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Fear the Ranks: Eastern Conference power rankings after the first week

The Cavs are off to a hot start. Is it enough for the top spot?

NBA: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

15. The Orlando Magic (0-3)

It’s a new year and that means someone other than Philly gets a shot at being the worst team in the East and early returns show the Magic as the leader in the polls. The Magic did put up a decent fight against the Cavaliers but their other two losses are both blowouts. On top of that right now the Magic don’t play a visually appealing style of basketball. Hopefully Frank Vogel can work his magic and help Orlando at least become watchable this season.

14. The Philadelphia 76ers (0-2)

The Process is finally starting to show some returns. While their 0-2 record isn’t anything to get excited about, a close game with the Thunder and the combination of Joel Embiid and Dario Saric actually playing games for Philly bumps keeps them out of the last spot.

13. The Washington Wizards (0-2)

One would think when your point guard averages over 11 assists per game that would mean he’s making his teammates better and the team is rolling. But this is the Wizards and the opening week of the season was not kind to DC’s basketball team.

12. The Brooklyn Nets (1-3)

The Nets somehow got a win during the first week of the season, beating a well-respected Pacer’s team. This is likely the highest the Nets will be all season but Jeremy Lin and Bojan Bogdanovic are playing well and Brook Lopez has taken seven threes through three games, so I guess anything is possible.

11. The Milwaukee Bucks (1-2)

The only reason to watch Bucks games is Giannis Antentokounmpo. The Bucks are a mess offensively and through three games their best shooter is none other than Matthew Dellavedova. If Jabari Parker can get going perhaps they move up in the rankings but they desperately miss Khris Middleton.

10. The Miami Heat (1-2)

The new look Heat are struggling so far, scratching out a 1-2 record with their only win coming over in-state rival Orlando. Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are both playing well but that hasn’t been enough as the Heat rank 24th in points per game so far.

9. The New York Knicks (1-1)

While they did register a nice win over the Memphis Grizzlies the Knicks were absolutely outmatched in the season opener against the Cavaliers. The Knicks have talent on paper, or at least recognizable names, but it remains to be seen how those pieces will fit together. Going from Derek Fisher to an actual NBA coach in Jeff Hornacek should pay dividends in New York this season as the Knicks look like a playoff contender.

8. The Indiana Pacers (1-2)

The record isn’t pretty and losing to the Nets is never a good sign but Paul George, Myles Turner and Jeff Teague are all playing well. The Pacers bench has let the team down so far and an injury to Rodney Stuckey won’t help. The team brought in a lot of new players and a new coach in the offseason so it’s reasonable to assume it’ll take a few weeks for everything to start to gel. As long as Paul George continues to play like one of the best players in the NBA the Pacers are going to be alright.

7. The Charlotte Hornets (2-1)

The Hornets come in at seventh after an opening week where they registered two wins and a close loss to Boston. The Roy Hibbert reclamation project was off to a good start but he has missed the last two games due to injury. Outside of that everything is coming up Hornets. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is already making an impact again and the two best players from last year’s team, Kemba Walker and Nic Batum, have picked up where they left off.

6. The Detroit Pistons (2-1)

Detroit is another team with expectations of making the playoffs getting the job done early in the season. Ish Smith is helping the team stay afloat while they wait for starting point guard Reggie Jackson to return from an injury that is expected to keep him out for another few weeks. Tobias Harris has been shouldering the offensive load in Jackson’s absence while their strong team defense (second in the east in points per game allowed) remains the team’s bread and butter.

5. The Atlanta Hawks (3-0)

Undefeated is undefeated but the Hawks three wins have come over the Kings, Wizards and 76ers who have a combined two wins so far. Paul Millsap doesn’t seem to miss Al Horford that much as he leads the team in points and assists pairing nicely with a seemingly happy Dwight Howard.

4. The Boston Celtics (2-1)

The preseason darling Celtics have started the season pretty predictably so far. Their offense remains excellent, third in the conference in points per game, but their defense has a ways to go. This may change a bit when Marcus Smart comes back but the Celtics real issue through three games is rebounding and a point guard like Smart can only make an incremental impact there. If the Celtics want to have a deep playoff run they are going to need to address the rebounding issues sooner rather than later.

3. The Chicago Bulls (3-0)

Raise your hand if you had the Bulls being undefeated and leading the conference in points per game after the first week. So far the trio of Rondo, Wade and Butler are playing well together and most importantly shooting well from the field. As a team the Bulls are third in the NBA in three-point percentage which very likely is unsustainable but as long as they are shooting like this they’re going to be near the top of the power rankings.

2. The Toronto Raptors (2-1)

DeMar DeRozan looks like he got the legendary Team USA bump coming off of his Olympic experience this summer. The Toronto shooting guard is averaging an obscene 35 points per game on 53 percent shooting so far this year and has the Raptors looking dynamic. Kyle Lowry is struggling a little bit in the early going but a close loss to the defending champions is the only blemish on Toronto’s resume which has done little to do anything than confirm that Toronto remains the biggest challenger to Cleveland in the East.

1. The Cleveland Cavaliers (3-0)

The defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers have not lost since Game 4 of the NBA Finals.