With a month of NBA basketball in the books, it seemed a good time to fire up the old Power Ranking Machine here at The Chasedown Block to figure out who’s playing well, who isn’t, and who is likely to change that. As always, any and all rankings are my opinion, derived from statistical analysis, gut feeling, the position of the stars, and what words are randomly formed in my alphabet soup. So without further ado, here we go.
1. Miami Heat 12-3 Last 10: 8-2
So why does Miami get to hold the top spot as opposed to one of the many fine teams listed below them? Of the teams with the best records, they have played one of the harder schedules, even if that does include the narrow escape against San Antonio that Pop basically punted. They are the returning champs, with all factors (including some amazing outside shooting numbers) pointing towards them possibly repeating, and Lebron James is still the best player in the league. If the season ended with another James MVP and ring, would you be surprised?
2. Memphis Grizzlies 12-3 Last 10: 8-2
The Memphis Grizzlies have been a revelation at the beginning of this young season, with Gasol and Z-Bo pounding teams away down low with seemingly no way to stop them. All of these wins come from a very difficult schedule as well, with statement wins over the Lakers, Knicks, Thunder, and Heat. While we all knew the Grizzlies were good, it would appear that they are trying to define themselves as one of THE powers in the West, a conference that is nothing if not difficult to crack.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder 14-4 Last 10: 8-2
It would seem that the importance of James Harden to the Thunder has been somewhat overstated, no? After recently manhandling Harden on his return trip to OKC, the statement from the Thunder was clear: We are still the team to beat in the West. Kevin Martin has taken over Harden’s scoring admirably, and Westbrook is taking over playmaking (up 3 assists a game from last year) while Durant is adding both more rebounds and dimes to his total, playing a great all-around game that could be terrifying come playoff time.
Hit the jump for the rest of Jordan’s power rankings…
4. New York Knicks 12-4 Last 10: 6-4
It would seem that, as suspected, the best way to play Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire together is to not play them together. With Anthony at power forward, the offense is humming as big men scramble to contain him, and face scorching hot perimeter shooters for him to kick to whenever the try to double. The defense has also been better than expected. THIS Knicks team is dangerous. Here’s hoping Woodson has the presence of mind to relegate Amare to sixth-man duties when he returns.
5. Brooklyn Nets 11-5 Last 10: 7-3
Jay-Z and the Mad Russian are no doubt thrilled with the way the season is starting in the Net’s inaugural run in the Barclays Center. Brook Lopez is scoring more efficiently than he has since the 2009 season, and with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson still not quite hitting the scoring and assist averages we know they are capable of, it will be interesting to see if the team can take the next step and truly become a challenger for the East.
6. San Antonio Spurs 14-4 Last 10: 7-3
To the great surprise of no one, the Great Black Death Machine just keeps rolling along, crushing everyone it meets underfoot. The Spurs could quite obviously care less about the regular season, and will throw away whatever games they deem necessary on the way to (most likely) the best record in the West yet again. And if David Stern doesn’t like it, he would do well to remember that Pop can probably kill him with his thumb.
7. Los Angeles Clippers 10-6 Last 10: 6-4
The Clippers looked every bit the title contender they are supposed to be at the very beginning of the season, even if they have tailed off a bit recently. Still though, they will be getting Grant Hill and his defense back soon, and this is still quite easily the best team that Chris Paul has ever been a part of. With Memphis and OKC, the battle for the top seeds in the Western Conference will be hella tight this year.
8. Golden State Warriors 10-6 Last 10: 7-3
Even though I figured the Warriors to be much improved this season, I wasn’t quite expecting this from them. Stephen Curry and Klay Thomspon are forming a formidable back-court duo. Carl Landry has a PER over twenty-two and a true shooting percentage of over 65%. Injuries have played havoc with Mark Jackson’s lineups so far, but if Andrew Bogut can be even a facsimile of his former self when he returns later this month, then Warriors could knock some heads and move up this list.
9. Philadelphia 76ers 10-7 Last 10: 6-4
The Sixers are doing their thing once again, rolling along and getting wins while displaying great chemistry and a much improved Jrue Holiday, but word is that Andrew Bynum is out indefinitely, and without their new center, one has to figure that the ceiling for this team is lowered so dramatically that Drew may not be able to get his afro under it. The lesson, as always, don’t ever go bowling. Ever. For any reason.
10. Atlanta Hawks 9-5 Last 10: 7-3
Pop quiz, kids! Who has the best defenses in the league? If you said the Hawks, give yourself one gold star. While the offense may be lagging, Al Horford and Josh Smith are fueling one hell of a defense that is switching opponents into oblivion. Is this reason to believe that the Hawks may be getting ready to shed their first-round-out image? Maybe. But I need to see a little more before saying anything that crazy.
11. Boston Celtics 9-8 Last 10: 5-5
Pop quiz part deux! Who does not have have even close to the best defense in the league? If you said the Boston Celtics, you would be correct again. Per HoopData, the Celtics have the league’s 22nd ranked defense, lower than I can ever remember the Celtics ranking with Garnett on the floor. I’m not going to be the guy to say the Celtics are done, and getting Avery Bradley back later this month will help, but still, the concerns are there, and they are valid.
12. Indiana Pacers 8-9 Last 10: 5-5
As much hell as I give Danny Granger for not being quite as good as I want him to be, it sure does seem like the Pacers are having a tough time without him. Which is to be expected, I suppose, when a guy who takes a quarter to a third of the team’s shots goes down. Still, they need to find a way to cope, because he ain’t slated to return until early February and teams will start breathing down Indy’s neck by then.
13. Los Angeles Lakers 8-8 Last 10: 6-4
Even with the complete horror show that the Laker’s have been at times this season, even though they had a coaching change before many had even realized that the season had started, I won’t write them off this early. Nash has yet to reunite with D’Antoni on the court yet, and until that happens and the team has a chance to really gel, the talent is just much to say the Lakers won’t be there at the end.
14. Chicago Bulls 8-7 Last 10: 5-5
It’s worth noting that even though the defense hasn’t looked quite as strangling as the Bulls and Coach Thibs are known for, HoopData still has the Bulls at third in defensive efficiency. And while we are all ready for Derrick Rose’s return, the Bulls who are available now need to try and pile up a winning streak to help cushion his transition back to basketball. A playoffs without the Bulls would truly be a tragic thing.
15. Utah Jazz 9-9 Last 10: 5-5
Unsurprisingly, the Jazz still continue to be very much like the Jazz. They are great at home. They are a team that plays hard and minimizes mistakes, working off of their inside advantage with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors. Does any of this sound familiar? I love the Jazz for what they are, and I love their depth, but I feel like they need a trade or some sort of shake up to get out of the category of Western Conference playoff fodder.
16. Milwaukee Bucks 8-7 Last 10: 5-5
While the Bucks have been very good in transition this season, this team’s success will hinge on being able to get some type of half-court offense together, as currently they are neither shooting well from beyond the arc or getting to the free throw line, things that you kind of need your offense to do. Scott Skiles is a very good coach, and may rectify this, but if he doesn’t the Bucks may find themselves hunted (see what I did there?) come time to determine playoff seeding.
17. Denver Nuggets 8-9 Last 10: 4-6
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone, but Kenneth Faried is really good at rebounding. As a second year small forward, he is averaging 11.5 rebounds a game, and five of those are offensive. He is a large part of the Nuggets out offensive rebounding everyone they play. I am still uncertain that this Denver team has what it takes to go further than other Nuggets teams recently have, but one thing is for sure, the Manimal’s name is well earned.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves 7-8 Last 10: 3-7
The start of the season has been particularly rough on the Minnesota Timberwolves, and while the early return of Kevin Love from his injury is commendable, it hasn’t yet righted the ship on its own. Love is likely still playing with a lot of pain and rust, but thankfully reinforcements are inbound for last year’s League Pass darlings. Both Ricky Rubio and Brandon Roy (or what’s left of him?) are reported to return midway through this month.
19. Dallas Mavericks 8-9 Last 10: 4-6
The Mavericks continue to limp along without Dirk Nowitzki, and while I scoffed at Mark Cuban for the offseason he had, OJ Mayo is a large reason why they are even flirting with relevance. While the Mavs may still have a losing record, Mayo is having his best season ever by nearly any statistical measure. With Dirk set to return later this month and the lower half of the Western seeding pretty up for grabs, there is definitely still hope for the Mavs.
20. Houston Rockets 8-8 Last 10: 5-5
While James Harden has largely been as good as advertised with the Rockets, the other two players picked up to play a main role within the team have not. Jeremy Lin’s assists have been nice, but his shooting percentages and nose-diving everywhere except at the rim. Omer Asik is rebounding the ball well, but the defense he is anchoring has been pedestrian. The Rockets may still be on to something, but it is looking as if it will need more time to develop.
21. Charlotte Bobcats 7-8 Last 10: 5-5
Hey guys, guess what! The Bobcats haven’t really been awful this season! Isn’t that great? The Bobcats have found a lot of playing time for their younger guys, and Kemba, Kidd-Gilchrist, Biyombo, and Jeffery Taylor have all responded with decent play. A lot of credit goes to Ramon Sessions for helping settle the team on the court as well. I’m not predicting playoff or anything, but this is very encouraging for a team that was so historically bad last year.
22. Portland Trailblazers 7-10 Last 10: 5-5
The talk of the town in Portland has of course been rookie Damian Lillard and his 19 points and 6 assists a game on 46% shooting. That should definitely help to get the taste of Raymond Felton out of people’s mouths. Nic Batum has been amazing as well, having a career season thus far. LaMarcus Aldridge, however, has been less than stellar, with his numbers down across the board. Coupled with a thin bench, the early start for Portland has been rough, but this is a developing year for them anyway.
23. Phoenix Suns 7-11 Last 10: 3-7
The Phoenix Suns are definitely feeling the effects of losing Steve Nash, even if the Lakers aren’t yet feeling the effects of having him. Only 54.71 percent of their baskets have been assisted, good for the 25th worst mark in the league. We all knew that the team would struggle this year, and we all strongly suspected that Michael Beasley was not the solution for what ails them. To the great surprise of absolutely nobody, we were right.
24. Orlando Magic 5-10 Last 10: 3-7
And while we are talking about things that are easy to predict, the Orlando Magic are in a bad way too. Dwight Howard is many things, but replaceable isn’t one of them, and the Magic are learning that in spades. Surprisingly though, the defense is still a respectable unit, posting a defensive efficiency of 99.5, good for tenth in the league. And help is (sort of) on the horizon, with Al Harrington and whatever type of player Hedo Turkoglu is these days set to return from injury later this month.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-13 Last 10: 2-8
Kyrie Irving is out until at least late December, and it is becoming plainly obvious that the Cleveland Cavaliers are unable to function as a unit without him. Based on efficiency, Cleveland has the twentieth worst offense and second worst defense in the league. The only real bright spot has been Anderson Varejao, rebounding his heart out every night and doing the best he can to defend. But he can’t shoulder the load like Irving can, and it will be a sham if such a dynamic player turns out to be an injury concern.
26. Detroit Pistons 5-13 Last 10: 5-5
We knew that this year would be about cultivating talent in Detroit, but we didn’t know that most of the talent they had already cultivated would take dramatic steps backward. Greg Monroe’s shooting percentages are down several points, and Rodney Stuckey seems to have decided that whatever strides he made last year were completely unnecessary. Things are getting really ugly in the Motor City, and if the players can’t find a way to right the ship, the Pistons are in for a long year.
27. Toronto Raptors 4-13 Last 10: 3-7
So remember when I said that the Raptors should get thing together this year and possibly make the playoffs? I’m apparently an idiot. I don’t think that the team is quite as bad as they are appearing right now, since Kyle Lowry is the one who stirs the drink here and he has missed significant chunks of time, and he could work wonders for this team, offensively and defensively. But as far as making the playoffs? Yeah, hard to see that now.
28. New Orleans Hornets 4-11 Last 10: 1-9
Poor Ryan Anderson. He gets to New Orleans, continues to improve his game, even starting to flirt with 50-40-90 shooting percentage season. But alas, his running mates, Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, can’t get on the court to help him. Anthony Davis is certainly the type of tough defender that New Orleans needs, and could help approximate the “Dwight” effect that aided Anderson in Orlando. Eric Gordon would be a breath of fresh air for the back-court, but it is unclear how much he even wants to be there. And so, the Hornets are awful.
29. Sacramento Kings 4-12 Last 10: 2-8
In this new and crazy season, it is almost a comfort to see the Sacramento Kings continue to be the shiftless wild hobos of the NBA that they are. Tyreke Evans, as far as anyone can tell, will never be the player that wowed us his rookie season. DeMarcus Cousins has not yet figured out how good he could be. The point guard rotation is interesting, to say the least. In a world where the Nets and Knicks are contenders, and the Lakers are free falling, the Kings are like a warm security blanket of ineptitude.
30. Washington Wizards 1-13 Last 10: 1-9
The Washington Wizards saw the Charlotte Bobcats trying to be all good and stuff, and as far as I can tell they decided that they would cheerfully assume the title of the leagues largest laughing stock. I’m being a little harsh, of course, since John Wall and Nene have both missed large swaths of time. But they have been awful to watch, often times looking like they have forgotten how to play basketball as a sport entirely. John Wall and Nene will help, but I still have a hard time figuring a situation where this is a positive season for Washington at the end.
Jordan Akin would really love to see a buddy cop show where Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis drove around New Orleans and solved crimes. If you are a television executive and could make this happen, contact Jordan via Twitter @jakin1013, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.