NBA Power Rankings: Dangerous Teams That Will Rebound from Slow Starts

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Kobe Bryant #24, Dwight Howard #12 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers talk during the game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on November 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers aren't the only NBA team off to a slow start, and they won't be the only ones to bounce back, either.

The NBA season is still young. Playing 82 games demands a marathon pace, giving talented teams plenty of time to figure things out. At this point, teams are still figuring out how to play together. Unless they're the Spurs, of course, who have seemingly played together since the beginning of time.

Even though we're just getting started, it's not too early to gauge some first impressions.

Let's power rank the NBA teams so far, focusing on a few squads that will find their way as the season moves along.

1. New York Knicks

The Knicks are 5-0 with quality wins over the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks. They don't lead the NBA in wins, but you can't deny an undefeated team the top spot.

2. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are where they are because of their unselfish play on both ends of the floor. This group defines the team concept, and they've proven it in each of their seven wins.

3. Miami Heat

LeBron is still LeBron, but this team is giving up over 100 points per game. That cannot stand if the Heat hope to repeat.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have won five straight, but Kevin Durant is still struggling to score more than usual. Even with James Harden in Houston, this is still one of the league's most talented squads.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis gets by with its stellar defense, but don't underestimate how far the duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol can take Lionel Hollins' squad.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

Jamal Crawford has proven to be a huge addition as the team's leading scorer, and the Clippers look like a championship team on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively, a few inconsistencies could make the difference.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota is doing an excellent job without Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, instead relying on defense to get by. As long as Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko can protect the rim, the T'Wolves can remain in the hunt until their stars return.

8. Chicago Bulls

Even without Derrick Rose, this team has stayed afloat. As long as they continue to play defense and rebound the ball, the Bulls will stick around.

9. Milwaukee Bucks

This team is interesting. With Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis both at the top of their games, and Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh protecting the rim, don't sleep on this squad in the Eastern Conference.

10. Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn has beaten up on lesser opponents to earn its victories, but this team still looks good. Deron Williams and co. will hang around the Atlantic Division all year.

11. Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers definitely miss Andrew Bynum down low, but Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner are growing up quickly.

12. Boston Celtics

Boston has depth, but in the wrong areas. Without a true center, this is the league's worst rebounding team. If it wasn't for Rajon Rondo, it's scary to think where this team might be.

13. Atlanta Hawks

It's hard to fault the Hawks for losing to Miami and the Clippers, and they did defeat Oklahoma City earlier this season. As long as Al Horford stays healthy, this team will stick around.

14. Dallas Mavericks

No one expected this team to be here right now, but a group effort has Dallas in the thick of things without Dirk Nowitzki. So far, the new backcourt of O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison is doing its job.

15. Utah Jazz

There's actually a lot to like about this team. One of the league's deepest frontcourts will give them a chance every night. Add a playmaker on the perimeter, and look out for these guys.

16. Denver Nuggets

Denver has almost everything in place, but Kosta Koufos at center is an issue. Plus, free throws are still an issue.

17. Phoenix Suns

The Suns are an atrocious defensive team. Goran Dragic has been very good in his first year at the point, but he needs some help.

18. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have some talent, but inconsistent play down low holds this team back.

19. New Orleans Hornets

This team is still very young, so it's hard to judge, but good times are ahead. The best news so far: Anthony Davis is for real.

20. Charlotte Bobcats

Three wins, already? That's all anyone in Charlotte needs to hear.

21. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers will be back.

Whether you agree with the Mike D'Antoni hiring or not, this team has too much talent to completely flop. Kobe Bryant is still scoring. Dwight Howard is starting to look healthy and Steve Nash should be back soon.

The Lakers' bench is thin, but Bryant won't accept losing for long. With four future Hall of Fame players on the roster, the ship will sail at some point.

This team will benefit from an 82-game season more than any other squad in the league. Instead of getting worn down, they will only get stronger.

Once this team figures itself out and begins to gel, they will be where they were expected to be. A championship is far from guaranteed, but this is a playoff team.

22. Houston Rockets

I'm a little surprised that the Rockets are playing as well as they are at times. Unless James Harden plays like a superstar all season, and he could, expect things to end worse than they started for Houston.

This team is close but not quite there.

23. Indiana Pacers

Without Danny Granger, things will be tough for the Pacers. Unless Paul George can step up his scoring game, it's going to be a long road ahead.

If only they had done more in the offseason.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

Dangerous? Yes. Will they bounce back? Not right away. Cleveland has two of the most exciting young players in basketball right now—plus Anderson Varejao—but a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference will be hard-earned from these guys.

Don't expect a huge run from this team, but Irving is something special. Averaging over 24 points per game and 6.5 assists, he's proving each and every game that he's truly an elite point guard.

Also proving himself is Dion Waiters. He's averaging 14 points per game, although he could be more efficient with his shot selection.

Cleveland is fun to watch. Even if it's just to watch this backcourt work, the Cavaliers are worth tuning into.

If they can improve a scoring defense that's currently last in the league, look for Cleveland to sneak into the playoffs.

25. Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers actually have more talent than they're showing. With Damian Lillard playing like a Rookie of the Year candidate, this team is bound to improve as the season progresses.

For Portland, it all comes down to defense. Allowing over 100 points per game isn't going to cut it, no matter how many talented players are on the offensive end.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Lillard have developed a great rapport early on, and Nic Batum has proven himself as a capable third option on the offensive end. J.J. Hickson and Wes Matthews are capable performers as well.

Portland isn't going to be the best team in the Western Conference, but 3-5 doesn't attest to this team's ability. As Lillard continues to improve, look for this team to bounce back in the next few weeks.

26. Orlando Magic

Orlando only has two wins, but nothing could be too disappointing for this team. Any team that relies on Glen Davis to produce can't face expectations much higher than 30 wins.

27. Sacramento Kings

I actually like watching this team play at times, even though they have absolutely no idea what they're doing most of the time. The Kings are undisciplined and unfocused, but it's hard to find a more athletic team around the NBA.

28. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are 15th in the NBA in scoring, but they struggle otherwise. Without consistent rebounding underneath and stops on the defensive end, this team is heading for a disappointing season.

29. Washington Wizards

Washington has the second-worst point differential in the NBA, mostly due to its anemic offense. Don't expect this team to go anywhere, if at all, until John Wall returns. 

30. Detroit Pistons

Detroit has a few solid pieces in place, but Lawrence Frank has no idea how to use them. A 1-8 start is exactly how a young team didn't need to start.


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