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The NBA Power Rankings Through One Month

Bill Simmons and Kevin O’Connor give their picks on ‘The Bill Simmons Podcast’

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

One month of the 2016–17 NBA season is in the books, and a lot of it looks exactly how we thought: The Warriors and Cavs are good. The Sixers are still figuring out the process. But there have been some surprises. What happened to the promising Timberwolves? Are the Clippers already crumbling? Bill Simmons and Kevin O’Connor answered those questions and sorted through their power rankings on the latest Bill Simmons Podcast.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Tankapalooza 2017

30. Philadelphia 76ers

Kevin O’Connor: When Joel Embiid’s not on the floor, I think they’re pretty much an unwatchable team so far this season. But when Embiid is playing, they’re perhaps no. 1 in my heart.

29. Dallas Mavericks

28. Miami Heat

Bill Simmons: Miami is a team that I am very proud of myself. I did the over-under podcast with [Joe] House and I picked the over for Miami and said they were going to be a sleeper, but then if you listen later on in the podcast I admitted that I was reverse-jinxing them, and it worked because they are terrible.

27. Phoenix Suns

B.S.: That’s a team that is naturally going to tank; it’s my favorite kind of tanking team. The team that just has a bunch of young people, they’re going to be in games, they’re going to have some fun moments, but ultimately they’re so young and just precocious and not ready yet.

26. Brooklyn Nets

Maybe Tankers

25. Minnesota Timberwolves

K.O.: They still have the third-best net rating in the first half of games, and it’s the worst in the second half. They just collapse.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

24. Washington Wizards

B.S.: They’re going to have to come to grips with whether they want to trade John Wall or not. If I’m running Washington I would trade John Wall right now. I would just move him for picks and do a complete tankapalooza and try to rebuild.

23. Orlando Magic

22. New Orleans Pelicans

K.O.: It’s hard, because next summer they will have to make a choice. Jrue Holiday will be a free agent. So you could resign him, right, but at the same time, is he the guy that you want to be your second-best player? Is he the guy you want to be paying and occupying all that cap space? And if you do pay him, I think it will make it more difficult for them to make moves down the line, which could be on the table.

Young and Hungry

21. Detroit Pistons

K.O.: In some ways, I think they did whiff on [Stanley Johnson], especially taking him over Justise Winslow. Even though Winslow isn’t scoring the ball well, just like Johnson isn’t, Winslow does so many other things on the floor well … Stanley Johnson doesn’t have those intangibles.

20. Denver Nuggets

19. Los Angeles Lakers

K.O.: What Luke Walton is doing with this team, installing that system successfully with these young guys and how they’re embracing it. It’s kind of cheesy, but their thing that they say coming out of timeouts, “I love basketball,” just the chemistry these guys have compared to the Byron Scott–Kobe Bryant era, it’s unbelievable.

18. Milwaukee Bucks

B.S.: We might have underestimated the Bucks … They have somebody in Giannis [Antetokounmpo] … If they had Khris Middleton on this team, you could argue that’s a top-10 team.

The Trade Deadliners

17. Sacramento Kings

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

B.S.: [DeMarcus Cousins] is not going to stay. The team’s a mess. They’re going to go in the lottery again, and he’s going to become increasingly more unhappy. Just trade him. Trade him now. You’re not re-signing him.

16. Portland Trail Blazers

B.S.: Unfortunately, they’re going to have to think about trading [C.J.] McCollum. For a lot of reasons. He has the most value [because] they can’t trade [Damian] Lillard, [but] I’m not positive you can win a title if those are your two guards. They’re just terrible defensively.

15. New York Knicks

B.S.: If I’m coaching the Knicks, if I’m running the Knicks, all I care about is [Kristaps] Porzingis. I’m not winning the title this year. All I want is for Porzingis to be in the same position that Giannis [Antetokounmpo] is in in Milwaukee. You want to get this guy reps.

Halfheartedly Lingering Group

14. Memphis Grizzlies

K.O.: Man, that [Mike] Conley injury came at the worst time for them. I really liked the way they were playing with him. I really did. They surprised me. I didn’t think they’d be playing as well as they were, and I didn’t think Marc Gasol would come back and be as good as he’s been this early.

13. Indiana Pacers

K.O.: Paul George is going to be a free agent in 2018, [so] I wonder what they do [next summer]. Obviously, they want to keep him and sign free agents, but I wonder if they would consider moving him for a ridiculous trade package and do a fast-start rebuild around Myles Turner.

12. Charlotte Hornets

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

B.S.: Listen, I was on the bandwagon for a while, but in the modern NBA, with everybody jacking 3s, it’s hard to win with a guy who can’t shoot. [Cody] Zeller’s been surprising. [Frank] Kaminsky’s been sneaky. But, you know, it’s certainly not a threatening team.

11. Chicago Bulls

Semi-Sleepers

10. Utah Jazz

K.O.: The Jazz are 10th right now in our power rankings, but if they were a stock, I’d be heavily, heavily investing into them. Fourth-best net rating in the NBA, and that’s despite George Hill and Gordon Hayward playing only five healthy games together. Despite Derrick Favors being out right now. Despite Boris Diaw not being 100 percent healthy.

9. Atlanta Hawks

Pseudo-Contenders

8. Houston Rockets

7. Oklahoma City Thunder

6. Boston Celtics

B.S.: Really hard to judge them when [Al] Horford and [Jae] Crowder haven’t played enough games yet. They also had a tougher schedule than I think people realize.

5. Toronto Raptors

B.S.: The [DeMar] DeRozan thing sort of threw everybody off. He was just on fire for three weeks. That’s not who they’re eventually going to be so it’s hard to talk about them.

Contenders

4. Los Angeles Clippers

B.S.: The Clippers started off great, looked awesome. Now they’re fading. Now guys are griping that they’ve lost the eye of the tiger. They lost a terrible game in Brooklyn.

3. San Antonio Spurs

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

B.S.: I had Cleveland [at] one, you had Golden State [at] one. Cleveland got their asses kicked last night at Milwaukee, so I think you won that one. I think Golden State is the no. 1 [team]. And yet, in the Finals, I don’t know, I think I would still pick Cleveland.

1.Golden State Warriors

K.O.: We’re starting to see — [with] that [149]-point game against the Lakers — what [the Warriors] are truly capable of when their mix is really clicking. When these guys are really playing together at the level that they can. Because look, I know they added Kevin Durant, but these guys still had to learn how to play together. And by June they could be clicking on a level higher than what we’re seeing right now, and what we’re seeing right now is a team that’s outscoring teams by 13 points per 100 possessions. It’s ridiculous what they’re doing.