The 2013-14 NBA campaign is chugging right along. We are now over seven weeks into the new season and the power structure across the league is starting to become much more clear.
Many of the surprising teams that started off hot have begun to fade, while the true contenders have started seriously separating themselves from the rest of the field.
Let’s take a look at how the league landscape looks in a Week 7 edition of the NBA power rankings.
1. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers remain the top team in the league ahead of Wednesday night’s showdown with the Heat. This highly publicized rematch of an intense Eastern Conference Finals battle will have a huge impact on how the power rankings look in Week 8.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are the surprise squad of the year, although they shouldn’t be with the sheer amount of talent on their roster. It’ll be interesting to see if this roster is deep enough to handle the inevitable injuries that pop up during the long season.
3. Miami Heat
LeBron James’ injured ankle is going to dominate the headlines until he’s proved to be 100 percent healthy. Even if it costs him some time this winter, the back-to-back champs have nothing to worry about as long as the MVP candidate is healthy in the spring.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have been playing extremely well this year and are starting to see decent production from their developmental prospects. Guys like Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams promise to help this club stay relevant—or at least be used as assets to bring in pieces that will.
5. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs haven’t lost to anyone but top-tiered opponents in 2013-14. This team has taken its lumps against the best, but will still be able to hold its own in a seven-game series against all comers, especially with Tim Duncan playing at a high level again.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clips haven’t exactly turned into a defensive juggernaut with Doc Rivers at the wheel, but there is plenty of time to improve in that department. This team has nothing to worry about until the playoffs as long as the offense remains one of the finest in the NBA.
7. Houston Rockets
The Rockets must deal with the Omer Asik drama before they can truly move on and become a contender. Whether general manager Daryl Morey brings back picks, a veteran or any other combination of assets, he would be wise to pull the trigger sooner than later and end this nightmare.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
The T-Wolves have been a bit up and down after a hot start, as evidenced by a loss to Boston on Monday. Those are the types of games this team needs to start winning in order to be regarded as a true contender in the deep Western Conference.
9. Golden State Warriors
The Dubs are another inconsistent squad that will not be a factor unless they start pulling away in winnable situations. Steph Curry went off for 43 points in an inexplicable loss to Charlotte last Monday, an outcome that shouldn’t happen when the star point guard blows up for that many.
10. Phoenix Suns
The Suns have definitely exceeded expectations and should be counted as a playoff team until further notice. The sky is the limit if this group can get heralded rookie big man Alex Len on the court and contributing at a high level.
11. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets overcame a slow start to pull into a position that most expected them to before the season. While it isn’t true contending status, they should undoubtedly make the postseason and put up a fight in the first round. It is clear that this franchise needs a second star to augment Ty Lawson if it is ever going to make a deep run.
12. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs are struggling as of late and need to right this ship before it becomes a bigger problem. A win over the Bucks on Saturday was nice, but they must lock in for the upcoming three games in four nights stretch—beginning on Wednesday—and win at least two of them.
13. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons pulled off the rare feat of beating the Pacers on the road, becoming the first team to hand Indiana a loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It’s an impressive victory and shows just how much potential this roster has with Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings now in the lineup.
14. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have definitely improved without Rudy Gay in the lineup. They’ve won three of their last four and are looking much improved on offense, especially in terms of sharing the rock—averaging 23 assists per game in that span.
15. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have been up and down lately, but they're undoubtedly a tough team to play every single night. Kyle Korver is beyond lights out from beyond the arc and this group can hang with anyone due to these incredible long-range capabilities.
16. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have to get Anthony Davis back on the floor. Not only is he emerging as a star in terms of offensive production, but also his ability to protect the rim and disrupt the opposition is essential to New Orleans’ chances of winning games.
17. Boston Celtics
The C’s are more than respectable with Brad Stevens on the sideline. The young coach has been doing a lot with very little to work with. Once he gets some talent and returns Rajon Rondo to the lineup, things will be looking very up for this young squad.
18. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are struggling now that Kobe Bryant is back on the floor. The future Hall of Famer is clearly not 100 percent and will have to work his way back to game shape over the next few weeks, possibly months. That doesn’t bode well for this team’s chances in the stacked West.
19. Washington Wizards
Washington lost four straight before finally rebounding against the Knicks on Monday. The Wizards have to get better in the final minutes and close out opponents if they are going to have a chance come playoff time.
20. Sacramento Kings
The jury is still out on the Rudy Gay trade, but it seems to have made this team a bit better. With an upcoming stretch that includes matchups with the Hawks, Heat and Magic—all on the road—over the next four days, the true heart of Sacramento will be revealed.
21. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizz are struggling to put points on the board in 2013-14 and that has to change. Whether they bring in someone via trade or try to shuffle the lineups in order to get more buckets, something as to give for Memphis to stay relevant.
22. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets are climbing back to respectability and have won four of their last five. The secret, as told by Kevin Garnett to ESPN’s Mike Mazzeo, is a simplified defense implemented by head coach Jason Kidd. Let’s see if that success will spill over into the upcoming stretch.
23. New York Knicks
The Knicks are in desperation mode and Mike Woodson is coaching for his job. It’s not a fun time to be a fan of this downtrodden club, but there is a chance they turn it around due to the sheer amount of talent on the roster.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs battled the Blazers to the buzzer on Tuesday night but came up just short. This young team must get better at closing out if it is going to somehow avoid another lottery appearance in 2014.
25. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls can’t seem to avoid injuries this year, which is a shame considering they had so much potential at the start of the season. This season will go down in infamy as the one that got away from Chicago.
26. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats are apparently trying to go into a “win now” mode, as per Chad Ford of ESPN (subscription required), which is ridiculous considering they just came off a three-game skid and are still under .500. Regardless, Michael Jordan’s club sees a chance to seize a playoff appearance—albeit nothing more than first-round fodder—and may soon go all in to nab it.
27. Utah Jazz
The Jazz showed some life with a two-game road winning streak, but were promptly humbled in back-to-back blowout losses to the Spurs and Heat. This team will surprise some on rare nights, but is undoubtedly contending for the top spot in the draft lottery.
28. Orlando Magic
Which team should be ranked last?
Orlando isn’t in contention this year, but it found another budding star in guard Victor Oladipo. Give this team a season or two and you are looking at a top-eight squad in the East.
29. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are abysmal on offense and don’t have the defensive strength to completely dominate on that end of the court. It’s a losing recipe and that is exactly what is happening in Milwaukee.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers are who we thought they were. This team is tanking hard and should be making trades to dump the productive veterans sooner than later.