Ranking the Top 10 Teams in the NBA so Far
At this point in the NBA season, it would be too difficult to predict an NBA champion. Several teams are still vying to be the league's top dog, and others are already positioning themselves to make a midseason push.
Several teams lost top players to injuries last week, including three of the league's strongest teams. On Friday night, Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies, Andre Iguodala of the Warriors and Derrick Rose of the Bulls each suffered serious injuries.
Rose will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery Monday in Chicago. These injuries are devastating, especially Rose's, and they certainly shake up the balance of power within the NBA's elite.
Here are the top 10 teams in the NBA as we begin another week of play.
10. Atlanta Hawks (8-6)
Without a big name player on their roster, the Hawks are benefitting from huge early-season performances from some familiar faces.
Jeff Teague is off to a brilliant start for Atlanta.
The point guard is averaging 18.0 points per game to go along with his 8.8 assists per game. And Teague's passing ability is clearly paying off for the Hawks who have four players averaging double figures.
Kyle Korver is doing what he does best, draining three-pointers at a high volume. If he continues this hot streak, Korver could break Dana Barros' record for consecutive games with a made three-pointer. The record is 89 games and Korver is rapidly approaching at 87.
With the injury to Derrick Rose, there is room for another team to emerge in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks normally wouldn't crack the top 10, but they get the nod this week as the Bulls drop tragically towards the middle of the pack.
9. Houston Rockets (9-5)
Everyone around the league seems to be waiting for the Rockets to finally put the pieces together and start playing like one of the NBA's best.
For now, the Rockets' paramount problem remains defense. However, the team doesn't seem to have a problem getting the ball in the basket.
Houston boasts a 107.3 offensive efficiency rating, ranking them third in the NBA. If Dwight Howard can find a way to anchor them defensively, the Rockets could very well become one of the Western Conference's best.
Of course, James Harden will have to stay healthy.
Harden has been battling a nagging foot injury that kept him sidelined for the Rockets' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. In Harden's absence, Aaron Brooks connected on six of seven attempts from the three-point line to help the Rockets to a 112-101 win.
8. Dallas Mavericks (9-5)
The Dallas Mavericks come in above the Rockets this week at No. 8 after handing Houston a 123-120 loss on Nov. 20. In the offensive shootout, Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis combined for 72 points to help the Mavericks overcome an 18-point Rockets lead.
Ellis seems energized to finally be playing for a title contender. The former Milwaukee Bucks guard is averaging 23.6 points per game and doing a great job facilitating Dallas' offense. When Ellis has recorded five or more assists this season, the Mavericks are 8-0, via ESPN.com.
The Mavericks have won six of their last eight, and will have a shot at Denver Monday. If Ellis and Nowitzki continue playing at such a high level, Dallas could begin creeping up the NBA's leaderboard.
7. Golden State Warriors (8-6)
Like the Rockets, the Golden State Warriors are much stronger offensively than they are defensively. When the Warriors are playing at their best, there are very few teams in the NBA that can hang with them. However, it seems that the Warriors won't be playing at full strength for some time to come.
Offseason acquisition Andre Iguodala has been ruled out indefinitely due to a strained hamstring he suffered in a recent game against the Lakers. Iguodala was expected to bring some strong individual defense to the Warriors this season, however he has also been contributing on offense. The swingman was averaging 12.9 points per game.
With Iguodala gone, the Warriors will need to kick their already explosive offense into top gear. Klay Thompson, who is averaging a team-best 21.1 points per game, will need to maintain his deadly accuracy from three-point land.
Even with Iguodala out, the Warriors' youth and unique offensive talent keep them ahead of the Mavericks and Rockets in the Western Conference.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (10-5)
Chris Paul is doing everything in his power to keep the Clippers in the top-tier of the NBA, and it is fun to watch.
The point guard is averaging an astounding 12.5 assists per game so far this season. Paul registered a double-double in each of the Clippers' first 13 games of the season. Though his streak ended on Saturday, when he came up one assist shy of a double-double in a win over the Kings, Paul had 17 assists in a blowout victory over the Bulls on Sunday.
However, Paul won't be able to win the Clippers a championship by himself.
Blake Griffin will also need to maintain his level of play for the Clippers to finish the year among the league's best. Griffin is leading the team in scoring and pulling down double-digit rebounds to boot.
That being said, it's hard to knock the Clippers for anything right now. Paul and the rest of the cast look as though they are done being "almost good enough." As they say, however, only time will tell.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (12-2)
The Portland Trail Blazers are easily the most surprising team in this NBA season, and the team certainly deserves a spot in the top five this week.
Portland has won its last 10 games, and the league is starting to take notice.
The 10-game winning streak gained a little validity after the Trail Blazers beat the Bulls and Warriors in consecutive nights this past weekend. Until then, Portland hadn't played many top teams during the streak.
Lamarcus Aldridge is having a great season so far, leading the team in points, rebounds and steals. Aldridge and reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard will have their hands full as Portland begins to play some of the league's best.
This early in the season it is hard to call the Trail Blazers legitimate contenders, but it would be remiss to keep them out of the top five. With one of the most electric home crowds in the league, the Trail Blazers are poised to become favorites around the NBA.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (9-3)
The Oklahoma City Thunder do not have as strong a record as the Trail Blazers or Clippers, however the Thunder simply look like a better team.
Russell Westbrook missed the beginning of the season with an injury and has been slowly working his way back into form. Oklahoma City let Westbrook rest during their 95-73 win over the Jazz Sunday night. The move was likely made in preparation for two difficult home games this week against the Spurs and Warriors on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29 respectively.
Durant is still a monster, leading the league in scoring with 28.6 points per game, and leading the Thunder in assists with 5.2 dimes per game.
If Westbrook's knee holds up and the Thunder get bigger contributions from guys like Serge Ibaka and Jeremy Lamb, Oklahoma City will find themselves at the top of the NBA once again.
Teams like the Clippers and Trail Blazers will have a tough time maintaining such a high level of play. Meanwhile, the Thunder will be waiting to restore order in the Western Conference.
3. Miami Heat (10-3)
On paper, the Miami Heat are still the NBA's best team.
LeBron James is off to another stellar season. He's scoring at will and getting his teammates involved too. The Heat are second in the league in assists per game at 25.5, which is amazing considering the Heat's "Big Three."
The Heat have really turned it on as of late, winning their last six games by large margins. If it weren't for a miraculous game-winner by Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics, the Heat would be 11-2 and their last loss would have come on Nov. 1.
It's safe to say that the Heat are one of the Eastern Conference's top two teams. It will be interesting to see how the Eastern Conference playoff picture shapes up as the season moves along.
2. Indiana Pacers (12-1)
The Indiana Pacers edge out the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference's top spot. But just barely.
Once again, Paul George showed everyone why he is one of the top players in the league on Nov. 20 when the Pacers took down the Knicks in overtime. Not only did George send the game to overtime, but he also scored nine points in the extra session to seal the win for the Pacers.
Roy Hibbert hasn't had the start that many Indiana fans hoped he might. However, the big man had a huge game against the Sixers on Saturday, scoring 27 points and grabbing 13 boards.
The Pacers have four players scoring between 12 and 14 points per game, so clearly they're spreading the love in Indiana.
1. San Antonio Spurs (12-1)
In their signature fashion, the San Antonio Spurs are quietly the best team in the NBA heading into this week.
The reigning Western Conference Champions haven't lost a game since Nov. 2, and are allowing fewer than 90 points per game.
Also, Tim Duncan isn't even playing like Tim Duncan yet.
In Duncan's 11 games this season, he is averaging 11.5 points per game and shooting just 38.9 percent from the field. However, the Spurs keep winning, and it would be naive to believe Duncan's play won't improve.
For now, the Spurs' bench is getting it done. Tony Parker is the only player on the team playing more than 30 minutes a game. To put it simply, the Spurs are deep.
Once Tim Duncan remembers that he is one of the greatest players of all time, the Spurs should become downright scary.