It’s still very early in the NBA season. We’re sure to see a lot more surprises in the future.
In power rankings this early, some teams draw a disadvantage. For example, teams that go on a four-game East or West coast trip.
A long road trip is one of the toughest challenges to overcome as a team. Players get really tired and get caught in the midst of the loud stadiums.
On the other hand, the greatest teams usually overcome these type of challenges. Miami, Indiana, San Antonio, OKC and teams of that nature should have the best results as long as their stars are active.
Let’s take a look at how it all shaped up since last Monday’s week 2 rankings:
30. Utah Jazz (1-10, Even): Thus far, Utah has jumped out from the rest of the pack as a clear favorite to land a top three pick in the 2014 draft. One positive is the success Favors and Kanter have had together in the post. They average a combined 29 points, 18 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks.
29. Milwaukee Bucks (2-7, Down 1): The Bucks have been plagued with injuries early this season between Brandon Knight, Caron Butler, and Larry Sanders. This team absolutely needs Sanders, its defensive anchor, to compete for the playoffs.
28. Sacramento Kings (2-7, Up 1): The Pelicans, Suns, and even the 8-2 Blazers have rebuilt at around the same time as Sacramento. Sactown’s improvement on the court continues to be little-to-none. DeMarcus Cousins has been the lone bright spot, averaging 21.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.4 blocks.
27. Washington Wizards (2-7, Down 4): The Wizards have shown their ability to hurt teams from the perimeter. However, the Wiz aren’t very consistent in most aspects of the game. John Wall has done a good job setting up Bradley Beal en route to Beal’s 20 points and 2.8 threes per game.
26. Boston Celtics (4-7, Even): Although the Celts don’t intend to reach the playoffs, the team will continue to get good wins, here and there. The Celts still consist of really tough competitors, such as Jeff Green and Avery Bradley. The two almost always give it their all on the basketball court.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-7, Down 5): So many NBA games are decided in the 4th quarter. The Cavs are fortunate to have a star who can finish games with his clutch scoring down the stretch. We saw an example of that as Kyrie Irving dropped 41 points in an overtime battle in D.C.
24. Detroit Pistons (3-6, Down 10): Detroit has had a rough situation to start the season. They played Memphis on the road followed by Indy and OKC at home. Then they had a tough four-game trip on the West. This ranking isn’t exactly characteristic of Detroit’s play. Expect them to slide back up in due time.
23. Orlando Magic (4-6, Down 2): Orlando is 4-2 at home and in both of those losses, they didn’t go down easy. The Clippers and Nets were two of those wins. Nikola Vucevic may see his first All-Star appearance this year. As Victor Oladipo gets more PT and experience, he’ll shape up to be a very skilled combo guard.
22. Charlotte Bobcats (5-5, Up 5): The Bobcats believe they can make the playoffs this year. The East, obviously, isn’t nearly as difficult as the West. Al Jefferson seems to be healthy, Kemba Walker always plays with confidence, and the role players have improved.
21. Toronto Raptors (4-7, Up 3): Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan sure haven’t been shy getting their shots up. DeRozan takes a lot of jumpers for not having that great of a touch. Rudy Gay is a more capable shooter, but he can tend to get stuck in ice cold shooting slumps. However, they can also hurt opponents with their explosive ability to score the ball.
20. New York Knicks (3-6, Down 2): Melo has already addressed the team several times about the lack of effort. The Knicks just don’t seem to have it anymore. J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton have gone cold. Tyson Chandler is out, which is a huge loss. Also, the bench isn’t making the impact it should be.
19. New Orleans Pelicans (4-6, Even): This will continue to be the team that amazes everyone with its potential. While they’re still a very young group of players, their seven to eight man rotation is among the most talented in the league. It’s going to take time to grow up and turn into a winning franchise.
18. Philadelphia 76ers (5-6, Up 4): The Sixers don’t seem like they want to just plummet to the bottom. Like the Celtics, they have hungry players, such as Turner and M.C.W., who don’t necessarily enjoy losing games. Turner is off to a career-best start, averaging over 21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists.
17. Phoenix Suns (5-4, Down 1): Phoenix could easily be sitting at 7-2. They’ve recently lost two games at the very last second. We’ve rarely seen Bledsoe and the Suns get outplayed in a game this season. Bledsoe is off to a fantastic start, averaging 20.4 points on 50 percent shooting, along with 6.8 assists and 1.8 steals.
16. Brooklyn Nets (3-6, Down 3): All that talk the Nets were generating this offseason….well, apparently that was just talk. Sure, they can celebrate for beating Miami in one regular season game. However, they don’t appear capable of making it out of the second round of the playoffs. That could change with a drastic rise in effort, though.
15. L.A. Lakers (5-7, Up 2): The Lakers are only an effective team when they consistently make their threes. If you can shut down the perimeter, you should not have much of a problem beating the Lakers. The Lakers are second in 3PM per game with sharp shooters, such as Jodie Meeks.
14. Denver Nuggets (4-5, Up 11): Although they’re still under .500, the Nuggets have seemed to come alive in the last few games. Ty Lawson has started to play his usual, fearless basketball with strong averages of 21.2 points and 8.7 assists
13. Dallas Mavericks (6-4, Down 3): Unlike last year’s Mavs, this team isn’t an easy win for the best teams. Monta Ellis has done a great job helping turn the team back toward its winning culture. Ellis is averaging about 22 points, five assists, and 1.7 steals.
12. Memphis Grizzlies (5-5, Down 3): Although Memphis is still a very competitive team, there are a few crucial problems they need solved: their outside shooting doesn’t scare anyone. That goes with the limited impact their wing players make on offense.
11. Atlanta Hawks (6-4, Up 4): I’ll say it again: the dark horse team in the East. The Hawks compete as hard as just about anyone. Jeff Teague has shown excellent responsibility so far in about every phase of the game. Opposing coaches always have to beware of Al Horford, who can change the game with a series of jumpers and post-up moves.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (8-2, Up 2): Are the Blazers for real? That’s a question everyone would like to know. They aren’t on the same level as contenders such as the Thunder, Clippers, or Warriors. However, they very well could be in the next year or two. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are comfortably shredding opponents with their highly efficient offense.
9. Chicago Bulls (5-3, Up 2): That blowout win against the Pacers was everything Chicago could have hoped for. That game should give them confidence to continue the rest of the season as a true contender in the East. Rose isn’t back at full strength yet, but the team is back to playing gritty Bulls basketball.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-4, Down 1): Kevin Martin has solved much of the Wolves’ outside scoring problems. K-Love and the pack seem to have almost everything clicking right now. However, the Wolves still have a lot to prove in order to show they can hang with the West’s top five teams.
7. Golden State Warriors (7-3, Up 1): Last Thursday’s game versus OKC was the best finish of the season, thus far. Russell Westbrook sunk a deep three pointer to put the Thunder up one with over two seconds. But Andre Iguodala received the inbounds pass and came through with a clutch turnaround, fadeaway at the buzzer.
6. Houston Rockets (7-4, Even): I want to point a few things out: first of all, James Harden is an undisputed superstar. But he must work on his shot selection, court vision, and defensive effort to take his game to the next level. “The Beard” is the clear leader of this team.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-3, Down 2): Durant leads OKC to many impressive stats, including second in free throws attempted per game. However, OKC is 27th in three-point percentage. Other players need to take advantage of all the open threes K.D. and Westbrook create for them.
4. L.A. Clippers (7-3, Up 1): I often talk about how Blake Griffin is overhyped and doesn’t have the skillset that people credit him for having. Regardless of that, he gets the job done in an unorthodox way. He doesn’t have a consistent go-to move but still averages about 23 points and 11 rebounds per game. His elite athleticism always gets the best of him, as well as his opponents.
3. Miami Heat (7-3, Up 1): Indiana’s goal to be the number one seed is a wake up-call for Miami because the Pacers probably would have made the Finals had Game 7 been in Indiana. LeBron and Wade are only going to have to push harder when these two teams meet up again. Or maybe Miami’s role players will really step up.
2. Indiana Pacers (9-1, Down 1): The Pacers finally surrendered a game, to a conference rival Chicago Bulls. It had to happen sooner or later. Aside from Paul George doing a tremendous job running the team, Roy Hibbert’s dominance on the defense end has been nasty (4.6 blocks per game).
1. San Antonio Spurs (9-1, Up 1): Gregg Popovich’s team is at the top of my power rankings, yet another time. As Tim Duncan ages, Tiago Splitter is starting to carry more responsibility. Splitter’s offensive production is nowhere near Duncan’s and he also doesn’t have a the same motor. It’s sure going to be tough filling in Tim Duncan’s shoes, when the time comes.
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