NBA Power Rankings: Updating Where Each Team Stands in Week 3 of 2012-13 Season
The Los Angeles Lakers aren't the only NBA team that's been busy.
If the basketball sphere isn't busy watching Tinseltown dismiss its coach in favor of a new one that insults its old one, then we're bearing witness to the New York Knicks playing efficient defense.
If we're not watching the Miami Heat exuding mortality, then we're seeing the Houston Rockets embrace perpetual inconsistency.
Most notably, though, if we're not getting a bird's eye view of the Minnesota Timberwolves and all the surprises they hold, we're experiencing life without the Charlotte Bobcats in last place.
Almost needless to say, it's been an overwhelmingly chaotic start to the regular season. Amidst the continuous bedlam, though, there is clarity to be shed and conclusions to be deduced.
And, with that in mind, let's head back to the drawing board.
30. Detroit Pistons
It's like Michael Jordan abandoned his post with the Charlotte Bobcats to begin managing the Detroit Pistons.
Yes, Detroit is off to that bad of a start and, judging by the team's near-win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it's a surprisingly atrocious one at that.
The Pistons one win in nine tries has them off to a poor start has overshadowed some positives.
Andre Drummond is playing better than expected, and Greg Monroe is still a beast. Still, this team lacks a consistent identity outside of Monroe, and their record reflects it.
No one believes that this team is worse than last season's Bobcats, yet it is worth noting Charlotte won two of its first eight games. Two more than the Pistons won through their first eight.
29. Washington Wizards
And then there was one.
One winless team in the NBA remaining, that is.
Unlike the Pistons, the Washington Wizards can attribute their winless struggles to injuries.
Nene is far from healthy and John Wall's absence has not only slowed the offense down, but also negatively impacted the rate at which Bradley Beal can develop.
There is light at the end of the dark and dingy tunnel, though. Wall is due back at the end of the month, at which point the Wizards can begin their steady climb up the lottery ladder. The floor should also open up more for Beal around that time too.
That's about as good as it's going to get in Washington this year.
28. Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings are underachieving.
Now, don't stop me if you've heard that before, because I know you have. But it's the truth.
Despite an array of talented pieces, the Kings are sitting in last place of the Pacific Division. There hasn't been anything to get excited about in lieu of horrendous stars either.
Should Sacramento have any hope of turning this ship around sometime soon, the ever stingy and illogical Maloof brothers are going to have to bring in a level-headed veteran to anchor this squad.
27. Orlando Magic
After winning their first two games of the season, the Orlando Magic proceeded to lose five straight.
This should come as no surprise, though. We expected the Dwight Howard-less Magic to struggle. What was surprising, however, were those first two performances. Competency seemed within reach after those games.
Reality reared its ugly head, though, as it always it does.
Injuries to Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington set the team back significantly and now the Magic are left where they were originally projected to fall—at the bottom of the NBA's barrel.
26. Toronto Raptors
All is not well in Canada.
Though DeMar DeRozan is finally showing flashes of the player the Toronto Raptors thought he was, injuries and consistency have buried this team in the standings.
The overwhelming strength of their schedule hasn't helped thus far, but Toronto isn't even taking advantage of games it could win, including the triple-overtime bout against the Utah Jazz.
This was supposed to be the year the Raptors got it together.
Instead, though, they've gotten off to a start that implies the season is merely an extension of things falling apart.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers
Dion Waiters continues to prove the masses wrong while Kyrie Irving continues to put opposing point guards to shame, but it hasn't been enough.
Not only are the Cleveland Cavaliers losing, but they're doing so in such a way that makes us hopeful. Don't you just hate that?
Cleveland has faced a slew of playoff-bound opponents and have been undeniably overmatched just once or twice.
That said, those blowouts are the Cavaliers' most recent performances, which is a problem. Especially considering how well Irving, Waiters and Anderson Varejao are playing.
24. Indiana Pacers
Danny Granger cannot get back soon enough.
While the Pacers have the league's fourth-best defense in terms of points allowed per game, they are scoring just over 88 points a night—third worst in the league.
Clearly, defense isn't the issue. Truth be told, though, offense shouldn't be either. Aren't they paying Roy Hibbert $58 million to score?
Regardless, dropping 72 points against a Raptors team that allows over 100 per game is a sure sign something's wrong.
In Indiana's case, it's plenty of somethings.
23. Charlotte Bobcats
There are no words—but I'm going to try and provide some anyway.
Charlotte has not been messing around. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the embodiment of hustle, Kemba Walker seems to have forgotten he's supposed to be inconsistent, and Ramon Sessions has provided an offensive spark as well.
Toss in a newly acquired and extremely athletic Hakim Warrick, and the Bobcats are a heartbeat away from low-post competency as well.
No, I'm not about to declare Charlotte postseason-bound, but after wins over the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers, as well as a blowout victory over the Wizards, I'm a believer.
22. Phoenix Suns
Even without Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns find themselves right back where they were last season—hovering at or around .500.
Goran Dragic and crew have put some impressive wins under their belt, none more impressive than the upset of the Denver Nuggets.
That said, consistency—as always—remains an issue, and Phoenix's failure to capitalize off teams like the Magic is seriously disconcerting.
Until such losses are a thing of the past and the Suns prove they can hold their own against postseason-bound opponents consistently, we must be careful not to overvalue Phoenix's performance.
21. Portland Trail Blazers
We want the Portland Trail Blazers to be better. We really do.
Damian Lillard has been a stud, and LaMarcus Aldridge continues his reign of understated dominance. That said, this team's many sources of inexperience continue to surface.
Lillard has taken great strides toward improving his playmaking but still needs to touch up his ball control, while both Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews have some issues to iron out defensively.
Throw in a bench thinner than paper and you come to realize the Blazers are still a work-in-progress.
Yes, they'll get back to the playoffs. Just not this season.
20. Golden State Warriors
Andrew Bogut is not making any friends within the confines of the Golden State Warriors locker room.
Not only has the big man been underwhelming in the limited amount of action he's seen, but he's also flirting with the idea of missing extensive time again.
Stephen Curry and company have managed to win some games, but they remain winless without him in the lineup. Their cause isn't being helped by being in the bottom 10 of both points allowed and points scored per game.
Subsequently, if the Warriors don't establish an identity on one end of the floor soon, a playoff push will be out of the question even before Christmas.
19. Houston Rockets
Omer Asik has been unleashed.
That said, the Houston Rockets remain slightly grounded.
James Harden and Jeremy Lin have been unable to put together a string of consistent performances, and outside the team's near-win over the Miami Heat, there's no evidence to suggest Houston is a legitimate playoff contender.
If Asik, Chandler Parsons, Greg Smith and Marcus Morris can ultimately broach their ceilings on a daily basis however, we'll be looking at a drastically different team.
18. Dallas Mavericks
For those of us—myself included—who believed that a Dallas-less Dirk Nowitzki team was for real, it's time to reconsider.
Shawn Marion's injury hasn't helped the state of the Mavericks, but losses at the hands of the supposedly inferior Bobcats and a depleted Minnesota Timberwolves are inexcusable.
Once Nowitzki and Marion return to the floor, the true potential of this convocation should be realized.
Until then, however, Dallas will have to make sure it doesn't free-fall its way out of playoff contention.
17. Atlanta Hawks
Josh Smith has been a fantasy nightmare thus far. In fact, the Atlanta Hawks haven't been much fun to watch as a collective.
Though this team finds itself playing .500 basketball, it was torched by the Heat and Los Angeles Clippers coming off two impressive victories, one of which was over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Atlanta's latest shortcomings have left many wondering what exactly the potential of this team is, myself included. Despite losing Joe Johnson this was supposed to still be a playoff entity.
Now, however, I'm not so sure they are. Nor am I sure if Smith is going to stick around past this season to find out.
16. New Orleans Hornets
To answer your question, no, you haven't somehow scrolled back to the beginning of the slideshow. The New Orleans Hornets have been taking care of business in the most inspiring of ways possible.
Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers have battled separate injuries while Eric Gordon will remain missing for a while longer, and yet, New Orleans is playing better than .500 basketball.
Victories over the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz are not to be discounted, and neither is the Hornets' season-opening display against the San Antonio Spurs.
This team can play.
And as they approach full strength, they're only going to play better.
15. Philadelphia 76ers
Someone ought to congratulate the Philadelphia 76ers for staying relevant in Andrew Bynum's absence. More specifically, we should thank their defense and the ever improving accolades of one Jrue Holiday.
Though contention remains well out of reach until Bynum's return, Philadelphia must take solace in knowing its team remains a postseason-caliber squad while he's on the shelf.
Should the Sixers be able to remain an impenetrable defensive force, they'll have no problem treading water long enough to be in a position to contend once their biggest headache is fully recovered.
Until then, though, they must limit their performances like the one against the then winless Pistons to a minimum.
14. Utah Jazz
The Jazz have six different players averaging in double-figures, but they're still barely playing .500 basketball.
Utah's schedule thus far has been no joke, yet a loss to the Anthony Davis-less Hornets and a near-loss to the depleted Raptors continue to stick out like a sore thumb.The blowout suffered at the mercy of the Nuggets was no sign of encouragement either.
Simply put, with a roster that stretches nine deep without breaking a sweat, we expected better.
Much better than the mediocrity the Jazz have exposed us to.
13. Milwaukee Bucks
First thing's first: I'm not kidding.
As long as Larry Sanders and Mike Dunleavy continue to play over their heads, the Milwaukee Bucks are a playoff team.
No, they haven't proved they can handle Western Conference foes—the Memphis Grizzlies assured us of that—but they are staying competitive against their Eastern Conference peers.
Superior ball movement continues to reign supreme in Milwaukee and until opposing defenses find a way to dismantle one of the most dynamic offensive attacks in the league, the Bucks aren't going anywhere.
Except the playoffs.
12. Brooklyn Nets
No seriously, where are the Nets? The tumultuous product that has been haunting the floor of the Barclays Center can't be them, can it?
Unfortunately, it is. Not only is Brooklyn allowing over 45 points in the paint per contest, but they're in the bottom half of the league in points scored, rebounds and assists per game.
Somehow, I doubt this is what Mikhail Prokhorov had in mind when he went on a nine-figure shopping spree this summer.
Even still, the Nets have managed to scrape a handful of wins against inferior opponents and really put up a decent showing against the Cavaliers—Anderson Varejao's explosion aside, of course.
So while there's plenty of work to be done in Brooklyn, all hope of immediate contention is not lost. Not yet, anyway.
11. Chicago Bulls
It hasn't always been pretty in Chicago, but it has been encouraging.
The Bulls find themselves amongst the best in the league in defense once again, which has overshadowed their inconsistencies on the other end of the floor.
Until Derrick Rose returns, disappointing losses like the one against the Boston Celtics are bound to pile up, but Chicago is proving nonetheless the injured point guard isn't their end-all.
Which means the Bulls will be as well off as possible until he returns. And once their MVP does return, they'll likely be thinking about a title push once again.
10. Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo and the Celtics have built some momentum, but they're still a collective disappointment.
Though the star point guard is on pace to have a career season, Boston still finds itself boasting one of the worst defensive attacks in the game. The team is also second to last in rebounds per contest as well.
Grit and experience are only going to carry this team so far. Paul Pierce has been stellar, but veterans like Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry need to be more consistent, as does the Celtics bench in general.
Yes, Boston boasts a winning record, but there hasn't been a single moment where you've looked at it and thought, "this squad is going to win this game outright."
Until the Celtics can become more of a consistent two-way force and less of a wild card, they should consider themselves lucky to be in the top 10.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
I've resisted the urge to place Minnesota at the very top—almost unsuccessfully, I might add.
It's not just that the Timberwolves are winning. It's that they're winning despite being flummoxed by injuries to their two best players and a smorgasbord of role athletes.
How do you compete with that type of perseverance? You can't, and most teams haven't.
If I have to nitpick, though—and by nature I have to—I'd say Minnesota's offensive potency is seriously lacking.
That said, all this does is leave me bursting with anticipation as to how good (bordering on dominant) this team is going to be once Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio make their returns.
8. Denver Nuggets
I still believe in the Nuggets. For how much longer, though, I'm not so sure.
Denver got off to a disappointing start this season before rattling off four straight victories. Just when you thought the Nuggets were ready to leave their inconsistent ways behind, though, they go out and get picked apart by an inferior Suns team.
After you look past the mediocre record, however, you're able to see Denver's struggles stem from holes on defense.
The Nuggets are always going to score. They're built to pile it on, actually. Right now, turning this team around is just a matter of keeping perimeter players motivated on defense.
That and letting Wilson Chandler see the light of meaningful action.
7. Los Angeles Lakers
They're record doesn't reflect it, but the Lakers are still a force in this league.
Though I firmly believe that Los Angeles still has a legitimate chance to contend for a title this season, I must refrain from placing them too high. They are undergoing a complete system overhaul, after all.
That said, the Lakers already have a little extra pep in their step since Mike Brown was canned. They manhandled two inferior teams in the Kings and Warriors and stayed within striking distance of the Spurs until the final buzzer sounded.
No, Los Angeles' underwhelming start isn't ideal, but the team's performance in the early goings of the Princeton-less era is.
Now it's just a matter of letting Mike D'Antoni work his offensive magic.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
Credit the Clippers with getting the job done amidst numerous bouts with injury and inconsistency.
Chris Paul has been instrumental, as per usual, while Jamal Crawford has been a source of efficient inspiration. An improved post game from DeAndre Jordan and a resilient—albeit statistically challenged—Blake Griffin has made for good basketball as well.
And yet, while wins against the Spurs and Hawks are still at the forefront of Los Angeles' résumé, inexcusable losses against the Warriors and Cavaliers remain fresh.
Yes, the Clippers have already proven they're a Western Conference powerhouse—to an extent. Now it's time for them to prove they're one that can be depended upon to win the games they're supposed to.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
I was worried about the Thunder after the James Harden trade went down, and nearly one month later my feelings haven't changed.
Oklahoma City has found ways to win—good teams always do—but its lack of dominance is troubling.
Though the Thunder beat a team like the Cavaliers into submission, their displays against the Rose-less Bulls and winless Pistons are not reminiscent of the team we have grown to not only adore, but trust in.
With superstars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the docket, however, one has to believe this team—them included—will get their act together eventually.
Hopefully it just doesn't take too much longer.
4. Miami Heat
Please excuse me while I duck for cover.
The Heat remain one of the most formidable teams in the NBA, but they're not playing like the unstoppable force we know them to be.
Blowout losses at the hands of the Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies could be considered flukes, but what about the near-losses to the Nuggets and Rockets?
Simply put, if the ball didn't fall Miami's way, we would be looking at a Heat team barely playing .500 basketball. And yes, that's a problem.
LeBron James continues to carry Miami on a daily basis, but his—and the rest of the Big Three's—performance isn't the problem. It's the team's defense that's the issue. The Heat are currently allowing over 100 points per game.
Yes, Miami leads the league in points scored as well, but there's no denying the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis has stifled the Heat's defensive execution.
And until they resolve such an issue, or prove they can be as dominant in spite of them, we must remain cautiously optimistic about their quest to repeat.
3. San Antonio Spurs
Seriously, what is Gregg Popovich feeding these guys?
Despite rebounding at the third lowest rate in the league and being in the bottom half of points scored per contest, the Spurs are winning. Not just "a win here, a win there" winning. Like really winning.
That said, the are some concerns for San Antonio moving forward. Not only are Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker not playing their best basketball, but in losses to the Knicks and Clippers, no one wanted to be the guy to step up and take the shots in the closing minutes.
Yes, young guns like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, along with the timeless stylings of Tim Duncan, have propelled the Spurs near the top of the standings once again.
But after a tough loss at home to New York, it's clear there's still some work to be done in San Antonio.
2. New York Knicks
As impressed as I was by New York's performance, it was the outing against the Spurs that truly made me a believe.
The Knicks closed out the last half of the fourth quarter with a 25-6 run to overcome a 12-point deficit en route to an impressive victory on the road.
Not enough can be said about the resiliency and character this team has showed thus. Even Carmelo Anthony is buying into the team-first concept these.
That said, this team imploded in Memphis. The Knicks can blame questionable calls all they want, but the team just gave into frustration in the third quarter of that game.
So yes, the next 10 or so games will still say a great deal about where this squad is ultimately headed. But there's no use denying reality any longer—the Knicks are title contenders.
1. Memphis Grizzlies
It's been two years in the making, but the contention-worthy Grizzlies have finally arrived.
LeBron James described their depth best—and worst—when he noted that Rudy Gay was Memphis' third offensive option.
Now, I'm inclined to disagree. Gay is, at the very least, the second option. That said, James hit the depth of the Grizzlies roster right on the nose.
Memphis no longer appears to be a relatively deep entity searching for its identity. Instead, after remaining undefeated since their season-opening loss to the Clippers, it appears to be actualizing the dominance its docket suggests.
I mean, you don't get to be in the top 10 in points scored, points allowed, assists and rebounds per game by coincidence or dumb luck.
Which means the Grizzlies aren't a facade—they're the real deal.