Power Ranking 11/10: Trust In The Vets
Updated: Nov 11, 2021
The NBA season is 10 games in, and a crop of teams are beginning to establish separation in the standings as the young season kicks into full gear. In particular, the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, and Utah Jazz all sit at the top of my personal power rankings, and all of these teams have one common thread in their success: an investment in veteran players during the offseason.
Warriors G Stephen Curry celebrates during his 50 point, 10 assist performance against the Atlanta Hawks on November 8th.
1. Golden State Warriors (9-1)- After a disappointing year for the Warriors that was capped by elimination from playoff contention in the play-in tournament, Golden State has returned with a vengeance. The free agency period saw the Warriors re-sign future Hall of Famer G Stephen Curry to a 4 year, 215 million dollar contract, and then make investments into high IQ and veteran forwards Nemanja Bjelica, Otto Porter, and Andre Iguodala, as well as giving G Jordan Poole a larger role within the team. These changes have completely changed the complexion of the Warriors team and seen them return to their old form as a perennial Finals contender. The fastbreak scoring and high level offense led by Curry has overwhelmed many opposition defenses early this season, and the Warriors have brought back the swarm defense that has them leading the league in fastbreak points (18.2 fastbreak PPG). Curry has averaged 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists so far this year, looking to be an MVP candidate again after an All-NBA 1st team season last year. Also, the Warriors are awaiting the return of SG Klay Thompson who has been recovering from an Achilles tear that he sustained in the 2019 NBA Finals. With the return of Thompson and the dominance of the Warriors in the early stages of the season, Golden State looks like the team to beat in the NBA so far.
2. Chicago Bulls (7-3)- The Chicago Bulls made the most daring moves in the offseason of any team, and they have paid off by far. They traded for All-Star G Demar Derozan from the Spurs, F Derrick Jones Jr from Portland, and dynamic young G Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans, and then signed G Alex Caruso and F Tony Bradley to round out their rotation. These transactions completely changed the complexion of a Bulls team that finished well outside the playoffs last year. Derozan’s elite mid range scoring and playmaking has opened up the floor for shooters like Ball, star G Zach LaVine, and C Nikola Vucevic to space the floor, and energetic defense from Ball and Caruso has allowed the Bulls to play a fast and free flowing style of basketball that has allowed the Bulls to pick up several impressive wins against teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz. Derozan is currently averaging 26.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists, and LaVine is averaging 26.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, which will probably lead them both to be All-Stars again this year. The Chicago Bulls look to be a formidable team as the season goes forward.
3. Utah Jazz (8-3)- The Utah Jazz have been a perennial playoff contender for the last 5 or so years, around the brilliance of All Star SG Donovan Mitchell and their infamous “drop-coverage” defensive scheme anchored by 3-time Defensive player of the Year, C Rudy Gobert. The Jazz resigned PG Mike Conley to a 3 year, $72.5 million contract, acquired F Eric Paschall from the Warriors for a second round pick, and signed C Hassan Whiteside and F Rudy Gay to veteran minimum contracts, shoring up the wing depth that the LA Clippers exploited in the second round of the play-offs last year.The Jazz have always been an extremely strong regular season team, but this year they have 5 double digit scorers, (Mitchell, Conley, Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson) despite shooting only 31.8% from three point range as a team. They’ve offset their poor 3 point shooting by shooting 58% from 2 point range, which comes from a combination of elite mid range shotmaking from Mitchell and Clarkson and the paint scoring of Gobert and Conley (one of the best guard finishers in the league). I believe it’s only a matter of time before their shooting positively regresses, which will keep the Jazz in the 1 or 2 position at the top of the West.
4. Miami Heat (7-3)- The Heat were one of the most active teams in free agency and made some of the biggest moves of the free agency period: re-signing All-Star F Jimmy Butler to a 4 year, $184 million and F Duncan Robinson to a 5 year, $90 million extension, signing veteran forwards PJ Tucker and DeWayne Dedmon, and then trading G Goran Dragic and F Precious Achiuwa to Toronto in exchange for G Kyle Lowry (who signed a 3 year-85 million contract to complete the deal), as well as bringing back rotational guards Max Strus and Gabe Vincent. All of these moves have culminated in a very strong start for the Heat, led by Butler and young SG Tyler Herro, who has bounced back from an extremely disappointing sophomore season last year. The Heat’s calling card of great defense under head coach Erik Spoelstra has allowed them to shut down opposing team’s offensive actions and the scoring of Butler, Herro, and Adebayo has carried the Heat so far this season. Also, the Heat have not activated G/F Victor Oladipo, who has been recovering from a torn quad muscle. Oladipo’s two-way talent makes the Heat even more formidable as the season progresses, but the Heat have started the season well.
5. Brooklyn Nets (7-4)-. Despite the absence of Kyrie Irving, the Nets have been able to replicate their success from last year in a remarkable way. This past summer, the Nets signed PG Patty Mills to a 2 year, $12 million dollar contract, re-signed G/F Bruce Brown for 1 year, $5 million contract, and got forwards Paul Millsap, Blake Griffin, and LaMarcus Aldridge on 1-year veteran minimum contracts (worth $2.6 million each). Having such a strong veteran core to compliment Kevin Durant and James Harden has led to stable offensive production from the Nets, even as James Harden has struggled shooting the ball, due to his rehab from a hamstring injury and the implementation of new rules designed to reduce free throw shooting. Kevin Durant is currently at the top of MVP polls due to his offensive brilliance and the steadiness of the Brooklyn vets has the Nets poised to take another top-3 seed in the East, especially if Kyrie Irving returns soon.