In the debut of On the NBA Beat’s biweekly (the every-other-week kind) NBA power rankings feature, Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers lead the field, four Eastern Conference teams rank in the top seven spots, Los Angeles’ other team cracks the top half, the “no-longer-tanking” 76ers occupy the last spot, and so much more.

Our three panelists, Loren Lee Chen, Aaron Fischman and Joshua Fischman, independently ranked the league’s 30 teams from top to bottom. Their averaged rankings produced this 1-30 list and took into account all NBA regular-season games up until and including Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Therefore, the results of Thursday’s four games will not be reflected in these rankings, but the blurbs and team records will be completely up-to-date. Future editions will also include each team’s net change from the previous rankings.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers (7-1) – Through eight games, what the Clippers are doing defensively is nothing short of impressive. They easily lead the league in Defensive Efficiency, allowing a mere 89.3 points per 100 possessions. To put that number into greater perspective, last season’s leader in the category, San Antonio, posted a 96.6 mark, while the Warriors led the 2014-15 campaign with a 98.2 Defensive Rating. This past week alone, the team held big-time scorers Kawhi Leonard and Damian Lillard to a combined 22 points on 4-of-23 from the field. Did I mention that starting small foward Luc Mbah a Moute leads the Association in Defensive Rating (81.7) and Net Rating (+28.4)?
    Blake Griffin is off to a strong start after an injury-plagued 2015-16 seasons and so are the Clippers (Verse Photos/Creative Commons).

    Blake Griffin is off to a strong start after an injury-plagued 2015-16 seasons and so are the Clippers (Verse Photos/Creative Commons).

    Despite a slow offensive start to the season, Los Angeles’ perennially elite offense has finally rounded into form, winning four straight games over 2015-16 playoff teams while scoring an average of 110 points per night. Due to a slew of recent blowouts, the Clippers’ average point-differential of +16.9 more than doubles that of any other team except for the +9.4 Hawks. – Aaron

  2. Cleveland Cavaliers (6-1)
  3. Golden State Warriors (7-2)
  4. Atlanta Hawks (6-2) – Having lost Al Horford and Jeff Teague this past offseason, the Hawks are certainly a surprise at fourth. Two key reasons (one much more enormous than the other, literally): free agent acquisition Dwight Howard is playing like an MVP candidate and Dennis Schröder has been wunderbar as the starting point guard. Mike Muscala, Thabo Sefolosha and Tim Hardaway Jr. are contributing significantly off the bench, and the team defense has been as tenacious as ever, leading the NBA in opponent’s turnovers per game. Despite a home hiccup to the Lakers, the Hawks are rolling, highlighted by an impressive road victory over the defending champion Cavaliers. – Joshua
  5. San Antonio Spurs (5-3)
  6. Charlotte Hornets (6-1)
  7. Toronto Raptors (5-2)
  8. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-2) – Russell Westbrook has undeniably put the Thunder on his back this season, averaging 31.1 points, 9.5 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game with a 29.6 Player Efficiency Rating. Yes, his turnover rate per game may seem high at 5.6, but we must keep in mind his usage rate, which is off the charts at a league-leading 41.8 percent. Besides Westbrook’s brilliance, defense has been the primary reason for Oklahoma City’s early success (only the Clippers, Hornets and Hawks boast a better Defensive Rating as of press time). Thus far, Victor Oladipo (16.0 points per game) has proven to be a solid, albeit not-so-efficient secondary scorer. OKC’s lone signature win came against the Clippers, whom they’ll host Friday night. – Aaron
  9. Utah Jazz (5-4)
  10. Houston Rockets (5-3) – With apologies to Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Steph Curry, James Harden might just be the new best offensive point guard in the NBA. Not only is he leading the league in assists with 13.0 per game, he already has five games of 15 or more assists, while the rest of the NBA only has one. The only question (other than the abysmal defense that is plagued by a 25th-ranked Defensive Efficiency) has been whether the rest of the team can lighten the load when Harden is on the bench or not hitting his shots. Newcomers Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon were brought on in the offseason to fill that need, and in Houston’s last two games (both wins) they have, with Anderson eclipsing 20 points in both games and Gordon embracing a move to a sixth-man role to bring his offensive firepower to the bench unit. – Loren
  11. Chicago Bulls (5-4) – After beginning 3-0, the Bulls have dropped four of their past six games, despite the overall strong play and consistency of Jimmy Butler and D-Wade. A home loss to former Bulls star Derrick Rose and his Knicks would be especially problematic were the season not so young. New addition Rajon Rondo has struggled mightily, entering Thursday’s action with a Player Efficiency Rating of 10.4, the fourth-lowest figure on the Bulls and ranking him 40th in the category among league point guards. Fred Hoiberg’s squad is deep and talented and likely needs some time to jell with its new point guard. – Joshua
  12. Portland Trail Blazers (5-4)
  13. Los Angeles Lakers (5-4) – It’s still early, but the performance of the young Lakers has been one of the biggest surprises so far this season. They’re a modest 5-4, but six of their nine opponents made the playoffs last season, and that doesn’t even include the Utah Jazz, whom James Herbert picked to be the most improved team in our NBA season preview (although it does include the Dallas Mavericks, a bottom-five team in these power rankings). Already with big wins over the Warriors, Rockets and Hawks – and a comeback win over the Kings Thursday night – the Lakers look like they have found an identity under new head coach Luke Walton, who led the Warriors to a 24-0 start during his time filling in for Coach of the Year Steve Kerr. Moreover, without the shadow of Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour lingering over the team, young upstarts DeAngelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle have been given the reins to the team and have responded by turning a team that finished 29th in Offensive Rating and 30th in Defensive Rating last season into a real playoff contender in the West. – Loren
  14. Denver Nuggets (3-5)
  15. Detroit Pistons (4-4)
  16. Milwaukee Bucks (4-4)
  17. Memphis Grizzlies (4-4) – Despite playing three-quarters of their first eight games at home, the Grizzlies find themselves at .500. They also have yet to defeat any of last season’s playoff squads. Marc Gasol has added a 3-point shot to his repertoire, but at 31 years old he’s converting a career-worst 41.2 percent of his two-point field-goal attempts. The team certainly hopes that Chandler Parsons’ return (he’s played two games so far) will reinvigorate a lackluster offense that ranks fourth-to-last in Offensive Efficiency. Then again, he’s coming off knee surgery so expectations will have to be tempered. – Aaron
  18. Miami Heat (2-5)
  19. Boston Celtics (3-4) – Predicted by many basketball analysts to finish second in the East, the Celtics are not panicking yet. However, injuries to 40 percent of Boston’s starting lineup, Al Horford and Jae Crowder, have made winning now quite difficult. Still, the Celtics managed to play the Cavaliers competitively without both players, thanks in large part to an impressive performance by Jaylen Brown and 56 combined points from Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. IT has been especially impactful, averaging 8.9 trips to the foul line and nearly 26 points per contest, all while drilling north of 47 percent of his field-goal attempts. Coach Brad Stevens is hoping that Crowder will return next week, and Horford has been making progress in his concussion recovery. – Joshua
  20. Sacramento Kings (4-6)
  21. Indiana Pacers (4-4)
  22. Brooklyn Nets (3-5)
  23. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-5) – Minnesota ranks higher than its 2-5 record would suggest for a couple reasons. Not only have the Timberwolves been unfortunate to play a mere two of their first seven games at home, but they also boast a +3.7 Net Rating (ninth in the NBA). They’ve lost three games by four or fewer points, while their only two wins were delivered in sizable margins. Young teams typically struggle to win tight games, but for now they’ll get the benefit of the doubt that the close-game results will somewhat regress to the mean. With Ricky Rubio sidelined, rookie Kris Dunn is starting at point guard with mixed results. However, the promising Providence product does have the benefit of playing alongside the talented trio of Anthony Wiggins, Karl Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine, who are averaging more than 20 points apiece and shooting a combined 51.1 percent (46-90) from 3-point range. – Aaron
  24. Phoenix Suns (3-6)
  25. New York Knicks (3-4)
  26. Washington Wizards (2-5)
  27. Dallas Mavericks (2-6)
  28. Orlando Magic (3-5)
  29. New Orleans Pelicans (1-8)
  30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-7) – As much as general manager Bryan Colangelo would like to convince you otherwise, this still isn’t a winning basketball team. The Sixers, at 0-7, are winless in their last 44 regular-season games before December, their last such win coming on Nov. 22, 2013, in overtime against the Bucks, when Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes combined for 52 points to overcome a 38-point effort from Caron Butler. While the Sixers have at least been bearable to watch with future star Joel Embiid on the court, he’s still restricted to 24 minutes per game and sitting out back-to-backs until after Christmas. However, to be fair, one of their seven losses was by one point against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers and another came in overtime against the Indiana Pacers, both moral victories for a team that starts two rookies and should improve as the season goes on. So there are faint glimmers of hope for improvement this season unlike in previous years. – Loren