A quarter of the NBA season is already through, so it’s time to take a look at our first power rankings of the 2012-13 campaign.
It’s been quite a shocking year full of impressively great teams and even more surprising struggles from franchises many thought would have a hot start.
Let’s take a look at how every team currently measures up against the rest of the league and much more in the first edition of our power rankings.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Which team should be No. 1?
The Thunder are once again off to a blazing fast start, proving that trading away James Harden may have been the right call for the immediate success and long-term future of the franchise. It’ll be interesting to see how it pays off come playoff time.
2. San Antonio Spurs
If you were ready to write off the Spurs, think again. This team is once again atop the NBA standings and our power rankings. As long as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan avoid injury, this team isn’t going anywhere.
3. New York Knicks
Mike Woodson is perhaps the best coach for this veteran team. He allows them to bomb away from deep, but demands they play tough defense on the other end. It’s perfect for a team that is far exceeding expectations after a strange offseason.
4. L.A. Clippers
This team hasn’t lost in December and looks to be a real force in the Western Conference. We predict they make the Conference Finals if they can stay healthy and continue to gel with Chauncey Billups playing a key role once again.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have finally returned to earth, but we can’t blame them for finally losing some tough games against top competition. Their early season stretch proved that they can hang with anyone and are going to be a major force this season.
6. Miami Heat
This team is clearly experiencing a championship hangover, and Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh need to get their house in order before they seriously face the threat of losing home-court advantage in the postseason.
The Heat certainly have the talent to win it all for the second straight year, but we’re not seeing the hunger. There’s plenty of time for that to change, but it starts with the leaders on the floor.
7. Atlanta Hawks
Not many thought this group would be a playoff lock in 2012-13, and even fewer thought that this would be one of the East’s toughest teams. Josh Smith and Al Horford are thriving without Joe Johnson inefficiently hogging the ball, and the rest of the roster has followed suit with effective scoring and gritty defense.
8. Golden State Warriors
Without Andrew Bogut in the lineup, the Dubs have continued their success and seem playoff bound for the first time since the 2006-2007 campaign.
Unless Stephen Curry happens upon another ankle injury (which isn’t far outside the realm of possibility), this unstoppable force will punch a ticket to the postseason.
9. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets need to get healthy to continue living up to this lofty top-10 ranking, but we’re giving them the benefit for the doubt. Once Deron Williams heals his wrist, Brook Lopez returns to action and the rest of the team gets a few days to rest, we predict a quick turnaround for the Nets.
10. Boston Celtics
Boston can no longer get out to early-season starts like it used to, but the franchise isn’t rolling over just yet.
The Celtics are a proud group that wins when it matters and still come through with a huge win over a tough opponent enough to keep us on our toes. All that matters is that this team gets into the playoffs for them to make noise.
11. Chicago Bulls
Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls don’t score many points but their defense is just as stingy. As long as Coach Thibodeau keeps his boys on the ball and locking down their foes, it’ll be another playoff season in Chi Town.
12. Utah Jazz
The Jazz are officially out of rebuilding mode and should improve upon the No. 8 seed they earned in last year’s playoffs. They are a regular-season force and no longer a rag-tag group of youngsters and veteran castoffs.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
This injury-marred franchise will need more time to get back in the swing of things, but once the entire roster is healthy things are going to change very quickly. We expect the T-Wolves to rip off a huge winning streak as soon as things begin clicking.
14. Milwaukee Bucks
It's an interesting season for the Bucks, who could possibly trade Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis at the first sign of things going sour. However, the undersized scorers have found chemistry together and have this team competing in the East.
15. Denver Nuggets
While the Nuggets are just .500, they have played one of the toughest schedules of any team in the league. They should only start to climb up the ladder with easier opponents, more home games and ample rest.
16. Indiana Pacers
Until the Pacers get Danny Granger back, we aren’t exactly sure what to make of this team. They aren’t good enough to climb any higher, but aren’t bad enough to fall into the league’s basement. It’s good news for Indy fans, as this team is looking like a playoff contender.
17. Houston Rockets
It’s been a growing period for the Rockets, who beat the lowly Wizards and stalwart Celtics recently, but lost to the Mavs and Spurs, twice, prior to that pair of wins.
18. Philadelphia 76ers
Philly’s chances hinge on Andrew Bynum’s successful return. Unfortunately, the big-man, who is on the last year of his contract, isn’t rushing anything and isn’t going to speed up his recovery to play for this mediocre team with little chance of winning it all in 2013.
19. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs aren’t quite so bad without Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup, but O.J. Mayo will have to find a way to play like Jason Terry did when the German returns. A high-volume guard and efficient post-player like Dirk can work, so we’ll see if Mayo can make it.
Where will the Lakers finish the season in the power rankings?
20. L.A. Lakers
This awful L.A. team is all over the place and direly needs Steve Nash back in the lineup before we drop them even farther. We truly don’t think that the two-time MVP point guard is going to change the culture, but it’s worth a shot before the team considers blowing things up around the deadline.
21. Orlando Magic
It’s interesting that the undermanned Magic, who shipped Dwight Howard to L.A. this past summer, are only one spot back from the Lakers in the power rankings. They have been outperforming expectations and proving you don’t need a myriad of stars to win regular-season games in the NBA.
22. Portland Trail Blazers
These Blazers aren’t exactly what we thought they could be in the offseason, but Damian Lillard has been a huge bright spot. Many wrote this kid off as too small in the draft, but he’s silenced the haters and proved the doubters wrong.
23. Phoenix Suns
Without Steve Nash, this team is absolutely atrocious. We don’t expect the Suns to get back into contention anytime soon, and will have to hopefully hit big on some of those first-round picks the Lakers sent. Fortunately, as of now, those draft selections look to be much higher than anyone initially would have thought.
24. Sacramento Kings
These Kings are still in flux in regards to where they might play in the future, but at least the youngsters are somewhat improving. DeMarcus Cousins may be the best young big in the game and Tyreke Evans is finally showing flashes of why he was named Rookie of the Year a few seasons back.
25. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons aren’t ready to contend and will not be for a few seasons, but Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are forming a solid frontcourt that will clearly be the nucleus of a successful squad in the near future.
26. Charlotte Bobcats
The ‘Cats are already performing drastically better than they did in 2011-12, but that isn’t saying much. Unfortunately, they are starting to revert to their old ways and are on an 11-game losing streak.
27. New Orleans Hornets
The injury bug has bit this young team hard, which actually may be a blessing in disguise. With a healthy Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, the Hornets would be winning games. With them sidelined, the team is in line to reload with another talented top lottery pick.
It’ll be interesting to see the Pelicans contending in the West in 2013-14.
28. Washington Wizards
Miami avenged their loss to the Wizards earlier in the season and put to rest any hope that this team was turning it around. Washington is plain awful and John Wall’s return isn’t likely to help fix any of its woes.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs aren’t going to win many games the way they are currently built. Until they find a suitable trade partner for Anderson Varejao and get Kyrie Irving healthy and more weapons, things are going to be nothing but gloomy for the franchise.
30. Toronto Raptors
These Raptors lost arguably their best player, Andrea Bargnani, to injury and are now even more hopeless than before. Expect the team to swing a major deal by the deadline in order to blow things up and start rebuilding from scratch.