NBA Power Rankings
The Golden State Warriors have gone 96 regular-season games without losing two games in a row, which is an NBA record.
Yet it's not quite enough to hike the Warriors back into the top two of ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings, which are suddenly more crowded at the top than anyone expected.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and LA Clippers, at least for now, have combined to keep the Warriors stuck at No. 3 for three successive weeks, even though the Warriors are starting to find an offensive groove. ESPN's trusty Basketball Power Index, for the record, doesn't even agree with the Committee (of One) about our placement of the Clippers at No. 2. (For the record: BPI tends to focus strictly on the basketball we've seen so far this season; your trusty committee always factors in each team's big-picture outlook to balance out whatever's happening in the short-term present.)
Such debates, of course, are what make the Power Rankings so fun. And naturally there's plenty more for you dissect and discuss throughout our 1-30 ladder, which reflects the usual volatility we get every November when we have only a handful of games to analyze. Profuse thanks, as always, go to ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau -- particularly research ace Micah Adams -- for supplying much of the background data that helps the Committee (of One) arrange things.
Previous rankings: Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Training camp
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2016-17 record: 8-1
Previous ranking: 1
The sting of losing their unbeaten record sure didn't last long for the Cavs, who clearly savored the privilege of proceeding to a White House visit that we know more about than any previous White House trip for an NBA team thanks to this revealing reporting from our intrepid pal Rachel Nichols and The Jump cameras. It's clearly a good time to be The King when LeBron James becoming the youngest player to crack the 27,000-point plateau is the sidebar story of the week.
2. LA Clippers
2016-17 record: 9-1
Previous ranking: 2
Remember when the Clippers lost four of their first five road games last season? We frankly didn't because they've been so good so far, assembling the first 9-1 start in franchise history and bolting to a nightly average margin of plus-15.1 thanks to back-to-back victories at home last week (over Detroit and Portland) by a combined 63 points and what ranks as -- by far -- the NBA's most withering defense (tops in the league in defensive efficiency at 92.7 points allowed per 100 possessions).
3. Golden State Warriors
2016-17 record: 8-2
Previous ranking: 3
Routs of Dallas and Denver in what they feared to be a rather unfriendly back-to-back have restored the Warriors' average nightly point margin to something closer to the level (plus-8.2) so many of us expected. And Steph Curry's "Super Villains" party ensured that the drama lovers out there (raises hand sheepishly) will keep our radar fixed firmly on the Bay Area despite the fact that the pesky Cavs and Clippers -- to the Committee's surprise -- still won't let the Dubs back in our top two.
4. Toronto Raptors
2016-17 record: 7-2
Previous ranking: 6
We seem to say it every week, but that summer with Team USA has clearly hiked DeMar DeRozan's confidence to new levels. DeRozan, who's still leading the NBA in scoring, just became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1986-87 to notch at least 30 points in eight of the first nine games of the season. A serious question, by the way, for Raptors Nation: Isn't there a part of you that wishes, like us, that the whole Toronto Huskies look was more than a one-night thing?
5. Atlanta Hawks
2016-17 record: 7-2
Previous ranking: 10
One great game in November obviously doesn't mean much, but the impact Dwight Howard had in Cleveland with his 17 boards was a new look for the Hawks against the Cavs ... after the reigning champs had won the teams' previous 11 meetings. You certainly aren't wrong to say it's early, but you also have to start considering the possibility that the retooled Hawks, relying so heavily on Howard and young Dennis Schroder, got it very right with their bold changes.