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NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Ranks Right Now

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Ranks Right Now

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    You couldn't have asked for a more intriguing start to arguably the most compelling NBA season in over a decade.

    The Los Angeles Lakers fired Mike Brown and hired Mike D'Antoni in the span of two weeks, the New York Knicks are playing so efficiently they hardly resemble the Knicks of 2011-12, and a collection of small-market teams continue to impress.

    Without further ado, here is where every team in the NBA stands today.

30. Detroit Pistons

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    The Detroit Pistons are trapped in the cellar of the Eastern Conference. How did they get there? When you combine a mediocre (at best) offense and a porous defense to create a lackluster product, things aren't going to work out for you.

    It's a shame Greg Monroe and all of his potential are stuck in Detroit, and it won't be until they can play some steady defense and see some improved play out of point guard Brandon Knight that they take another step forward.

29. Washington Wizards

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    The absence of John Wall is clearly taking a toll on a young, inexperienced Washington Wizards squad.

    To add insult to Wall's injury, the Wizards' most talented big man, Nene, will be sidelined an additional three weeks due to a torn ligament in his foot.

    The Wizards' stable of role players is quite lackluster, although Kevin Seraphin has been an interesting piece to watch in the season's opening stages.

    During the preseason it looked like the Wizards had the potential to surprise some people, but they have fallen flat on their faces in the early going without their two stars.

28. Orlando Magic

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    The Orlando Magic's 2-0 start had most, if not all, NBA fans befuddled. How could a team devoid of any star talent, with so many flawed players, get off to such a quick start?

    Did we all overlook J.J. Redick and Glen Davis? Couldn't be. It turns out we were all right to have our doubts, but it does look like the Magic are trending upward.

    Nikola Vucevic has looked quite strong, and his versatile European game has been a mismatch for several opponents thus far.

    The Magic may not be playoff-bound anytime soon, but they have looked significantly better than division foe Washington.

27. Sacramento Kings

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    If you drafted Marcus Thornton in your "Gunners Only" fantasy league, you're feeling pretty good about yourself. Thornton has been one of the few bright spots (if 38 percent shooting from the field is bright) for the Kings as far as scoring goes.

    On the flip side, Tyreke Evans has not looked particularly strong in a contract year, as his scoring numbers and shooting percentages have plummeted.

    Big men DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson have already been suspended by the NBA and have raised further questions about the Kings' overall level of maturity.

26. Toronto Raptors

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    Injuries to new additions Landry Fields and Kyle Lowry have hindered the Toronto Raptors' early-season success, forcing them to turn to Plan B.

    While Jose Calderon has been a more than adequate replacement for Lowry, the Raptors' young players, especially along the front line, have yet to put the pieces together.

    Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross have both struggled in the early going, and their progress will be key to any sort of playoff hopes the Raptors may have.

25. Charlotte Bobcats

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    You can't help but be happy for the Charlotte Bobcats. Head coach Michael Dunlap has his team playing inspired ball, and his collection of young, exuberant players have taken strides from one year ago.

    The play of Kemba Walker has been huge for the 'Cats thus far, as he continues to flash an improved mid-range jumper. Walker has led the Bobcats in scoring early and should continue to do so throughout the season.

    New additions Ramon Sessions and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have looked strong as well, with the latter starting to look like he was built from the Andre Iguodala "do it all" mold.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Led by the dynamite duo of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, the Cleveland Cavaliers have emerged as great League Pass viewing over the first two weeks of the season.

    Irving continues to prove that he's one of the league's elite point guards, and while Waiters isn't exactly consistent, his lack of a conscience always makes for an interesting time.

    Anderson Varejao has been Irving's frontcourt complement, dominating on the glass in particularly impressive fashion.

    They may not be a particularly deep bunch, but the Cavaliers' first team has had some great highlights to offer thus far.

23. Phoenix Suns

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    The Phoenix Suns are a tough team to figure. They have a frontcourt led by the capable duo of Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola, who have both have looked good in the early going.

    Goran Dragic has always been underrated and continues to look like a point guard capable of leading a championship-caliber club, but the team has struggled mightily on the perimeter.

    Michael Beasley has yet to find a groove (and we can't be sure he ever will), while production from Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown has been lackluster.

    The Suns will surely finish ahead of the Kings in the Pacific, but that's about all we can say for sure.

22. Portland Trail Blazers

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    The Portland Trail Blazers were presented with a rough slate to open the season (Lakers, OKC, Houston, Dallas, Clippers, Spurs and Hawks) and emerged a stronger team because of it.

    The Blazers took down the Lakers and Rockets while giving the Spurs and Thunder all they could handle in two close losses.

    Rookie point guard Damian Lillard has looked excellent early on, showing no hesitation when shooting jumpers or driving to the rim.

    Along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, Lillard and the Blazers look to have formed a dynamic trio that will be key to the franchise's future.

21. Golden State Warriors

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    Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been their usual selves in the early stages of the 2012-13 campaign, each knocking down somewhere in the range of 36 percent of their three-point attempts.

    However, the real star of the show for the Golden State Warriors thus far has been forward Carl Landry. Landry was signed by the Warriors this summer to a two-year deal, and the $4 million he's making per season is beginning to look like a bargain.

    Landry has helped replace some of Andrew Bogut's production to the tune of close to 16 points per game on over 55 percent shooting.

20. New Orleans Hornets

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    New Orleans head coach Monty Williams has somehow found a way to get the most out of his young guys during the season's opening stages.

    Anthony Davis has looked as good as advertised, blocking nearly three shots per game while pouring in 17 points on the side.

    Davis' play has been supplemented by surprisingly good efforts from Greivis Vasquez, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ryan Anderson, all of whom have been tasked with taking on larger roles due to the Hornets' bevy of early-season injuries.

19. Houston Rockets

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    The problem for the Houston Rockets certainly isn't going to be in the backcourt. James Harden and Jeremy Lin have been the team's invaluable backcourt tandem, while Chandler Parsons has looked solid playing out on the wing.

    The Rockets' real problems come in the frontcourt, where their array of young, unproven players are struggling to find consistency at the power-forward position.

    Omer Asik has looked like the defensive stopper the Rockets were hoping he'd be, but the platoon of Terrence Jones, Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris has inspired little confidence.

18. Milwaukee Bucks

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    The Milwaukee Bucks have looked stronger than many figured they would through the first two weeks of the season, yet when it comes down to it, this team still feels like a No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

    Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are the glue holding the Bucks together (with PERs of 16 and 20 respectively), but Scott Skiles' team has a few players flying under the radar as well.

    Larry Sanders and Mike Dunleavy have been particularly strong in the early going, but it remains to be seen how long they can each sustain their current level of play.

17. Indiana Pacers

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    The Indiana Pacers are in trouble. With their best scorer sidelined for three months, Frank Vogel's squad is going to need to find some replacements for Danny Granger's steady production.

    Paul George has yet to post consistent numbers that show improvement, and the newly acquired Gerald Green has yet to show signs of that career renaissance that many were expecting.

    David West has been been the Pacers' most dominant scorer with Granger down, while center Roy Hibbert has been playing far below expectations. Perhaps that new contract signed in July has left Hibbert without some necessary inspiration? We'll soon find out.

16. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Without center Andrew Bynum, the Philadelphia 76ers have looked wildly inconsistent through the early stages of the season.

    Wins over the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics have been impressive, but losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks have been ugly.

    Jrue Holiday is quickly emerging as the star of the show in Philly, averaging 19 points and nine assists per game.

    However, Holiday still has plenty to work on, as he's averaging a league-high six turnovers per game.

15. Brooklyn Nets

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    Early returns for the Brooklyn Nets have been a mixed bag. Wins over the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic haven't exactly been impressive, and their two losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat have come by a combined 41 points.

    The Nets frontcourt pairing of Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries has performed above expectations to this point with Lopez providing the finesse on offense and Humphries providing the grit on defense.

    The same can't be said for the Nets' vaunted backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Williams has scored the ball proficiently but is turning the ball over nearly four times a game, leaving him with an assist-to-turnover ratio of under two.

    Joe Johnson has yet to find a rhythm and is shooting at a 40 percent clip so far.

14. Utah Jazz

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    The Utah Jazz saved themselves from embarrassment with a 140-133 double-overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night, a game in which their vaunted frontcourt finally stepped up.

    Paul Millsap dropped in 34 points on 11-of-16 shooting while Al Jefferson added 24 points and a clutch late-game three that helped send the game to OT.

    If the Jazz want to continue to rattle off wins like this, they're going to need sustained production from their frontcourt moving forward.

    In addition to getting big numbers from their starring frontcourt duo, the Jazz need to ramp up the intensity on the defensive end quickly.

13. Atlanta Hawks

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    The big story for the Atlanta Hawks has been the play of Jeff Teague, who continues to look more and more like the long-term solution at point guard.

    Teague has looked fresh early with averages of more than 14 points and seven assists per game, and he's converting on more than 50 percent of his field-goal attempts to this point.

    Along with backcourt running mate Lou Williams, the Hawks look like they have a good thing going and should compete for one of the Eastern Conference's mid-level playoff seeds.

12. Dallas Mavericks

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    The Dallas Mavericks offense has been a joy to watch early on, and Rick Carlisle is proving that he doesn't need household names to rack up wins.

    The backcourt pairing of O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison has combined to score more than 36 points per game thus far, and both have been shooting over 45 percent from the field.

    As for the Mavs frontcourt, Chris Kaman and Brandan Wright have both been steady with the latter averaging more than 10 points and one block per game in just over 20 minutes of work per night.

    Preseason chatter indicated the Mavs would be lucky to qualify for the playoffs, but right now they're looking like they could be the real deal.

11. Denver Nuggets

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    Did anyone else have Andre Iguodala penciled in as the Denver Nuggets' leading scorer at any point this season?

    Iguodala's game has translated perfectly to the Mile High City, where he continues to be a sneaky jack of all trades. Along with Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried have looked particularly good, but there's one key element missing.

    Point guard Ty Lawson has been underwhelming to this point, shooting just over 40 percent from the field with a scoring average hovering around 13.5 points per game.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The superlative for biggest surprise of the first two weeks will unanimously be awarded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Playing without stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, head coach Rick Adelman has devised a way to win with a stable of role players, the majority of which have shown steady offensive output and excellent defensive awareness.

    The Timberwolves currently rank second in the NBA in points allowed per game, and the names of their key contributors thus far may surprise you.

    Andrei Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved have all been responsible for the T'Wolves' hot start, one that continues to look all the more impressive when you consider the early-season failings of super teams like the Los Angeles Lakers.

9. Boston Celtics

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    The Boston Celtics have not looked like their usual, motivated selves during the early going.

    With the talent to compete with the best in the East, the Celtics just couldn't put together a complete performance over the first week of the season, either playing lazy offense or defense en route to disappointing results.

    However, a Monday night victory over the Chicago Bulls seems to have given life to Doc Rivers' bunch. Rajon Rondo looked like his usual, spectacular self, falling one rebound shy of a triple-double.

    Kevin Garnett has looked stronger as of late, and Jason Terry appears to be finding a rhythm with his new team.

8. Los Angeles Lakers

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    The Los Angeles Lakers have clawed back from a brutal start, but the real progress the Lakers need to make will occur under new head coach Mike D'Antoni.

    Based on D'Antoni's previous stints in Phoenix and New York, you should expect the Lakers offense to be revitalized by some up-tempo tactics and stellar pick-and-roll play between Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

    It will also be fascinating to watch how Kobe Bryant adapts to D'Antoni's system, because he seemed to be one of the few Laker players who was excelling in the Princeton offense under Mike Brown.

7. Chicago Bulls

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    With Derrick Rose sidelined until March, it was conceivable to think that the Chicago Bulls would regress some in the early going.

    Instead, Tom Thibodeau's squad has looked sharp, playing their trademark defense with aggression, while finding some new contributors who have helped replace Rose's production on the offensive end.

    Joakim Noah has looked like one of the best centers in the NBA to this point, and Luol Deng has been filling it up in Rose's absence.

    Richard Hamilton has looked spry for an aging 2-guard and will be key in helping stabilize the Bulls offense over the next few months.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Typically, when your team's leading scorer is Jamal Crawford there are problems abound. Not so for the Los Angeles Clippers.

    Crawford has been converting on close to 50 percent of his shots so far this season, averaging around 20 points per game. Playing with a refurbished second unit that boasts Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom, it looks like the Clippers may have the deepest roster in the entire Western Conference.

    Chris Paul and Blake Griffin continue to run the show for Lob City, but watch out for DeAndre Jordan. In the early going Jordan has looked particularly aggressive on the offensive end, and some polished post moves could work wonders for his game.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder have looked good early, but it's tough to get past Russell Westbrook's inefficiency.

    OKC's point man has averaged 18.5 field-goal attempts per game so far this season, totaling just a shade over 21 points per game. If that doesn't scream inefficiency, I'm not sure what does.

    Unlike Westbrook, Kevin Martin's efficiency has been stellar. Martin has posted just over 17 points per game on fewer than 10 attempts, which has made him a valuable piece of the Thunder's early-season success.

4. Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Memphis Grizzlies' 104-86 thrashing of the Miami Heat opened some eyes on Sunday evening, and people are now beginning to notice just how complete this team is.

    While Wayne Ellington exploded in that game for an uncharacteristic 25 points, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have been simply dominant on the offensive end.

    With size that few teams can challenge, the Grizzlies have perhaps the most diverse offense in the NBA—one that can bang down low on the blocks, shoot and run.

    The Thunder, Clippers, Lakers and Spurs may be receiving the lion's share of the attention right now, but the Grizzlies are for real.

3. New York Knicks

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    The New York Knicks are playing stellar basketball right now, but the real question for Mike Woodson's squad is this: How will they respond when Amar'e Stoudemire returns from his knee injury.

    Carmelo Anthony has looked stellar playing the power-forward spot, which begs the following question: How will Stoudemire be used upon his return?

    While bringing him off of the bench doesn't appear like a safe bet, it could be what's best for this Knick team.

    Anthony has been given more freedom to roam the floor with Stoudemire sidelined, and his ability to play both the conventional 3 and stretch 4 has made him one of the most versatile scorers in the game.

2. San Antonio Spurs

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    Tim Duncan deserves some serious credit. When all is said and done Duncan may go down as the greatest power forward to ever play the game, and he continues to produce at a phenomenal level in his 15th season.

    The 36-year-old big leads the Spurs in scoring, rebounds and blocks and also leads the team in minutes played (just over 30 per game).

    Aside from Duncan, the Spurs continue to possess the balanced offensive attack that has made them such a lethal force in the past.

    Kawhi Leonard continues to be the Spurs' jack of all trades with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili stabilizing the offensive flow.

1. Miami Heat

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    You can make every argument you want for the Spurs and Knicks for the No. 1 spot, but so long as LeBron James is playing at his current pace, the Miami Heat will have a stranglehold on the top spot in the NBA.

    Thus far, LeBron's PER has been obscene (over 30), and he is averaging a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds per game (and six assists).

    We should just face facts at this point: This is LeBron's world and we're just lucky to be living in it. The guy is the most dominant two-way presence we've seen on a basketball court in more than a decade, and it feels like he's just getting started.

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