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Oct 25, 2016

Warriors start No. 1 in NBA Power Rankings

Kevin Durant

It comes as no surprise, but the Golden State Warriors start the season on top of the TSN.ca NBA Power Rankings.

Even though the Warriors coughed up a 3-1 series lead in the Final against Cleveland, they were a record-setting team last year, winning 73 games, and went out and added Kevin Durant, one of the top handful of players in the league. It's hard to imagine a team more prohibitively favoured at the start of a season, so that's where the Warriors sit -- in pole position with the rest of the league trying to figure out how to catch up.

Following the Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers feel like other legitimate title contenders, and then it's another tier down to the next group, which includes the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics.

It's going to be fun to watch the Warriors work this year, and just as fun to see if any challengers can reel them in.

 

Golden State Warriors

Record: This Week: 1 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    114.9
  • PAPG
    104.1
  • DIFF
    +10.8
  • FG%
    .487
  • OPP FG%
    .435

The Warriors may have sacrificed a bit of depth to clear enough room so that they could sign Kevin Durant, but it's totally worth it and they filled in around the edges of their four All-Stars, adding C Zaza Pachulia (and JaVale McGee) and PF David West. Heavy favourites for the championship, could they beat the wins record they set last season?

Key Injuries: None.

San Antonio Spurs

Record: This Week: 2 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    103.5
  • PAPG
    92.9
  • DIFF
    +10.6
  • FG%
    .484
  • OPP FG%
    .436

It's going to be hard to get used to the Spurs without Tim Duncan, but replacing him with Pau Gasol is a pretty good way to keep the Spurs in the title hunt. They may not be at the Warriors' level, but the Spurs play such a strong defensive game, they have as good a shot as any to challenge.

Key Injuries: SG Danny Green (quad).

Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: This Week: 3 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    104.3
  • PAPG
    98.3
  • DIFF
    +6.0
  • FG%
    .460
  • OPP FG%
    .448

The defending champs have a puncher's chance thanks to LeBron James, who ignited the Cavs' rally from 3-1 down in the Finals. They could probably use more point guard depth, and their most significant offseason addition was SF Mike Dunleavy, another 36-year-old wing to hang out with Richard Jefferson. If the Cavs have an area for improvement over last year, it would be incorporating Kevin Love into the game plan more consistently.

Key Injuries: None.

LA Clippers

Record: This Week 4 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    104.5
  • PAPG
    100.2
  • DIFF
    +4.3
  • FG%
    .465
  • OPP FG%
    .434

Having PG Chris Paul and PF Blake Griffin gives the Clippers a chance to contend, and they've added to the supporting cast with the likes of C Marreese Speights, PF Brandon Bass, SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but none of those guys are difference-makers, which leaves the Clippers as a good team, but probably not good enough.

Key Injuries: SF Paul Pierce (ankle).

Toronto Raptors

Record: This Week: 5 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    102.7
  • PAPG
    98.2
  • DIFF
    +4.5
  • FG%
    .451
  • OPP FG%
    .444

Toronto's big offseason addition was power forward Jared Sullinger and he's out indefinitely with a broken foot, so the Raptors will need some internal improvement, whether that comes from a healthy SF DeMarre Carroll, or young players like C Lucas Noguiera, SG Norman Powell as well as rookies PF Pascal Siakam and C Jakub Poeltl. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry drive play for the Raptors and C Jonas Valanciunas can be an impact player but, as close as the Raptors were last year, reaching the Eastern Conference Final, they need to find ways to get better if they are going to have a shot to advance further.

Key Injuries: PF Jared Sullinger (foot).

Boston Celtics

Record: This Week: 6 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    105.7
  • PAPG
    102.5
  • DIFF
    +3.2
  • FG%
    .439
  • OPP FG%
    .441

The Celtics have been on the way up under the guidance of head coach Brad Stevens, with PG Isaiah Thomas leading a core that includes Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart, but landing free agent C Al Horford in the summer raises the stakes; it's likely either Boston or Toronto with the best shot to take out Cleveland in the Eastern Conference.

Key Injuries: C Kelly Olynyk (shoulder), PG Marcus Smart (ankle).

Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: This Week: 7 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    110.2
  • PAPG
    102.9
  • DIFF
    +7.3
  • FG%
    .476
  • OPP FG%
    .438

Losing Kevin Durant has knocked the Thunder from title contention, but they're not going to collapse entirely; Russell Westbrook won't let them. Incoming SG Victor Oladipo should be able to play at a high pace like Westbrook and rookie PF Domantas Sabonis could play significant minutes; bigs Steven Adams and Enes Kanter give the Thunder some quality frontcourt options.

Key Injuries: None.

Indiana Pacers

Record: This Week: 8 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    102.2
  • PAPG
    100.5
  • DIFF
    +1.7
  • FG%
    .450
  • OPP FG%
    .440

Brought in PG Jeff Teague and PF Thaddeus Young to bolster the starting lineup, with veteran C Al Jefferson and PG Aaron Brooks helping off the bench. Now that SF Paul George is healthy and back to performing at a star level, the Pacers could make some noise, especially if second-year C Myles Turner can protect the rim.

Key Injuries: None.

Utah Jazz

Record: This Week: 9 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    97.7
  • PAPG
    95.9
  • DIFF
    +1.8
  • FG%
    .449
  • OPP FG%
    .446

The Jazz are poised to climb into playoff position, having added veteran SF Joe Johnson, PG George Hill and PF Boris Diaw. Add in a healthy Dante Exum to shore up the backcourt depth, a formidable frontcourt with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, and Utah has a playoff-caibre lineup.

Key Injuries: SF Gordon Hayward (finger).

Atlanta Hawks

Record: This Week: 10 Last Week: -

TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    102.8
  • PAPG
    99.2
  • DIFF
    +3.6
  • FG%
    .458
  • OPP FG%
    .432

Veteran C Dwight Howard returns home and while the 30-year-old's rep has taken some hits in recent years, he's still a quality starting centre to go alongside underrated PF Paul Millsap. Whether the Hawks are contenders this year depends a lot on two guys who are moving into more signficant roles -- SF Kent Bazemore and PG Dennis Schroder. Both took steps forward last season, but now they are vital cogs in this machine.

Key Injuries: None.

Portland Trail Blazers

Record: This Week: 11 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    105.1
  • PAPG
    104.3
  • DIFF
    +0.8
  • FG%
    .450
  • OPP FG%
    .453

The Blazers have a dynamic backcourt, with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum able to fill it up most nights, and they added SF Evan Turner and C Festus Ezeli to improve their depth. There are enough other interesting pieces -- forwards Mo Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu as well as centres Mason Plumlee and Meyers Leonard -- that the Blazers can score enough to be a playoff team. They'll need to defend a whole lot better to be more than that.

Key Injuries: None.

Houston Rockets

Record: This Week: 12 Last Week: -

2051-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    106.5
  • PAPG
    106.4
  • DIFF
    +0.1
  • FG%
    .452
  • OPP FG%
    .459

These are new-look Rockets, starting with star SG James Harden, who showed up in-shape this year. But, SG Eric Gordon, PF Ryan Anderson and C Nene shake-up the rotation, and Clint Capela gets a chance to take over at centre. With Patrick Beverley underdoing knee surgery, there could be a nice role for Canadian PG Tyler Ennis right from the start of the season.

Key Injuries: PG Patrick Beverley (knee).

Detroit Pistons

Record: This Week: 13 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    102.0
  • PAPG
    101.4
  • DIFF
    +0.6
  • FG%
    .439
  • OPP FG%
    .461

Missing PG Reggie Jackson off the start hurts, though Ish Smith should provide some cover there. The real reason for hope is expecting continued development from the rest of the starting lineup - C Andre Drummond, PF Tobias Harris, SF Marcus Morris and SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - each of whom averaged more than 32 minutes per game last season.

Key Injuries: PG Reggie Jackson (knee).

Charlotte Hornets

Record: This Week: 15 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    103.4
  • PAPG
    100.7
  • DIFF
    +2.7
  • FG%
    .439
  • OPP FG%
    .444

There aren't dramatic reasons to expect better from the Hornets this year, but a healthy Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should help, as should continued improvement from second-year PF Frank Kaminsky. Incoming C Roy Hibbert, SG Marco Belinelli and PG Ramon Sessions provide decent veteran depth off the bench.

Key Injuries: None.

Washington Wizards

Record: This Week: 15 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    104.1
  • PAPG
    104.6
  • DIFF
    -0.5
  • FG%
    .460
  • OPP FG%
    .462

While the Wizards have continuity in the starting five, their bench looks dramatically different, with wings Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tomas Satoransky taking on more significant roles. The Wizards also brought in PG Trey Burke, from Utah, C Ian Mahinmi, from Indiana, and power forwards Jason Smith and (Canadian) Andrew Nicholson, from Orlando. That bench is different, but will they be better?

Key Injuries: None.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: This Week: 16 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    102.4
  • PAPG
    106.0
  • DIFF
    -3.4
  • FG%
    .464
  • OPP FG%
    .471

The T-Wolves have loads of young talent, starting with PF Karl Anthony Towns and SF Andrew Wiggins, but supported by SG Zach LaVine, C Gorgui Dieng, SF Shabazz Muhammad and rookie PF Kris Dunn. They still PG Ricky Rubio, too, so the pieces are here to be competitive and new head coach Tom Thibodeau will be charged with the responsibility of getting them to the postseason -- ideally without killing his stars by overuse.

Key Injuries: None.

Memphis Grizzlies

Record: This Week: 17 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    99.1
  • PAPG
    101.3
  • DIFF
    -2.2
  • FG%
    .440
  • OPP FG%
    .456

There is a familiar core -- PG Mike Conley, SG Tony Allen, C Marc Gasol and PF Zach Randolph and SF Vince Carter are coming off the bench, which might not be enough to get them to the postseason, but if F Chandler Parsons can play at least semi-regularly and PF JaMychal Green takes a step forward, maybe the Grizz get in.

Key Injuries: PF Brandan Wright (ankle), F Chandler Parsons (knee).

Dallas Mavericks

Record: This Week: 18 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    102.3
  • PAPG
    102.6
  • DIFF
    -0.3
  • FG%
    .444
  • OPP FG%
    .451

Dallas' starting lineup, which includes PF Dirk Nowitzki, C Andrew Bogut and PG Deron Williams -- is long in the tooth, and will need big years from wings Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews. More interesting, perhaps, is the bench, where (Canadian) PF Dwight Powell and SG Seth Curry could emerge as significant parts of the rotation. As is, though, a lot will need to break right for the Mavs to get to the playoffs.

Key Injuries: PG Devin Harris (foot).

Chicago Bulls

Record: This Week: 19 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    101.6
  • PAPG
    103.1
  • DIFF
    -1.5
  • FG%
    .441
  • OPP FG%
    .441

It's definitely a different look for the Bulls this year, but can they pull all the pieces together? SF Jimmy Butler will get to lean on veteran SG Dwyane Wade and PG Rajon Rondo, while incoming C Robin Lopez is a solid performer beside PF Taj Gibson. Mix in F Nikola Mirotic and three-point bomber Doug McDermott and the Bulls have some talent, but maybe not enough perimeter shooting to be a playoff team.

Key Injuries: None.

New York Knicks

Record: This Week: 20 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    98.4
  • PAPG
    101.1
  • DIFF
    -2.7
  • FG%
    .441
  • OPP FG%
    .441

The Knicks overhauled the roster too. They kept SF Carmelo Anthony and freak (in the best ways!) PF Kristaps Porzingis, but added C Joakim Noah, SG Courtney Lee and point guards Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings. Sure, there's talent in that group, and if Porzingis takes a big step forward in his second season, who knows, they might be okay, but it's easy to look at the Knicks and expect problems to arise.

Key Injuries: None.

Miami Heat

Record: This Week:21 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    100.0
  • PAPG
    98.4
  • DIFF
    +1.6
  • FG%
    .470
  • OPP FG%
    .442

The Big Three are gone, and the Heat now look to PG Goran Dragic and C Hassan Whiteside as their cornerstone pieces, with hopes that young players Justise Winslow, Josh Ricardson and Tyler Johnson can develop with increased responsibilty. That Derrick Williams is set to start at power forward should give some idea what's going on here.

Key Injuries: SG Josh Richardson (knee).

Orlando Magic

Record: This Week: 22 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    102.1
  • PAPG
    103.7
  • DIFF
    -1.6
  • FG%
    .455
  • OPP FG%
    .460

The Magic have upgraded their frontcourt, adding C Bismack Biyombo, PF Serge Ibaka and F Jeff Green, yet they seem a tad big, with Aaron Gordon shifting to small forward, and that's not really the trend in the Association right now. That being the case, can the starting backcourt, PG Elfrid Payton and SG Evan Fournier, carry the perimeter game enough for the Magic to be competitive?

Key Injuries: None.

New Orleans Pelicans

Record: This Week: 23 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    102.7
  • PAPG
    106.5
  • DIFF
    -3.8
  • FG%
    .448
  • OPP FG%
    .468

With Jrue Holiday taking time off to be with his wife while she fights cancer, the Pelicans are looking at Tim Frazier as their starting point guard, with journeyman E'Twaun Moore at shooting guard and fomer Pacer Solomon Hill at small forward. This can't be the kind of supporting cast that PF Anthony Davis was hoping for. The upside rests with former Rockets PF Terrence Jones and rookie SG Buddy Hield, but the Pelicans don't look like playoff contenders.

Key Injuries: PG Jrue Holiday (personal).

Denver Nuggets

Record: This Week: 24 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    101.9
  • PAPG
    105.0
  • DIFF
    -3.1
  • FG%
    .442
  • OPP FG%
    .461

The Nuggets lack star power, but feel a bit like a hipster team because they have some up-and-comers, including PG Emmanuel Mudiay, SG Garry Harris, C Jusuf Nurkic and PF Nikola Jokic, who are all 22 or under. That young talent is exciting, but is also likely to need some time to provide results.

Key Injuries: None.

Milwaukee Bucks

Record: This Week: 25 Last Week: -

2015-16 Team Stats

  • PPG
    99.0
  • PAPG
    103.2
  • DIFF
    -4.2
  • FG%
    .467
  • OPP FG%
    .454

If the experiment of running Giannis Antetokounmpo at the point works, the Bucks could be good, but that's a big if. With Khris Middelton out, the Bucks return three (Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker along with Giannis) of their six double-digit scorers from last season, so scoring may be the biggest challenge.

Key Injuries: F Khris Middleton (hamstring).

Sacramento Kings

Record: This Week: 26 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    106.6
  • PAPG
    109.1
  • DIFF
    -2.5
  • FG%
    .464
  • OPP FG%
    .462

If the Kings could harness C DeMarcus Cousins, and play some semblance of defence, maybe they would be on to something. Veteran Darren Collison takes over at the point and the rest of the starting lineup -- Arron Afflalo, Rudy Gay and Willie Cauley-Stein is okay, but until the Kings show they aren't a combustible mess, we'll have to wait and see on them.

Key Injuries: None.

Phoenix Suns

Record: This Week: 27 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    100.9
  • PAPG
    107.5
  • DIFF
    -6.6
  • FG%
    .435
  • OPP FG%
    .467

The Suns could be fun, with a backcourt that includes Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Brandon Knight, with an improving T.J. Warren at small forward. Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler are veteran supporting pieces in the starting lineup, though rookies Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender have potential to earn minutes. 

Key Injuries: None.

LA Lakers

Record: This Week: 28 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    97.3
  • PAPG
    106.9
  • DIFF
    -9.6
  • FG%
    .414
  • OPP FG%
    .473

The post-Kobe Lakers aren't going to be good, yet, but PG D'Angelo Russell will be exciting and SG Jordan Clarkson, PF Julius Randle and PF Larry Nance Jr. offer some hope for the future. In the present, veterans Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng have to lead the way during some tough times.

Key Injuries: None.

Philadelphia 76ers

Record: This Week: 29 Last Week: -

2015-16 TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    97.4
  • PAPG
    107.6
  • DIFF
    -10.2
  • FG%
    .414
  • OPP FG%
    .473

The Sixers' process seems to be a perpetual rebuild, because even when they land a top pick like Ben Simmons, he suffers a long-term foot injury that will likely undo any real hopes for this season. PF Nerlens Noel is hurt too, though that might open up playing time in the frontcourt because the one positive for Philadelphia is that C Joel Embiid, the third pick in 2014, appears ready to play, after a mere couple of seasons on the shelf.

Key Injuries:  G Jerryd Bayless (wrist), PF Nerlens Noel (groin), SF Ben Simmons (foot)

Brooklyn Nets

Record: This Week: 30 Last Week: -

TEAM STATS

  • PPG
    98.6
  • PAPG
    106.0
  • DIFF
    -7.4
  • FG%
    .453
  • OPP FG%
    .479

Aside from C Brook Lopez, this looks like an NBA pickup team. Bojan Bogdanovich and Sean Kilpatrick are the other returning double-digit scorers and new PG Jeremy Lin figures to be a central figure. Even worse for the Nets is that, as bad as they are, they don't even hold the rights to their 2017 first-round pick. So, should be a fun season.

Key Injuries: None.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca.