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NBA Power Rankings — Raptors, Bucks and more surprise teams

We’re two weeks into the NBA season and the last two unbeaten teams (Toronto and Milwaukee) are matched up on Monday night. There also has been plenty of movement up and down our Power Rankings.

Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, Tim MacMahon and Andre’ Snellings, The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring) ranks the league’s 30 teams from top to bottom.

Previous rankings: Week 2 | Week 1 | Training camp | Free agency

1. Golden State Warriors
2018-19 record: 6-1

Keep an eye on injured center DeMarcus Cousins, and not because of the referees. Cousins was cleared to return to practice last week after succumbing to a torn Achilles tear last season. When asked if he could be back before the calendar year is up to debut with the Warriors, Cousins just smiled. — Spears


2. Toronto Raptors
2018-19 record: 6-0

Only one undefeated team will remain in the association after the Raptors face off against the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday night. Only three NBA starters have posted a higher true-shooting percentage than Kyle Lowry (72.7 percent), while the Spurs’ imports of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have been a paragon of two-way efficiency — both shooting 45 percent or better from 3-point land and stabilizing the wings defensively. — Arnovitz


3. Milwaukee Bucks
2018-19 record: 6-0

We’ve all heard plenty about all the changes and overhauls the Bucks’ offense has seen thus far. But Milwaukee currently ranks No. 2 in defensive efficiency — a metric that, if it holds, would almost certainly make the team a true contender. The club’s spread-the-floor approach is going to make for some nights where shots simply aren’t falling. Having a unit that regularly limits opponents would give the Bucks a consistency they simply haven’t had in years past. — Herring


4. Boston Celtics
2018-19 record: 4-2

The Celtics are still learning how to get all of their talent moving in the right direction, but they are good enough to win through the growing pains. They are coming off a game in which Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum combined to score only 13 points on 22 shots. They were still able to blow out the previously undefeated Pistons behind the best games of the season from Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown. — Snellings


5. New Orleans Pelicans
2018-19 record: 4-1

Not that there was any doubt about Anthony Davis‘ extraordinary value, but Sunday’s result while he sat out with a sprained elbow served as a reminder. The Jazz feasted around the rim while handing the Pelicans their first loss of the season, scoring 64 points in the paint in the blowout without the NBA’s leading shot blocker acting as a deterrent. The Pelicans have a plus-20.8 net rating (points per 100 possessions) with Davis on the floor and are minus-16.8 when he sits. — MacMahon


6. Utah Jazz
2018-19 record: 4-2

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert is averaging a career-best 17.7 points per game and leading the NBA in field goal percentage (75.0%) and screen assists (6.2 per game, per NBA.com/Stats). “I want to show that I’m not only a defensive star,” Gobert said after totaling 47 points in Utah’s back-to-back wins over the weekend. “I can be a star offensively, too.” — MacMahon


7. Denver Nuggets
2018-19 record: 4-1

The Nuggets are off to a great start to the season, currently on top of the Northwest Division and the only team thus far to defeat the defending champion Warriors. However, it should be noted that the Warriors are the only incumbent playoff team that they’ve faced thus far. They do face two playoff squads this week in the Pelicans and Jazz, but also log two more games against lottery teams that could help them keep their early-season momentum. — Snellings


8. Indiana Pacers
2018-19 record: 4-2

The Pacers are the only team in the league that has yet to find itself in a close game, with a margin of five points or fewer during the final five minutes of play. In most cases, that has been because of Indiana’s blistering offense, which ranks No. 2 in true shooting percentage right behind the Warriors. In the two games the Pacers dropped, they seemed to have trouble shooting over the length their opponents (Bucks and Wolves) present on the defensive end. — Herring


9. Portland Trail Blazers
2018-19 record: 3-2

Damian Lillard has been blazing so far. The star guard is averaging a well-rounded 33.8 points, 6.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game this year. Keep an eye on Zach Collins, who has been playing well in his second season. — Spears


10. Philadelphia 76ers
2018-19 record: 3-3

Undefeated at home and winless on the road, the Sixers are still looking to recapture the magical efficiency of last season’s second-half run. It’s still early, but there’s a good deal of scrutiny on the backcourt, where overall the Sixers’ post a net rating difference of 9.3 when J.J. Redick is on the floor versus a negative-8.2 for Markelle Fultz. The good news for Fultz? Over the past week, the numbers have started to inch in his favor. — Arnovitz


11. Detroit Pistons
2018-19 record: 4-1

After squeaking by in a number of close calls to start the campaign 4-0, Blake Griffin and the Pistons regressed back to the mean some with a 109-89 loss to the Celtics. Griffin, who entered the contest averaging 34 points a night on 56 percent shooting, was just 2-of-13 from the floor against Boston. But as long as he and the club can split the middle between those first four games and the dud against the C’s, the Pistons should find themselves firmly in the playoff race a few months from now. — Herring


12. Houston Rockets
2018-19 record: 1-4

The Rockets’ defensive problems run much deeper than Carmelo Anthony, but when Mike D’Antoni says Houston doesn’t have the personnel to stick with its switch-everything scheme, it’s a safe bet that Melo is the first name on his mind. According to NBA Advanced Stats, Anthony gave up 32 points as the primary defender during the defensive debacle against the Clippers that convinced D’Antoni the Rockets needed to figure out a new defensive scheme five games into the season. — MacMahon


13. San Antonio Spurs
2018-19 record: 3-2

It didn’t take DeMar DeRozan long to get comfortable in San Antonio. His 136 points are the most any Spurs player has scored in his first five games for the franchise. DeRozan’s playmaking has been perhaps even more impressive, as he’s averaging 7.8 assists per game, filling a void created by the team’s top two point guards being injured. — MacMahon


14. Miami Heat
2018-19 record: 3-2

In typical fashion, the Heat are performing the dirty work with commitment. They’re making opponents work for their shot attempts, ranking third in quantified shot probability, a Second Spectrum stat that measures the likelihood of a shot going in taking into account shot quality and the player shooting it. And they’re second in the NBA in rebounding rate. Coming up this week: Three winnable games against Sacramento, Charlotte and Atlanta. — Arnovitz


15. Los Angeles Lakers
2018-19 record: 2-4

The Lakers sandwiched their first and only two wins of the season between a couple of excruciating losses to San Antonio. If the suspensions to Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram did nothing else, it clarified for the Lakers that they want Lonzo Ball in the starting lineup. When Lonzo shares the floor with LeBron, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee — their starters during the suspensions — the Lakers are outscoring opponents 116-106. — Arnovitz


16. LA Clippers
2018-19 record: 4-2

Montrezl Harrell returned to his old stomping grounds in a blaze, scoring a career-high 30 in the Clips’ Friday night road win over a Beard-less Rockets team. Though it’s a bit early to glean too much from league rankings, the Clippers are emerging as a team that ranks middle-of-the-pack in most statistical categories — a solid if unexceptional team with few discernible weaknesses or overwhelming strengths. — Arnovitz


17. Charlotte Hornets
2018-19 record: 3-4

Veteran guard Tony Parker showed that he still has game as he had 18 points and eight assists against the Chicago Bulls on Friday. It appears that the former San Antonio Spurs guard is starting to get comfortable in his odd looking new uniform. — Spears


18. Memphis Grizzlies
2018-19 record: 3-2

Center Marc Gasol has yet to get in an offensive groove (38.7 field goal percentage), but he has returned to form as a defensive anchor after showing signs of decline last season, when the Grizzlies’ tanking could have understandably impacted his effort. Memphis is allowing a measly 93.4 points per 100 possessions when Gasol plays, compared to 111.2 when the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year sits. — MacMahon


19. Minnesota Timberwolves
2018-19 record: 2-4

It has been challenging to take stock of where the Wolves are because of their up-and-down performances (dating all the way back to their preseason) against the backdrop of the Jimmy Butler drama. But any way you slice it, Friday’s uninspired 30-point loss at home to the Bucks raised some eyebrows. Not only was it the worst margin of defeat in the Thibodeau era, but it also marked the franchise’s worst field-goal percentage in a contest in nearly five calendar years. It has been encouraging to see first-rounder Josh Okogie get playing time lately — something that figures to happen more if and when the club moves on from Butler. — Herring


20. Oklahoma City Thunder
2018-19 record: 1-4

The Thunder notched their first win of the season on Sunday against the Suns, though they still rank last in the NBA in offensive rating. Second Spectrum tracking shows OKC has been top 10 in both overall shot quality (factoring in shot type, location and nearest defender) and shot probability (shot quality with a consideration for who is taking the shot), so there’s reason to believe this team won’t be the league’s worst offense for long. — Snellings


21. Dallas Mavericks
2018-19 record: 2-4

Harrison Barnes got off to a predictably rough start after missing all of the preseason and the first four games due to a hamstring strain, averaging 10.5 PPG on 26.7 percent shooting in two losses over the weekend. He’s chipping off rust and adapting to a different role with Luka Doncic as a focal point while the Mavs play fast and emphasize ball movement. “There’s going to be an adjustment period for everybody,” coach Rick Carlisle said. — MacMahon


22. Washington Wizards
2018-19 record: 1-5

There have been a lot of obscure injuries in NBA history. But Dwight Howard being sidelined with gluteal soreness might top the list. After a slow start that includes the fourth-worst point differential in the league, the Wizards certainly could use Howard’s rebounding, shot-blocking and inside scoring to right their ship. — Spears


23. Brooklyn Nets
2018-19 record: 2-4

The Nets have been surprisingly competitive early, having won both games against opponents below .500 and losing by only a combined 11 points against the Pelicans, Pistons and Warriors. They will be put to the test this week, starting off with a winnable game on the road against the Knicks but following that with three straight challenges against the Pistons, Rockets and 76ers. — Snellings


24. Sacramento Kings
2018-19 record: 3-3

The Kings looked horrible late in the preseason, at one point trailing Utah 45-10 at home. But young Sacramento has been an early NBA surprise opening the season with a 3-3 record. The Kings can earn a winning record and a confidence boost with a win at Miami on Monday. — Spears


25. Atlanta Hawks
2018-19 record: 2-3

The Hawks savored their win in the hyped Young-Doncic matchup in Wednesday night’s home opener when Young lifted his team to the win after struggling most of the night in the shadow of Doncic’s sublime first half. The Hawks actually posted the best team defense in the league over the past week, edging out Boston by a healthy margin. — Arnovitz


26. Chicago Bulls
2018-19 record: 2-4

The injury bug continues to chomp on the Bulls’ young players, as both Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis suffered MCL sprains this past week, and figure to miss the next four to six weeks recovering. With those injuries (and Lauri Markkanen‘s) in mind, the concern now is what happens to this club when Zach LaVine‘s incredible efficiency cools off, and the defense continues to sputter? The team may lack the scoring to realistically keep up with the huge numbers it’s going to surrender. — Herring


27. Orlando Magic
2018-19 record: 2-4

The Magic have played a tough schedule so far, with five of their six games against incumbent playoff teams and three of their past four games on the road. They have had some positive moments with two wins over the Celtics and Heat, as well as their close loss in Philadelphia, and they have a chance to build some momentum with four of their next five games at home against incumbent lottery teams. — Snellings


28. New York Knicks
2018-19 record: 1-5

The Knicks have lost five straight games after their season-opening victory, with their past three losses by double-figures. They managed to be competitive through three quarters in their last outing against Kevin Durant and the Warriors but got outscored by 31 points in the fourth quarter for their worst loss of the season. Promising rookie Kevin Knox (ankle) has missed most of the past four games. He will be reevaluated this week and could return soon. — Snellings


29. Phoenix Suns
2018-19 record: 1-5

The struggling Suns can’t catch a break, as star guard Devin Booker was out against the Thunder on Sunday with a strained hamstring. Perhaps veteran guard Jamal Crawford will get a chance to fill the void while Booker is out. — Spears


30. Cleveland Cavaliers
2018-19 record: 0-6

Remember when Tristan Thompson said during the offseason that, until further notice, the Eastern Conference crown still went through Cleveland, because of how the past four years had shaken out? Well, about that … the Cavs fired title-winning coach Tyronn Lue on Sunday after a pretty awful 0-6 start — a move that seemingly signals that anything can and potentially will be on the table as far as change is concerned this season. With how poorly things have gone so far — and how poorly they figure to go if Kevin Love misses considerable time due to injury — change would be hard to argue with. — Herring

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