NBA Power Rankings: Teams Settling into Winning Ways
Now that we're almost a month into the 2012-13 NBA season, we have a better indication of which teams are for real and which teams are trending down after experiencing some early-season luck.
And as some teams keep piling up the wins and others just keep losing, the balance of power becomes a bit easier to discern.
Here are my complete NBA power rankings with a special emphasis on the teams primed to keep on rolling.
1. New York Knicks (7-1)
By far, the Knicks have been the league's most impressive team thus far—and who would've expected it, given the way their somewhat tumultuous offseason played out? They lost Jeremy Lin, the fans were enraged, the star players couldn't seem to stay healthy—and yet here they are, a few weeks in and with just a single loss on their record.
After starting off the season 6-0, the Knicks finally encountered some adversity in the form of the Memphis Grizzlies, dropping their first game on the road on Nov. 16. But two days later, it was right back to the same old winning ways, and the latest victim was Indiana.
Unless Carmelo Anthony suffers some kind of career-threatening injury soon, New York looks like it's going to keep right on rolling.
2. L.A. Clippers (8-2)
They may not have started out the season 6-0 like the Knicks, but they've won six in a row and that's just as impressive.
Like the Knicks, the Clippers were the victims of some bad luck injury-wise at the end of the 2011-12 season, but this year, with their rightful cast of characters back in the mix, they're performing better than many expected.
There were some growing pains early on—and they came in the form of two consecutive losses to Golden State and Cleveland in early November. But since leveling off at 2-2, L.A. has reeled off six wins, two of which came against San Antonio and one of which came against Miami.
They've beaten good teams, they've beaten bad teams and they don't look like they're going to stop beating anybody any time soon—though Wednesday's matchup against Oklahoma City will be a test.
3. Miami Heat (8-3)
They've already suffered losses to the two teams ahead of them in the power rankings, but they seem to have righted the ship to some degree with recent (albeit close) wins over Denver and Phoenix.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (8-2)
An eight-game winning streak came to an end on Monday night, but that doesn't mean the Grizzlies are headed downhill anytime soon.
The Grizzlies are one of many teams proving that youth and cohesion make for a nearly unbeatable combination. Nearly unbeatable. Memphis started off 2012-13 on a rough note with a loss to the Clippers, but after that, they went on a tear that featured victories over the likes of Houston, Miami, Oklahoma City and New York. They can win big over the best teams (they took down Miami by 18), and they can hold off the best teams (they beat OKC by 10).
On top of all the wins, Memphis' Zach Randolph has been the top rebounder on the floor in every single game the Grizzlies have played thus far, never registering fewer than 11 boards. That certainly bodes well for this team moving forward from Monday's loss.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (8-3)
Even without James Harden, the Thunder are doing just fine. They're first in their division by a good margin and are coming off two big wins against New Orleans and Golden State after dropping that contest to Memphis.
6. Brooklyn Nets (6-2)
There's always that scary chance that a seriously-hyped team stumbles out of the gates, but that hasn't happened with the Nets. After falling to 1-2, they've reeled off five straight wins, but Tuesday's game at L.A. to face the Lakers will be their first big test since facing Miami on Nov. 7.
7. San Antonio Spurs (8-3)
After a strong 7-1 start to the season, the Spurs are on the downward trend, dropping two of their last three to very good teams in New York and L.A. In fact, the Spurs have already lost twice to the Clippers this season. They'll have to get back on track on Wednesday at Boston.
8. Philadelphia 76ers (6-4)
The Sixers have been entirely up-and-down early on this season, but part of that comes with facing the Knicks twice in their first three games. Since dropping to 1-2, they've gone 5-2 with wins over Boston and Cleveland.
9. Milwaukee Bucks (6-3)
A three-game winning streak came to an end on Monday night when the Bucks ran into the Bobcats. But in those three straight wins, Milwaukee's offense looked very good.
10. Atlanta Hawks (5-4)
They've dropped a couple of games to tough teams (Miami, L.A. Clippers), but the Hawks have scored two straight wins. They shouldn't have much trouble making it a third with a home game against Washington coming up on Wednesday.
11. Charlotte Bobcats (5-4)
Maybe the beginning of the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist era was all the Bobcats needed to start doing some damage. A 1-3 start has been pushed to the background after they've won four of five.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-4)
And the Wolves are on the opposite trajectory: After two straight losses to Charlotte and Golden State, their promising 4-1 start has certainly faded into the background.
13. Golden State Warriors (6-5)
Perhaps an overtime win over Dallas was exactly what Golden State needed to start a promising streak. The first few weeks of the season have been very up and down, but after winning three of four, the Warriors are trending upwards.
14. Boston Celtics (6-5)
And the Celtics have been similarly up and down, though more up lately. After consecutive wins over Milwaukee, Chicago and Utah, Boston has lost two of three but has an opportunity for an impressive home victory over San Antonio on Wednesday to win their fifth in its last seven.
15. Utah Jazz (6-6)
Win a couple, lose a couple—that seems to have been the Jazz's MO over the last 10 days or so. But if they manage to take down Sacramento on Friday after a long three-day layoff, they have the opportunity to earn three straight victories for the first time all season.
16. Portland Trail Blazers (5-5)
The Trail Blazers have almost erased the memory of an ugly four-game losing streak with three straight wins, and a fourth at Phoenix on Wednesday could push them back over .500.
17. Los Angeles Lakers (5-5)
The Lakers certainly didn't expect to be 5-5 at this point in the season, but the best teams always have growing pains. It happened to Miami's Big Three out of the gate, too, and things have been going well recently. If they beat Brooklyn on Tuesday, they will have won five of their last six.
18. Dallas Mavericks (6-6)
A strong 4-1 start has been all but forgotten in light of the Mavericks' losses in five of their last seven, one of which came in overtime at the hands of Golden State on Monday night. Unfortunately, Wednesday's matchup against New York won't make things any easier.
19. Chicago Bulls (5-5)
Things could be a lot worse for the Derrick Rose-less Bulls right now. But to make sure they don't start getting worse, a win at Houston on Wednesday to halt a two-game losing streak is imperative.
20. Denver Nuggets (5-6)
The Nuggets lose in bunches and win in bunches. Unfortunately, after a four-game winning streak, they lost three straight. But there's hope, at least, that Monday's win over Memphis was the start of better things to come.
21. Indiana Pacers (5-7)
Perhaps something similar could be said for the Pacers, who have done a lot more losing this season than winning. They may have dropped six of nine, but at least they're coming off a slim win over Washington with New Orleans looming on Wednesday.
22. Toronto Raptors (3-7)
Well, given the way they began 2012-13, things are sort of looking up for the Raptors. They dropped six of their first seven, but they've won two of their last three. Unfortunately, those two wins came against pretty bad teams in Indiana and Orlando, but at least it's something.
23. New Orleans Hornets (3-5)
The good feelings didn't last very long in New Orleans. After reeling off wins in three of their first five, Anthony Davis' club has dropped three straight, and their next one is against New York on Tuesday. That doesn't bode very well.
24. Houston Rockets (4-7)
Maybe it's still too early for some Jeremy Lin magic, but the Rockets could certainly use some. Three straight losses to mediocre teams will make you kind of desperate.
25. Phoenix Suns (4-7)
And the Suns find themselves in a similar situation, except without someone who's seemingly capable of saving the day. They've lost three straight—and once to former savior Steve Nash and the Lakers—but perhaps more manageable games against Portland and New Orleans will prove beneficial this week.
26. Orlando Magic (3-7)
That two-game winning streak to start the season was certainly a tease. Since then, the Magic post-Howard have gone 1-7—their only win coming against middling Detroit. The good news is, they face the Pistons once again on Wednesday.
27. Detroit Pistons (2-9)
It's hard to look at the bright side when you started off the season 0-8, but hey, at least the Pistons have gone 2-1 over their most recent three! And their next two against Orlando and Toronto are at least moderately winnable.
28. Sacramento Kings (2-8)
Five straight losses and nowhere to go. The torture doesn't appear to be over for the Kings, who face the upward-trending Lakers on Wednesday.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-8)
Poor Cleveland. The torture doesn't end. Not only have the Cavaliers lost six straight, but they just found out they'll be without reigning Rookie of the Year and leading scorer Kyrie Irving for four weeks while he deals with a broken finger.
30. Washington Wizards (0-9)
The only team that has it worse, in fact, is Washington. At least the Cavs have won a couple times this year. The Wizards are still in search of their first W.
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