week's ranking: 8th
Last week: 2-0 (win vs 76ers, win vs Bucks)
This week: at Warriors, vs Nets, at Grizzlies
At 4-3 entering a week, in which they played both the 76ers and Bucks, the Jazz easily could have had a losing record.
Instead, they gutted out a pair of tight home wins by a combined five points and now enter a reasonably forgiving stretch in which they face the Warriors, Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves twice in a row, Warriors again and the Pelicans.
Although Mike Conley is still working through some early jitters, Jazz fans should be encouraged by the impact he's had on Donovan Mitchell. In the 177 minutes those two have shared the floor, Utah is outscoring teams by 13.1 points per 100 possessions. In the 134 minutes that Mitchell has played without Conley, Utah is getting outscored by 0.4 points per 100 possessions with an offence that's significantly worse.
When they've played together, Mitchell has 28 assists and 12 turnovers. Take Conley off the floor and Mitchell's playmaking has suffered as he's recorded just nine assists to go along with 10 turnovers.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
Last week's ranking: 1st
Last week: 1-3 (loss at Suns, loss at Jazz, loss at Nuggets, win vs Hornets)
This week: Cavaliers, at Magic, at Thunder, at Cavaliers
The win at home on Sunday snapped a three-game losing streak out West during which Ben Simmons suffered a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. Although X-rays came back negative and he's not expected to miss significant time, Simmons has said he won't return until he's 100 percent healthy.
If there's a silver lining, perhaps it's that without Simmons the 76ers will be forced to find a second on-ball facilitator. So far this season, Simmons is averaging over twice as many assists as any other Sixer.
5. LA Clippers
Last week's ranking: 2nd
Last week: 1-1 (loss vs Bucks, win vs Blazers)
This week: vs Raptors, at Rockers, at Pelicans, vs Hawks
Whenever Kawhi Leonard has been on the floor, the Clippers have looked like arguably the best team in the league as two of their three losses have come in games that Leonard has missed.
One of those - last week's loss to Milwaukee - could actually be seen as a positive for the state of the Clippers given they lost by just five despite missing both Leonard AND Paul George, who could make his team debut this week.
The Clippers have played the exact same number of minutes with and without Leonard (216) and have been nearly 25 points per 100 possessions better with Leonard on the floor than with him off. With him on the floor, they've scored at a rate that would rank first in the league and defending at a level that would rank second overall.
So yeah... they're good.
4. Toronto Raptors
Last week's ranking: 14th
Last week: 3-0 (win vs Kings, win at Pelicans, win at Lakers)
This week: at Clippers, at Blazers, at Mavericks
It's hard to overstate how impressive the win over the Lakers was on Sunday, especially given it came without both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka.
Before diving into that one, a word on just how impressive Lowry's start had been prior to the finger injury that will sideline him for two weeks. Not including the game at New Orleans in which he played just 16 minutes before leaving with that thumb injury, the 33-year-old was pumping in points like few guards his age ever have.
In fact, Lowry's 24.0 points per game prior to that injury is surpasses by only three guards in NBA history at age 33 or older. You might have heard of them: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West.
With Lowry out, expect Fred VanFinals to step up in his place just as he did in that win over the Lakers in which he finished with 23 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. That was the first game of his career he finished with at least 20 points and 10 assists. If the Raptors are going to hover near the top of these rankings while Lowry's out, don't be shocked if VanVleet finds a way to replicate that dynamic display he put forth on Sunday.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
Last week's ranking: 4th
Last week: 3-1 (win at Timberwolves, win at Clippers, loss at Jazz, win at Thunder)
This week: Bulls, at Pacers
The Bucks get a light week following their four-game west coast road trip with just two games this week with three days off before their next game. That could help in any needed recovery for Khris Middleton who left Sundays game against the Thunder and did not return.
If Giannis Antetokounmpo is any Greek god, he's perhaps Atlas, a titan who in Greek mythology shouldered the entire weight of the world on his shoulders. That's what Antetokounmpo is doing in Milwaukee early on and it was apparent for all to see on Sunday in Oklahoma City as he finished with 35 points and 16 rebounds on an efficient 13-19 shooting. The reigning MVP has been nothing short of spectacular and he could seriously threaten to become the first player in NBA history to average over 30 points per game on 60 percent shooting.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Last week's ranking: 3rd
Last week: 2-1 (win at Bulls, win vs Heat, loss vs Raptors)
This week: at Suns, vs Warriors, vs Kings, vs Hawks
The Lakers were going to claim the top spot until that loss to the short-handed Raptors on Sunday. Despite the setback in a game they probably should have won, things are without a doubt looking up for LeBron and Co. who have only lost two games the entire season: one vs the reigning Finals MVP and one vs the defending NBA champs.
With 15 more dimes on Sunday, James is now dishing out a league-leading 11.0 assists per game to go along with his 24.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Leading the NBA in assists would be yet another feather in his cap, another first to add to a near endless list of incredible accomplishments.
James could become the first frontcourt player to ever lead the league in assists per game. While Wilt Chamberlain once led the NBA in total assists in 1967-68, he finished second in per-game average that year.
1. Boston Celtics
Last week's ranking: 5th
Last week: 3-0 (win at Cavaliers, win at Hornets, win at Spurs)
This week: vs Mavericks, vs Wizards, at Warriors, at Kings
Normally, rising to No. 1 would be cause for celebration. I'm guessing the Celtics would trade this lofty status for a clean bill of health.
The loss of Gordon Hayward is a cruel twist for the Celtics who have won seven straight in part due to the resurgence of Hayward, who has looked every bit the player that made the All-Star team in his final season with the Jazz in 2016-17.
MORE: What Hayward's injury means moving forward for the Celtics
If there is any team positioned to withstand the loss of a do-everything wing, it's the Celtics who will now lean more heavily on the young duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum is already making the jump many thought he'd take last year, averaging over 21 points per game despite shooting just 43 percent from the field. If he starts converting at a higher clip, Tatum could be in line for an even larger hike in his scoring.
Brown in particular could be the player most likely to pop in the absence of Hayward. In the game at San Antonio, in which Hayward left after playing just under 15 minutes, Brown erupted for 30 points. On the season, Brown is actually Boston's leading scorer in the limited time that he, Tatum and Kemba Walker have played without Hayward.
Walker and Tatum have already been scoring in bunches. Don't be surprised if Brown does the same moving forward for a team that is unexpectedly now atop the perch.
Rest of the NBA
11. Phoenix Suns
This feels low.
If you wanted to put the Suns as high up as fifth or sixth, I wouldn't put up much of a fight. After throttling the Nets on Sunday, the Suns are now fourth in overall scoring margin and still rank inside the top 10 in efficiency on both ends of the floor.
They are 6-3 and could easily be 8-1 with two of their losses (at Denver and home vs Utah) coming by just a single point.
And yet it still feels early. Two of their next three are against the teams ranked 1-2 in this week's rankings. Win either of those and I'll be happy to start Homer Simpson-ing back into the shrubs for putting them 11th.
12. Houston Rockets
Here's the list of guards to average 35 points per game in back-to-back seasons:
/takes hands off keyboard because there's nothing to type
Coming off the heels of a historic offensive season, the conventional wisdom was that Russell Westbrook's presence would mean fewer shots for Harden. That's certainly not been the case so far this season as Harden's once again hovering just over 24 shots per game while pumping in more than 37 per game. He's doing that all while not actually shooting well as he's connecting on just 39.4 percent overall and 30.0 percent from 3.
Could he do the unthinkable and average 40? Here's what it would take.
13. Indiana Pacers
14. San Antonio Spurs
15. Minnesota Timberwolves
Prior to this week, Andrew Wiggins had played in 405 career games. Over that span, just once had he recorded at least five assists in back-to-back games. Although he's shown some flashes of promise as a scorer, Wiggins has never looked the part of someone that could make others better with the ball in his hands and it's been perhaps the largest criticism of his game over the first five years of his career.
That's what make last week so promising.
Six dimes against Memphis. Seven against Golden State. Five more against Denver. After averaging just 1.7 over his first six games of the season, Wiggins now has three straight games with at least five of them, something he's never before done in the NBA.
It's too small of a sample to paint with any broad strokes, but it's certainly worth monitoring now moving forward. If this growth from Wiggins is sustainable, it's a major development in an already crowded Western Conference.
16. Detroit Pistons
17. Oklahoma City Thunder
18. Atlanta Hawks
19. Brooklyn Nets
20. Portland Trail Blazers
This is not the start that Portland had in mind at 3-6 with all of their losses coming by single digits. The losses, along with the loss of Zach Collins who is out four months after dislocating his shoulder, overshadows the strong play of Damian Lillard who was off to a great start even before hanging 60 on Friday against the Nets.
Lillard became the seventh active player with a 60-point game and the first player in Blazers history to reach that threshold.
21. Charlotte Hornets
22. Washington Wizards
23. Cleveland Cavaliers
24. Sacramento Kings
The Kings are showing some signs of life following that abysmal 0-5 start by winning three of their last four. The offence has come to life as Sacramento leads the NBA in offensive efficiency over that stretch despite also ranking dead last in pace.
25. Orlando Magic
26. New Orleans Pelicans
27. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have developed a troubling penchant for blowing big leads late. They did it again last week against the Lakers, losing a game in which they led by 19 and held a 13-point lead entering the fourth quarter. That's now three games this season the Bulls have lost after leading by double digits at any point in the fourth quarter. Given that trend, it's probably no surprise that Chicago is shooting just 37.6 percent in the fourth quarter which ranks dead last.
28. Golden State Warriors
29. Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant is an absolute stud.
Here's a crazy stat for you: Over his first seven career games, Morant was averaging over 20 points and five assists while also shooting over 50 percent from the field. Want to know the last player to do that over the course of his first seven games? Michael Jordan.
30. New York Knicks
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.