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Power Rankings

No. 1 Knicks about to be tested

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Nov 12 2012 11:54AM

We're just 13 days into the 2012-13 season, and we've already had two major shake-ups to title contenders. Mike Brown is out and Mike D'Antoni is in. Bottom line, we'll still need to be patient with the Lakers and may not know just how good they are until March or April.

Meanwhile, the other serious contenders are holding up just fine. The Heat, Spurs and Thunder are a combined 16-5 through Sunday. And other teams, like the Knicks, Clippers, Nuggets and Grizzlies, are ready to join the party.

The rankings, of course, are still pretty volatile. But there will be a lot of games between the teams in the top 10 over the next couple of weeks, so things might begin to settle down by the end of the month.

For now, the Knicks are on top. But they face two really tough tests this week. And any one of several teams could be No. 1 seven days from now.

• Last week: Spurs already back on top

Hero Team of the Week: Memphis (4-0) -- The Grizz have won five straight, capped off by Sunday's thrashing of the champs.
Zero Team of the Week: Orlando (0-4) -- The Magic averaged less than 18 points per quarter over two games against the Nets' suspect defense.

Plus-minus Studs: Wayne Ellington (MEM) was a plus-63 in four games last week.
Plus-minus Duds: Josh McRoberts (ORL) was a minus-67 in four games last week.

High jumps of the week: Minnesota (+13), Memphis (+9), Denver (+7), Philadelphia (+7)
Free falls of the week: Indiana (-10), ATL, BKN, DAL, ORL & TOR (-5)

East vs. West: The West is 25-14 (.641) against the East in inter-conference games this season, and was 19-6 last week.

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league is averaging 95.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 99.7 points scored per 100 possessions.

NBA.com's Power Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Monday during the season. If you've got an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, contact him via twitter.

1 New York (4-0)
Pace: 93.5 (25), OffRtg: 112.2 (1), DefRtg: 93.2 (2)
The Knicks' perimeter shooting cooled off on Friday, and they still won. So there are no asterisks next to their 4-0 start. But they will have their toughest challenge to date with a back-to-back in San Antonio and Memphis on Thursday and Friday this week. Ronnie Brewer was already a bargain at the minimum, but if he can continue to hit corner threes (he's 6-for-10 so far), that's huge.
Last week: 2

2 San Antonio (6-1)
Pace: 95.3 (16), OffRtg: 103.1 (7), DefRtg: 98.9 (16)
When Tony Parker's out with the flu, it's nice to have Gary Neal go off for a career-high 27. But turnovers and (surprise!) defense have been issues for the Spurs over the last few games, including Wednesday's ugly loss to the Clips. Each of the Spurs' next five games is a must-watch. They play the Lakers, Knicks, Nuggets, Clippers (again) and Celtics over the next 10 days.
Last week: 1

3 Oklahoma City (5-2)
Pace: 96.7 (10), OffRtg: 104.6 (5), DefRtg: 94.6 (3)
Well, the Kevin Martin thing is working out just fine. The new guy is still shooting better than 50 percent from both the field and 3-point range, the Thunder are a plus-15 in 50 minutes where Martin has been on the floor with neither Kevin Durant nor Russell Westbrook, and he can't be blamed too much for the fact that his team still can't take care of the ball (30th in turnover rate).
Last week: 5

4 Memphis (5-1)
Pace: 97.3 (5), OffRtg: 103.0 (9), DefRtg: 94.7 (4)
The Grizzlies are now 3-1 against Miami in the LeBron era, so it's no huge surprise that they won on Sunday. But they're supposed to beat the Heat on the glass and in the paint, not with 14 threes (seven from Wayne Ellington). They should have saved a few of them, because they have two more great matchups this week, visiting the Thunder on Wednesday and hosting the Knicks on Friday.
Last week: 13

5 Miami (5-2)
Pace: 95.2 (18), OffRtg: 111.3 (2), DefRtg: 102.4 (24)
The Grizzlies were supposed to be a litmus test for the Heat's small lineup, but Miami handled its own on the boards on Sunday. Instead, the Grizz exposed the Heat's 3-point defense, which now ranks 27th. It was similarly bad early last season, but just fine by the time the playoffs came around. Maybe the Clippers (Wednesday) or Nuggets (Thursday) will test Miami on the glass this week.
Last week: 3

6 L.A. Clippers (5-2)
Pace: 96.8 (9), OffRtg: 105.8 (4), DefRtg: 97.0 (10)
The Clippers have played some promising defense over the last three games, holding the Spurs, Blazers and Hawks to just 89 points per 100 possessions. They're still fouling too much, but with Eric Bledsoe's increased playing time, they rank second in forcing turnovers. Like the Spurs, they're a must-watch over the next week and a half, playing the Heat, Bulls, Spurs, Thunder and Nets.
Last week: 4

7 Chicago (4-2)
Pace: 95.1 (20), OffRtg: 99.4 (11), DefRtg: 93.1 (1)
Monday's matchup against the Celtics will be big, but the Bulls have already shown that they have what it takes -- defense and rebounding, as always -- to stay in the mix for a top-4 seed in the East. Joakim Noah has been a beast thus far, leading the team in rebounds, blocks, steals and plus-minus (both raw and per-possession). He's also second in points and third in assists.
Last week: 11

8 Denver (4-3)
Pace: 97.3 (6), OffRtg: 98.1 (21), DefRtg: 96.8 (9)
The Nuggets have clearly recovered from their 0-3 start, especially defensively. They allowed their four opponents to score just 90 points per 100 possessions last week, which helped fuel their fast break. Now, if they can just start shooting the ball, they'll be in great shape. Maybe Danilo Gallinari's two clutch threes on Saturday will get him going. He's currently 9-for-44 from beyond the arc.
Last week: 15

9 L.A. Lakers (3-4)
Pace: 95.5 (15), OffRtg: 104.3 (6), DefRtg: 97.9 (14)
As if the Lakers weren't fascinating enough, they've now added Mike D'Antoni to the mix. The hire presents so many questions... Will they improve defensively? Do they have the perimeter shooting needed to run his system? Will their bench be any less awful than it's been through the first two weeks? If you love the Lakers, hate the Lakers or are indifferent, you won't be able to look away.
Last week: 7

10 Boston (3-3)
Pace: 96.3 (12), OffRtg: 99.3 (13), DefRtg: 100.9 (22)
Since the opener in Miami, the Celtics have only played Milwaukee, Washington and Philly. So this is obviously a disappointing start. The encouraging part of it is that they rank 10th in turnover rate and third in free throw rate, up from 20th and 26th last year. We know they can shoot and that they won't get offensive rebounds, so turnovers and free throws are the big variables offensively.
Last week: 6

11 Minnesota (4-2)
Pace: 92.5 (28), OffRtg: 99.2 (14), DefRtg: 99.8 (8)
The Wolves had two thrilling wins this week, coming back from 22 down to win in Brooklyn, and then beating the Pacers on this sweet cut by Chase Budinger. Rick Adelman is the Coach of the First Two Weeks, but he's got another injury to deal with, because Budinger tore his meniscus in Chicago on Saturday. It's only fitting that the Wolves visit the similarly depleted Mavs on Monday.
Last week: 24

12 Philadelphia (4-2)
Pace: 93.4 (26), OffRtg: 94.8 (26), DefRtg: 94.8 (5)
Maybe the Sixers should be ranked No. 2, because their only losses are against No. 1. Their defensive numbers are somewhat inflated by Wednesday's win over the Hornets, but there's no taking away from Friday's victory in Boston, one of those games where Evan Turner actually plays like a No. 2 pick. The Sixers now play eight of their next nine at home against a lot of beatable opponents.
Last week: 19

13 New Orleans (3-2)
Pace: 91.7 (30), OffRtg: 97.2 (22), DefRtg: 95.7 (6)
After Wednesday's anemic performance against the Sixers, it was good to get Anthony Davis back on Friday. And the No. 1 pick didn't disappoint, putting up 23 points, 11 boards and five blocks against Charlotte. Now Davis will get his first taste of the road, where the Hornets play six of their next eight. They won without him in Chicago, where visitors were 12-62 over the previous two seasons.
Last week: 14

14 Brooklyn (3-2)
Pace: 92.0 (29), OffRtg: 99.4 (12), DefRtg: 100.0 (18)
Insert joke about playing 82 games against the Orlando Magic here. Consider the opponent, but the Nets did look better defensively over the weekend. And though they're playing too slow, things should start to click offensively when Joe Johnson's shots start to fall. They're at No. 12 on that end even though one of their stars (and the guy who has taken the most shots) is shooting 36 percent.
Last week: 9

15 Atlanta (2-3)
Pace: 93.8 (23), OffRtg: 98.6 (17), DefRtg: 100.6 (21)
One way the Hawks could make up for the loss of Joe Johnson offensively was by parading to the free throw line more often, not one of Johnson's strengths. Lou Williams (18 attempts) has done his part in that regard, but Atlanta ranks 29th in free throw rate and 28th in free throw percentage. Al Horford has just nine attempts in five games and Josh Smith is a Biedrins-esque 2-for-14.
Last week: 10

16 Utah (3-4)
Pace: 97.0 (7), OffRtg: 98.5 (19), DefRtg: 97.7 (13)
The Jazz are undefeated at home and winless on the road. And if that sounds familiar, it's because they were in the same situation after seven games last season. If they can't get at least two wins and improve their road defense (105.4 DefRtg) on their four-game trip through Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington that starts on Monday, there will be cause for real concern.
Last week: 16

17 Dallas (4-3)
Pace: 96.5 (11), OffRtg: 105.9 (3), DefRtg: 103.6 (25)
Shawn Marion isn't Dirk Nowitzki, but playing without both is a lot harder than having one of the two in uniform. Not only would Marion have helped keep Carmelo Anthony in check on Friday in New York, but he would have kept the Mavs from falling in a 13-point hole a day later in Charlotte, and kept Rick Carlisle from having to use Troy Murphy for 49 minutes over the two games.
Last week: 12

18 Indiana (3-4)
Pace: 93.1 (27), OffRtg: 93.7 (27), DefRtg: 97.1 (11)
Now that they know Danny Granger is out long-term, the Pacers really have to find a way to score or they could miss the playoffs. Yes, they need Paul George to step up and start realizing his potential, but it would surely help if Roy Hibbert - that 7-2 All-Star on a new $58 million contract - could shoot better than 38 percent, or at least get to the line more than 11 times in seven games.
Last week: 8

19 Houston (3-3)
Pace: 96.9 (8), OffRtg: 95.0 (25), DefRtg: 95.8 (7)
The Rockets' offense has been pretty brutal (88.5 OffRtg) since James Harden's season-opening, two-game outburst, though they have had some offensive success in limited minutes with just one true big man on the floor. On Monday, Jeremy Lin will face the visiting Heat for the first time since they shut down Linsanity (he went 1-for-11 with eight turnovers) back in February.
Last week: 18

20 Milwaukee (3-2)
Pace: 97.6 (4), OffRtg: 99.1 (15), DefRtg: 100.2 (20)
It's a little early to look too much into lineup data, but the Bucks might have the worst starting lineup in the league. It's a unit that has been outscored by 31 points in just 50 minutes together and has been pretty awful on both ends of the floor. Their bench, led by Mike Dunleavy and Larry Sanders, has picked up the slack so far. But a change might be in order if the starters don't improve.
Last week: 20

21 Portland (2-4)
Pace: 95.3 (17), OffRtg: 101.3 (10), DefRtg: 108.4 (28)
A day after Jason Quick eviscerated LaMarcus Aldridge's shot selection, Aldridge proceeded to take 22 of his 26 shots from outside the paint against the Spurs on Saturday. The bigger problem, of course, is the Blazers' defense, which allowed 117 points per 100 possessions over three games last week. After a tough start, their schedule does ease up over the next 12 days.
Last week: 17

22 Phoenix (3-4)
Pace: 98.2 (2), OffRtg: 98.6 (18), DefRtg: 104.8 (26)
It hasn't been a great start in Phoenix for Michael Beasley, who shot 17-for-57 last week. Speaking of bad starts, the Suns got outscored 66-35 in the first quarter by the Cavs and Jazz over the weekend. They came back against Cleveland (see below about the Cavs' reserves), but couldn't do it in Utah. Now, they face the Nuggets, Bulls, Lakers and Heat this week. Smells like 0-4.
Last week: 27

23 Sacramento (2-5)
Pace: 95.7 (14), OffRtg: 92.6 (29), DefRtg: 99.6 (17)
Maybe the Kings could have beat the Lakers if he was in the lineup on Sunday, but DeMarcus Cousins' two-game suspension for "confronting Spurs announcer Sean Elliot in a hostile manner" will likely hurt more on Tuesday, when Cousins could have really taken advantage of the Blazers' porous interior defense. He totaled 44 points and 26 boards in the Kings' two wins last week.
Last week: 29

24 Golden State (3-4)
Pace: 98.0 (3), OffRtg: 95.6 (24), DefRtg: 98.2 (15)
Considering that Andrew Bogut has played only 73 minutes, the Warriors' defense has been pretty good. But they've shot less than 40 percent in four of their seven games and hurt themselves at the free throw line in their double-OT loss to Denver. Both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have shot 42-for-112 (38 percent), which is a pretty incredible coincidence ... and also pretty bad.
Last week: 22

25 Charlotte (2-3)
Pace: 95.2 (19), OffRtg: 103.0 (8), DefRtg: 110.0 (30)
Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard seem like the clear favorites for Rookie of the Year, but take a close look at what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is doing in Charlotte. He had 25 points, 12 rebounds, and a one-shoe and-one in Saturday's win over the Mavs. And amazingly, he's a plus-37 on a team that's a minus-37. The Bobcats have been much better on both ends with him on the floor.
Last week: 25

26 Toronto (1-5)
Pace: 96.2 (13), OffRtg: 98.9 (16), DefRtg: 102.2 (23)
It may already be time to forget that stat cited two weeks ago about teams who have lost fewer than two games in the preseason making the playoffs. What's most disappointing about the Raptors' start is the defense. And before you bring up Kyle Lowry's injury, note that the Raps have been better defensively with Jose Calderon on the floor than with Lowry (though it's very early in that regard).
Last week: 21

27 Cleveland (2-5)
Pace: 98.5 (1), OffRtg: 98.4 (20), DefRtg: 105.6 (27)
The Cavs' starting lineup has now had a positive plus-minus in six of their seven games, including a plus-17 on Sunday in OKC. The Cavs lost that game by 15, just the latest example of how awful their bench has been. And if you combined the Milwaukee starters with the Cleveland bench, you'd probably have a team worse than the Pistons. íViva el Central Division!
Last week: 26

28 Orlando (2-4)
Pace: 93.7 (24), OffRtg: 93.6 (28), DefRtg: 100.0 (19)
That 2-0 start is a thing of the past and the Magic offense has been hideous ever since. Already nine different guys have started for this team, a clear sign that Jacque Vaughn is experimenting in addition to dealing with injuries to three key rotation guys. Yet promising rookie Andrew Nicholson has only logged 69 minutes, mostly in garbage time, through six games.
Last week: 23

29 Washington (0-5)
Pace: 94.7 (22), OffRtg: 91.3 (30), DefRtg: 97.7 (12)
Want to know why the Wiz rank 30th offensively? Big men Trevor Booker, Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin have attempted a total of 17 free throws in 337 total minutes. In the race to victory No. 1, Washington has an advantage over Detroit with a trip to Charlotte on Tuesday, a stellar matchup of the No. 30 offense vs. the No. 30 defense. But the Wiz did lose at Charlotte in the preseason.
Last week: 28

30 Detroit (0-7)
Pace: 95.0 (21), OffRtg: 95.9 (23), DefRtg: 108.6 (29)
Lawrence Frank has been in this position before. Unfortunately, he never got out of it and was fired before the 2009-10 Nets won a game. Just three years later, only three of the 13 players from that 0-16 start are even in the league right now, evidence that Frank wasn't the main culprit. This team has more talent and it says here that they'll get their first win on Friday against the Magic.
Last week: 30

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