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Through two weeks, we are on a collision course for a Celtics-Nuggets NBA Finals, are we not? It looked like that would be the case last spring, before the Heat stepped in and fended off the Celtics in a seven-game thriller in the East finals.
Both are unbeaten (along with … Dallas?), and they’re the teams atop the NBA Power Rankings this week.
Let’s get to those NBA power rankings, then, and we will start with the Celtics.
Week 2 NBA Power Rankings Top 10: Boston Celtics Ascend
Boston Celtics, (3-0). The supporting cast looks great, but once again, it is Jayson Tatum (29.7 points, 55.4% shooting) off to an early MVP-like start. That will need to be the formula in Boston. Denver Nuggets, (4-0). All Nikola Jokic is doing so far is averaging 26.5 points and shooting 64.7% from the field. Oh, and grabbing 12.3 rebounds with 8.5 assists. Golden State Warriors, (2-1). With 17 3s, through three games, Stephen Curry is on pace to make 464 in total this year. Ahem. Phoenix Suns, (2-1). One of the concerns about this group was injuries, and we’re already seeing them crop up, first with with Bradley Beal (back) and now Devin Booker (foot). Milwaukee Bucks, (2-1). It’s only three games, but the challenge for Adrian Griffin here is clear: Get the defense to come together as quickly as possible (it’s 25th at 114.4 points per 100 possessions now). Philadelphia 76ers, (2-1). Daryl Morey had to swallow hard to accept role players for James Harden, but he got some decent ones: veterans Robert Covington, Marcus Morris and Nic Batum. We’ll see what Nick Nurse can wring out of those aged legs. Los Angeles Lakers, (2-1). Austin Reaves has the contract and the starting job. Can he take the pressure? Slow start thus far: 10.0 points on 33.3% shooting. Dallas Mavericks, (3-0). The Mavs currently ranks 18th in defense (111.9), with the best offense in the league. All they need, really, is to land at about 18th to win 48-50 gams. Sacramento Kings, (2-1). Strong finish from the Kings against the Lakers, despite having De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis on the bench. If the supporting cast keeps growing, they’ll stay in the Top 10 all year. Oklahoma City Thunder, (3-1). He will have to overcome the hype, but Chet Holmgren is already showing the Rookie of the Year race is not automatically going to Victor Wembanyama.
Week 2 NBA Power Rankings: The Knicks’ Brutal Schedule
There’s an interesting week ahead for one of the teams that had high hopes entering the year — the Knicks, whose early schedule has been brutal. They started with the Celtics, had two road games against the Hawks and Pelicans, now they have a road-and-home against the Cavaliers, just after their ex-GM said the team did not think Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell was all that good. To end the week: Milwaukee!
And the story of the day: James Harden heads to L.A. Good luck, Ty Lue.
L.A. Clippers. New Orleans Pelicans. Indiana Pacers. Cleveland Cavaliers. New York Knicks. Atlanta Hawks. Chicago Bulls. Orlando Magic. Detroit Pistons. Minnesota Timberwolves.
Finally, 21-30: Houston Has a Problem
Fred VanVleet is an excellent leader and a quality third option on a good team. What he is not is a guy you pay $40 million per year to carry your young roster to the playoffs. But that’s what the Rockets are doing, and they’re 0-3 out of the gate. They’ll get better — this is a new team with a new coach (Ime Udoka). But they’re going to land somewhere around 42 wins, and that’s not what they paid for last summer.
Speaking of last summer, the Heat fell to 1-3 with a loss to the Bucks, while watching Damian Lillard post a very tidy 25 points on 14 shots on Monday night. But Tyler Herro’s 35 points were of some comfort.
Brooklyn Nets, (1-2). San Antonio Spurs, (1-2). Miami Heat, (1-3) Utah Jazz, (1-3). Toronto Raptors, (1-3). Washington Wizards, (1-2). Charlotte Hornets, (1-2). Memphis Grizzlies, (0-4). Houston Rockets, (0-3). Portland Trail Blazers, (1-3).
Sean Deveney is a veteran sports reporter covering the NBA and NFL for Heavy.com. He has written for Heavy since 2019 and has more than two decades of experience covering the NBA, including 17 years as the lead NBA reporter for the Sporting News. Deveney is the author of 7 nonfiction books, including “Fun City,” “Before Wrigley became Wrigley,” and “Facing Michael Jordan.” More about Sean Deveney