Week 2 NBA Power Rankings

Posted: 11/11/2013 by levcohen in Basketball

It’s time for the week two NBA Power Rankings.

Last week rankings in parentheses

TIER 1- TITLE FAVORITES:

1. Indiana Pacers, 7-0 (1): Who else would be the number 1 team? The 7-0 Pacers are rolling, and last week they beat two legitimate title contender (the Bulls and Nets) by a combined 22 points. They are talking the talk, but I don’t mind that because they are walking the walk. The Heat are two time reigning NBA Champs, but the Pacers, right now, are playing better basketball than any other team.

2. San Antonio Spurs, 6-1 (8): The Spurs jump hugely in week two after four impressive wins, including wins over the Warriors (they held Golden State to 74 points!) and the Knicks (they beat the Knicks by 41 points!). Outside of Indiana’s stifling defense, San Antonio has by far the best defense in the NBA to this point. Is a coincidence that the two best defensive teams are first and second ranked teams in my rankings? I think not. Never count out the Spurs.

3. Miami Heat, 4-3 (2): After edging the Raptors and picking up a nice home win against the Clippers, the Heat lost a heartbreaker against the Boston Celtics with Jeff Green hitting a game winning three point shot with under a second to go in the game. Although the Heat have three losses, there are some clear positives, no bigger than the fact that Dwyane Wade is averaging 20 a game and looks much better, healthier, and fresher than he looked by the end of last year. We know what the Heat have, and they don’t need to prove it again. Barring something unforeseen, the Heat will stay in the top 5.

TIER 2- TITLE CHALLENGERS:

4. Minnesota Timberwolves, 5-2 (10): The T-Wolves are really surprising me, and the big jump is not due to a change in how they are playing, but the opposite: they have proven, through seven games, that they can play well consistently. I think they will continue to play well and stay in at least the top 10, at least until one of their stars gets injured. Speaking of stars, Kevin Love has been spectacular, with a 30 PER, 27 points per game, and an NBA leading 14.4 rebounds per game. Don’t be surprised if Love finishes top three in points per game and tops in rebounds per game. Maybe he is another darkhorse MVP candidate.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder, 5-1 (4): How could the Thunder sweep their week, get Russell Westbrook back, and still drop a spot? I think it’s just because of the Timberwolves success, to go along with a less than stellar +2.6 point differential. Another reason is Westbrook’s play. Much like Derrick Rose, he’s been shaky in his return, as he is shooting just 34% from the field (on 18 shot attempts per game, interestingly the same number as Kevin Durant, who is shooting 47% and averaging 30 a game) with just four assists per game. He had no assists in a game recently for the first time in forever. The Thunder are fine, and they will move up once Westbrook gets into sorts.

6. Golden State Warriors, 4-3 (6): The Warriors went 1-2 last week, but the main concern is Stephen Curry’s bruised left ankle. The ankle has proved to be a problem for Curry before, so hopefully he will be alright. If not, the Warriors will plummet in these rankings.

7. Los Angeles Clippers, 4-3 (3): The Clippers had three road games last week, so you can’t really take much from them losing two of them, especially since one was to the Miami Heat. One thing that the Clippers have proven in the past week is that, at this point, they are a much better team than the Houston Rockets. They’ve played Houston twice in the past week, one home and one away, and they’ve won by 19 and 13 points. More good news for the Clippers? Check out how DeAndre Jordan has risen to the challenge of Dwight Howard. Jordan shot 10 of 13 in the two games against Houston, scoring 11 and 12 points, averaging 13.5 rebounds and two blocks. They will need similar performances from Jordan in the playoffs.

TIER 3– STRUGGLING GIANTS

8. Chicago Bulls, 2-3 (5): Since my last ranking, we have learned nothing from the Bulls. They lost to the best team in basketball by 17, and then crushed the worst by 24. Are the Bulls really a mediocre team? Right now, that’s what their record says, and I move them down three here, but let’s just wait a couple more weeks before making any rash decisions.

9. Memphis Grizzlies, 3-3 (12): It’s only one game, but the Grizz crushed the Warriors on Saturday night, and for the first time this season they actually looked like the Memphis Grizzlies. I think they can turn it around.

TIER 4– PLAYING LIKE PLAYOFF TEAMS

10. Portland Trail Blazers, 4-2 (14): Granted, the Trail Blazers just played the Sacramento Kings twice, but they did what good teams do, beating Sacramento twice by double digits, a task that is easier said than done in a home and home. I think they are getting slept on, as they have two stars, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. Aldridge is averaging 23 and 8, and Lillard is averaging 21-6-6 despite shooting well under 40%. If he can get that percentage into the 43-45% range (43% last year), he could average 25 points per game. Also, don’t sleep on Dorell Wright and the much improved bench.

11. Dallas Mavericks, 4-3 (13): The Mavericks are aptly the 8th ranked Western Conference team in these rankings (8th out of 11.. The West is stacked, and the East stinks), because I think they’ll be able to make the playoffs, but just barely. Keep in mind that their schedule to this point has been really tough, as their losses have come on the road against Houston, Oklahoma City, and Minnesota.

12. Houston Rockets, 4-3 (7): Ok. Here goes. I still think Houston will make the playoffs, but they need to trade Omer Asik. The Rockets are much worse when Asik and Dwight Howard are on the floor together, and they can’t trade Howard, which leaves Asik as more of a liability than a help. Their strategy of starting two centers clearly is not working. Speaking of Howard, Dwight’s free throw shooting is just pitiful. He is under 50% on the year, and even Mike D’Antoni (Howard’s coach last year), who loudly spoke against the Hack-A-Howard strategy, saying that it ruined the game of basketball (I’m paraphrasing), used it to his advantage against Houston. If this continues, and I don’t see why it won’t, the Rockets are going to lose a lot of close games, which could hurt them in playoff seeding. So far, they are 0-1 in games decided by fewer than 8 points.

13. Phoenix Suns, 5-2 (20): The Sixers start has been getting more publicity, but I don’t know why. The Suns, who were supposed to be almost have bad, have been much better than Philly, and their start looks more sustainable, although I still think they’ll fall back to the bottom half of the West. They have lost by a combined 10 points to the top teams in the West, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, which would be the norm for a 4 seed and not a tanking team. They beat the Hornets, a team with legitimate playoff aspirations, twice. This start is mostly due to Eric Bledsoe and a variety of young big men who are contributing. Bledsoe, in his first year with the Suns, looks like a star. He was supposed to be an enigma, a shoot-first point guard with a low field goal percentage and not many assists. That is not the case. He is averaging 21 points per game on 52% shooting and 7.3 assists. The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, and Miles Plumlee have surprisingly averaged a combined 37 points and 20 rebounds per game.

TIER 5– STRUGGLING GIANTS, PART TWO

14. Brooklyn Nets, 2-4 (9): I haven’t given up on Brooklyn, but a top-4 seed doesn’t seem like an inevitability anymore. Actually, it might be, given the terrible quality of the Eastern Conference.

15. Detroit Pistons, 2-3 (11): The Pistons lost both games last week, but I still think they will make the playoffs comfortably. Just a bump in the road for this talented Detroit team.

TIER 6– PICTURE OF MEDIOCRITY

16. Atlanta Hawks, 3-3 (17): Let’s be honest- this Hawks team, without Josh Smith and Joe Johnson, is pretty boring. And they are right where they belong, right in the middle. They could sneak into the playoffs in the terrible Eastern Conference.

17. New Orleans Pelicans, 3-4 (22): The Pelicans jump five spots after going 2-2 with two losses to non other than the Phoenix Suns. Their wins were obviously much more impressive, with double digit wins in Memphis and over the Lakers. Anthony Davis has continued his huge start, and is now averaging 22-12-2.5 steals-3.9 blocks per game while shooting 87% from the line. His PER is 29.6. He will debut in the All-Star game in 2014, which, coincidentally, is in New Orleans.

18. Cleveland Cavaliers, 3-4 (16): The Cavs could continue to move down, as they just aren’t inspiring outside of Kyrie Irving.

19. Charlotte Bobcats, 3-3 (24): I’m really rooting for the Bobcats, mainly because I feel really bad for them. They won two of their three games last week, and that was without Al Jefferson, their highly paid center (he was signed for 3 years, $41 million in the offseason) who has played just one game this year. The Bobcats are going to have a lot of trouble scoring without Jefferson, but they might be able to win a few games when they get him back.

20. Toronto Raptors, 3-4 (18): Like last week, I have nothing to add about the Raptors. They are a bad team, but not a terrible one.

21. Washington Wizards, 2-4 (25): The Wizards won a couple games last week, and almost upset the Thunder before losing by one point. The signs have been good; the Wizards are getting better. I expect and hope them to continue to climb in these rankings, as they have more talent than any of the three teams above them.

22. New York Knicks, 2-4 (15): I find it really hard to believe that a Carmelo Anthony-led team is this far down in the rankings, but they are. Adding insult to Tyson Chandler’s injury, J.R. Smith was very poor in his return from suspension. If Smith doesn’t produce, this team truly is Anthony and a bunch of dysfunctional parts who don’t play defense. It sounds harsh, but it’s true, and it’s shocking given that the Knicks were the two seed in the East last year.

TIER 7– NOT TANKING YET

23. Milwaukee Bucks, 2-3 (27): O.J. Mayo has broken out in the last two games, scoring 28 in each, and there is some hope for this Bucks team, as Zaza is now not first, but fourth on the team in points per game.

24. Los Angeles Lakers, 3-5 (21): It seems like the Lakers are getting blown out in every game they’ve played this season. Since their opening game win over the Clippers, the Lakers have been outscored by 89 points in the last seven games, an average of nearly 13 a game. They have won two of those games though, but I think this is a bad team without Kobe.

TIER 8– TANK MODE

25. Boston Celtics, 3-4 (30): Well, I thought the Celtics would be at the bottom for a while, but they quickly climbed out of it by winning three straight games, including that stunner against the Heat. I still think they’ll be tanking, but they will win some games.

26. Philadelphia 76ers, 4-3 (19): A seven spot drop probably isn’t fair for a team that is still over .500, but it’s more in anticipation of the long losing streak/trades that are bound to happen.

27. Orlando Magic, 3-4 (26): The Magic beat the Clippers last week, which is huge, and I probably should have moved them up. Maybe their losses to Boston and Atlanta dampened my view on them just a little, and I think they’ll trade their vets. By the way 12 of the past 14 teams in these rankings have been from the East. 10 of the first 13 were from the West, as are the bottom 3.

28. Denver Nuggets, 1-4 (23): The Nuggets lost 3 home games last season. They have lost 2 already this year. Maybe the loss of three starters, Andre Iguodala (to free agency), Kosta Koufos (to a dumbfounding trade), and Danilo Gallinari (to injury), means more than people thought.

29. Sacramento Kings, 1-5 (28): We see it every year. Another top 5 pick coming.

30. Utah Jazz, 0-7 (29): And the last winless team is the new leader in the Wiggins-Randle-whoever they want with the number one pick-sweepstakes, and I don’t think the Jazz will be out of this spot any time soon. They are losing every game by a wide margin despite some solid individual efforts. Which is just what they want to see. They also like seeing the 3+ wins for fellow possible tankers Orlando, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Toronto, Charlotte, and Phoenix.

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