NBA Power Rankings: Teams off to Hot Starts That Will Stay on Top

Darin Pike@darinpikeContributor INovember 14, 2012

The new NBA season has brought some surprise starts from teams that have a new look. Will the teams off to hot starts have staying power through a full 82-game season?

Good starts are a matter of perspective and expectations, though, a theme that I'll touch on a bit later on.

The power rankings are based on records and performance in part but come down to how teams would fare in a playoff series. An occasional bad game won't kill a team in the playoffs, so there is some leniency in the rankings.

Some of the hot starts will eventually fizzle while at least one of them will stay with the NBA elite.


30. Detroit Pistons (0-8)

Someone needs to remind the Pistons that just because the Tigers dropped four straight, the basketball team doesn't have to lose, too. Who let them watch "Baseketball?"


29. Washington Wizards (0-5)

Perhaps John Wall and Nene Hilario will be able to generate some offense. For now, all that can be said about the Wizards is that they keep opponents from scoring a lot of points. 

That doesn't help if you can only muster 88 points a game, though.


28. Charlotte Bobcats (2-3)

There are about five teams that would consider 2-3 a "hot start," and the Bobcats are one of them. It won't last.


27. Toronto Raptors (1-5)

Perhaps the Raptors shouldn't be ahead of the Bobcats, but does it really matter? 


26. Sacramento Sonics (2-5)

Too soon? My question is, would the fans in Seattle really want this team, and would anyone in Sacramento notice if they were gone? 

The stated attendance for Sacramento's game against the Pistons was 10,185. There weren't even that few fans at the game.

To be fair, the Kings have some solid young talent and could be a playoff team next season. They've played some quality ball so far.

For the record, as a former fan of the Sonics, I refuse to support a team pilfered from another city.


25. Orlando Magic (2-4)

I've put them behind teams with worse records, but I just can't find any redeeming qualities with this squad.


24. Golden State Warriors (3-4)

I'm still trying to figure out how a team beats the Clippers and loses to the Lakers. Any team that is that inconsistent doesn't deserve to be higher.


23. Portland Trail Blazers (2-5)

This is way too high for a 2-5 team, but Portland doesn't have the look of a 2-5 club. They should be at least 3-5 very soon.


22. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-5)

Just to one-up myself, here's another 2-5 team. But the Cavs have a young, talented backcourt that could help the team crack the Top 20 very soon.


21. Los Angeles Lakers (3-4)

Yes, they're hot right now, winners of two straight since they fired their head coach. But it is difficult to get excited about wins over Detroit, Golden State and Sacramento. 

Check back if they can beat Phoenix and Houston.


20. New Orleans Hornets (3-2)

Their record says, "Move them higher." But the only game that I've seen them play this season was a 77-62 loss to the 76ers. I wanted to put them at No. 31 for wasting my time.


19. Indiana Pacers (3-4)

This team could improve this season, particularly once Danny Granger returns. 


18. Houston Rockets (3-4)

I watch the Rockets and get excited about Jeremy Lin and James Harden. Then I realize that I just got excited about what Lin and Harden add to their team, which says very little about their chances of success.


17. Utah Jazz (4-4)

Do you know what the difference is between the Jazz and the Pacers? One of them can make the playoffs with a poor record.


16. Phoenix Suns (4-4) 

This team could make some noise down the stretch if it can gel.


15. Brooklyn Nets (3-2)

It is hard to call a 3-2 record a hot start, but as we addressed with the Bobcats, it is a matter of perspective. Once the excitement of the new arena and location cools off, so will the winning percentage.

Brooklyn may be able to sneak into the playoffs but only because the East gets thin around seven and eight.


14. Denver Nuggets (4-4)

Their showing against the Heat has me intrigued. Losing to Orlando and Phoenix has me concerned.


13. Philadelphia 76ers (4-3)

Any defense that can hold an NBA team not named Orlando or Washington to 62 points deserves some credit.


12. Atlanta Hawks (3-3)

The Hawks moved to more of a team approach when they traded Joe Johnson. I like the decision, but the team still needs to prove that it can win close games.

This team could be at 11-5 before we know it.

11. Dallas Mavericks (4-4)

Mark Cuban offered me an island and a yacht if I put Dallas in the Top 10. I'm also keeping my Diet Mountain Dew.


10. Boston Celtics (4-3)

It is now clear why the Celtics players were so upset with Ray Allen. They knew what would happen to the team if he left.


9. Chicago Bulls (4-3)

This is where I believe the Bulls stand with their current team on the floor. The rest of the league should be nervous when Derrick Rose is able to return.


8. Milwaukee Bucks (4-2)

This is one of the more bold picks, but I see the Bucks continuing their hot start. They have four players scoring in double-digits and are succeeding as a team.

The NBA has become a league about the superstars, but I believe that a true team can still find success.


7. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-2)

If the Timberwolves can continue playing good defense when Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio return, the Western Conference picture will get very crowded.


6. Memphis Grizzlies (5-1)

It is hard to not be impressed by the Grizzlies thus far. They held the Heat to 86 points and gave Milwaukee one of their two losses. But I don't expect them to stay this hot for the duration of the season.

The Grizzlies will advance to the second round of the playoffs, but that is where I see their run stopping. They will lean on their defense to win games, but there are a few teams that will be able to hang around and hit their shots.


5. Los Angeles Clippers (5-2)

There is a three-team log jam atop the Western Conference with a fourth trying to stick its nose into the mix.

Memphis is a team that will continue to win along with the Clippers. But I'm not convinced either is ready to advance to the Conference Finals. I see two teams that can keep them out.


4. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-2)

I was going to flip a coin to decide who the best team in the Western Conference is, but then I remembered—the Thunder already lost to the team that has looked the best so far this season.


3. San Antonio Spurs (6-1)

There is no question that the Spurs are off to one of the most impressive starts of the year. Next up is the Los Angeles Lakers in a game that could be telling of both franchises.

The Spurs haven't blown teams out, but I'm more impressed by winning close games this early in the season. It shows that a team has will and heart.


2. New York Knicks (4-0)

Yes, New York still doesn't have a loss. The wins have also been dominant.

But the Knicks have only played four games.

If they are still at the top of the Eastern Conference in January, then I'll admit to being wrong.

I expect to see New York hang in the Top Five for the duration of the season. They are playing great defense, a staple of the team since Mike Woodson took on coaching duties late last season, and will continue keeping opponents under 90 points per game (currently 87.5, first in the NBA).


1. Miami Heat (6-2)

While the Knicks have yet to lose a game and have a win over Miami, the Heat are the defending champions. That trumps a good opening week.

New York is certainly a team to be reckoned with, but I just don't see them beating the Heat in a seven-game series. For that reason, the Heat will remain in the top spot, at least for now.

Miami is scoring early and often, averaging an NBA-best 105.5 points per game. Their shooters won't go dry many games in a playoff series.


Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.


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