It's been only 19 weeks since the Golden State Warriors won the 2015 NBA championship, but we've already forgotten how good they were.
Over the course of 103 games, the Warriors outscored their opponents by 992 points, a number topped by only three teams in NBA history. They were one of only three teams in the last 38 years to rank in the top two in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Did it help that they didn't have to play the Clippers or Spurs in the Western Conference playoffs? Sure. Did all four of their postseason opponents have injured point guards? Absolutely.
But there's no evidence that supports the idea that the Warriors would have lost a series if they faced the best opponents at full strength. Golden State won the brutal Western Conference by an incredible 11 games and was 4.5 points per 100 possessions better than any other team in the league.
The champs have their entire rotation back and their core is younger than that of any other championship team we've seen in a while. The top of the West will be tougher than it was last year, but there's no logical reason to believe that any other team has a better chance of winning the championship than the one that just did it.
Of course, the Warriors were ranked fourth in this space at this time last year. So, let's just watch these games and see what happens.
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• Mid-summer rankings: Summer moves don't change East-West discrepancy
• This time last year: Spurs on top in early going, but it's wide open -- The Warriors showed signs of an improved offense in the preseason, Joakim Noah said that his knee would be an issue "all season long," Kevin Durant's health was a big question, and Steve Nash's season ended before it started.
• Plus-minus stud: Tyler Johnson (MIA) was a plus-84 in eight preseason games.
• Plus-minus dud: John Jenkins (DAL) and Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) were each a minus-77 in seven preseason games.
• Hero team of the preseason: Charlotte (7-1) -- The preseason champs opened things up offensively, shot more threes, and had one particularly impressive win: a 42-point victory over the full-strength Clippers in Shanghai.
• Zero team of the preseason: Dallas (0-7) -- Despite his status as co-plus-minus dud above, Jenkins was an offensive bright spot, averaging 24.9 points per 36 minutes on an effective field goal percentage of 54.5 percent.
• High jumps of the preseason: Boston (+2), Denver (+2), Portland (+2), Washington (+2)
• Free falls of the preseason: L.A. Lakers (-3), Seven teams (-1)
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league averaged 96.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.0 points scored per 100 possessions last season.
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NBA.com's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
(67-15) Pace: 100.7 (1) OffRtg: 109.7 (2) DefRtg: 98.2 (1) NetRtg: +11.4 (1)
Steve Kerr won't be on the bench as the champs open their season, but Stephen Curry seems ready, having shot 20-for-43 (47 percent) from 3-point range in the preseason, highlighted by some pre-swish swagger in San Jose
. Given how few people are picking them to repeat, the Warriors should have plenty of motivation this season, from start to finish. This week:
vs. NOP, @ HOU, @ NOP
(55-27) Pace: 95.9 (17) OffRtg: 106.2 (7) DefRtg: 99.6 (3) NetRtg: +6.6 (3)
LaMarcus Aldridge will be the 19th big man to start alongside Tim Duncan since David Robinson retired in 2003. And while Aldridge was voted by GMs as the summer acquisition that will make the biggest impact
, Duncan is the league's biggest bargain on a non-rookie deal at just $5.25 million. Is Tony Parker still a bargain? That's the big question with this team. This week:
@ OKC, vs. BKN, @ BOS
Pace: 94.8 (25) OffRtg: 107.7 (4) DefRtg: 104.1 (20) NetRtg: +3.7 (7)
The Cavs won't be whole for at least a couple of months and they have no real reason to step on the gas before the All-Star break. But the early part of the season can be used to get Kevin Love back into form and make him a bigger part of the offense, as has been promised. Love and LeBron James (two games apiece) didn't play at all together in the preseason.
This week: @ CHI, @ MEM, vs. MIA
(56-26) Pace: 99.3 (2) OffRtg: 104.2 (12) DefRtg: 100.5 (6) NetRtg: +3.7 (6
Clint Capela could be one of the better back-up centers in the league, but it's not good news that Dwight Howard only played in the preseason opener, dealing with tightness in his back after that. They went 1-8 against the Warriors last season and Ty Lawson says he can make Stephen Curry work
, so Friday's game against the champs is one to watch. This week:
vs. DEN, vs. GSW, @ MIA
(56-26) Pace: 97.0 (10) OffRtg: 109.8 (1) DefRtg: 103.0 (15) NetRtg: +6.9 (2
) The Clippers are playing softer defense on pick-and-rolls and the change seems to be having a positive effect, with just 54 percent of their opponents' preseason shots
coming from the restricted area or 3-point range. That was the second lowest rate in the league and down from 60 percent last season. Defensive improvement would be huge for this team. This week:
@ SAC, vs. DAL, vs. SAC
(45-37) Pace: 98.3 (6) OffRtg: 104.5 (11) DefRtg: 103.1 (16) NetRtg: +1.3 (13
) The Thunder are the
team to watch early on and Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant both looked sharp in the preseason. They each averaged over 25 points per 36 minutes
, combining for an effective field goal percentage of 59.7 percent. As was the case with the Clippers, a new pick-and-roll scheme has produced a better defensive shot chart. This week:
vs. SAS, @ ORL, vs. DEN
(55-27) Pace: 94.2 (26) OffRtg: 103.1 (13) DefRtg: 99.9 (4) NetRtg: +3.1 (11
) Grizzlies preseason games were rather ugly. Average score: 89-81. They led the preseason in defensive efficiency
and continued to stay inside the arc (ranking last in 3PA/FGA) on their own end of the floor. Matt Barnes took some threes, but shot just 2-for-18. If Courtney Lee is the only wing that can shoot, things will stay ugly when the real games begin. This week:
vs. CLE, @ IND, vs. BKN
Pace: 96.2 (15) OffRtg: 106.2 (6) DefRtg: 100.7 (7) NetRtg: +5.6 (4) Eleven of the Hawks' first 14 games are against teams that finished below .500 last season, which should give Mike Budenholzer some leeway in figuring out what combinations work best on either end of the floor. Kent Bazemore will start, but Bud could go big (Tiago Splitter), small (Dennis Schroder) or medium (Thabo Sefolosha) with his four All-Stars.
This week: vs. DET, @ NYK, vs. CHA, @ CHA
New Orleans (45-37)
Pace: 93.7 (27) OffRtg: 105.4 (9) DefRtg: 104.7 (22) NetRtg: +0.7 (15) The season hasn't started yet and the Pelicans are already beset by injuries again. Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole are out and Jrue Holiday is on a minutes restriction, so they're depending on Eric Gordon to handle the ball and make plays. They have the league's toughest first 20 games according to last year's records and four back-to-backs in their first 12.
This week: @ GSW, @ POR, vs. GSW
(50-32) Pace: 95.4 (21) OffRtg: 104.7 (10) DefRtg: 101.5 (11) NetRtg: +3.3 (9
) Derrick Rose played only 10 preseason minutes, but they were the right
preseason minutes, in Friday's finale, with Rose looking solid and shooting 4-for-6. It looks like Nikola Mirotic will start alongside Pau Gasol, which will give Fred Hoiberg's new offense a boost. But the Bulls' preseason defensive numbers (29th in DefRtg
) were not encouraging. This week:
vs. CLE, @ BKN, @ DET, vs. ORL
(46-36) Pace: 96.0 (16) OffRtg: 101.8 (19) DefRtg: 100.0 (5) NetRtg: +1.9 (12
) The funnest thing about the preseason was that Drew Gooden and Kris Humphries, who combined to take 66 threes last season, were the leading 3-point shooters
(makes and attempts) for the league's most efficient offense
. Humphries played just five total minutes as the Wizards went to small-ball in the playoffs, but is now the starting stretch four. This week:
@ ORL, @ MIL, vs. NYK
(37-45) Pace: 93.3 (29) OffRtg: 101.5 (22) DefRtg: 103.8 (19) NetRtg: -2.4 (21
If Gerald Green can continue shooting like he did in the preseason (48 percent, 15-for-38 from Kaboom Town
), the Heat can keep Dwyane Wade fresh for April and May. They have an opportunity to start strong, with the league's easiest first 20 games according to last year's records, 14 of their first 19 at home, and only one back-to-back in their first 21. This week:
vs. CHA, @ CLE, vs. HOU
(49-33) Pace: 95.4 (20) OffRtg: 108.1 (3) DefRtg: 104.8 (23) NetRtg: +3.2 (10
) Preseason MVP Kyle Lowry (30.3 points and 6.9 assists per 36 minutes
) looks ready to bounce back from a rough spring, but the Raptors need DeMar DeRozan to shoot better and be less of a ball-stopper. Only one player (Michael Carter-Williams) had a worse effective field goal percentage than DeRozan (42.6 percent) on at least 750 shots last year. This week:
vs. IND, @ BOS, vs. MIL
Pace: 96.5 (12) OffRtg: 100.5 (25) DefRtg: 99.3 (2) NetRtg: +1.2 (14) Michael Carter-Williams vs. Greivis Vasquez will be one of the more interesting crunch-time decisions around the league. The preseason seemed to indicate that MCW still can't shoot or take care of the ball, but Vasquez has yet to take the late-game point guard job by the horns. After the opener, the young Bucks have two good tests this weekend.
This week: vs. NYK, vs. WAS, @ TOR
(38-44) Pace: 92.8 (30) OffRtg: 102.5 (15) DefRtg: 102.1 (12) NetRtg: +0.5 (16
) The Jazz are a popular pick to go from the Lottery to the playoffs, but head coach Quin Snyder doesn't want to hear that noise right now. This quote
was the best of the preseason and makes it clear that Snyder won't let his team skip steps in trying to carry over its post-break success from last season
. The Jazz play 10 of their first 14 games on the road. This week:
@ DET, @ PHI, @ IND
Pace: 97.4 (9) OffRtg: 107.2 (5) DefRtg: 103.7 (18) NetRtg: +3.5 (8) There's nothing good about an 0-7 record and a No. 30 rank in offensive efficiency in the preseason. But the Mavs got just 32 total minutes from their three perimeter starters in preseason and could actually be at full strength by Wednesday's opener in Phoenix. They open the season by visiting their last two centers: Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan.
This week: @ PHX, @ LAC, @ LAL
Pace: 98.4 (5) OffRtg: 101.7 (20) DefRtg: 102.1 (14) NetRtg: -0.4 (18) Marcus Smart looked improved, R.J. Hunder looked intriguing, and Brad Stevens doesn't have any more easy rotation decisions than he did a month ago. The Celtics looked good in the preseason, but the only NBA teams they played were the Knicks, Nets and Sixers. They play eight of their first 11 real games against teams that were .500 or better last year.
This week: vs. PHI, vs. TOR, vs. SAS
(39-43) Pace: 98.7 (3) OffRtg: 102.9 (14) DefRtg: 103.4 (17) NetRtg: -0.5 (19
) The Suns lost a lot of offense at the deadline last season
, but could be one of the more improved defensive teams this year. With Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker and Tyson Chandler, they have plus defenders at the point, on the wing, and inside. They play eight of their first 11 games at home, with only two of the visitors (Clippers and Bulls) being for-sure playoff teams. This week:
vs. DAL, vs. POR, @ POR
(38-44) Pace: 95.5 (19) OffRtg: 100.8 (24) DefRtg: 100.9 (8) NetRtg: -0.1 (17
) Myles Turner's development could be a big key to the Pacers' season. If the rookie can earn more minutes as the season goes on, he could reduce the team's dependence on not-so talented bigs and/or allow Paul George to play more minutes at the three. George's numbers (27.6 points per 36 minutes
) indicate that he likes small-ball (on offense, at least). This week:
@ TOR, vs. MEM, vs. UTA
(32-50) Pace: 95.2 (23) OffRtg: 102.3 (17) DefRtg: 104.2 (21) NetRtg: -1.8 (20
) The new, floor-spacing Pistons had the third most efficient offense in the preseason, with Reggie Bullock (13-for-25 from 3-point range
) giving them an unexpected lift. Starting wings Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris also shot well and Stanley Johnson looked like a rookie who belongs in the league. This is going to be a fun team to watch. This week:
@ ATL, vs. UTA, vs. CHI
Pace: 95.3 (22) OffRtg: 97.6 (28) DefRtg: 101.0 (9) NetRtg: -3.4 (23) Among 151 players with at least 2,000 shots over the last four years, Kemba Walker (44.0 percent) ranks last in effective field goal percentage. With a $48 million extension kicking in and playmaking help (from Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin) brought in, it's time for Walker to start being a not-so-awful shooter and for the Hornets to have a not-so awful offense.
This week: @ MIA, @ ATL, vs. ATL
(29-53) Pace: 97.9 (8) OffRtg: 102.5 (16) DefRtg: 106.5 (27) NetRtg: -4.0 (25
) The Kings took 32 percent of their shots from 3-point range in the preseason, a jump (biggest in the league) from just 20 percent last season. Call it the Belinelli Effect
, though DeMarcus Cousins (1-for-12 from beyond the arc) might want to stay inside. It will be interesting to see if George Karl leans on Darren Collison or Rajon Rondo late in games. This week:
vs. LAC, vs. LAL, @ LAC
(17-65) Pace: 93.7 (28) OffRtg: 97.1 (29) DefRtg: 107.2 (28) NetRtg: -10.1 (30
) Carmelo Anthony was on fire to start the preseason, but his shot selection eventually caught up with him. Anthony took 46 (68 percent) of his 68 preseason shots
from between the restricted area and the 3-point line, a much higher ratio than last season (54 percent), when he was injured. If that continues, it could be another ugly year in New York. This week:
@ MIL, vs. ATL, @ WAS
Pace: 98.7 (4) OffRtg: 101.6 (21) DefRtg: 105.5 (26) NetRtg: -3.9 (24) Emmanuel Mudiay (27 assists, 24 turnovers in the preseason) could be a special player someday, but other Nuggets will enjoy playing alongside Jameer Nelson (32, 12) for the time being. Denver has 15 of its first 20 games, most in the league, against teams that finished at or above .500 last season. That could push them into develop-the-kids mode early.
This week: @ HOU, vs. MIN, @ OKC
(51-31) Pace: 96.5 (13) OffRtg: 105.5 (8) DefRtg: 101.4 (10) NetRtg: +4.2 (5
As the starting shooting guard and
the back-up point guard, C.J. McCollum will have every opportunity to make a run for the Most Improved Award. Damian Lillard might similarly get every opportunity to lead the league in scoring. The pair ranked first and fourth in preseason field goal attempts
. Meyers Leonard might only shoot threes this season. This week:
vs. NOP, @ PHX, vs. PHX
(38-44) Pace: 95.0 (24) OffRtg: 101.9 (18) DefRtg: 105.0 (24) NetRtg: -3.1 (22
) The highlight of the Nets' season may have happened on the second day of training camp, when owner Mikhail Prokhorov went through his martial arts drills in front of the team
. It's hard to see anything his players do this season being as entertaining or as relevant as that, though this season could be a referendum on Lionel Hollins' ability to coach 'em up. This week:
vs. CHI, @ SAS, @ MEM
(21-61) Pace: 96.3 (14) OffRtg: 100.8 (24) DefRtg: 108.0 (29) NetRtg: -7.2 (27
) If you were looking for signs of defensive improvement via the addition of Roy Hibbert, you won't see them in the preseason numbers. The Lakers allowed more than 111 points per 100 possessions in Hibbert's 175 minutes
. Kobe Bryant shot relatively well in his five games, but Thursday's regular season warm-up
against the champs was rather discouraging. This week:
vs. MIN, @ SAC, vs. DAL
Pace: 95.9 (18) OffRtg: 99.6 (27) DefRtg: 105.2 (25) NetRtg: -5.6 (26)
This roster will be a test of Scott Skiles' ability to turn a team around defensively and backcourt shooting is a major issue, but the Magic have the potential to be very fun to watch. In fact, "Mario Hezonja" may or may not mean "many highlights" in Croatian. Each of the Magic's first six opponents won at least 45 games last season, so it could be a rough start.
This week: vs. WAS, vs. OKC, @ CHI
(16-66) Pace: 97.0 (10) OffRtg: 99.8 (26) DefRtg: 109.6 (30) NetRtg: -9.8 (29
) Rest in peace, Flip
. This week:
@ LAL, @ DEN
(18-64) Pace: 98.3 (7) OffRtg: 93.0 (30) DefRtg: 102.1 (13) NetRtg: -9.1 (28
) The first few minutes of the Sixers' first preseason game showed you why Jahlil Okafor is the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Philly went to Okafor in the post early and often, and he ranked sixth (behind only five All-Stars) in preseason usage rate
. The Sixers could be without two of their three shooters - Robert Covington and Nik Stauskas - to start the season. This week:
@ BOS, vs. UTA