Isn't the NBA supposed to be the easiest sport to predict?
The bad teams stay down while the squad with LeBron James pummels the competition. Easy, right?
To be fair, many teams have lived up to their preseason expectations. The San Antonio Spurs continue to thrive a year after their fourth "last run." The Indiana Pacers are leading a mediocre Eastern Conference and the West looks stacked yet again.
But not everything has unfolded according to plan. As both New York squads set the bar lower by the game, supposed bottom-dwellers are proving improperly trained in the art of tanking.
A grand chunk of the season remains, but let's take a look at how all 30 NBA squads compare.
Note: All advanced statistics, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
1. San Antonio Spurs (9-1)
The sky is blue, the grass is green and the Spurs are still a fundamentally sound team that can win by any means necessary. Once again adapting to his current conditions, Gregg Popovich has his guys playing hounding defense with a league-leading 94.2 points allowed per 100 possessions.
2. Indiana Pacers (9-1)
When he's not hanging out with Tom Haverford and Jean-Ralphio, Roy Hibbert is making life miserable for opponents in the paint with 4.6 blocks per game. When he's on the court, the other side averages just 88 points per 100 possessions.
3. Miami Heat (7-3)
You'll never guess who leads the NBA with a 30.16 PER. Wait, yes you will, because it's LeBron James, whose greatness has topped the category's leaderboard for six straight seasons. I suppose shooting 62.2 percent from the floor on 16.4 attempts per game is decent.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (7-3)
After Miami, no NBA team boasts a better offense than the Los Angeles Clippers, who are scoring 110 points per game and 112.7 points per 100 possessions. With Chris Paul running the show, the Clippers dish out a league-best 26.4 assists per contest.
5. Golden State Warriors (7-3)
No teams converts from behind the arc with more efficiency than the Warriors, who sink 45.3 of their three-pointers. That's saying something considering just four teams have attempted more long-distance shots. A golden addition (pun intended) for the Warriors, Andre Iguodala sports the NBA's best true shooting percentage at 71.5 while providing some much-needed defensive tenacity.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (8-2)
Unless you count the Heat not owning the top spot, we have our first true surprise of the rankings with the Trail Blazers soaring up to No. 6 in the midst of a six-game winning streak. Although he's averaging 20.1 points per game, Damian Lillard has chalked up an inefficient 39.4 field-goal percentage.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-4)
If Kevin Love stays healthy for a full season, he may just represent James' biggest threat at halting his streak of MVP trophies. Love is dropping 26.8 points per game on 48 percent shooting alongside 13.6 boards and a career-best 4.5 assists per night. His 29.6 PER trails only King James in the league's hierarchy.
8. Chicago Bulls (5-3)
Derrick Rose's season outputs (34.8 percent shooting, 4.4 assists per game) have been atrocious, but he showed a pulse with 20 points to hand the Pacers their only loss of the season. Chicago's stingy defense will keep it afloat for now, but expect the team to catapult into elite territory once the star point guard finds his footing on the court.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-3)
Serge Ibaka has not swatted shots with his usual fervor, averaging 2.0 blocks per game with a 5.0 blocks percentage. But he's enhancing his game elsewhere, grabbing 10.9 rebounds per night while contributing 14.9 points per game.
10. Houston Rockets (7-4)
The Rockets turn the ball over more than any other team and allow 105.8 points per 100 possessions, but they can still score with the best of them. Yet oddly enough, sharpshooter Chandler Parson has hit just 25.6 percent of his threes despite shooting 61.1 percent inside the arc.
11. Atlanta Hawks (6-4)
What's this, a team from the East? The Hawks have reshaped their offense without Josh Smith, allowing Al Horford and Paul Millsap to control the game down low as Kyle Korver reaps the rewards with open threes. Jeff Teague, who is averaging 19.4 points and 9.0 assists, has flourished the most in Smith's absence.
12. Dallas Mavericks (6-4)
Were outside factors forcing Monta Ellis to function as a high-volume scorer this whole time? With Dirk Nowitzki and an unselfish Jose Calderon easing his burden, Ellis is scoring 21.9 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting. It will be interesting to see if the numbers normalize with a larger sampling or whether Ellis has been mistreated due to playing on rosters that poorly fit his talents.
13. Phoenix Suns (5-4)
Perceived as one of the top contenders to compete for Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle or Jabari Parker in the 2014 NBA draft, newcomer Eric Bledsoe is hampering the Suns' plans by playing too well. Finally free from CP3's shadow, Bledsoe is proving he belongs in an NBA starting lineup with a firm stat line of 20.4 points, 6.8 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest.
His 23.91 PER ranks second among point guards behind his former teammate.
14. New Orleans Pelicans (4-6)
Ryan Anderson's return makes the Pelicans' offense very intriguing. He nailed six three-pointers and produced 26 points in his season debut, guiding his squad to a 135-98 rout over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
15. Memphis Grizzlies (5-5)
The most disappointing start out West, Memphis has not displayed its usual defensive relentless through 10 games. They have surrendered 104.8 points per 100 possessions, a mark that will doom a squad light on perimeter scorers.
16. Orlando Magic (4-6)
Pickings are slim in the East, but the Magic are one of five teams in the conference with a positive point differential. Nikola Vucevic is morphing into a monster with a double-double average of 15.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, while the usually solid, yet unspectacular Arron Afflalo is posting 21.7 points, 5.0 boards and 4.8 dimes as the young team's de facto leader.
17. Denver Nuggets (4-5)
Denver scores 105.3 points per 100 possessions, even though no regularly playing Nugget outside of Ty Lawson delivers more than 11 points per game. This deep squad needs to find a grouping that works best, as NBA.com shows that the three most-used lineups have generated negative outputs.
18. Toronto Raptors (4-7)
Looking at their schedule, maybe we should cut the Raptors some slack. They have already lost to Miami, Indiana and Chicago while falling to Houston and Portland in overtime. But Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozen are both putting up more than 20 a game at wildly inefficient rates.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (5-5)
Along with the Raptors, the Bobcats operate at the league's slowest pace, generating 91.1 possessions per 48 minutes. Based on their futile 40.2 team shooting percentage, which ranks last in the NBA, the slow tempo is not working.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (5-7)
We need to talk about Jordan Hill. The former first-round pick is hitting his stride in year No. 5, registering 17.9 points, 14.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes. Mike D'Antoni is finally taking notice, as he has finally inserted the forward into the starting lineup, a move that has succeeded marvelously.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (5-6)
They came tumbling down to earth after a stunning 3-0 start, but the 76ers are a fun team looking to remake a modern-day Major League, as the front office viewed its team's five victories in terror of losing lottery balls. The 76ers' abysmal defense has surrendered 108.6 points per 100 possessions, but Evan Turner is slipping under the radar as a post-hype sleeper with All-Star potential.
22. Brooklyn Nets (3-6)
Why is this this team built exclusively of old players getting hurt all the time? Take your choice of Brooklyn's biggest fears as a team built to win right now is unraveling at the seams. Is it Deron Williams scoring 10 points per game? How about Kevin Garnett offering 5.8 points on 30 percent shooting? There's also the team's new defensive viciousness that is nowhere to be found on a squad that ranks 22nd with 106.3 points per possession.
23. New York Knicks (3-6)
Knicks fans, stop giggling at the scolding directed the Nets' way. You're next. Without Tyson Chandler, they couldn't stop LeBron's kids from driving down the lane. Anthony's efficient ways have reverted back to high-volume shooting in isolation, and J.R. Smith is shooting 22.6 percent since his return.
On the bright side, Mike Woodson might have found something with the lineup of Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Smith, Anthony and Andrea Bargnani, which touts a plus-14.8 net rating in 70 minutes on the court, per NBA.com.
24. Detroit Pistons (3-6)
Bringing in a smorgasbord of eclectic talent can only produce so much when skills don't mesh together on the court. Detroit's assortment of athletic talent has not figured out how to collectively defend as a unit. Its 109.7 defensive rating ranks last in the NBA.
25. Boston Celtics (4-7)
Jordan Crawford is making the most of his situation in Boston, logging a 53.8 true shooting percentage and 18.6 PER. Despite a misleading four-game winning streak sandwiched in between seven losses, the Celtics are just treading water without Rajon Rondo.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-7)
No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett has engineered 1.4 points per game on 14.3 percent shooting to start his career. If only the Cavs could have traded in their pick for the first selection in 2014.
27. Washington Wizards (2-7)
On the bright side, John Wall is developing into a well-rounded player with 9.1 assists, 4.4 boards and 1.8 steals. On the down side, he's shooting a ghastly 36.5 percent from the floor.
28. Sacramento Kings (2-7)
DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas are both delivering, but no perimeter help supplements their scoring prowess on a barren roster in no rush to improve this season.
29. Milwaukee Bucks (2-7)
Although Larry Sanders was a shot-blocking machine for Milwaukee, he procured an offensive rating of 58 through three games before injuring this thumb. John Henson has blocked 10 shots during the Bucks' past three games.
30. Utah Jazz (1-10)
For some reason, the Jazz can't score with Millsap and Al Jefferson gone and Richard Jefferson holding a spot in their starting lineup. At least Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are forming another promising duo down low.
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