NBA Power Rankings: Breaking Down Where Every Team in the League Stands Thus Far
With scintillating on-court action like what we saw in Brooklyn on Monday night and ongoing melodramas like the Los Angeles Lakers, every bit of the 2012-13 NBA season has lived up to its lofty hype.
More importantly, all of the hoopla has also led to some flux in everyone's favorite part of the NBA season: the power rankings.
As for my criteria, it's a little different than most. I view it as an amalgamation between two old sports adages: "Who would win a seven-game series?" and "What have you done for me lately?"
So while most of these rankings will look standard, there will be a few teams lower and higher than expected because of preseason assumptions. Remember folks, we're very early in the NBA season.
With that in mind, let's take a look at where your team stands with the latest batch of NBA power rankings.
1. Miami Heat (10-3)
As I've said before, until you knock off the champs, there's no reason to move them away from the No. 1 spot.
The team has obvious roster deficiencies—especially in the middle. It will be interesting to see how Erik Spoelstra's rotation will change while Shane Battier deals with a sprained knee.
However, with the way LeBron James is playing this season, there is no other team I would take in a seven-game series.
2. San Antonio Spurs (12-3)
What this team is doing this season is testament to the greatness of Gregg Popovich. Taking on a more uptempo personality, the Spurs are now scoring 102.1 points per game, which is good for fourth in the NBA.
Also, don't look now, but Tim Duncan is averaging 18-10 per night again. Like his coach, the Big Fundamental never ceases to amaze.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4)
Most would have the Memphis Grizzlies here at the moment and it's hard to argue with that point. But after a nerve-wracking start, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Co. are proving they'll be just fine in the regular season without James Harden.
As for the postseason? That remains to be seen.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (10-2)
Equipped with the best winning percentage in the NBA, it seems like the Grizzlies are finally living up to their roster's potential.
The depth is there to make Memphis dangerous in the regular season, but like Oklahoma City, I worry about the team's championship readiness.
5. Brooklyn Nets (9-4)
Don't think of this as an overnight reaction to the Nets' win on Monday night against the New York Knicks.
I've long thought Brooklyn had the best team in New York and all the Nets' victory did is give me full justification for this ranking.
One more thing: Please, Gerald Wallace, no more three-pointers. Like...ever.
6. Los Angeles Lakers (7-7)
The ship is taking on water, all the women and children are on lifeboats and the band is still playing—and the Lakers are still a .500 team.
Let's all slowly back away from the panic button and see how this team meshes when Steve Nash returns.
7. New York Knicks (9-4)
So much for the honeymoon phase for Raymond Felton, eh?
That said, the Knicks have been impressive all season, succeeding despite the oldest roster in the NBA. Sustainability is a question and we're likely to see a regression to the mean, but it's fun having both New York teams be really good.
8. Los Angeles Clippers (8-6)
Am I the only one who has noticed Blake Griffin has quietly been pretty terrible this season (by his standards)? The nightly highlight fixture has still been a jaw-dropping athlete, but is in the midst of setting career lows across the board in every measurable stat.
In his third season, we should be seeing an ascent, not a regression. The Clippers are still getting used to each other on the floor, but this is definitely something to monitor going forward.
If Griffin doesn't play like a superstar, the "other" Los Angeles team is looking at a first-round exit come April.
9. Boston Celtics (8-6)
The Knicks may be the oldest team in the league, but the Celtics have felt like the oldest for much of this season.
Neither Paul Pierce nor Kevin Garnett can bring it on a nightly basis anymore, which is putting more and more pressure on Rajon Rondo to pick up the slack.
He's done so in terms of creating shots, but cannot make up for the massive rebounding struggles in Boston. Until that is fixed, the Celtics are a fringe championship contender at best.
10. Denver Nuggets (8-7)
While the deepest team in the league, the Nuggets cannot be taken seriously among the NBA's elite until someone steps up as a late-game alpha dog.
11. Utah Jazz (8-7)
The home-road splits for this squad are extremely disconcerting. Though the Jazz are 6-0 at home with wins over teams like the Nuggets and Rockets, they are also 2-7 on the road with losses to the Hornets and Kings.
There's also the little problem of a loaded frontcourt and mediocre (at best) backcourt.
12. Atlanta Hawks (8-4)
The Hawks may not "miss" Joe Johnson in wins and losses thus far, but there's a reason they're No. 20 in the NBA in points per game.
Don't be surprised when the regression comes.
13. Golden State Warriors (8-6)
Health has always held the ultimate key to this team's fate. If Stephen Curry can stay on the floor and Andrew Bogut returns in a timely fashion, the Warriors have the talent to be a playoff squad.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-7)
Five consecutive losses are enough to cause wariness about any team in the NBA. But Kevin Love's return should help an offense that desperately needed scoring punch, as it ranks just 25th in offensive efficiency.
15. Houston Rockets (6-7)
Allow me to raise my hand high and not-so-proud as one of the people who were completely wrong about the Omer Asik contract. He's still a complete offensive liability, but the seven-footer has cut down on his fouls and has been able to stay on the floor for extended minutes.
The Jeremy Lin contract, meanwhile? Not so much.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (7-5)
They aren't playing any better than anyone thought they would at the beginning of the season. Quite frankly, other teams are just worse.
17. Dallas Mavericks (7-7)
18. Chicago Bulls (6-7)
19. Philadelphia 76ers (8-6)
We're going to lump all of these teams together because they're essentially doing the same thing: keeping the ship afloat without a superstar.
The Mavericks get the highest ranking because what they've done is the most impressive. Most, myself included, expected Dallas to tank, play for a high lottery pick and sit Dirk Nowitzki as much as possible. Instead, the team battled and has wins against the Lakers and Knicks to show for its effort.
Meanwhile, the Bulls have spent their time without Derrick Rose finding a second alpha dog in Joakim Noah. He'll never be an offensive star, but just look at how much Chicago benefits by his mere presence on the floor.
Likewise, Jrue Holiday stepping up into a leadership role has only led to positive outcomes thus far. Unfortunately for the Sixers, their superstar, Andrew Bynum, seems farthest away from playing at this point.
20. Indiana Pacers (6-8)
Danny Granger may be among the league's most overrated players in the mainstream, but his importance in Indiana cannot go discounted. Just about everyone on the Pacers roster has struggled this season and the team ranks No. 28 in the NBA in offensive efficiency.
21. Portland Trail Blazers (6-8)
Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge may be one of the more exciting young duos to watch on a dead League Pass night, but they also lead a team that is full of turnstiles defensively.
Through 14 games, the Blazers are 29th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, giving up a whopping 107.1 points per 100 possessions.
22. Phoenix Suns (6-8)
The Goran Dragic-Marcin Gortat combination has been fantastic as expected and Luis Scola is still a serviceable forward.
Beyond that, there's a whole lot of replacement-level on this Suns squad
23. New Orleans Hornets (4-9)
Injuries to Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis have marred the Hornets' season. If both can get back on the court and stay healthy, it isn't a stretch to say New Orleans has a top-half team.
24. Toronto Raptors (3-11)
Ranking right in the middle of the pack in offensive and defensive efficiency, it's a little weird that the Raptors have just three wins.
Then you remember they have no crunch-time alpha dog and have lost five games by five or less points and all is right with the world.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-11)
Outside of Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao, the Cavs have just one other player who has a 15 PER (league average) or higher: Omri Casspi. He plays 12.4 minutes per game.
That should tell you all you need to know about Cleveland's supporting cast this season.
26. Charlotte Bobcats (7-6)
Mike Dunlap is hands-down the NBA's Coach of the Year if the season ended today. Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have also been far better than expected.
But this roster just doesn't have the talent to sustain its hot start. The Bobcats have just one victory all season by more than four points and that run of luck cannot be sustained on a team without a go-to option.
Enjoy the nice story while it lasts, though, Charlotte.
27. Orlando Magic (5-8)
Where the entire Cavaliers supporting cast is struggling, Orlando has a roster full of replacement-level players. Six different Magic players have a PER of 15 or higher, though that number includes Hedo Turkoglu, who has played just one game this season.
28. Sacramento Kings (4-9)
Someday management will make necessary trades and the roster will make sense. Someday.
29. Detroit Pistons (4-11)
Greg Monroe continues to be one of the more quietly great big men in the league and Andre Drummond has shown flashes of big-time brilliance at times.
Other than those two positives, it's looking like another miserable losing season is coming in Detroit.
30. Washington Wizards (0-12)
I could make just about any joke possible here and it wouldn't top the TNT crew on Monday night. So check that out on Youtube.
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