The Hoops Karma Power Rankings examine how comparatively powerful or dominant each NBA team is right now. Obviously more recent games and happenings weigh heavier than those in the past, but a look at how the clubs have progressed throughout the season is necessary to get a sense for patterns that will continue or possibly change. Unlike college rankings, these are re-evaluated for each new posting; no one needs to jump anyone or hope for higher seeds to lose.
1. Miami Heat (3-1): Three crushing victories in a row, including one over Orlando on Friday. And they’re still learning how to play together after Wade missed the whole pre-season.
2. New Orleans Hornets (3-0): Chris Paul might be the NBA’s best player. His under-skilled team (David West is easily the worst #2 of any conference contender) handed playoff mainstays Denver and SA their only losses.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (3-0): Three fourth-quarter comebacks = “great fortitude/heart vs. not enough elite talent to put them away early” debate. It’s official: Nicolas Batum is legit as hell.
4. LA Lakers (3-0): Nice win on the road over Phoenix. Pau Gasol is leading the team in scoring (25 ppg), shot blocking (2.0 bpg), and assists (5 apg), and is second in rebounds (10 rpg). I’m officially kicking off his MVP candidacy.
5. Boston Celtics (2-1): Best case – they beat an impressive Miami squad and only lost to Cleveland because it was on the road the day after the tough Heat win. Worst case – they caught Miami before they were ready and lost to Cleveland. Cleveland! Need more data.
6. Orlando Magic (1-1): Disappearing act in 3rd quarter against Miami was troubling, but they looked phenomenal against Washington and should easily win their next four or five in a row (NY, Min, NJ, Cha, Atl).
7. Denver Nuggets (2-1): Denver’s doing it with defense and rebounding, and they’re still waiting for most of their frontline to get healthy. Wednesday’s matchup with Dallas will reveal a lot.
8. Utah Jazz (1-2): Someone just the other day was saying that Utah will sort their problems out quickly and would have a good chance to beat OKC, which they did 120-99 on Sunday.
9. Dallas Mavericks (2-1): Dirk and Kidd are predictably playing great, but I’m still waiting to see them beat someone who’s good (next 3 games are Denver, Denver, Boston, so there’s their chance).
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (2-1): Scoring averages for Durant (29 ppg), Westbrook (22), and Green (20 ppg): impressive. Overall team play: much less so (shooting and defensive rebounding have been terrible so far).
11. San Antonio Spurs (1-1): It’s very hard to judge a team that beats a bad Indy club by 13 and loses to a good N.O. squad by 9. Their upcoming run before the middle of November is pretty easy, so look for their record to balloon quickly.
12. Phoenix Suns (1-2): Leads the league in strength of schedule so far, having played at Portland, at Utah, and hosting the Lakers. They were in all three games, yet it must be mentioned that their defense continues to be a glaring weakness. Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, they play SA, LAL, Denv, Mia, and Orl. They’ll have quite a hole to dig themselves out of by Thanksgiving.
13. Chicago Bulls (1-1): Offense bad. Defense good. They fell apart in the 4th against OKC (13-24). They blew up in the 4th against Detroit (34-9). It’s good to see Rose being more aggressive with the ball, but he’s still not much of a shooter and has too many turnovers. Noah is rebounding like Bill Russell (18 rpg).
14. Atlanta Hawks (3-0): Their only half-impressive win was opener against the Grizzlies, who were playing without Marc Gasol, their best player. Beating Philly and DC by only 3 and 4 points isn’t good. Worst 3-0 team in the league.
15. New Jersey Nets (2-1): Two wins were struggles against lousy Detroit and Sac-town teams, but it shows they’re no longer the league doormat. Rookie PF Derek Favors is averaging a double-double (10 ppg, 10 rpg)…in 21 minutes per outing…off the bench.
16. Golden State Warriors (2-1): They shot the ball out of their minds against Houston and the Clips, but came crashing back to earth in Sunday’s 107-83 loss to the Lakers. Interesting to see how they perform against Memphis on Wednesday.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (1-2): Loss to Minnesota revealed a lot about how anemic their offense can be. If you plan to make the playoffs, you can’t lose to Minnesota.
18. Houston Rockets (0-3): They’re displaying uncharacteristically terrible defense, but Luis Scola is playing up to his FIBA stud ways: 27 ppg, 14 rpg, 57% FG. Expect a stolen win against the Hornets or Spurs this week.
19. New York Knicks (1-2): Somehow they’ve been right there in their losses to Boston (101-105) and Portland (95-100), yet they barely beat lowly Toronto (98-93). Surprise surprise – Amar’e’s FG% drops a lot when he’s not playing next to Nash (was 55%, now 46%).
20. Toronto Raptors (1-1): Believe it or not, they’ve played some great D up to this point, but have been crapping things up on the offensive end. Splitting with New York and Cleveland isn’t a recipe for future success, so we’ll know more about this club after Wednesday’s contest in Utah.
22. Indiana Pacers (2-1): They’ve beaten two teams who are a combined 0-6, so let’s try to keep things in perspective. Roy Hibbert is both the most improved center in the league and probably the best passing (4.7-2.0 Assist-Turnover) – he’ll be a good one to keep an eye on.
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (1-2): They somehow beat the Celtics and lost to Toronto and Sacramento. If you had to bet the bank on either the win being a fluke or those two losses to bad teams being a fluke, I think we know where everyone’s thoughts about this team would be.
24. Sacramento Kings (2-1): Losing to NJ and barely beating Minnesota and Cleveland by a total of 4 points makes this the worst 2-1 team. Big mouth rookie DeMarcus Cousins is already playing worse than Favors, and now is when he should be looking better.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-2): This is one more win than I expected them to have for a while. They’re bad, but they sure as hell can rebound.
26. Charlotte Bobcats (0-3): They couldn’t hold off Indy at home, and that’s as good as it got. A Larry Brown-coached defense has to improve.
27. Washington Wizards (0-2): Their offense is horrible and not running correctly. They can’t rebound AT ALL.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (0-3): Their offense is all out of sorts. I’ve been saying for a while that Louis Williams should be the starting PG over Jrue Holiday; well guess who’s averaging 16 ppg (50% FG) and 4.7-2.7 Assists-Turnovers and who’s averaging 9 ppg (32% FG) and 3.0-2.3 A-TO. Williams continues to come off the bench. Good one.
29. Detroit Pistons (0-3): They’ve been shooting above their heads so far, and they still have no wins.
30. Los Angeles Clippers (0-3): They’ve lost by 10, 18, and 16 and haven’t played outside of California (or against the Lakers) yet. Expect six more beatings in a row (SA, OKC, Den, Utah, NO, SA).