NBA Power Rankings: Championship Odds for Every Team
A lot has changed in the NBA since the last installment of the power rankings. Look no further than the New York Knicks, for example, who are now the only team in the league left with an unblemished record.
Davids have slain Goliaths a few times, but favorites have also held serve against the underdogs plenty of times during the early portion of the 2012-13 season.
As a result, it's time for a new set of rankings.
Going from No. 30 to No. 1, these rankings will reveal quite a bit about the 30 teams in the NBA. First, you'll learn where they all stand right now, as determined by a subjective mix of preseason expectations and actual performance thus far.
You'll also see the current title odds for each of the squads in The Association. These are much more telling as to where teams will finish the season. Don't be surprised when there's a rather large discrepancy between a team's title odds and its spot in the rankings.
30. Detroit Pistons (Previous Ranking: No. 26)
With an 0-5 record and an 11-point margin of defeat on average, the Detroit Pistons have pulled down the ignominious 30th spot in the power rankings. Granted, the margin is heavily skewed by the 29-point loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, but the 0-5 mark isn't.
Greg Monroe has been a bright spot for the team, especially his triple-double against the Sacramento Kings, but Jonas Jerebko has been one of the only other consistently positive players.
Brandon Knight has struggled with his shot tremendously, although the porous Kings defense might have given him the confidence necessary to break out of his slump.
Although I don't expect the Pistons to remain at No. 30 for long, they've looked like the worst team in the league thus far.
Current Title Odds: 400:1
29. Charlotte Bobcats (Previous Ranking: No. 30)
Yes, you're reading this correctly. The Charlotte Bobcats have officially moved out of the lowest level of the cellar and no longer hold down the fort at No. 30.
Kemba Walker hasn't exactly come close to replicating his brilliant 30-point outing to open the season, but he's at least helped the Bobcats remain somewhat competitive. Against the Phoenix Suns, the young point guard recorded 17 points and eight assists in a seven-point loss.
This team won't set any more records for futility, but it still isn't going to be winning many games.
Current Title Odds: 500:1
28. Washington Wizards (Previous Ranking: No. 28)
Kevin Seraphin has been a revelation at power forward for the Washington Wizards, but his efforts haven't been enough to help the team put a "1" in the win column.
The Wizards came close against the Boston Celtics, taking the Eastern Conference power to overtime before falling to Brandon Bass and company, but they still remain winless.
They've kept things close, losing their three games thus far by an average margin of 6.3 points, but a loss is still a loss.
Washington isn't doing its part to remain competitive while waiting for the return of John Wall.
Current Title Odds: 300:1
27. Sacramento Kings (Previous Ranking: No. 27)
It's amazing how much production the backcourt of the Sacramento Kings can provide when everyone is playing well and motivated. For example, in a 105-103 win against the Detroit Pistons, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton and Aaron Brooks combined for 64 points, 11 assists and just three turnovers.
Therein lies the problem as well.
This Kings squad has no chemistry. Literally, it has none at all. If this were a high-school chemistry class, Sacramento would be receiving an "F" and coming to detention every afternoon.
Eleven assists between all of those guards?
Everyone wants to focus on his own shot at all times, and until selflessness is achieved, the losses are going to pile up.
Current Title Odds: 250:1
26. Phoenix Suns (Previous Ranking: No. 21)
The Phoenix Suns might have two wins in five attempts, but I'm not particularly impressed by either of the victories.
First, the Suns took down the Detroit Pistons in a three-point win sparked by Marcin Gortat's inspired play. Three games later, the desert-based squad knocked off the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. If you're keeping track at home, that means that Phoenix has earned its wins against the two worst teams in the league.
Phoenix has a lot of potential and could compete for a playoff spot, but the Suns are still searching for that elusive thing called team chemistry. That's just what tends to happen when most of your roster is brand-new.
Current Title Odds: 150:1
25. Orlando Magic (Previous Ranking: No. 29)
Despite the scoring brilliance of J.J. Redick throughout the early portion of the season, the Orlando Magic haven't proved that they're capable of overcoming the loss of Dwight Howard quite yet.
Although the Magic started the season 2-0, they've fallen back down to earth with losses against the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are still without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Plus, the wins against the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns aren't exactly takedowns of giants.
Things aren't as bad as they could have been in the first chapter of the post-Superman era, though, especially because of the promising play of E'Twaun Moore and the other young members of the squad.
Current Title Odds: 300:1
24. Toronto Raptors (Previous Ranking: No. 25)
The Toronto Raptors just haven't been able to get it done outside the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre. They've lost each of their first three games on the road to start the 2012-13 season.
Kyle Lowry has been absolutely sensational so far, playing like he's a bona fide All-NBA player, but his absence from the lineup against the Dallas Mavericks doomed the Raptors to a 1-4 record.
The biggest problem I have is that Lowry is currently on an unsustainable pace. Try as he might, he's not going to keep averaging 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game with a PER in the 30s, as he was doing before his injury.
And if the Raptors couldn't win then, what happens when he regresses to the mean?
Current Title Odds: 250:1
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (Previous Ranking: No. 23)
Dion Waiters is going to end up being the key to this team, which is a scary thought for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
We can expect sheer brilliance from Kyrie Irving on a nightly basis, and you know that Anderson Varejao is going to hustle until his hair is flopping around so much that it could hurt someone.
However, this squad is only going to go as far as the rookie from Syracuse can take it. In the season-opening win against the Washington Wizards, Waiters debuted with 17 points. He scored a career-high 28 points in the other win, a 108-101 takedown of the Los Angeles Clippers, but only posted a combined 32—inefficiently, too—in the three losses.
Current Title Odds: 200:1
22. Indiana Pacers (Previous Ranking: No. 11)
Things haven't exactly gone smoothly for this supposedly elite team in the Eastern Conference. Danny Granger might have meant a bit more than people originally guessed.
The Indiana Pacers already have two wins, but neither one is particularly impressive. The first was a two-point win against the Toronto Raptors to open the season, and the second was a double-overtime victory against the Sacramento Kings.
Indiana has also managed to lose to the Charlotte Bobcats, get blown out by the San Antonio Spurs and allow the Atlanta Hawks to go on an 18-0 run to win the game in the fourth quarter.
The Pacers have enough talent to turn things around quickly, but they haven't shown many positive signs thus far.
Current Title Odds: 60:1
21. Los Angeles Lakers (Previous Ranking: No. 15)
It's far too soon to press the panic button in the Staples Center—and I'm sure there's one around there somewhere—but it's not too early to recognize that the Los Angeles Lakers have some serious issues.
Most of those deal with chemistry. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are still figuring out just how to work with Dwight Howard, especially on the defensive end of the court, and the absence of Steve Nash isn't helping to work him into the lineup.
Plus, Mike Brown hasn't exactly come up with too many plays that utilize this squad's premier skills.
A loss to the previously 1-3 Utah Jazz isn't exactly a step in the right direction and could indicate that the blowout of the Detroit Pistons is more a testament to the ineptitude of the conquered than a step forward from the conquerors.
That said, there's still plenty of talent in purple and gold.
Current Title Odds: 8:1
20. Utah Jazz (Previous Ranking: No. 14)
The Utah Jazz are another team that has more talent than its record would indicate.
Mo Williams, in particular, has been lighting it up in Salt Lake City. After an efficient 16-point, seven-assist performance from the point guard, his averages now stand at 19.8 points and 6.8 assists per contest.
As long as Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson remain in Jazz uniforms, this team is going to stay competitive. The ceiling might not be too high, but the floor isn't low, either.
I don't expect the Jazz to dip any lower than this in the power rankings during the 2012-13 campaign.
Current Title Odds: 110:1
19. New Orleans Hornets (Previous Ranking: No. 24)
The New Orleans Hornets have been one of the more enigmatic teams in the NBA, especially as they search for an identity while Eric Gordon rests his knee.
First, Anthony Davis debuts in dominant fashion against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs, but the upstarts fall just short of a victory thanks to some heroics from Tony Parker. After that, consecutive wins against the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls give fans hope.
Then, with The Unibrow still sidelined from a concussion, the Hornets put up a stinker against the Philadelphia 76ers, only scoring 62 points in four quarters of action.
The Hornets are kind of a mystery right now, but we'll get more information about the potential success of this team once Gordon and Davis are healthy again.
Current Title Odds: 250:1
18. Brooklyn Nets (Previous Ranking: No. 9)
The Brooklyn Nets opened up the Barclays Center with a victorious 107-100 performance against the Toronto Raptors, but was there ever much doubt about that game?
It's a post hoc analysis, but there was no way that the Nets were losing the first game in Brooklyn against a Toronto Raptors squad searching for cohesiveness after adding a few new pieces to the rotation.
The subsequent losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat—the Heat loss being a 30-point Shellacking with a capital "S"—are much more telling. This is a team with a lot of potential, but the players that lay claim to that potential are still trying to figure out how to realize it.
Plus, there isn't much post defense coming from Brook Lopez, which isn't helping the whole process of stopping points from being added to the scoreboard.
Current Title Odds: 30:1
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous Ranking: No. 22)
The Minnesota Timberwolves have a shiny 3-1 record to start the season. The rest of the roster is picking up the slack while Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio rest and rehab, but the team has yet to face off against any squad in the top half of these power rankings.
Minnesota's wins have come against the Sacramento Kings, Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic so far, while the sole loss was at the hands of the Toronto Raptors.
Everyone has stepped up at various points during the season, but Brandon Roy hasn't been the superstar that the Wolves were hoping for. I'm still crossing my fingers in hopes that he's working back into shape, but he's not beating people off the dribble and lacks explosiveness so far.
Current Title Odds: 75:1
16. Houston Rockets (Previous Ranking: No. 20)
James Harden has cooled off from his otherworldly start to the season, and, somewhat unsurprisingly, the Houston Rockets have fallen off their undefeated pace as well.
As talented as the bearded shooting guard may be, he was on an unsustainable pace after his first two outbursts with his new team.
An overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers and a close defeat against the Denver Nuggets should be more in line with the expectations for the rest of the season.
Remember, Harden and Jeremy Lin are the two best players on this roster, and Omer Asik is being counted on to produce right away. Until some of the young players break out, a record right around .500 is likely the norm.
Current Title Odds: 100:1
15. Denver Nuggets (Previous Ranking: No. 6)
The Denver Nuggets are rounding into form as the season progresses through its early stages. You wouldn't think that the team would have struggled so much at the start because Andre Iguodala was the only major addition to the rotation, but so it goes.
A three-point loss to the Miami Heat is nothing to be ashamed of, and the Nuggets followed that up with victories against the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets.
I have no choice but to drop the Nuggets quite a bit, but I won't hesitate to move them back up the rankings in the future. This is still a deep and talented team.
Current Title Odds: 30:1
14. Portland Trail Blazers (Previous Ranking: No. 16)
Damian Lillard struggled from the field during his fourth NBA game, but he still managed to have a positive impact on the game. The rookie floor general drew lots of contact and went 8-of-8 from the charity stripe, giving him 13 points to go along with his five assists and one turnover.
Through four contests, Lillard is now averaging 19.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 8.0 assists with a PER of 18.45.
More importantly, he's giving Blazers fans hope that this team can be more than one destined for the lottery.
Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews have both shown improvement on the year, and LaMarcus Aldridge is still playing at an All-Star level. Good things are happening in Portland.
Current Title Odds: 80:1
13. Boston Celtics (Previous Ranking: No. 4)
The Boston Celtics have struggled in two main areas as they attempt to right the ship during the 2012-13 season following an 0-2 start.
They've had trouble producing points on offense, and the defense has been sloppy and inconsistent. That right there is a recipe for disaster.
In the long run, the two wins against the Washington Wizards will be beneficial to the perennial Eastern Conference power's cause, but they're actually less impressive than the losses right now. Beating the Wizards by three points and in overtime in consecutive games is not a good sign.
Losing by 13 points to the Miami Heat might actually be a better sign, especially in an emotionally charged first game of the season.
Current Title Odds: 15:1
12. Milwaukee Bucks (Previous Ranking: No. 18)
The Milwaukee Bucks' backcourt combination of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis could produce some wonderful things, but they're always subject to off nights, as was the case in the team's lone loss of the young season.
A combined 11-of-38 performance doomed the squad against the Memphis Grizzlies, especially when coupled with a frontcourt that doesn't have enough size to be effective against big teams like the Grizz.
Milwaukee can light up the scoreboard on any given night, but cold spells and size are going to be the team's downfall in the long run.
Current Title Odds: 90:1
11. Golden State Warriors (Previous Ranking: No. 17)
With three-point shooting galore and a defensive anchor in Andrew Bogut—albeit he is a gimpy, limited one with a slightly growing role on the squad—the Golden State Warriors are quickly developing into one of the favorites for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference.
Stephen Curry has actually managed to stay healthy for a five-game stretch, and the results have been impressive. Although he's struggled with his shot in some games, he's scoring well and racking up the assists when on his game.
Couple that with Klay Thompson and David Lee, and there's plenty of offense to go around for the Dubs.
The early-season success will not prove to be a mirage if the stars can stay on the court.
Current Title Odds: 80:1
10. Philadelphia 76ers (Previous Ranking: No. 8)
The Philadelphia 76ers have lost to the New York Knicks twice, but they're undefeated otherwise. Frankly, I'm not sure how much those losses should count against them at this point because the Knicks are as hot as can be.
Even without Andrew Bynum healthy and in the lineup, the Sixers have played suffocating defense. Seriously, holding the Knicks to 105 points per game counts as suffocating right now, as does keeping the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Hornets to 75 and 62, respectively.
Philadelphia is still learning how to play together and will only get better as the season progresses.
Current Title Odds: 50:1
9. Dallas Mavericks (Previous Ranking: No. 19)
The Dallas Mavericks should be extraordinarily pleased by their 4-1 record to start the year, especially as the games have all been played while Dirk Nowitzki sits on the sidelines in street clothes and waits to make his season debut.
Mark Cuban couldn't have asked for more from his supporting cast, particularly Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo, who appear to have the makings of a formidable backcourt foundation.
The only reason that the Mavs aren't ranked higher is the sustainability of the success. Of Dallas' four wins, only one—the 114-91 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers—came against a team in the top half of these power rankings.
Once the schedule ratchets up, Dirk better be healthy and ready to go.
Current Title Odds: 90:1
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (Previous Ranking: No. 2)
While 2012's Western Conference representative in the NBA Finals hasn't produced any fantastically impressive victories yet, there haven't been any egregious losses, either. Losing at home to the Josh Smith-less Atlanta Hawks borders on egregious, but the Hawks are not a shabby team.
The most important thing for the Oklahoma City Thunder is that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are still on the roster, although Sam Presti's second unit is clearly missing James Harden's ball-handling ability.
Westbrook has been a bit inconsistent during the opening stanza of the NBA's latest season, but he'll round into his All-Star form before too long. There have been a number of brilliant flashes from the dynamic point guard.
Even though Kevin Durant has been eating up rebounds like he changed his last name to Love and appears to have improved his facilitating skills, he must start to take over games a bit more.
Current Title Odds: 5:1
7. Los Angeles Clippers (Previous Ranking: No. 5)
The Los Angeles Clippers are hurt rather significantly by the inexplicable home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, one in which they managed to allow Dion Waiters to post a career-high 28 points.
However, they already have a number of marquee wins, particularly the season-opening victory against the Memphis Grizzlies and the 22-point beat-down of the previously undefeated San Antonio Spurs.
On a side note, how quickly have the Los Angeles Lakers fallen? A 10-point win in the first "Battle of L.A." can't really be called a marquee win.
Blake Griffin has struggled during the early portion of the season, but DeAndre Jordan has shown signs of improvement to remedy the decline in frontcourt play. However, it's the guards who have really lit it up.
Jamal Crawford has been making scorekeepers work far too hard with the amount of points he has produced, while Chris Paul has continued to prove that he's the best point guard in the league. CP3, in particular, has been quite impressive in all facets of the game.
Current Title Odds: 20:1
6. Chicago Bulls (Previous Ranking: No. 12)
The Chicago Bulls haven't missed Derrick Rose too much while they've stormed out to a 3-1 record at the start of the 2012-13 season. However, they're about to start feeling his absence once the competition is taken up a notch.
Just take a look at the schedule so far, along with the teams' place in these power rankings in parentheses: 93-87 win over the Sacramento Kings (No. 27), 115-86 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 23), 89-82 loss to the New Orleans Hornets (No. 19) and 99-93 win over the Orlando Magic (No. 25).
The sparkling record is both a testament to how well this team has played and the lack of tests that the Bulls have faced.
Tom Thibodeau is still a basketball Einstein, and the Bulls are still a playoff-caliber team, but it wouldn't shock me if I had to start moving them down in the coming weeks.
Current Title Odds: 15:1
5. Atlanta Hawks (Previous Ranking: No. 13)
The loss of Joe Johnson isn't giving the Atlanta Hawks any problems thus far during the 2012-13 campaign.
If this team has anything besides three-point shooters and an All-Star frontcourt of Josh Smith and Al Horford, it's moxie.
The season got off to a poor start when the Hawks allowed James Harden to flat-out torch their defenders for a career-high 45 points, but then things started to fall into place.
Resiliency was prominently displayed when the Hawks traveled to Oklahoma City and took down the Thunder without Josh Smith. It was even more evident during the 18-0 run in the fourth quarter to come back against the Indiana Pacers.
The Hawks have been quite impressive this season and appear to have a good bit of staying power.
Current Title Odds: 40:1
4. Memphis Grizzlies (Previous Ranking: No. 7)
The Memphis Grizzlies have looked like one of the truly elite teams in the NBA ever since the loss on opening night to the Los Angeles Clippers. And even that game may have gone differently if Jamal Crawford hadn't decided to play like it was a decade earlier.
This is not a team to take lightly, especially now that Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are all healthy at the same time.
Offense can come from plenty of places, and the defense can be absolutely suffocating, as it has been during the three straight wins that followed the Clippers loss.
Don't be shocked when this team is hanging around the top of the Western Conference all season long.
Current Title Odds: 20:1
3. San Antonio Spurs (Previous Ranking: No. 3)
Tony Parker's heroics carried the San Antonio Spurs to victories in each of their first two games, particularly when he hit a buzzer-beater to dethrone the Oklahoma City Thunder in the battle for the early Western Conference crown, but it's the whole team that has stepped up lately.
Well, at least until a 22-point loss against the Los Angeles Clippers removed the Spurs from the undefeated club, which now has an occupancy of just one.
The role players have been particularly effective thus far, and they must continue to thrive so that Gregg Popovich can continue to scale back Tim Duncan's and Manu Ginobili's minutes with the championship end game in mind.
As always, the Spurs are elite.
Current Title Odds: 10:1
2. Miami Heat (Previous Ranking: No. 1)
A definitive loss to the New York Knicks pushed the Miami Heat out of the No. 1 spot in the power rankings for the first time since, oh, roughly the beginning of the 2011-12 season. However, coming in as the first runner-up is by no means a shabby achievement.
With the exception of that loss and a close game against the Denver Nuggets, the NBA's defending champions have been downright dominant. The defense is just filthy, and the offense has the potential to lead the league in points scored with room to spare.
Ray Allen is lighting it up from beyond the arc, showing absolutely no need for time to adjust to South Beach. Chris Bosh has been an offensive stalwart, hitting mid-range jumpers with ease and still finding time to crash the boards and play inspired defense. Dwyane Wade looks healthy for once, and it's paying dividends.
In fact, the Heat have been so good that LeBron has been able to take a backseat and avoid going into "I'm the best player in the world, so I'm going to completely dominate this game for a few minutes" mode. It's not that he can't turn on that switch, but rather that he just doesn't need to.
That's a scary thought for the rest of the league. It's given players like Mario Chalmers an ability to play a more prominent role and truly start to develop.
Current Title Odds: 2:1
1. New York Knicks (Previous Ranking: No. 10)
It's impossible to stick the New York Knicks in any spot besides the top one. After all, they're the last undefeated team left in the ranks of The Association.
More impressively, none of the wins have even been close.
After the original opening game was postponed, the Knicks just went on a tear, beating the Miami Heat by 20 and the Philadelphia 76ers by a combined 38 points in back-to-back games. That's pure domination.
Everyone on the Knicks has been contributing, but it's Carmelo Anthony that has earned all the headlines because of his scoring outbursts, improved defensive play and willingness to occasionally pass out of double-teams.
I'm still not convinced that this success is sustainable over the course of the lengthy and grueling season, but the Knicks have earned the right to enjoy their time in the spotlight.
Current Title Odds: 25:1