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2015-16 NBA Power Rankings Watch — Week 1: Like Yeast, the Clippers Slowly Rise

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The first Monday of the NBA season can only mean one thing — a fresh batch of power rankings, served up steaming hot straight out of the takes oven.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Rankings Roundup

Outlet Ranker Ranking Change Comment
ESPN Marc Stein 5 +1 Such was the video-game nature of the numbers coming from Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook that Blake Griffin has barely been mentioned in the Western Conference Player of the Week chatter even though Blake's are just as insane. Early evidence of that new, expanded offensive role for DeAndre Jordan, by contrast, is scarce.
CBS Sports Matt Moore 3 +3 The Clippers stumbled out of the gate last season and this year they're putting teams to bed with confidence and control. The Kings hung around on them but the Clippers never let it get out of hand. J.J. Redick is shooting 55 percent from 3-point range so far.
NBA.com David Aldridge 2 +1 The Clips' bench, with Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Austin Rivers joining Jamal Crawford, has the potential to be a difference-maker this season.
NBA.com John Schuhmann 4 +1 If Curry wasn't doing what he's doing, people might notice that Blake Griffin is averaging 32.0 points on 64 percent shooting. Paul Pierce had a big bucket in Sacramento on Wednesday, but the Clippers' bench is still an issue. Austin Rivers and Josh Smith are a combined 7-for-27 from the field and a minus-21 and minus-22, respectively. There will surely be fireworks when the Clips visit the champs on Wednesday.
Sports Illustrated Jeremy Woo 5 0 Blake Griffin is off to a fantastic start, but L.A. gets an opportunity to get off to an even better one with a showdown against Golden State on Wednesday. They’ve got a lot of off-season talk to back up as the West’s primo rivalry resumes and the shuffle at the top of the rankings begins.
NBC Sports Kurt Helin 3 +2 Blake Griffin has been a beast through three games, averaging 32 points per game on 64 percent shooting, although he was not matched up vs. the toughest competition. That changes when they travel to Golden State Wednesday. Personally, I’m not sold on Lance Stephenson as a starter.
Average 3.7 +1.3

Where the Clippers rank this week differs distinctly based on the methodology of each ranker. In the early season, some prefer to place more emphasis on preseason expectations and long-term outlook, whereas others like to make things more fun and look more at how teams have been playing so far. That's why Sports Illustrated and ESPN still have the Clippers ranked below the Spurs (although if the Clippers can come up big this week, that likely changes).

National Top Ten

Rank Team ESPN CBS DA NBA SI NBC Average
1 Golden State Warriors 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
2 Oklahoma City Thunder 2 2 3 2 3 2 2.3
3 Los Angeles Clippers 5 3 2 4 5 3 3.7
4 Cleveland Cavaliers 3 5 6 6 2 4 4.3
5 San Antonio Spurs 4 7 4 7 4 5 5.2
6 Chicago Bulls 6 4 5 5 6 9 5.8
7 Toronto Raptors 8 6 9 8 9 6 7.7
8 Memphis Grizzlies 10 10 8 9 7 8 8.7
9 Atlanta Hawks 9 11 7 10 8 11 9.3
10 Detroit Pistons 11 8 14 3 14 7 9.5

The Raptors and Pistons are making waves in the East after impressive 3-0 starts, while Houston has deservingly plummeted for their absolutely miserable play. I'm a little surprised to see the Bulls come in so high, they haven't really been that impressive at all in the early going apart from barely beating the Cavs, a game which looks more like opening night doldrums for Cleveland than anything else.

Metrics Watch

Metric Number Ranking
Win Percentage 1.000 T-1st
Margin of Victory +9.3 7th
Net Efficiency +10.9 5th
Expected Winning Percentage .813 8th
Simple Rating System 36.56 1st
Relative Percent Index .917 1st

Not much to take away from here after only three games. But let's take a look at the last two metrics, which are really weirdly skewed in the early going. Both take into account strength of schedule (and RPI also factors in opponents' strength of schedule), and somehow the way the schedule has played out so far puts the Clippers and their opponents thus far in a really positive light. The two teams the Clippers have beaten so far — Sacramento and Dallas — actually come in 2nd and 3rd in SRS currently (and their only other opponents, the Suns and Lakers, also currently stand in the top 10). The amount of overlap in common opponents during the first week is probably a strong influence, as well as the fact that the Kings and Mavericks are 3-0 against teams not named the Clippers. This should normalize significantly in the next week or two.

My Rankings

1. Golden State Warriors — Good lord, Stephen Curry. Good lord.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder — I'd put them narrowly over LAC for the time being, if only because they've played and beaten another contender already. Defense and turnovers have been the concerns so far.

3. Los Angeles Clippers — OKC's blowout of Denver was another tipping point, something the Clippers haven't done just yet. Let's see if they can change that tonight.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers — Their bench has looked incredible so far, even though the second-string backcourt is actually starting due to the Irving/Shumpert injuries. Kevin Love will make people question why they ever thought he wasn't an elite PF.

5. Detroit Pistons — Their record is even more impressive when you look at who they've played. The bench might be an issue as the season progresses, but the Reggie Jackson-Andre Drummond combo is legit.

6. Toronto Raptors — I'm in on the Raptors. They're moving the ball better than last year (so their offense should be more sustainable) and their defense looks improved too. Their depth looks very promising so far.

7. San Antonio Spurs — Tony Parker's play against Oklahoma City and Boston did not do much to quell worries of his decline, and their ceiling is a lot lower if he can't return to form.