Welcome to the first of NBA Nation’s NBA Power Rankings! Where does your team fit in?
1. Los Angeles Clippers (8-2): One reason this team is top of the power rankings aside from their superb record is their depth. They are a completely stacked team, with two key players still sitting out due to injury. They are that deep, there have been reports of players as key as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin complaining about a lack of minutes. With back up guards playing like max contract starters, and the bench committing more than any other in the league, there’s little doubt this Clippers team are currently the most powerful team in the league.
2. New York Knicks (7-1): Playing like men possessed, this Knicks outfit boasts the best record in the East, and has just been surpassed by the Clips for top spot this week. For the oldest team out there to be taking it to the league is something to be admired. Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith have found a harmony, while Jason Kidd and Ray Felton have found a commonality that has seen them become one of the better guard combinations in the NBA. Ever the reliable anchor is Tyson Chandler, while the return of Marcus Camby and Amare Stoudemire should help the team even further.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (8-2): Could have surpassed New York for the 2 spot had they not fallen to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. If they hadn’t lost there was every chance Memphis could have strung together a big 13 game win streak as they have a good home stretch against under .500 teams coming up. But, it matters little. this team is still playing deadly basketball, and is getting great production out of their bigs in Randolph and M. Gasol while Rudy Gay is turning into the player we all know he’s capable of being.
4. San Antonio Spurs (8-3): If it wasn’t for them being beaten twice by the Clippers already, the Spurs would probably be a spot or two higher, but unfortunately for Pop’s men they have slid a little this week. Still one of those teams that don’t get mentioned in title discussions until the end of the season, the Spurs have made a name for themselves by flying under the radar and quietly beating teams with relative ease. They’ve had trouble with the Clippers for the last couple of years, but are still a genuine threat with quality players that round out the roster. Two key injuries to Jackson and Leonard may hurt them in the coming weeks.
5. Miami Heat (8-3): Bit of time off this weeks after a heavy 5-in-7 schedule. The Heat haven’t started badly at all, with Lebron picking up where he left off and good production rates from the rest of the team really helping. Unfortunately for them, Dwayne wade has succumbed to a foot injury after the game against the Clippers and it’s still unknown how long he’ll be out. This will mean Bosh, Chalmers, Allen, Lewis & co. will have to pick up a lot of slack and help LeBron if the Heat are to stay as potent as we all expect them to be.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (8-3): The 3rd of the 8-3 teams, the Thunder have now won a few games on the trot and are beginning to find their feet after a little bit of a shaky start. They are still trying to finalize the rotations after the exit of James Harden, Russ Westbrook has been somewhat erratic and Kevin Durant has been a little slow to start but once those issues are rectified there will be no problems and this team will again rise up the rankings. A big trip-doub from KD two days ago re-established his dominance and one has to think this OKC team is well on their way to the top.
7. Brooklyn Nets (6-2): Looking the goods with a current win streak, the Nets have found some real strengths in the utilizing of Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries who both seem to be improving. Deron Williams hasn’t hit full speed just yet but is still showing signs of brilliance and that should only improve as the season wears on. The Nets will also welcome the return of Gerald Wallace to the lineup while hoping that Joe Johnson find his feet sooner rather than later. Will need a win over a high profile team to really establish themselves as legitimate.
8. Los Angeles Lakers (5-5): New coach, Dwight dominating on both ends while at 70%, Kobe playing with the fire of a 20 year old, and their star point guard not even back in the lineup yet, these Lakers are beginning to find their feet. Still a lacking on the defensive end is hurting them with opposing teams grabbing a heap of offensive boards, but the limiting of turnovers has turned troublesome offense into a fixable situation and the new-look Lakers are now scoring at will. They went 4-1 under Bernie Bickerstaff and seem to be finally gelling and becoming the team everyone feared.
9. Chicago Bulls (5-5): Still dangerous, but not quiet the team they could be. Obviously no Derrick Rose has impacted this team and if he does indeed miss the entire regular season the Bulls will have to figure out how to do it without him. Soon. But, with Luol Deng playing well plus the contributions of Noah, Boozer, Gibson, Hamilton and Robinson this could potentially become a defensively very tough team to beat. Which incidentally is going to become increasingly more important as certain teams improve offensively through the season.
10. Milwaukee Bucks (6-3): Solid start to the season with some good wins, but there’s also some equally bad ones. Cue losses to Charlotte and Golden State. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis have established themselves as a very potent back court pairing, but some bad decisions have cost them a couple of games. Going forward the Bucks will need to look inside more and rely less on their outside shooters. It’ll be on Jennings to get the ball inside to Sanders, Dunleavy and Ilyasova to score points in the paint rather than outside shots.
11. Boston Celtics (6-5): A 20-point demolishing at the hands of the lowly Detroit Pistons really hurt Boston’s position in the rankings this week. Sure, they played 5-in-7 but in the words of KG ‘that ain’t no excuse’. They do have some seriously good players on the roster this year however, and all it takes it getting a little more production out of each of them. The return of Avery Bradley will do wonders for their defense, and should their outside shooters find some shots they’ll be very potent on offense. Rondo looks in great shape, so exploiting him will go a ways in ensuring wins.
12. Atlanta Hawks (5-4): Seemingly they are getting it together. All their guys are contributing to the main goal and Josh Smith is beginning to relax into his role as the go-to scorer rather than freaking out and throwing up a contested mid-range jump shot. The Hawks front court will need to shape up somewhat if they want to have an impact through the early-to-mid part of the season but for now there seems to be some fluidity to the team which didn’t come easily before. Side note, trading Josh Smith for Pau Gasol may be one of the silliest moves they could make.
13. Utah Jazz (6-6): Impressive so far with nice contributions from bigs Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the front court. This Jazz team has caused problems for some big market teams so far. Sure, you might say if they stop shooting the ball so well that may not continue but if Jefferson and Millsap can help out in the paint it won’t matter as much. For now, shooters like Randy Foye have been knocking down shots and ring-ins such as Mo Williams have payed off largely with great production rates.
14. Philadelphia 76ers (6-4): Not doing terribly, but not doing great either. For a team that was planning on building around Andrew Bynum to inevitably end up working around Spencer Hawes and doing an OK job you have to give them credit. Bynum’s eventual return will be huge for the Sixers but right now it’s about making it work in the interim. Jrue Holiday running the offense alongside Dorrell Wright/Nick Young, with Thad Young, Hawes and Evan Turner anchoring the frontcourt isn’t a bad little setup for a middle of the pack 76ers.
15. Denver Nuggets (5-5): The Nugs had a big win over the Grizzlies yesterday, and looked great for 99% of the game. Luckily for them, the Grizz botched their last 2 possessions and they walked away with a solid win at FedEx Arena. In reality, they have been disappointing this season so far. Andre Iguodala is yet to find his place, while Kenneth faried, JaVale McGee and Danilo Gallinari are also not in full flight. High production rates from Ty Lawson and Andre Miller will go a long way in helping this team achieve their goal. Denver will get there, it’s just taking some time.
16. Dallas Mavericks (6-6): Still without Dirk and now Shawn Marion the Mavs haven’t had the easiest start to the season, but the injection of OJ Mayo has been a massive positive for this team who tried hard for both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard through the summer. Neither of which came to fruition. Amongst their struggles the Mavs have managed to maintain a .500 win percentage and will benefit greatly from the reinstatement of their fearless leader. Tough run coming up. We’ll see how they fare.
17. Golden State Warriors (6-5): They’ve won 3 of the last 4, and look every bit like a playoff team. Steph Curry was instrumental in the final quarter against the Bucks yesterday, and even though the threat of injury is still very real he looks as though he’s ready to lead the team once again. The injury woes for Bogut continue and have affected the Warriors inside game, which has made them rely on outside shots more and more. The ball really need to distribute the ball as well as they did yesterday on a regular basis. The payoff is massive.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (5-5): Gotta give it to Nicolas Batum. The guy is proving he is worth every penny of that contract at the moment, and rookie guard Damien Lillard is playing superb basketball and has a couple of big ‘take notice’ games under his belt already. But he desperately needs guys like LaMarcus Aldridge to carry the ball into the paint for easy buckets rather than circulate on the perimeter and take jumpers. Having said that, they’ve now won 3 straight and look to be well on the up and up.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-4): Severely undermanned and still mixing it with the best of them. I’m almost certain that this team will jump a few spots when names such as Love, Rubio, Pekovic, Budinger, Barea and Roy come back into the rotation. Right now a reliance on imports Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko is keeping the team above water which is good to see and new signing Josh Howard should also be an encouraging sign. Yes, they are the whitest team in the NBA but don’t be fooled, these Wolves will trouble a lot of teams.
20. Charlotte Bobcats (5-4): Yes, this may seem a little bit of a stretch, but when you look at the fact it took the Cats 27 games to notch 5 wins last season, there has to be credit given to a team that has evidently decided it’s time for change. They have been great in the dying minutes of closing games and Kemba Walker has been energetic as hell out there. they still aren’t a team that will cause a lot of problems as the season progresses, but they are doing a damn good job of changing people’s perception of them.
21. Indiana Pacers (5-7): People are calling Indiana the most disappointing team so far. They aren’t playing particularly well but you’ll be surprised to know they still lead the NBA in defensive efficiency. An injury to scorer Danny Granger damaged their efficiency on offense but really, they have the team to be able to back it up. they just aren’t. Roy Hibbert has been largely disappointing, and the team needs to improve drastically offensively if they want to have any sort of impact going forward.
22. Houston Rockets (4-7): It’s not looking real crash for the Rockets after a fast start. James Harden started the season notching huge numbers and he and Jeremy Lin looked to be one of the better back court combo’s in the NBA, but it hasn’t lasted. Lin hasn’t been playing spectacularly and his turnover woes have continued while Harden has been solid until he comes up against a greater opponent. Still, Omer Asik has been a stalwart on defense and presuming their attack can get it together Houston should stay in touch.
23. New Orleans Hornets (3-5): The fact Ant Davis has only played 6 games has hindered this team, and they’re also missing Eric Gordon which doesn’t help. Three straight losses and it’s all going south fairly quickly for the Hornets. There aren’t a lot of players to pick up the slack here either, but if you had to look in someone’s direction you’d say Auston Rivers, Ryan Anderson and Greivis Vasques all need to step up.
24. Orlando Magic (3-7): They started well, and had a couple of people second guessing their predictions but it all seems to have fallen into place now. Orlando are in struggle city post-Dwight Howard, and desperately need to find someone to give them back that spark. Arron Afflalo has been valiant, as has Glen Davis and JJ Reddick but all in all this is a team that is struggling every bit as much as we thought they would.
25. Toronto Raptors (3-8): Kyle Lowry makes his return tomorrow which will help the ailing Raptors. They have struggled so far on defense and are currently 3rd last in the league on efficiency in that area. Andrea Bargnani must begin to step up as must Jonas Valenciunas. DeMar DeRozan has been good, as has Jose Calderon but it can’t be left up to them. these Raps must find a way to stop the rot and start winning games.
26. Phoenix Suns (4-7): The Suns weren’t terrible against the Lakers, but they did go 1-3 on a decent home stretch recently which has hurt their percentage. Marcin Gortat has been efficient on the boards and Goran Dragic seems to be able to play with some fire at times, but it’s simply not enough to be able to consider this Phoenix team good at this point.
27. Sacramento Kings (2-8): A two game suspension to DeMarcus Cousins didn’t help the Kings, but even still this team simply isn’t very good. They have some great pieces but they don’t seem to fit together. Players need to step up. Tyreke, Thornton, Thomas, Robinson… All guys that have super potential but just don’t live up to it. Might be another disappointing season for the Kings.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-8): This actually sucks. There’s every chance they could be a couple of places higher but a 4-6 week injury to star guard Kyrie Irving has this team reeling. They had good production on the boards thanks to Anderson Varejao but it’s of little value without Irving there to run transition offense. The only hope is that some slack is picked up while he’s out, and they don’t fall too far down.
29. Detroit Pistons (2-9): Simply put, this is a terrible team. With one shining light in Greg Monroe this Pistons team started off with their worst ever run going 0-7. Guard Rodney Stuckey has been off the radar as has almost every other contributor. back to the drawing board, fellas.
30. Washington Wizards (0-9): Little tougher to call this team bad. Right now, that’s exactly what they are but they’re also missing their two best players in John Wall and NeNe. Hopefully when they make it back the Wizards will improve. Bradley Beal has been instrumental but it’s been nowhere near enough as we see the Wizards fall to 0-9. The worst record in the NBA and their history.