NBA Week 3 Power Rankings

Posted: 11/19/2013 by levcohen in Basketball

The last unbeaten team (the Pacers) have lost a game. It’s time for the week 3 rankings, with last week’s ranks in parentheses. One thing before we start: the West has 10 teams above .500, while the East has 4. It’s so lopsided, and I’m going to feel bad for the three or four good teams in the West that will miss the playoffs, because those same teams would be 4-6 seeds in the Eastern Conference. Oh well.

1. San Antonio Spurs, 9-1 (2): The Spurs, on the strength of their current seven game winning streak, edge the Pacers for the top spot. By the slimmest of margins. I put them here because of their track record and also because they’ve been getting a lot better recently; in their last four games, they’ve won by at least 9 (in Utah) and as many as 41 points (in New York). Their average victory in that span has been by 22 points. So to put it simply, old San Antonio is crushing teams. And the scary thing is that they haven’t really gelled yet. Watch out.

2. Indiana Pacers, 9-1 (1): The Pacers fall because of their blowout loss in Chicago, but that was their first loss of the year, so they’ll stay at #2. Roy Hibbert is beasting, averaging 4.6 blocks per game this year. Paul George has slowed down a little, but he is a superstar. The bench looks really tough and good. This Pacers team is well put together, and they are going to be a force to reckon with throughout this season.

3. Miami Heat, 7-3 (3): The Heat are just humming along, and will continue to do that. By the way, we knew LeBron James was good, but look at how efficient he has been this year. He is averaging 27 points per game on JUST 16 SHOTS, while shooting at a 62% clip. He is also shooting 52% from three. To put it simply, this is the best start to a season anyone, not just LeBron, has had. It’s time for people to recognize how much better he is this year even than the guy he was last year, who wasn’t too shabby. I also found Chris Bosh’s minutes per game (29) sort of interesting. That’s really low, especially since Ray Allen is getting 28, Mario Chalmers 27, Norris Cole 24, and five other players with at least 14 minutes per game. It’s just something to keep an eye on.

4. Chicago Bulls, 6-3 (8): Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. They’ve won five straight, and Derrick Rose is just starting to shake off the rust. As I said time and time again, the Bulls are fine, and recently they have looked better than fine, as their fifth win in this current streak was a win over the previously-unbeaten Pacers.

5. Golden State Warriors, 8-3 (6): Golden State won a huge matchup with Oklahoma City last week, and added three double digit wins (against Detroit and against Utah twice). Klay Thompson has truly broken out, with 21 points per game on 53% shooting and 3 and a half made threes per game. Steph Curry is averaging 20 and 9, David Lee is averaging 17 and 9 in just 30 minutes per game, and Andre Iguodala has vastly improved the defense. And they haven’t even gotten Harrison Barnes, who broke out in the playoffs last year, going yet. The only issue is Curry’s health.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder, 7-3 (5): The Thunder move down a spot for the second week in a row. They just haven’t really ramped it up yet, despite their 7-3 record. As long as Westbrook and Durant stay healthy (they are averaging their usual 52 points per game combined. It’s hard to lose like that), they’ll be fine.

7. Los Angeles Clippers, 7-4 (7): The Clippers picked up two huge home wins over the T-Wolves and Thunder, and have now beaten four of the West’s elite: Houston twice, OKC, Minnesota, and Golden State. No other team can boast that. We know they’ll win a lot of games, but the question is how they’ll do in a seven game playoff series with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, both terrible free throw shooters, playing crunch time.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves, 7-4 (4): Over the first three weeks of the season, the Timberwolves have fluctuated wildly in my rankings. They started at ten, moved up to four, and now are back down to eight. I think they’ll settle down in the 7-12 range soon, and I admit that I overreacted in moving them up to #4. With the electric trio of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Kevin Love, though, Minny won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

9. Portland Trailblazers, 9-2 (10): I’m not going to make the same mistake with Portland this week that I did with Minnesota last week, but let’s give them some credit. They are the third best team in the NBA right now by record, and have won seven games in a row, although most of those games were pretty easy wins, which is why I only moved them up one spot. The Aldridge-Lillard duo has been terrific, though.

10. Houston Rockets, 7-4 (12): Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. What started as an interesting while nonsensical idea: starting two immobile centers together, neither of whom can shoot, ended in disaster. Omer Asik likely won’t play another game with the Rockets, and it’s only a matter of time until they can find a trade for him. Until that happens, this team is in limbo, but they are playing pretty well for a team in limbo, with three wins in their past four. Those wins, though, were against Toronto, the Knicks, and the Nuggets, all disappointing or worse teams. And their loss in that stretch was against the Sixers. So while this is a good team, it won’t be a great one until they get Asik out of town.

11. Memphis Grizzlies, 6-5 (9): Despite putting together three straight wins, the Grizzlies drop two spots. I knew that this tough, experienced team would bounce back from a lackluster start, and they have, with three wins in three games of their California trip so far (against both LA teams and against Sacramento. The final game of their road trip is at Golden State tonight). These road results show that the Grizzlies aren’t going away any time soon, but they will have to play really well to make the playoffs again given the West’s deep stable of good teams.

12. Dallas Mavericks, 7-4 (11): The Mavs are going to be in the hunt all year. I keep saying the same thing over and over again, but it also holds true for Dirk’s Mavs team: they are going to have to play their hearts out if they want to make the playoffs, because the West is so good. If they were in the Atlantic division in the East, they could win 55 games. Legitimately.

13. Phoenix Suns, 5-4 (13): And with this, the top 13 teams remain unchanged, with just a shuffling between these 10 Western Conference teams and 3 Eastern Conference teams. They suffered two straight tough losses, by a combined three points against Portland and Brooklyn (a win over Portland would look really nice), but I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Suns are falling back to earth. Not yet, at least.

14. Atlanta Hawks, 6-4 (16): I really like this Hawks team, at least in the East. They were underrated coming into this season, but they are the type of team that will beat up on the bad teams, and there are a lot of them in this conference. Case in point: The Hawks are 6-3 against lousy teams this year, with just one game played against a team above .500 (a loss to Dallas). They’ll play more good teams, so they could fall a few spots, but expect more of the same.

15. New Orleans Pelicans, 4-6 (17): The Pelicans have had some underwhelming games, but their best player, Anthony Davis, singlehandedly gets them this #15 spot. I asked myself who would win a game between New Orleans and any non big 3 team in the East, and I legitimately said New Orleans (outside of a coin flip game against Atlanta).

16. Toronto Raptors, 4-7 (20): Nothing really to add with the Raptors, other than they are at least playing most teams tough. I can’t believe I have them as my #5 team in the Eastern Conference right now. Tough times.

17. Denver Nuggets, 4-6 (28): I really don’t like moving the Nuggets up so high, but I have to admit that they are playing close games, and winning some of them. They are coming off a two point loss in Oklahoma City (impressive) and an 11 point loss in Houston (less impressive). Before that, they won three straight games. Basically, I see Denver as the West’s version of Atlanta. They beat the bad teams, and lose to the good ones. Unfortunately for Denver, there are a lot more bad teams in the East than the West. Expect Denver to be closer to this range than the 25-30 they were in before.

18. Los Angeles Lakers, 5-7 (24): Huge amounts of good news coming from Lakers camp. LA is treading water, and Kobe Bryant is just weeks (or days, depending on who you ask) away from returning to the lineup. When he does, the Lakers won’t be perfect, but they’ll be a lot better, and probably around 13-15 in these rankings. Down to just two Western Conference teams left.

19. Charlotte Bobcats, 5-6 (19): They want to compete this year, and they could be a midlevel playoff team this year. They are getting what they wanted at least.

20. Detroit Pistons, 3-6 (15): For some reason, I’m still somewhat bullish on this Pistons team. I don’t think that “they’ll make the playoffs comfortably” as I did last week, and I keep trying to talk myself out of this team, but then I look at their roster and talk myself back into them. Oh well.

21. Orlando Magic, 4-6 (27): I don’t know why I’m moving them up so much, but they do have a +.2 point differential, the last team with a positive point differential (the #16-20 teams all had negative point differentials). So the Victor Oladipo led team is keeping things close, which is a good sign for their future.

22. Brooklyn Nets, 3-7 (14): The Nets still have time to turn it around, but their are now a lot of warning signs popping up on everyone’s radar. Deron Williams has been hurt, now Brook Lopez has been hurt. Jason Kidd is a first year coach who doesn’t really look at ease, and Kevin Garnett looks like he has lost 5 steps. With all that said, they still have a lot of talent, and I’ll be looking for any reason to move them up.

The Rest (too depressing to talk about):

23. New York Knicks, 4-7 (22)
24. Boston Celtics, 3-6
(25)
25. Washington Wizards, 2-7
(21)
26. Philadelphia 76ers, 5-7
(26)
27. Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-7
  (18)
28. Sacramento Kings, 2-7 (29)
29. Milwaukee Bucks, 2-7
(23)
30. Utah Jazz, 1-11
(30)

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