NBA Power Rankings: Ranking the association after the first two weeks

NBA Power Rankings:  Week 3-4 (November 11-24)
RankTeamRec.Last Week’s Rank & Change Comments
1 7-07 (+6)Indiana Pacers:  The Pacers have started off the 2013-14 campaign with a bang.  Combining their stifling D (85.3 ppg against) with Paul George’s torrid offensive start (25.1 points with 3.0 threes-per-game), Indiana doesn’t look like it is slowing down any time soon.

 2 6-13 (+1)San Antonio Spurs:  The Spurs get older and older, yet somehow they keep winning, and winning and winning.  They’re tied for 2nd in opponents points-per-game (93.0), and seem to have an even deeper team than in years past.  Parker and Duncan are the core, but they’re getting nice contributions from Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, of all people.  San Antonio is again a favorite to win the West.

 3 4-31 (-2)Miami Heat:  Like last year, the Heat are shaking off a few cobwebs after a summer of celebrating a championship.  They don’t look quite in synch, but the good news is Dwyane Wade looks as healthy as ever, averaging 20.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2 steals per game, and doing it in a whopping 35 minutes per contest.  If they can manage to get Michael Beasley involved (and in control), watch out.

 4 5-18 (+4)Oklahoma City Thunder:  Russell Westbrook was supposed to miss up to the first month of the season, and ended up only missing only 2 games!  Getting Westbrook back has seemed to get Serge Ibaka on track, by taking the pressure off of him to be a second scoring option.  Rookie Steven Adams has impressed (7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 59.1 FG%) and should eventually unseat Kendrick Perkins at center.  What Scott Brooks sees in him, we may never know.

 5 4-36 (+1)Golden State Warriors:  It’s clear that in order for the Warriors to succeed Stephen Curry needs to be healthy.  After averaging 110.8 ppg in their first 5 games, Curry went down with another one of his notorious ankle injuries.  In the following game vs. the Spurs, they scored only 74 points without Curry in the lineup.  Other than that, Mark Jackson’s tempo seems to run on rocket fuel.

 6 4-34 (-2)Los Angeles Clippers:  Chris Paul has been nothing short of fantastic.  He’s averaging a league-leading 12.6 assists-per-game and has carried the Clippers to a 110 ppg avergage, good for 1st in the NBA.  There are a lot of new faces — and a new coach — so it may take some time for the Clip Joint to fully reach their potential, but we’ve certainly caught a glimpse of it.

 7 2-32 (-5)Chicago Bulls:  The much-awaited return of Derrick Rose has not been all lilacs and daffodils.  Rose (14.4 ppg, 32 FG%) and the Bulls have struggled to get anything going offensively, ranking 28th out of 30 teams in scoring.  It definitely looks like their may be a bit of an adjustment period in Chicago.

 8 4-310 (-2)Houston Rockets:  The Rockets can score (105.6 ppg), but they also allow their opponents to score (103.6 ppg), which is not necessarily a great combination.  They rank 13th in point differential, which puts them at risk every game.  That number could widen if Dwight Howard could hit some of his free throws.

 9 5-212 (+3)Minnesota Timberwolves:  You gotta hand it to the T-Wolves.  During the past few years the franchise has been hit by a multitude of injuries to their star players, but they are healthy this year (so far) and proving to be a force in the league.  The two Kevins, Love and Martin, are on an absolute tear.  Love is averaging a jaw-dropping 27.2 points, 14.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists, while Martin is scoring 23.2 ppg and shooting 56.7% from three-point land.

 10 3-414 (+4)New Orleans Pelicans:  The formula the Pelicans are using — playing with a guard heavy lineup — may not be conducive to winning in the long run, but for now it seems to be working.  Having Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Co. on the outside has been a blessing for second-year pro Anthony Davis.  Last year’s #1 pick is averaging 23 points, 11.5 rebounds and a gaudy 4.3 blocks per game.  If they continue to feed the big man, the Pelicans have a great shot to make the playoffs in the West.  Sharp shooter Ryan Anderson has yet to return from an injury, and when he does, it’s possible Davis could thrive even more.

 11 2-49 (-2)New York Knicks:  Losing Tyson Chandler is a huge blow for a team already lacking in size.  The Knicks started Andrea Bargnani at center last game and that proved to be a huge success, with the 7-foot Italian scoring 25 points and blocking 5 shots, but in the long run Bargnani is probably not the answer.  The return of J.R. Smith from suspension will help alleviate some of their woes, but they’ll be counting the day until they get Chandler back.

 12 3-35 (-7)Memphis Grizzlies:  The Grizzlies started the year off very slowly, alternating wins and losses, but a big win on Saturday vs. the Warriors could be the spark they need to go on a run.  After leading the league in opponents’ scoring last year (89.3 ppg), they’ve taken a step back defensively, allowing teams to put 99.5 points on the board against them.  Once their defense starts cracking down, the Grizz should look more like the ones we’ve come accustomed to the past few years.

 13 2-45 (-2)Brooklyn Nets:  The Nets look old.  Those are the kindest words I could find.  Jason Kidd seems lost as coach and KG (6.0 ppg), Pierce (13.7 ppg) and Joe Johnson (13.2 ppg) don’t seem to have their legs anymore.  Deron Williams is the biggest disappointment of all, averaging only 10.8 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 42.4% from the field.  Brooklyn has a long season ahead of them if they don’t square away their offense.

 14 2-315 (+1)Detroit Pistons:  After a busy off-season, the Pistons seem to be finally putting the pieces together.  Greg Monroe has had a phenomenal start to the year (17.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.4 bpg), but the Pistons aren’t going to win many games if Josh Smith keeps chucking up 7 threes a night.

 15 2-413 (-2)Washington Wizards:  It may have taken a week, but the Wizards look as if they are starting to come around.  After losing three straight to begin the season, they have now won two in a row, and their offense finally seems to be clicking, averaging 114 ppg in those victories.  The backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal has been nothing short of specatacular, with the duo providing 36% of the team’s scoring.  Recent acquisition Marcin Gortat has been acclimating himself well, averaging a double-double through his first 5 games in the nation’s capital.

 16 4-217 (+1)Portland Trailblazers:  The core unit of the Blazers — Aldridge, Batum, Lillard and Matthews — is one of the best in the league, but a lack of depth last year prevented them from making the playoffs.  The club made some key additions in the off-season and they are paying dividends in the early going.  Mo Williams, Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson and Dorell Wright have combined for 24.1 point-per-game, taking some pressure off the stars.

 17 4-318 (+1)Dallas Mavericks:  To say that Monta Ellis likes playing in Dallas would be an understatement.  Given the freedom to play “his style”, the former Warrior and Buck is averaging 23 ppg and his 47.9 FG% would be the 2nd-best of his career, if he continued that pace.  36-year-old Shawn “The Matrix” Marion is channeling Neo, averaging 13.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks in the Mavs 7 games.

 18 3-423 (+5)Orlando Magic:  The Magic are supposed to be in a rebuilding year…but don’t tell them that.  Nikola Vucevic has quickly become one of the most dominating centers in the league, averaging 15.1 points and 12.1 rebounds, including a 30-point, 21-rebound performance vs. the Clippers on Wednesday.  Tobias Harris has yet to play due to an ankle injury, and when he returns this team will only be more exciting.

 19 4-330 (+11)Philadelphia 76ers:  Stemming from concerns over his poor shooting (39%) in college, Michael Carter-Williams fell to Philly at #11 in this year’s draft, but the Syracuse product is already looking like the front runner for the Rookie of the Year Award.  Pegged as the worst team in the NBA, MCW silenced the Sixers’ critics by putting up a record breaking line on opening night — 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds and  9 steals — and in doing so, helped defeat the reigning World Champion Miami Heat.  After a much-hyped 3-0 start, Philly had fallen back to Earth, losing 3 of their last 4.

 20 3-521 (+1)Los Angeles Lakers:  The Lakers began the season with a gritty, hard-fought win over their in-city rival Clippers, but it’s been a mixed bag since then.  They looked great in wins over Atlanta and Houston — thanks to Hack-a-Dwight — but have looked disastrous in defeats to Golden State and Dallas, losing by a combined 50 points in those two games.  They’ve trotting out a skeleton crew of Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar etc., and Laker fans can only hope Kobe Bryant’s return comes within weeks, not months.

 21 3-319 (-2)Atlanta Hawks:  It’s a new season, but nothing’s changed in Atlanta.  The Hawks continue to be an average-to-slightly above average team.  The addition of Paul Millsap is already looking like a key move, with the power forward averaging 20.2 points and 8.8 rebounds (24.0 and 10.6 over the past 3 games), but there doesn’t seem to be enough depth in the Hawks’ rotation to give them enough fire power to get them over the hump in the East.

 22 3-422 (–)Toronto Raptors:  It’s sad the Raptors are always in flux financially, because it doesn’t give the team much of a chance.  Last year’s mid-season acquisition, Rudy Gay, is having his name thrown around in trade rumors and management insists “everyone is available in a trade except Jonas Valanciunas”, but the same guy they want to build around is only playing 25.4 minutes per game, which is 5th on the team.  Point guard Kyle Lowry sustained yet another injury on Saturday night, which clouds the situation even more.  The Raptors have promise, but ranking 21st in points, 20th in FG% and 20th in 3PT% isn’t gonna get the job done.

 23 3-420 (-3)Cleveland Cavaliers:  The Cavs are a team heading in the right direction.  Centered around All-Star Kyrie Irving, they have added Dion Waiters (14.4 ppg) and Tristan Thompson (12.9 points, 9.7 rebounds) through the draft, and brought in stellar six man Jarrett Jack to help in the rebuilding process.  Andrew Bynum had admitted to wanting to retire, so they can hardly count on him, but the bottom of the East is a mess, giving the Cavs a legit shot at earning their first playoff spot since the LeBron years.

 24 1-416 (-8)Denver Nuggets:  How did things go so wrong in Denver?  Aside from injuries to Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the personnel is mostly the same from last year’s 57-win team.  In fact, they added J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye and Nate Robinson.  The problem here seems to lie in the coaching change that was made in the off-season.  For reasons some of us could never fathom, NBA Coach of the Year George Karl was axed, and Brian Shaw was brought in to replacement him.  You heard me right — Coach of the Year.  Shaw’s style is a lot more methodical than Karl’s, who made the Nuggets one of the fastest and highest scoring teams in the league.  A year after leading the league with 106.1 ppg, the Nuggets are are now scoring 98.4 points a night, good for 16th in the league.  Chandler is hoping to return on Monday, which could give them a boost, but there’s a lot of work to be done in Denver.

 25 3-328 (+3)Charlotte Bobcats:  Break up the Bobcats!  Charlotte’s win vs. Toronto on Wednesday marked only the 5th time since the start of the 2011-12 season that the team had won back-to-back games.  Plus, they’ve managed to do this without the services of All-Star Al Jefferson, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury for all but one game.  The team isn’t quite there yet, but Kemba Walker is a star in the making and Gerald Henderson has turned things around since his abysmal start.  Their top pick this year, Cody Zeller, has had a rough go of it so far, scoring only 5.2 points in 17.2 minutes per game.  The ‘Cats are 29th in PPG, 26th in FG% and 28th in FT% and shooting an awful 68.2% from the line.  If those numbers don’t improve, Charlotte will find themselves at the bottom of the league yet again.

 26 5-229 (+3)Phoenix Suns:  Like Orlando, the Phoenix Suns have shrugged off the “rebuilding” tag and started the year 4-2.  Even with Goran Dragic enduring another ankle injury, the young squad has been able to go 2-1 in his absence.  The main focus for the Suns now is to work out a way to keep budding star Eric Bledsoe in town for years to come.  They failed to reach a contract extension with him and he will become a restricted free agent at season’s end.  Bledsoe is averaging 20.3 points, 7.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2 steals.

 27 1-524 (-3)Sacramento Kings:  The Kings, and the city of Sacramento, had high hopes for a turnaround in DeMarcus Cousins’ demeanor.  He was re-signed in the off-season, causing some skepticism around the NBA.  Could the highly immature and combative Cousins shed those characteristics, something that had kept him from fully realizing his tremendous potential?  Well, the answer is clearly “no”.  It only took 3 games before he was benched for yelling at coach Mike Malone.  After winning on opening night, the Kings have reeled off 5-consecutive losses, and Malone is already toying with the idea of some “lineup changes”.  Get ready for a long and frustrating season from the team in California’s capital.

 28 3-426 (-2)Boston Celtics:  The Celtics shrugged off criticism of a lack of offensive flow by beating the Heat on their homecourt on Saturday, giving them three-straight wins after starting the season 0-4.  They’re definitely a team without much of an identity, but Jeff Green has taken a leadership role and the rest of the guys seem to be buying into it.  The latest news on Rajon Rondo has him possibly returning in December.  Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford have done fine jobs filling in at the point, averaging 11.7 and 10.6 points, respectively.

 29 2-327 (-2)Milwaukee Bucks:  Things just get worse and worse for the Bucks.  After already being without injured players Brandon Knight, Ersan Ilyasova, Carlos Delfino and Luke Ridnour, prized big man Larry Sanders decided it would be a good idea to bash someone over the head with a champagne bottle at a Milwaukee club.  The victim will not be pressing charges (can you smell “payoff”?), but the fight caused him to injure his thumb, putting an already depleted team in further jeopardy.  O.J. Mayo on the other hand, has been a welcome addition, scoring 18.6 points-per-game.

 30 0-725 (-5)Utah Jazz:  Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are already one of the more formidable frontcourt tandems in the NBA, but the Jazz just don’t have the personnel to compete.  Re-signing Gordan Hayward (19.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.7 apg) is key if Utah plans on keeping that nucleus together in Salt Lake for years to come.

All stats as of games played Saturday, November 9, 2013

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