Updated NBA Power Rankings Post-Mike Brown Firing

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIINovember 9, 2012

Updated NBA Power Rankings Post-Mike Brown Firing

0 of 30

    In what can only be described as the most shocking move of the young season, the Los Angeles Lakers have fired head coach Mike Brown (via USA Today). This comes just five games into the 2012-'13 season, which has been highlighted by the Lakers' stunning 1-4 start.

    It's a start that has temporarily compromised the theory that Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol make up a championship-caliber team.

    With Brown out of Los Angeles and the Lakers on the search for a new head coach, the NBA becomes a new animal entirely. The power structure of the league is directly impacted by the Lakers' abandoning Brown's plan of attack.

    So who fits in where in the latest NBA power rankings?

30. Detroit Pistons

1 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 0-5

    PPG: 92.8 (T-24th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 103.8 (28th in NBA)

     

    If you're wondering who will be the next NBA coach to get fired, look no further than Lawrence Frank of the Detroit Pistons.

    Not only has Frank led the Pistons to an 0-5 start, but the team is presently losing by an average margin of 11.0 points per game. This has come by virtue of their directionless offense and porous defense, evidenced by their opponents' average of 103.8 points per game.

    How has Frank reacted to these shortcomings? By providing rookie defensive stopper Andre Drummond with just 14.4 minutes per game, in which time he has still managed to lead the team in blocks with 1.20 per game.

    The Pistons are being poorly coached and the results are showing. Despite the belief of local fans, this team is a long, long way away from the postseason.

    We just didn't know they were this bad.

29. Washington Wizards

2 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 0-3

    PPG: 88.0 (28th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 94.3 (10th in NBA)

     

    Defensively, the Washington Wizards have been one of the better teams in the NBA. They're currently holding opponents to an average of 94.3 points per game, which includes their 89-86 loss to the Boston Celtics.

    Unfortunately, the Wizards haven't yet learned that there are two sides to a basketball game. You have to score to win.

    With John Wall out of the rotation, Washington is presently averaging 88.0 points per game. They've only topped 90 points once in three games.

    Truthfully, the Wizards are playing better basketball than their record suggests. They've lost their past two games against the Boston Celtics by a combined nine points and dropped their opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers by just 10.

    Without Wall or Nene Hilario, however, the Wizards are unable to orchestrate any form offense. Although defense may win championships, stopping opponents means nothing if you can't score.

    With the Wizards shooting 39.9 percent as a unit, it's safe to say they can't score.

28. Charlotte Bobcats

3 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 1-2

    PPG: 99.7 (6th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 110.7 (30th in NBA)

     

    The Charlotte Bobcats presently have a one-point upset of the Indiana Pacers, a 27-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks and a seven-point loss to the Phoenix Suns. In other words, they're the same old Charlotte Bobcats.

    One night, they'll be competitive. Another night, they'll pull off a shocking upset. And then when your confidence builds, they'll get blown out of the water when they hit the road.

    The only difference this year is that their competitive nature will be much higher due to to the arrival of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood.

    The star of the young season, however, has to be point guard Kemba Walker. Despite the popular belief that Ramon Sessions would run him into lesser playing time, Walker has stepped up with averages of 19 points, 5.3 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.

    That includes a 30-point performance in Charlotte's upset of the Pacers.

    With Walker and MKG providing an infusion of passionate youth, the Bobcats should be able to keep it close. Unfortunately, their run-and-gun style has done nothing for their defense.

    They are currently allowing a league-worst 110.7 points per game.

27. Toronto Raptors

4 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 1-4

    PPG: 97.0 (15th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 100.0 (24th in NBA)

     

    Had Kyle Lowry not suffered a sprained right ankle, the Raptors may not be 1-4 (via Toronto Raptors PR). Unfortunately, he is injured and the Raptors are showing how much worse of a basketball team they are with him absent.

    In three games with Lowry in the lineup, the Raptors averaged 98.3 points per game. In two games without him, they're averaging a full 2.3 points less at 96.

    Worst of all, they're allowing 108.5 points per game with Lowry sidelined.

    Although Lowry is expected to return rather hastily, his injury will damage the Raptors' ranking on this list until he returns. Toronto has the talent to turn things around, as well as a defensive master in head coach Dwane Casey.

    Until they show signs of improvement, however, there is no reason for optimism.

    Fortunately for Toronto, DeMar DeRozan is stepping up early in the season. He presently averages 17.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1 steal per game, providing Toronto with the offensive spark they need.

26. Phoenix Suns

5 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-3

    PPG: 97.4 (12th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 105.0 (29th in NBA)

     

    The Phoenix Suns are a subpar 2-3. Although Suns fans will be pleased with their two victories, their only wins have come against the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats.

    Need I say more?

    The Suns presently rank 29th in the NBA by allowing 105 points per game. They've lost by scores of 115-94 to the Orlando Magic and 124-99 against the Miami Heat, all the while escaping by three against the Pistons and seven against the Bobcats.

    Thus far, the Suns are one step up from the worst in the league and a far way behind the league's mediocre.

    The Suns do have the talent to turn things around. Goran Dragic and Shannon Brown have combined to average 28.6 points per game, while Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola have combined for 30.2.

    Michael Beasley rounds out a starting lineup with 14.8 points of his own.

    The issue for the Suns is that they do not have the defensive firepower to slow down their opponents. Jared Dudley is a quality defender, but the team will be involved in shootouts for a majority of this season.

    As for their second unit, Markieff Morris is progressing nicely. That's about it, which has the Suns relying far too heavily on their starters.

    Phoenix can score with the best of them, but don't expect many wins if their defense continues to play this way.

25. Brooklyn Nets

6 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 1-2

    PPG: 92.0 (26th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 103.3 (27th in NBA)

     

    Has anyone else noticed that the only real difference between the 2012-'13 Brooklyn Nets and the 22-44 Nets of 2011-'12 is Joe Johnson? Talk about any depth you want, but since when did C.J. Watson and Reggie Evans become a guarantee for the postseason?

    I digress.

    The Nets have been rather horrendous through three games. Despite defeating the Toronto Raptors by a score of 107-100, they've been the worst team in basketball over the past five quarters.

    They blew an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves and ended up losing by 11. That's a 22-point swing that comes by virtue of the Nets scoring just 10 fourth quarter points.

    At home.

    Against the Heat, their season got no prettier. They were soundly decimated by a score of 103-73, proving that they are not yet in the league of the Eastern Conference elite.

    The question is, is the hype actually warranted? Or is the not-so-changed roster simply going to produce the same results as before?

    So far, it's the latter.

24. Los Angeles Lakers

7 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 1-4

    PPG: 97.2 (T-13th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 98.8 (19th in NBA)

     

    Los Angeles Lakers fans will claim they are better than their record suggests. The fact of the matter is, regardless of their talent, they aren't better than their record.

    Not until they start playing like it.

    The Lakers have been disgracefully bad through five games. Kobe Bryant has been dominant, but the Lakers are looking as they did in the 2012 postseason.

    If it isn't Kobe, it's one other player and no one else providing support. In other words, the elite talent in Los Angeles has become a virtual non-factor.

    Don't believe it? With Kobe on the floor, the Lakers are posting a slash line of .509/.371/.667. When he's on the bench, their slash line sits at .337/.273/.647.

    So what's this noise about volume shooting?

    There is no doubt that the Lakers could turn this around and go on a 10-game winning streak. Depending on who they name as their new head coach, the Lakers will likely see a change in system and an improvement in results.

    Before we even speak about the potential replacements for Brown, how about we acknowledge the lack of passion displayed by the players?

23. Sacramento Kings

8 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-3

    PPG: 92.8 (T-24th)

    OPP PPG: 97.2 (T-15th)

     

    The Sacramento Kings have had one of the most disappointing, yet impressive starts to the 2012-'13 regular season.

    They've showed the intestinal fortitude to defeat the Golden State Warriors 94-92 and Detroit Pistons 105-103. They've also taken the Indiana Pacers to overtime and lost to the Chicago Bulls by a competitive score of 93-87.

    Although they're rather mediocre from a statistical standpoint, the Kings have become one of the most competitive teams in the league. With a surplus of talent and athleticism, how could they not be?

    The Kings' core five are currently producing at a balanced scoring level.

    DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds, while Jason Thompson has contributed 8.2 points and 1.6 blocks per game. In the backcourt, Marcus Thornton is averaging 16.6 points and Isaiah Thomas has posted 12.0 points of his own.

    Tyreke Evans, meanwhile, is averaging 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

    Beyond that, however, there are serious questions. The Kings are moving the ball poorly, as they're averaging just 15.6 assists per contest and consistently going into isolation basketball.

    Should head coach Keith Smart find a way to create a more balanced offensive attack, expect better results from the Sacramento franchise. Until then, a borderline .500 record is in the works.

22. Portland Trail Blazers

9 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-3

    PPG: 96.8 (16th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 102.8 (26th in NBA)

     

    The Portland Trail Blazers will not win more than 30 games this season.

    Although their starting five is good enough to compete with any team in the NBA, the Blazers have the worst second unit in all of basketball. Their reserves consist of Meyers Leonard, Ronnie Price, Sasha Pavlovic, Luke Babbit and Jared Jeffries.

    That's exactly why their starters will be out of energy during every fourth quarter of the NBA season. Just as they were against the Los Angeles Clippers in a 103-90 loss.

    Rookie Damian Lillard has exceeded early season expectations, while Nicolas Batum is finally beginning to show that the hype is warranted. LaMarcus Aldridge continues to quietly put up All-Star caliber numbers, with Wesley Matthews following suit.

    The issue is, Aldridge's numbers often outweigh the timing of his production. He's a stat sheet stuffer, but he does so at a rather pedestrian pace during games.

    Until he steps up as a star, the weakness of this second unit will hold this team back more than any other in the NBA. Quite an unfortunate truth for a team with a postseason-caliber starting five.

21. Cleveland Cavaliers

10 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-3

    PPG: 97.2 (T-13th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 102.2 (25th in NBA)

     

    It's rather difficult to be upset with a 2-3 start to the season. When your offense is producing at an average rate and your defense is allowing every opponent to score at will, however, there is reason for pessimism.

    After holding the Washington Wizards to 84 points, the Cavs have allowed each of their past four opponents to score at least 100. That includes a 115-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls, but also saw Cleveland pull off a 108-101 upset over the Los Angeles Clippers.

    As for that Wizards game, that feat is none too impressive. Washington is averaging just 88.0 points per game.

    Kyrie Irving is a star, Anderson Varejao is a monster rebounder and Dion Waiters put up 28 points against the Clippers. Their core is clearly good enough to win games, which suggests they could make a run in the underachieving Central Division.

    With that being said, the Cavs will go nowhere if their defense continues to play this poorly. The question is, what exactly do we expect to change with their current personnel?

    Irving will need to orchestrate a world class offense to keep the wins coming in.

20. New Orleans Hornets

11 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-2

    PPG: 83.5 (29th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 86.0 (2nd in NBA)

     

    From a defensive standpoint, the New Orleans Hornets have to be pleased. They've held three of their four opponents to less than 90 points and dropped a 99-95 thriller against the San Antonio Spurs.

    Unfortunately, they also lost 77-62 against the Philadelphia 76ers. When you only muster 62 points in your most recent performance, you can expect your name to fall down this list.

    Thus far in the early season, the Hornets have already lost Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers to minor injuries. Although Greivis Vasquez an Al-Farouq Amnu have stepped up in their place, there is no way around how grave a disappointment the duo has been.

    Unfortunately, they couldn't step up against the Sixers. In fact, they combined to shoot 6-of-24 and committed nine turnovers.

    Without Davis, Rivers and Eric Gordon, this team is destined for contention for the first overall draft choice. Although the trio will return, how can it not be concerning how poorly this team plays without them in the lineup?

    Although impressive in their two victories, which are we more inclined to believe they are? The team who lost to the Spurs by four or the unit who scored just 62 points against the Sixers?

    With such a small sample size, it's difficult to block out their most recently shortcomings.

19. Philadelphia 76ers

12 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-2

    PPG: 83.3 (30th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 86.8 (3rd in NBA)

     

    At the end of the day, a win is a win. With that being said, the Philadelphia 76ers have been the ugliest team to watch in the entire NBA.

    And their defense has been much worse than the numbers suggest.

    In spite of the fact that they're allowing just 86.8 points per game, there is a serious outlier in that equation. Although they held the Denver Nuggets to 75 and the New Orleans Hornets to 62, the Sixers flashed their true colors against the Knicks.

    Two consecutive games against their conference foes, two consecutive double-digit losses. 100-84 and 110-88.

    What's this talk of the postseason?

    Avid supporters will chalk this up to Andrew Bynum's absence, but let's be real. If one player who has never put on your uniform is that important, how can you not be concerned about the poor quality of your current roster?

    Even Jrue Holiday's outstanding start has been meaningless. As is life when you shoot an NBA-worst 38.3 percent from the floor as a team.

18. Indiana Pacers

13 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-3

    PPG: 90.0 (27th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 93.2 (9th in NBA)

     

    Defensively, the Indiana Pacers continue to master the NBA. Offensively, head coach Frank Vogel's "take the points as they come" approach continues to derail any chance the Pacers have at making the leap to elite.

    The fact that Danny Granger will miss three months due to patellar tendinosis certainly doesn't help, either (via ESPN).

    With their lead scorer out, the Pacers can only be expected to rely upon defense and nothing else. Paul George has upside, but Pacers fans continuously overstate his current readiness.

    His rebounding and defensive ability is phenomenal, but as a scorer, he's a middle-of-the-pack type of player.

    This places a heavy burden upon David West and Roy Hibbert to rise up and shine. West has done an adequate job in said role, stepping up for outings of 25, 18 and 20. He's also scored 14 and 10, however, in Pacers losses.

    As for Hibbert, his big money contract has yet to be earned as he's averaged just 8.8 points and 7.6 rebounds on 42.6 percent shooting from the floor.

    Until a lead scorer emerges, this Pacers team will be in serious danger of missing the postseason.

17. Orlando Magic

14 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-2

    PPG: 96.3 (19th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 93.0 (8th in NBA)

     

    The Orlando Magic have shocked the world by starting the season with a 2-2 record, despite the departure of both Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson. Chalk that up to J.J. Redick and Glen Davis finally receiving the playing time they deserve.

    Redick leads the Mavericks with an average of 17.8 points per game. He's also continuing to flash his preseason form, averaging 5.0 assists per game as Redick has finally carved out a role in the Magic's rotation.

    With fellow combo guard E'Twaun Moore averaging 13.8 points and 3.8 assists, the Magic now have a legitimate backcourt to lead them to victory.

    Davis, meanwhile, is averaging 17.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. This comes on the heels of Davis' breakout 2012 postseason performance in which he averaged 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers' vaunted interior defense.

    Having Arron Afflalo average 17.3 points per game certainly doesn't hurt either. But where is the depth?

    Jameer Nelson, Maurice Harkless and Hedo Turkoglu are all battling injuries. Fortunately, the players previously listed have filled their void to perfection.

    The only questions are as follows.

    Can the Magic keep up this level of play? If they can, do they even want Nelson and Turkoglu to return?

16. Boston Celtics

15 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-2

    PPG: 96.0 (T-20th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 99.8 (22nd in NBA)

     

    The Boston Celtics have become notorious for starting slow during an NBA regular season. Just one year ago, they began 15-17 before winning 24 of their final 34 games.

    Thus far in 2013, it's shaping up to be another one of those years.

    Although they're at 2-2 with consecutive wins over the Washington Wizards, they've yet to impress in any game this season. They lost to the Miami Heat 120-107, fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 99-88 and have defeated the Wizards by a combined nine points.

    That includes a six-point victory in overtime.

    The Celtics simply don't appear to be on the same page on the defensive end of the floor. They're averaging just 32.8 defensive rebounds per game and are presently allowing 99.8 points per contest.

    This has nullified the MVP-caliber season from Rajon Rondo in which he's averaging 42.3 minutes per contest and putting up 16.0 points, 12.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals.

    The Celtics will turn it around, the question is when? With the Knicks' hot start proving to be legitimate, they better start soon or they won't win their sixth consecutive Atlantic Division crown.

15. Milwaukee Bucks

16 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-1

    PPG: 98.0 (T-9th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 99.3 (20th in NBA)

     

    The Milwaukee Bucks have come out firing on all cylinders. After their statement 99-88 win at the Boston Celtics, the Bucks followed that up with a 105-102 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Unfortunately, the early season proficiency ended with a 108-90 loss at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. Nevertheless, the Bucks proved that they can perform on both ends of the floor.

    And you can thank Brandon Jennings for that.

    Jennings has posted season averages of 17.7 points, 10.3 assists and 4.0 steals per game. Although the steals are certain to drop, the points and assists are numbers that Jennings' skill set suggests he could continue to post.

    Regardless of if his numbers drop, the supporting cast has been phenomenal.

    Monta Ellis is presently averaging 17.3 points and 5.0 assists, while Mike Dunleavy has made 81.8 percent of his three-point attempts en route to 15.3 points per game. The true surprise, however, has been Larry Sanders.

    Sanders has stepped up and outperformed the underachieving Ersan Ilyasova. In that time, he has averaged 12.3 points. 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.

    Although there is room for failure, expect the Bucks to be in the postseason hunt all year long.

14. Houston Rockets

17 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-2

    PPG: 96.5 (17th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 96.5 (13th in NBA)

     

    The Houston Rockets have one of the most recognizable rosters in the NBA. With James Harden and Jeremy Lin leading the way, the H-Town franchise has the star power necessary to garner national attention throughout the duration of the season.

    The question is, do they have the supporting cast to reach the postseason? Although a losing effort, the Rockets' 93-87 defeat against the Denver Nuggets proved they do.

    With Harden and Lin combining for 7-of-24 shooting, the Rockets stormed back from 15 down at the half to make it a five-point game during the fourth quarter. They were led by 19 points from Carlos Delfino and 18 points from Patrick Patterson, as well as 13 rebounds from Omer Asik.

    Although Harden failed to step up in the closing minutes, the Rockets proved that their role players could carry this team for three quarters. The real question is, are Lin and Harden legitimate NBA closers?

    If they are, the Rockets could finish much higher than 8th in the Western Conference.

    With all of this being established, Houston has questions about their depth. Delfino and Toney Douglas provide quality minutes, while Marcus Morris is progressing nicely, but there may not be enough shooters on the second unit.

    Delfino will not always step up and pour in four three-pointers. This beckons the question of when Daequan Cook will see the floor.

    It also makes you wonder if rookies Terrence Jones and Royce White will play at all.

13. Utah Jazz

18 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-3

    PPG: 97.6 (11th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 96.2 (12th in NBA)

     

    The Utah Jazz have been the most middle-of-the-road team in the NBA. On one hand, they pulled off victories against potential postseason foes in the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.

    On the other hand, they've lost to playoff locks in the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies. The game to offset the balance is their two-point loss to the New Orleans Hornets.

    An overachieving team who, when healthy, can bang with the best of them.

    All in all, the Jazz have made it out of a tough opening stretch with quality results. Their interior remains one of the best in the NBA, while their perimeter has improved tremendously with the arrival of Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Marvin Williams.

    Thus far, Mo Williams leads the team with 19.8 points and 6.8 assists per game. Foye and Marvin Williams, meanwhile, are averaging 13.6 and 10.2 points per game, respectively.

    As a result, the Jazz have found the scoring balance they were in search of for quite some time. Although their defense has yet to reach it's maximum potential, they're playing well in virtually every facet of the game.

    Expect big things from Utah in 2012-13.

12. Denver Nuggets

19 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-3

    PPG: 96.4 (18th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 97.8 (T-17th in NBA)

     

    The Denver Nuggets may be 2-3, but they've proved just how dominant a force they could be in their first five games.

    After starting slow in their first two games of the season, the Nuggets made a serious statement when they dropped a 119-116 slugfest against the Miami Heat. Not only did they drop 116 on an elite defensive unit, but the Nuggets hauled in 18 offensive rebound.

    Since that game, they've hauled in 21 offensive boards against the Detroit Pistons and 16 against the Houston Rockets. Clearly, Kenneth Faried and company plan on winning games by controlling the offensive glass.

    With a two-game win streak behind them, let's acknowledge the fact that they've been successful in doing just that.

    The Nuggets are a team that could potentially compete for the top seed in the Western Conference. Not only are they an offensive powerhouse, but they've added a legitimate star in Andre Iguodala to guide this team on defense.

    Such was evident when Iggy held James Harden to 5-of-15 shooting and forced him into six turnovers.

    With this newly found balance, George Karl's crew is on the verge of becoming an elite force in the NBA. The question is, which streak should we grow accustomed to seeing?

    The two consecutive wins or three consecutive losses? I'll take the former.

11. Golden State Warriors

20 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 3-2

    PPG: 98.6 (7th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 97.8 (T-17th in NBA)

     

    The Golden State Warriors have entered the 2012-13 NBA season with relatively high expectations. With the likes of Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut and David Lee leading the way, the Warriors appear to be a potential postseason contender.

    Surprisingly, it hasn't been their endless rotation of sharpshooters that has led them to a 3-2 start.

    The star of the Warriors' early season victories has been sixth man Carl Landry. The scoring forward is presently averaging 17.0 points and 7.4 rebounds off of the bench, which is key for a team that is easing the injury-prone Bogut back into the rotation.

    It's also important to have a scoring forward considering Brandon Rush is now done for the season with a torn ACL (via San Francisco Chronicle).

    The key for the Warriors moving forward will be avoiding any further injuries. As previously alluded to, Bogut has a long history of injuries, with Curry joining him on that grocery list of previous ailments.

    Losing either would be devastating especially considering how well Curry has played, as he's present averaging 17.4 points, 5.6 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.

    Whether or not that will transpire is debatable.

10. Atlanta Hawks

21 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 2-1

    PPG: 98.3 (8th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 96.7 (14th in NBA)

     

    When the Atlanta Hawks traded Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets, many felt they'd fall out of postseason contention. The truth of the matter is, this is the best Hawks roster this generation has ever seen.

    For the first time in the Josh Smith and Al Horford era, there is a little something called "depth" on the roster.

    The Hawks have two legitimate stars in Smith and Horford. They also have a top tier scorer in Lou Williams, which begins what can only be described as the deepest crop of shooters this side of the Miami Heat.

    With Wiliams, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and rookie John Jenkins, the crop of snipers in Atlanta is endless. Even DeShawn Stevenson is shooting 53.3 percent from distance while making an average of 2.7 threes per contest.

    If this pace continues, the Hawks will prove to be a better team in 2013 than they were in 2012. Even if it doesn't, they're still a step above what they used to be.

    Johnson was a clutch scorer, but the Hawks were far too weak on their second unit prior to this season. With Zaza Pachulia back as a reserve and the likes of Ivan Johnson and Anthony Tolliver thriving in their roles, expect Atlanta to maintain their current scoring and defensive pace.

    The question is, how far can Jeff Teague and Devin Harris lead them at the point guard position?

9. Minnesota Timberwolves

22 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 3-1

    PPG: 93.8 (23rd in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 89.0 (4th in NBA)

     

    Through four games, the Minnesota Timberwolves have forced fans to forget that Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are sidelined with injuries. In fact, they're playing better defense now than they ever had with the two in the lineup.

    It's only four games, but why temper the excitement?

    The Timberwolves defense is currently allowing an average of 89.0 points per game. That ranks fourth in the NBA and is a product of their allowing just one opponent to score at least 100 points.

    What has been most impressive is that no individual has separated themselves from a statistical standpoint. There is extraordinary balance on this roster, with six players averaging at least 9.3 points per game.

    Nikola Pekovic leads all scorers with 14.0 points and 2.8 offensive rebounds.

    Brandon Roy, meanwhile, has overcome his early shooting woes by averaging 5.5 assists per game. He is one of five players to average at least 2.8 dimes, thus leading to the team's average of 21.8 assists per contest.

    This type of ball movement has helped the T-Wolves score when necessary and get back on defense at all times. Through four, the T-Wolves have exceeded all expectations.

8. Chicago Bulls

23 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 3-2

    PPG: 96.0 (T-20th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 90.4 (5th in NBA)

     

    The Chicago Bulls are the best defensive team in the NBA. The recent NBA GM Poll showed it and the numbers have shown it, as the Bulls held opponents to an average of 88.2 points per game in 2012 (via NBA.com).

    One year later, they're allowing just 90.4 through the first five games of the season. 

    In those five games, the Bulls have seen Luol Deng and Joakim Noah step up as the leaders of this team. With Derrick Rose sidelined by injury, Deng has led the team with 18.0 points per game.

    Noah, meanwhile, averaged 14.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.8 steals.

    Together, Deng and Noah have paced the Bulls to a 3-2 record. With Tom Thibodeau at the helm, Chicago is certain to continue playing elite-level defense and remaining in games through the fourth quarter.

    The question for the Bulls is whether or not Deng can be their final quarter closer. If he can, then the Bulls could end up winning 50 games without Rose in the lineup. If he can't, it may be a long year.

    Let's stray on the side of optimism for this one.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder

24 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 3-2

    PPG: 98.0 (T-9th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 92.2 (6th in NBA)

     

    Kevin Durant is averaging 21.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Russell Westbrook is putting up 19.8 points and 8.0 assists. As the scoring numbers rise and the others stay the same, expect this Thunder team to learn to overcome the absence of James Harden.

    Until that happens, they fall just outside of the Top 5.

    Thus far this season, the Thunder are one of the Top 10 teams in terms of scoring and scoring defense. They're putting up 98.0 points per game and allowing just 92.2, which displays their continually growing balance.

    Even without James Harden, they're doing just fine statistically. Kevin Martin's average of 18.4 points per game is a major reason why.

    Martin has been that caliber scorer throughout the duration of his career, which is why this should come as no surprise. He's also a better catch-and-shoot scorer than Harden, which suggests he could be a better fit for the Thunder as a team.

    Even if he's not, the final quarter still belongs to OKC.

    The Thunder have the best fourth quarter performer in the game in Kevin Durant. He can put in double-digit scoring in the final period on his own, while Westbrook and Martin drop in a few of their own.

    Should Serge Ibaka continue to emerge as a reliable scoring option, however, Durant may not need to close many games. They could be over by the third quarter.

6. Memphis Grizzlies

25 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 3-1

    PPG: 101.8 (5th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 94.8 (11th in NBA)

     

    Since dropping their season opener to the Los Angeles Clippers by a score of 101-92, the Memphis Grizzlies have won their past three games by a margin of 12.3 points per game. The teams they've defeated include the 3-2 Golden State Warriors, 2-1 Milwaukee Bucks and 2-3 Utah Jazz.

    In those games, they've allowed no more than 94 points to three high-powered offenses. Consider Zach Randolph's good health to be Memphis' leap to the top of the Western Conference.

    Over the past two seasons, the Grizzlies have become one of the best teams in the NBA. Unfortunately, their starting five has never been at full health at the same time, which has limited their ability to maximize their potential.

    With both Randolph and Rudy Gay healthy, however, the Grizzlies are showing what they're capable of.

    Through four games, Randolph is averaging 16.0 points and 15.3 rebounds. Gay, meanwhile, is averaging 18.8 points and 6.3 rebounds to further display the balance in scoring and rebounding prowess on this team.

    With Marc Gasol averaging 19.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists, the proof is there that the balance goes deep. Even Mike Conley Jr. has numbers of 14.3 points and 7.0 assists to his name.

    With a rebounding differential of plus-6.5 and an average of 23.8 assists per game, it's clear why Memphis is so difficult to defeat.

5. Dallas Mavericks

26 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 4-1

    PPG: 108.4 (2nd in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 99.6 (21st in NBA)

     

    Did anyone expect the Dallas Mavericks to be tied for the best record in the Western Conference through five games? If you did, you probably assumed that Dirk Nowitzki was going to be in the rotation.

    With Dirk sidelined, the Mavs have managed to average 108.4 points per game. A major reason for this is the fact that they're shooting a league-best 48.5 percent from beyond the arc.

    O.J. Mayo is leading the way with 21.6 points per game on 21-of-33 shooting from distance. So who wants to argue that this guy is a legitimate star?

    Mayo's backcourt mate, Darren Collison, is currently averaging 16.2 points and 7.2 assists. Sixth man and ageless wonder Vince Carter, meanwhile, is averaging 13.2 and shooting 37.0 percent from beyond the arc.

    In the paint, Chris Kaman has paced the Mavericks by averaging 18.0 points. Brandan Wright, however, deserves the most praise for his unexpected 12.2 points per contest.

    WIth all of this being said, how about Rick Carlisle?

    Coach Carlisle is leading his young team to victory with both Nowitzki and Elton Brand injured. He's done so by pushing the tempo when necessary and collapsing on interior scorers at all times.

    Such led to the Mavericks' 99-91 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Should they continue this pattern of play, expect more wins to follow.

4. San Antonio Spurs

27 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 4-1

    PPG: 96.0 (T-20th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 92.8 (7th in NBA)

     

    Even with Manu Ginobili averaging just 6.7 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting, the San Antonio Spurs have managed to start at 4-1. Even after losing 106-84 to the Los Angeles Clippers, they remain Top 5 in the NBA.

    As is life when you have Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Ginobili and Gregg Popovich as the leaders of your franchise.

    The Spurs are not a young team that can have their confidence broken by a dramatic loss. They're a veteran core with four NBA championships and an all-time great head coach.

    They've also finished the regular season atop the Western Conference in two consecutive seasons.

    For that reason, it's best that we evaluate their first four performances for insight into who this team is. In those games, the Spurs defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Hornets.

    In each of those games, the Spurs faced the potential for defeat. In each of those games, the Spurs proved to be the superior opponent.

    San Antonio will continue to play at a high level and remain near the top of the NBA power rankings all year long.

3. Los Angeles Clippers

28 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 4-2

    PPG: 104.3 (4th in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 97.2 (T-15th in NBA)

     

    The Los Angeles Clippers dropped games to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. When you watch them play against the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers, however, you never would've known.

    Nor would you believe that any team in the NBA could beat these Clippers.

    Chris Paul is continuing along his path to the Hall of Fame by averaging 17.5 points, 10.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game. More important than the statistics, however, is the fact that CP3 has paced this offense to victory over three NBA championship contenders.

    How has he done it? By consistently knowing where to find the hot hand.

    With all due respect to Paul, that pales in comparison to what his teammate is doing. Although Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford have been exceptional, we're speaking of DeAndre Jordan.

    Through six games, Jordan looks like the best big man on the Clippers roster. He's consistently sinking hook shots, displaying a wide-array of post moves and continuously alters game on defense with his shot blocking ability.

    Over the past two games, he's averaging 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Almost all of those points are coming from at least 10 feet from the basket.

    Crawford has added a team-high 21.8 points per game and the Clipper suddenly appear to be the best team in the West. Keep in mind, they beat the San Antonio Spurs by a score of 106-84.

    As for the Mavericks, they've won games over the Lakers, Charlotte Bobcats, Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors. LAC has beaten the Lakers, Blazers, Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.

    More impressive resume? You know.

2. Miami Heat

29 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 4-1

    PPG: 110.0 (1st in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 99.8 (T-22 in NBA)

     

    The Miami Heat have the most powerful offense in the NBA. They're currently averaging 110.0 points per game and there is absolutely no reason to believe that the eye-popping number will drop any time soon.

    Not when your top four scorers are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen. Especially not when you consider how many sharpshooters complement Allen on the perimeter.

    Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller, James Jones, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers are all capable of knocking down at least one three-pointer per game. That's 15 points alone, which compliments the approximate 80 from the team's Core Four.

    Throw in the additional points Lewis, Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Norris Cole will find a way to score and we're suddenly approaching 110 a night. So who's going to stop the Heat, now?

    The biggest weakness the Heat have displayed is on the glass. They're pulling in just 6.8 offensive rebounds and allowing their opponents to grab an average of 12.2, including the 18 the Denver Nuggets brought in.

    They also lost their only game of the season to the New York Knicks by a score of 104-84. But that's just a fluke, right Heat fans?

1. New York Knicks

30 of 30

    2012-13 W-L Record: 3-0

    PPG: 104.7 (3rd in NBA)

    OPP PPG: 85.3 (1st in NBA)

    Average Margin of Victory: 19.4 points

     

    Like it or not, the New York Knicks are the only undefeated team in the NBA. To get there, they've defeated the Miami Heat by 20 and the Philadelphia 76ers by margins of 16 and 22 points.

    Believe the hype or don't, it'd be criminal to rank the Knicks anywhere but first after flat out dominating postseason caliber opponents.

    What has been most impressive about the Knicks' early season performances have been their defensive tenacity. They're currently holding opponents to an average of 85.3 points per game, which is not as much of a shock as detractors believe.

    Since Mike Woodson took over as head coach of the New York Knicks on March 14th, 2012, the team has allowed an average of 90.7 points per game. This is an elite defensive unit, folks, and no diatribe can change that.

    The Knicks are a legitimate power in the NBA. Whether or not they finish atop the Eastern Conference has yet to be seen, but the team has the talent, coaching and discipline to defeat anyone in the league.

    Expect the Knicks to continue at an elite pace for the remainder of the season.