NBA Power Rankings: Malcolm in the Middle

Malcolm Brogdon has been in the middle of all the action as the Pacers have won seven of eight. Is Indiana's run enough to move them into our top 10?

Three weeks of the 2019-20 NBA season are in the books, which means it’s time to check out where each team stands in our power rankings.

Teams will be ranked in terms of nERD, which is our efficiency metric based on in-game data. These ratings allow us to understand which teams and players are performing best. nERD is indicative of a team's expected winning percentage, so an average team will have a nERD score of 50.0.

Only four teams maintained the same rank since last week, which means there’s been a lot of movement. Let’s take a look at how each team stacks up.

The Bottom 10

RankingTeamRecordnERDLast RankingPlus/Minus
30New York Knicks2-922.529-1
29Golden State Warriors2-1025.324-5
28Memphis Grizzlies4-725.7280
27Sacramento Kings4-627.430+3
26Charlotte Hornets4-730.025-1
25Washington Wizards2-735.523-2
24Chicago Bulls4-736.626+2
23New Orleans Pelicans2-837.822-1
22Cleveland Cavaliers4-638.927+5
21Detroit Pistons4-840.9210

- The nosedive of the Golden State Warriors continued this week, with them dropping all the way to 29. At 2-10, Golden State has the worst record in the league to date. There's a joke in there about making a deal with the devil, right?

- Having won four out of five in November, the Sacramento Kings find themselves moving back up our rankings. Two of those where impressive victories against the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers. At 111.5, Sacramento still has the seventh-worst defensive rating in the league. An improvement defensively would lead to a steeper climb in the rankings.

- Had they finished off the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers probably would have found themselves in the second tier of our rankings. As it is, Cleveland moves up five spots on the back of two road victories in Washington and New York.

The Middle of the Pack

RankingTeamRecordnERDLast RankingPlus/Minus
20Atlanta Hawks4-641.1200
19Minnesota Timberwolves7-44617-2
18Houston Rockets8-348.016-2
16Orlando Magic4-748.118+2
16Brooklyn Nets4-648.115-1
15Portland Trail Blazers4-848.913-2
14San Antonio Spurs5-650.89-5
13Philadelphia 76ers7-453.16-7
12Denver Nuggets7-353.3120
11Oklahoma City Thunder4-753.914+3

- The Houston Rockets have won five in a row, though only one of those victories came against a team that is not in the bottom tier of our rankings. Though it did come on their home court, Houston's win over the Los Angeles Clippers could be a sign of the beginning of an upward trend. That said, until they show they can beat formidable opponents on a consistent basis, they will likely remain in the middle tier.

- Losers of five of their last six, the San Antonio Spurs find themselves free falling all the way to 14th in our rankings. Three of those five losses came against the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, and Minnesota Timberwolves. Uncharacteristic of a Gregg Popovich-led squad, the Spurs currently have the ninth-worst defensive rating in the league.

- Our Faller of the Week award goes to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers started the season 5-0 and have since lost four of their last six. Philly's most recent defeat was a 15-point loss on Wednesday to the Orlando Magic -- they were outscored by 17 in the fourth quarter of that game. The 76ers currently have the 10th-worst offensive efficiency rating in the league.

The Best of the Best

RankingTeamRecordnERDLast RankingPlus/Minus
10Dallas Mavericks6-455.111+1
9Indiana Pacers7-457.719+10
8Los Angeles Clippers7-461.73-5
7Toronto Raptors8-362.28+1
6Utah Jazz8-363.94-2
5Phoenix Suns6-464.010+5
4Miami Heat7-364.95+1
3Boston Celtics9-171.17+4
2Los Angeles Lakers9-276.01-1
1Milwaukee Bucks7-376.42+1

- Our Biggest Riser of the Week award goes to the Indiana Pacers. After losing twice to the Pistons and once to the Cavs to start the season, Indiana has won seven of their last eight -- led by Malcolm Brogdon's per-game averages of 20.7 points and 8.5 assists in 32 minutes. Their most recent victory was a 26-point thrashing of our 11th-ranked Oklahoma City Thunder. Indiana finds themselves fourth in the league in net rating, behind three teams that are ahead of them on this list. The caveat here is that the Pacers have played the easiest schedule, according to ESPN's RPI Index -- and it hasn't been particularly close.

- The Los Angeles Clippers are an uninspiring 5-4 over their last nine games. The hope is that Paul George's return will help jumpstart the Clippers' 15th-ranked offense.

- After starting the season 28th in our rankings, the Phoenix Suns have climbed their way into the top five this week. Wins against the Clippers, 76ers, and Nets have added to Phoenix's already impressive resume. While it took the Suns 30 games to reach six wins in 2019, they've done so in just 10 games this season. The Suns boast the league's fifth-best net rating on the young season.

- The team with the best record and net rating in the league finds themselves up four spots to number three on our list. The Boston Celtics have been nothing short of impressive to start the season. The trio of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown are averaging a combined 64.9 points and 19.2 rebounds. Boston's offensive rating of 114.3 leads the league.

- During the Milwaukee Bucks' tough four-game West Coast road trip, Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged a jaw-dropping 34.3 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists on 58 percent shooting and 42.1 percent from three -- and his team went 3-1. The Bucks have the league's third-ranked offense and seventh-ranked defense thus far, picking up right where they left off in the regular season last year.