Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

NBA Power Rankings: Miami Heat White Hot Early On

1. Miami Heat

Record: 5-1

There are only two teams with top 5 offensive and defensive ratings. Miami is 4th offensively putting up 112.2 points per 100 possessions but they are crushing teams on defense. On the blue collar side of the court Miami is limiting opponents including Milwaukee and Brooklyn to 95.5 points per 100 possessions.

2. Chicago Bulls

Record: 5-1

Chicago’s defense may be real. Lonzo, Caruso and Javonte Green have been bringing a ton of pressure on opposing guards and wings. Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have been keeping up with their man and not being sieves. However, the biggest shocker is Nikola Vucevic. Donovan has got Vu sliding, staying straight up when contesting and staying back. Chicago has enough length to go over screens and chase shooters in. If Vu stands at the rim Brook Lopez style he just might be a positive defender.

3. Utah Jazz

Record: 4-1

Despite having a top 5 offense and defense, is anyone else starting to be a little worry about Quinn Snyder’s rotations? Utah’s one loss came against the Chicago Bulls without Mike Conley in the lineup, and still Snyder staggered Gobert and Mitchell almost the entire game. There are a lot of sub replacement level players playing a solid number of minutes for Utah.

4. Denver Nuggets

Record: 4-2

Nikola Jokic has meant everything to Denver early on. Building off his MVP year the 62-year-old Serbian is scoring more efficiently than ever while pulling in an extra 4 rebounds per game more than his 2020-21 averages. Michael porter Jr has struggled to find his shot leaving Aaron Gordon as the Nuggets secondary offensive creator. With Jokic and Porter taking the size and the length of opponents Defenses, Gordon has been looking to exploit smaller match ups in the post or take slower match ups off the dribble.

5. Golden State Warriors

Record: 5-1

The Warriors came to play. The motion offense is back and looking good. Even in an off-night Curry has shown his value being a cutter, distracting the defense to give Damion Lee open looks. Jordan Poole hype has died down a bit but he has looked like a solid rotation piece who is trying to do too much. New comer Bjelica has seemed to have found the right spot. Playing the back up 5 role, Nemanja looks a little like San Antonio Spurs Era Boris Diaw out there dishing rebounding and scoring.

6. Washington Wizards

Record: 5-1

Washington is by far having the best start to their season they could hope for. Picking up wins against Toronto, Indiana, Atlanta and a pair against Boston sets Washington up to great in potentially avoiding the play in round. More over the way the have been winning looks sustainable. Dinwiddie and Beal have been making great work using Harrell in the pick and roll. Washington has seemed comfortable playing small since the Gafford injury Bertans has been acting as a back up 5.

7. New York Knicks

Record: 5-1

New York is letting it fly from deep and there is no reason to stop them. Attempts have come down since the first week of the season when they were attempting more 3s than 2s but the percentages are still league leading. As a team the Knickerbockers are hitting 40.7% of their 3s. Kemba walker has been especially on fire converting 57.9% of his deep shots which more than makes up for the loss of sharp shooter Reggie Bullock.

8. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 3-3

Milwaukee has been going through it with a number of key rotational players on the sideline. They were forced into starting two Antetokounmpo recently and sadly the second one was not a Giannis clone. When everyone was healthy against Brooklyn Milwaukee looked great. They appear deeper and more poised coming off a championship.

9. Charlotte Hornets

Record: 4-2

The Terry Rozier injury may have been a blessing in disguise. Charlotte’s starting line up of LaMelo, Bridges, Hayward, Oubre, and Plumlee offered 4 switchable defenders who can guard 1-4 and a solid team defender who protects the basket. That line up also more than makes up for their lack of top end speed by having some brilliant passing. Once Ball or Hayward gets the ball they put it ahead so quickly it puts a ton of pressure on opposing teams to get back after a shot.

10. Brooklyn Nets

Record: 3-3

Changing the foul rules has seemed to really affect James Harden. The three-time scoring champion is now 42nd in points per game. Harden’s struggle to the to the line under the new rules has resulted in him not getting into his normal shooting rhyme. Harden is hitting just 37.1% of his shots from the floor. Not since his rookie tear has Harden hit less than 43% from the floor.

11. Toronto Raptors

Record: 4-3

The limbs in Toronto are enough to take anyone out of their element. Gary Trent Jr and Fred VanVleet are two of the best guards at getting deflections or tipping the ball loose. The combo forwards OG and Scottie are able to switch and defend anyone on the floor most games. Precious is still raw but has added a three pointer and the confidence to dribble coast to coast.

12. Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 3-3

Ja Morant is in the top 5 in points in the paint. He simply cannot be stopped. The way he burned Anthony Davis off switches made some wonder if Davis is nursing an injury. The spacing from Melton and Bane has been crucial as the two have combined for 30 threes in the Grizzlies first 6 games. One player who cannot space, Steven Adams has had a huge impact following Ja into the lane. Adams is pulling in 4.7 offensive rebounds per game due to Ja’s distraction.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 3-4

Bring back the bigs! We at Temple are all for a three 7’er line up. Mobley is bound to make a few rookie mistakes but against the Lakers he went toe to toe with Davis a number of times and came out the victor. Lauri may not have the fastest feet but Allen and Mobley do a nice job having one of them stepping up to help while the other protects the paint.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: 3-2

A lot can be said about the offensive fire power of Towns, Russell and Edwards but the bigger surprise has been the defense for Minnesota. Jared Vanderbilt Josh Okogie, and Jaden McDaniels have been phenomenal on that end of the floor. McDaniels started off the season by swatting a pair of shots and racking up 4 steals. If they can continue this play Minnesota will shock a lot of people.

15. Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 3-3

The Lakers are living and dying on whether Carmelo Anthony has a good game or not. Los Angeles has no spacing when Westbrook plays next to Dwight, Jordan or Rondo. Vogel has begun tampering with the starters. Mayne that will help. They have an incredibly easy schedule up coming so do not be surprised to see them rattle off wins in 5 of their next 8 games.

16. Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 2-3

Philadelphia desperately needs a ball handling distributor. It is not that players are being selfish. The ball just sticks. It is not being swung side to side. No one is gathering the team up to run an offense or feed the big man. Only Tobias Harris averages more than 4 assists and the 76ers are 28th in the league in assist per game. It is no surprise that Joel Embiid has gotten off to a slow start averaging the fewest points since his rookie season.

17. Portland Trailblazers

Record: 3-2

Similar to last season CJ McCollum has gotten off to a very hot starts and is seemingly carrying Portland. Also similar to last season, Portland seems to be a middle of the pack playoff team. Larry Nance Jr has had a smaller than expected role. Little and Simons have yet to break out. Even lasts season’s big acquisition Norm Powell has off to a slow start missing a few games.

18. Phoenix Suns

Record: 2-3

This has not been the start Phoenix was hoping for after their Finals run. It is worth mentioning that Booker did not have much of an off season jettisoning from the Finals to the Olympics but he is really struggling. The normally sharper shooter is hitting just 28.6% of his threes. Phoenix’s starters which were one of the better 5 man units last season have posted a negative 9.3 points per 100 possessions this season.

19. Atlanta Hawks

Record: 3-3

Among those most affected by the rule reinterpretations is Trae Young. After averaging 8.7 free throw attempts per game lasts season Young is attempting just 4.3 this season. Cam Reddish has helped picking up the slack but his emergence has come at the cost of Kevin Huerter. For those expecting big things from Atlanta in Nate McMillan’s first full year as a head coach you may have to keep waiting. Their next few games are all against top teams.

20. Boston Celtics

Record: 2-4

Can we make “bing Bong” official slang for beating someone in double overtime? As in the Knicks bing bonged Boston, or “the Wizards bing bonged Boston.” Boston has been holding game close but is struggling to close. Their offense seems to have stalled into a stagnated your turn my turn between Brown and Tatum. Ime Udoku has his work cut out for him getting that to change.

21. Sacramento Kings

Record: 3-2

With so many teams going deep into their roster early Sacramento’s rotation looks a bit funny. Walton must be coaching for his job because he is keeping the rotation very tight. Only 7 guys have played in all 5 games, only 10 players have played in more than 2 games. Keep an eye on the Kings for a mid-season trade. They have so many rotations level guards but no bigs and it shows. Opponents are averaging 49.8 rebounds against the Kings, 5th most this season.

22. Dallas Mavericks

Record: 3-2

It is one thing to be a player friendly coach. It is another thing to steal from Jim Boylen and have a leadership council of player, who have been granted the authority to pick Dwight Powell as a starter and have all 15 players play. This is not elementary basketball when you want to play every player so their parents get a chance to cheer for them. Jason Kidd needs to take the reigns or hand them off to actual coach soon before the Mavs waste a year of Doncic’s career.

23. San Antonio Spurs

Record: 2-4

The Spurs have the ball clicking around the court. Currently they are 2nd in team assist per game in large part due to Murray’s development distributing the ball. Offensively 6 games in and they have 6 players averaging double figures. With so many high performing younger players the Spurs seem poised for a big trade should Philly be willing to take back less than and all-star for Ben Simmons. That is if the Spurs even want him.

24. Los Angeles Clippers

Record: 1-4

It is clear we are not going to get the season of playoff Terrance Mann and Reggie Jackson. Mann has almost regressed and Jackson cannot find the basket. Throwing up 9.6 three-point attempts per game and making just 29.2% of them is for sure making Clippers fans want to throw up too. Still Los Angeles has had a hard opening start. With games against the Thunder and Timberwolves next week we will see hope Los Angeles rebounds.

25. Indiana Pacers

Record: 1-6

In one sense the Pacers’ record is not as bad as you might think. Indiana feels destine to drop close games. The Pacers with a 1-6 have a -4.2-point differential on the season. By comparison the Brooklyn Nets are 3-3 with a -4.3-point differential. In another sense their record is far worse. All 6 losses came against Eastern Conference teams including Charlotte, Washington and two against Toronto, all teams which Indiana hope to be in a pack with come play in time.

26. New Orleans Pelicans

Record: 1-6

CopyRemember when Griffin tried to gaslight on media day saying that everyone was going to make a big deal about Zion Williamson having off season surgery? It seems like it is a big deal now. The off-season acquisitions aside from Valanciunas have not been great. Satoransky and Temple are hardly in the rotation. Devonte Graham is chucking the 11th most threes per game while making just 36% of them.

27. Houston Rockets

Record: 1-4

It has been a rougher welcome to the NBA than anyone saw coming for Jalen Green. Aside from a 30-point outing against Boston the prized rookie has scored 41 points in his other 4 appearances with absolutely horrendous shooting splits. He went 0-8 from three against Utah in his last outing. Still, you have to admire his aggression and Christian Wood has been filling out the stat sheet.

28. Detroit Pistons

Record: 1-4

Is Kelly Olynyk arguably the best Piston? Probably not but the fact that it is an arguable point does not fill anyone with hope. The Pistons offense is dead last in the league at this point and they are 24th in turnover frequency. Number 1 draft pick Cade Cunningham had an underwhelming first game. If the plan was to be bad and try to add another top 3 pick then everything is going to plan.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 1-6

Aside from that giddy feeling Thunder fans have from watching their latest top 10 pick there is not too much excitement in Oklahoma City. Pokusevski and Bazley have not improved form last year. Dort cannot seem to find the basket this season. All that to say Oklahoma is right on pace for a lot of ping pong balls.

30. Orlando Magic

Record: 1-6

For being bad, Orlando has some fun in their rotation. Starting both Wendell Carter and Mo Bama harkens back to the poorest possible version of twin towers lines. Still, it is fun to see the two of them share the court without being overly clunky. Cole Anthony commands the floor and puts pressure on the defense better than expected thus far. If he continues to develop he could be an above average starter.

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Podcast host for Hoops Temple and blogger for Temple Entertainment and Media. Studied Kinesiology with an emphasis on sports psychology and coaching basketball at Michigan State University. Coached at the High School level for 8 seasons.