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Power Rankings: At season's quarter pole, Blazers take No. 1 spot

POSTED: Dec 9, 2013 12:34 PM ET

By John Schuhmann,


The Blazers have been one of the biggest surprises in the season's first quarter of games.

The quarter mark of the season, when teams have played about 20 games each, is supposed to be the time when we have a pretty good idea of where everybody stands.

Well, we're there. The season will be 1/4 of the way done (308/1,230) after Monday's six-game slate. But what do we know?

We think we know that the Indiana Pacers are the Miami Heat's biggest threat, but the two teams haven't met yet (that comes tomorrow night on NBA TV). We think we know that the Portland Trail Blazers are for real, but they rank 20th in defensive efficiency. We think we know the strengths and weaknesses of the other contenders in the West, but there will likely be a trade that puts one of them over the top. And we think that the Knicks and Nets are pretty bad, but both have been missing key pieces.

It's been a strange quarter of a season, with pleasant surprises, devastating injuries and a major discrepancy between the two conferences. And about all we can predict with some certainty is the two teams who will meet in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Power Rankings have settled down a bit, but there's still a big mess of mediocre teams in the middle of the pack and still a lot of basketball to be played before we have any real answers.

* * *

• Last week: The Western Conference is just too darn deep

• This time last year: Thunder rolling at the quarter pole -- The Knicks beat the Heat by 20 points for the second time and were 33-11 in the regular season under Mike Woodson. The Clippers were four games into a 17-game winning streak, the Pacers were under .500, and the Blazers came back from 18 down with seven minutes to go to beat the Bobcats.

• Plus-minus Stud: Avery Bradley (BOS) and Damian Lillard (POR) were each a plus-61 last week.
• Plus-minus Dud: Victor Oladipo (ORL) was a minus-72 in four games last week.

• Hero Team of the Week: Boston (3-0) -- The Celtics beat a top-10 team (Denver) and then destroyed a (relatively) hot team (New York) on its home floor.
• Zero Team of the Week: Brooklyn (1-2) -- The Nets scratched out a win in Milwaukee, but only after losing to the Nuggets and Knicks by a total of 54 points at home.

• High jumps of the week: New York (+6), Boston (+5), Portland (+5)
• Free falls of the week: Orlando (-7), Chicago (-3), Minnesota (-3)

• East vs. West: The West is 67-31 (.684) against the East in inter-conference games (31-9 against the Atlantic Division) and was 10-8 last week.

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Utah, 2. Minnesota, 3. Memphis
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Miami, 2. Indiana, 3. Houston
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.

* * *

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) - Click here
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here

The league is averaging 96.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.0 points scored per 100 possessions.

* * *

1. Portland Trail Blazers (Last Week: No. 2) -- Pace: 96.5 (14), OffRtg: 109.4 (1), DefRtg: 103.5 (20), NetRtg: +5.9 (6)

It was a good week to be watching hoops at the Moda Center. The Blazers' defense has fallen off, but the No. 1 offense in the league has made up for it. Similarly, the highs of wins over the Pacers and Thunder more than outweigh the low of getting beat at the buzzer by the Mavs. LaMarcus Aldridge looks like Player of the Week material, having averaged 26.3 points and 12.8 boards in four games.

This week: @ UTA, vs. HOU, @ PHI, @ DET

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (Last Week: No. 3) -- Pace: 98.8 (5), OffRtg: 105.4 (7), DefRtg: 98.6 (5), NetRtg: +6.8 (5)

The Thunder don't need to get off to a great start to win a game (they won their four second quarters by a total of 41 points last week), but it's nice when they do. And in eight first-quarter minutes against the Pacers on Sunday, the OKC starters were a plus-10. Prior to Sunday, the starters were a minus-48 in 181 minutes and the Thunder were the fifth worst team in the first six minutes of games.

This week: @ ATL, @ MEM, vs. LAL, vs. ORL

3. Indiana Pacers (Last Week: No. 1) -- Pace: 95.5 (20), OffRtg: 102.3 (13), DefRtg: 93.2 (1), NetRtg: +9.1 (3)

All three of the Pacers' losses, including Sunday's beatdown by the Thunder, have come on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. Four of their next five road games are the second night of back-to-backs, but they play 13 of their next 18 games, including Tuesday's showdown with the Heat, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where they've outscored their opponents by 16.6 points per 100 possessions.

This week: vs. MIA, vs. CHA

4. Miami Heat (Last Week: No. 2) -- Pace: 96.0 (18), OffRtg: 108.4 (2), DefRtg: 99.3 (6), NetRtg: +9.1 (2)

This rebounding issue is not going away. The Heat allowed 59 offensive rebounds and 76 second chance points in their four games last week. Their defensive rebounding percentage has regressed each of the last three years and their best defensive rebounder is Michael Beasley. The good news is that the Pacers aren't nearly as good an offensive rebounding team as they were last season.

This week: @ IND, vs. CLE

5. San Antoino Spurs (Last Week: No. 4) -- Pace: 97.2 (12), OffRtg: 105.2 (9), DefRtg: 95.4 (2), NetRtg: +9.7 (1)

After a 13-1 start, the Spurs are slumping, having lost three of their last five games. But maybe Kawhi Leonard broke out of his slump with 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting in Saturday's loss to Indiana. He had shot 3-for-21 from 3-point range over his previous nine games and the Spurs have scored just 97.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, as opposed to 115.6 with him on the bench.

This week: @ TOR, @ MIL, vs. MIN, @ UTA

6. Houston Rockets (Last Week: No. 5) -- Pace: 99.0 (4), OffRtg: 107.8 (3), DefRtg: 100.0 (8), NetRtg: +7.8 (4)

James Harden was a victim of some brutal blow-bys earlier in the week (see here and here, for example), but has since vowed to actually try on defense. And the Rockets' D was so good in wins against the Warriors and Magic over the weekend that it didn't matter that their bench shot 2-for-21 from 3-point range. Of course, that kind of shooting might provide more motivation to get something for Omer Asik.

This week: @ POR, @ GSW, @ SAC

7. Dallas Mavericks (Last Week: No. 10) -- Pace: 97.8 (9), OffRtg: 106.0 (5), DefRtg: 104.1 (23), NetRtg: +1.9 (11)

Though their defense comes and goes, Monta Ellis' game-winner in Portland on Saturday basically announced the Mavs as a team to be dealt with in the Western Conference. And though Ellis hit the big shot, it was one of Dirk Nowitzki's best offensive performances of the season. In fact, it was the first time he's recorded at least 25 points and seven assists since the Mavs' championship.

This week: @ SAC, @ GSW, vs. MIL

8. Denver Nuggets (Last Week: No. 7) -- Pace: 98.5 (6), OffRtg: 105.8 (6), DefRtg: 102.5 (18), NetRtg: +3.3 (9)

The Nuggets trailed 17-11 in Brooklyn on Tuesday, 24-17 in Cleveland on Wednesday, 14-0 in Boston on Friday, and 12-4 in Philadelphia on Saturday. They're, by far, the league's worst team in the first six minutes of games, playing brutal defense and getting outscored by 26.8 points per 100 possessions. Amazingly, they're the third best team in the last six minutes of the first quarter.

This week: @ WAS, vs. UTA, vs. NOP

9. Los Angeles Clippers (Last Week: No. 8) -- Pace: 98.1 (8), OffRtg: 106.1 (4), DefRtg: 101.9 (14), NetRtg: +4.1 (8)

After allowing 106.8 points per 100 possessions over their first 11 games, the Clippers have allowed just 96.5 over their last 10. But they still have moments like this (watch Blake Griffin) that make it hard to believe that they can be a top-10 defensive team without a roster change. They're 1-2 on their seven-game trip and are one of three West teams with a losing record (3-5) against the East.

This week: @ PHI, @ BOS, @ BKN, @ WAS

10. Phoenix Suns (Last Week: No. 9) -- Pace: 96.4 (15), OffRtg: 104.6 (10), DefRtg: 102.4 (17), NetRtg: +2.2 (10)

Six of the nine rookie coaches have their teams above .500 and/or surpassing expectations, but it's hard to argue that any of the other eight have done a better job than Jeff Hornacek. The Suns are the second-most improved offensive team (plus-6.4 points per 100 possessions) and the seventh most improved defensive team (minus-3.2) from last season. Only Portland has improved more on both ends.

This week: @ LAL, vs. SAC, vs. GSW

11. Golden State Warriors (Last week: No. 11) -- Pace: 98.1 (7), OffRtg: 103.9 (11), DefRtg: 99.7 (7), NetRtg: +4.2 (7)

The Warriors went 1-1 in games they trailed by 27 points or more last week. Their comeback against the Raptors was just their third game against the East. No West team has played fewer, but after Monday's visit to Charlotte, the Dubs play nine straight games against the West (none against Sacramento or Utah). If their defense is going to hold up, they need Andre Iguodala back soon.

This week: @ CHA, vs. DAL, vs. HOU, @ PHX

12. Los Angeles Lakers (Last Week: No. 13) -- Pace: 99.6 (3), OffRtg: 101.6 (16), DefRtg: 103.1 (19), NetRtg: -1.5 (20)

Kobe Bryant will eventually help the Lakers, but in the short-term, he provides another challenge for Mike D'Antoni, because the Lakers' bench has been their strength. It's easy to understand why D'Antoni brought Bryant back into the game in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but not easy to understand why he took Xavier Henry out. Henry leads the team in plus-minus, even though he's seventh in minutes.

This week: vs. PHX, @ OKC, @ CHA

13. Washington Wizards (Last Week: No. 14) -- Pace: 95.8 (19), OffRtg: 100.9 (20), DefRtg: 101.9 (13), NetRtg: -1.0 (18)

This three-games-in12-days stretch was supposed to get the Wizards healthier. But Nene is still dealing with tendonitis and Martell Webster sprained his ankle against the Bucks on Friday. As long as John Wall is healthy, they have a chance, but their bench has been just brutal and without Nene or Webster, they played one of the ugliest overtimes you'll ever see, capped by this Wall/Ariza collision.

This week: vs. DEN, @ ATL, vs. LAC

14. Atlanta Hawks (Last Week: No. 17) -- Pace: 97.4 (11), OffRtg: 102.2 (14), DefRtg: 101.8 (12), NetRtg: +0.5 (14)

Kyle Korver's streak of 90 straight games with a 3-pointer is somewhat trivial, but he really is an offensive weapon. The Hawks are 51-39 in the 90 games and have scored 6.6 more points per 100 possessions with Korver on the floor than they have with him on the bench over the last two seasons. Through hard work and a couple of years with Tom Thibodeau, he's become a solid defender as well.

This week: vs. OKC, vs. WAS, @ NYK

15. Minnesota Timberwolves (Last Week: No. 12) -- Pace: 101.0 (2), OffRtg: 102.2 (15), DefRtg: 101.3 (10), NetRtg: +0.9 (12)

The Wolves are 7-2 when they shoot 32 percent from 3-point range, but they've done that just once in their last 11 games. They were the worst jump-shooting team in the league last season and, despite the additions of Kevin Martin and a healthy Kevin Love, have actually been worse from the perimeter this year, with an effective field goal percentage of just 41.0 percent from outside the paint.

This week: @ DET, vs. PHI, @ SAS, @ MEM

16. New Orleans Pelicans (Last Week: No. 15) -- Pace: 96.1 (16), OffRtg: 105.3 (8), DefRtg: 104.6 (24), NetRtg: +0.7 (13)

The Pelicans are obviously worse on both ends of the floor without Anthony Davis, but the defense has been particularly bad, having allowed more than 109 points per 100 possessions over the last four games. So this is where, in addition to Davis, they're missing Greg Stiemsma, who, like Davis, won't be back until the end of the month at the earliest. And the schedule over the rest of the month is difficult.

This week: vs. DET, vs. MEM, @ DEN

17. Detroit Pistons (Last Week: No. 21) -- Pace: 96.5 (13), OffRtg: 102.4 (12), DefRtg: 102.3 (16), NetRtg: +0.0 (15)

The Pistons have won their last four road games after an impressive trip in which they beat both Miami and Chicago, shooting 19-for-35 from 3-point range against two top-six defenses. Andre Drummond is still a little erratic from play to play, but he's a huge, athletic beast and his game-to-game production has been pretty consistent. He has double-figure rebounds in 15 of his last 16 games.

This week: vs. MIN, @ NOP, vs. BKN, vs. POR

18. Boston Celtics (Last Week: No. 23) -- Pace: 95.3 (22), OffRtg: 99.6 (23), DefRtg: 100.7 (9), NetRtg: -1.1 (19)

The Celtics are a top-10 defense, but their offense has been more improved, scoring 107 points per 100 possessions, as they've won six of their last eight games. Maybe Jordan Crawford -- averaging 17.1 points, 7.1 assists and only 1.9 turnovers in that stretch -- is really a starting point guard in this league. Following Tuesday's visit to Brooklyn, the Cs play seven of their next eight games at home.

This week: @ BKN, vs. LAC, vs. NYK

19. Chicago Bulls (Last Week: No. 16) -- Pace: 93.8 (27), OffRtg: 97.9 (26), DefRtg: 98.2 (4), NetRtg: -0.3 (16)

It's amazing that, despite their injuries, the Bulls still managed to beat the Heat ... in the regular season. Of course, a re-aggravated Achilles injury forced Luol Deng to sit out Saturday's loss to Detroit. Joakim Noah is still standing, but one of the most amazing stats of the first quarter is that Chicago has been much better defensively with Noah off the floor, allowing only 89.8 points per 100 possessions.

This week: vs. MIL, @ NYK, @ MIL, vs. TOR

20. Memphis Grizzlies (Last Week: No. 18) -- Pace: 92.0 (30), OffRtg: 100.0 (21), DefRtg: 103.9 (22), NetRtg: -3.9 (23)

Jerryd Bayless remains one of this season's biggest mysteries. After an 0-for-11 performance against the Warriors on Saturday, he's shooting 31 percent from the field and 23 percent on threes. Only Kevin Garnett has suffered a bigger effective field goal percentage drop-off. With Quincy Pondexter in and out of coach Dave Joerger's doghouse, the Grizz are again last in the league in 3-point makes and attempts.

This week: vs. ORL, vs. OKC, @ NOP, vs. MIN

21. Charlotte Bobcats (Last Week: No. 19) -- Pace: 94.3 (24), OffRtg: 94.8 (28), DefRtg: 97.2 (3), NetRtg: -2.5 (21)

The Bobcats are good against the bad, with a 9-3 record against the other 11 East teams currently under .500 after an easy win over the Sixers on Friday. Only four of their next 15 games are against that group, but another four are against Utah and Sacramento, so they may remain a top-10 defensive team (and a playoff contender) into the new year. Al Jefferson has four straight double-doubles.

This week: vs. GSW, vs. ORL, @ IND, vs. LAL

22. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: No. 22) -- Pace: 95.0 (23), OffRtg: 101.4 (17), DefRtg: 101.7 (11), NetRtg: -0.3 (17)

Masai Ujiri's extractions of Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay have been swift and painless (he actually got Draft picks back in one of the deals). But this is a different situation than the one in Denver, where his trades yielded a very good team right away. Bringing impact players into Toronto is an entirely different challenge and -- as it is for all these rebuilding teams -- future success in no guarantee.

This week: vs. SAS, vs. PHI, @ CHI

23. New York Knicks (Last Week: No. 29) -- Pace: 92.9 (29), OffRtg: 101.1 (19), DefRtg: 105.1 (26), NetRtg: -4.0 (24)

For two games, the Knicks were sharing the ball and shooting threes like they did last season. Then they got waxed by the Celtics on Sunday and the good vibes went out the window. Was it a step backward or just a hiccup you chalk up to a noon start? This week's games will provide some answers, but they have two more afternoon games this month, including Christmas Day against OKC.

This week: @ CLE, vs. CHI, @ BOS, vs. ATL

24. Cleveland Cavaliers (Last Week: No. 27) -- Pace: 96.1 (17), OffRtg: 94.5 (29), DefRtg: 102.1 (15), NetRtg: -7.5 (27)

Kyrie Irving's 0-for-9 game in Atlanta was the latest example of how the Cavs have been downright awful on the road. But they're now 6-3 at the Q, with wins over the Bulls, Nuggets and Clippers over the last nine days. They actually have the fifth-best home defense in the league after holding Denver and L.A. to just 170 points total. They still don't play a homestand of more than two games until late January.

This week: vs. NYK, @ ORL, @ MIA

25. Philadelphia 76ers (Last Week: No. 24) -- Pace: 101.6 (1), OffRtg: 98.2 (25), DefRtg: 105.3 (28), NetRtg: -7.1 (26)

Reminder: Make sure your fantasy players are active when they face the Sixers. This team plays at the fastest pace in the league, has a bottom-five defense, and seems to play at least one overtime every week. You should also get your hands on Tony Wroten if Michael Carter-Williams is going to miss more games. Always entertaining to watch, Wroten has averaged 19.8 points in his six starts.

This week: vs. LAC, @ MIN, @ TOR, vs. POR

26. Brooklyn Nets (Last Week: No. 25) -- Pace: 93.7 (28), OffRtg: 99.8 (22), DefRtg: 107.9 (29), NetRtg: -8.1 (28)

Injuries have been the Nets' biggest issue, but Jason Kidd's inexperience has certainly been one of the others. That Brooklyn went so long without running any pick-and-rolls against the Knicks' defense was rather absurd. Deron Williams' return on Tuesday will generate some offense, but 3-point defense has become a bigger issue of late and given how slow this team is, it might be hard to improve.

This week: vs. BOS, vs. LAC, @ DET

27. Orlando magic (Last Week: No. 20) -- Pace: 97.5 (10), OffRtg: 99.4 (24), DefRtg: 103.9 (21), NetRtg: -4.4 (25)

Thanks, in part, to Nikola Vucevic's absence over the last three games, the Magic have been outrebounded by 14 or more boards in four of their last five and yielded 31 second chance points in Tuesday's double-OT loss in Philadelphia. They have losing streaks of two, three, four and five games, in that order. They're 1-9 away from home and the road-heavy portion of their schedule continues this week.

This week: @ MEM, @ CHA, vs. CLE, @ OKC

28. Sacramento Kings (Last Week: No. 26) -- Pace: 95.5 (21), OffRtg: 101.3 (18), DefRtg: 104.7 (25), NetRtg: -3.4 (22)

It's difficult to envision Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins bringing out the best in each other offensively, but the departure of Greivis Vasquez creates more playing time for Isaiah Thomas, who has been the Kings' best player. They've scored over 110 points per 100 possessions in 207 minutes with Thomas and Cousins on the floor together and there will be more of those minutes going forward.

This week: vs. DAL, vs. UTA, @ PHX, vs. HOU

29. Utah Jazz (Last Week: No. 28) -- Pace: 94.1 (25), OffRtg: 96.1 (27), DefRtg: 108.1 (30), NetRtg: -11.9 (30)

After the Jazz got their two best wins of the season, Marvin Williams' injury forced them to go back to going big for the last three games. The opponents had something to do it, but their offense promptly disappeared with the small starting lineup. Their young group of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Kanter did have a nice stretch against the Pacers on Wednesday.

This week: vs. POR, @ SAC, @ DEN, vs. SAS

30. Milwaukee Bucks (Last Week: No. 30) -- Pace: 93.9 (26), OffRtg: 94.4 (30), DefRtg: 105.2 (27), NetRtg: -10.7 (29)

The Bucks' various injuries have provided John Henson (and his wingspan) with an opportunity to step up, and he's averaged 14.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his last five games as a starter. As a 24 percent shooter from outside the paint though, he should probably stay close to the basket. Khris Middleton (29 points on Friday's OT win in Washington) has had his moments as well.

This week: @ CHI, vs. SAS, vs. CHI, @ DAL's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via twitter.


Last week: 1

Indiana (16-1)
Pace: 95.6 (21), OffRtg: 101.6 (14), DefRtg: 89.7 (1), NetRtg: +11.8 (1)
The best defensive team of the past 36 seasons (since turnovers starting being counted) was the 2007-08 Celtics, who allowed 8.6 fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average. Through 17 games, these Pacers have allowed 12.0 fewer than the league average. That number will certainly go down on this trip, but they got off to a good start with Sunday's win in L.A.
This week: @ POR, @ UTA, @ SAS, @ OKC


Last week: 2

Miami (14-3)
Pace: 95.9 (17), OffRtg: 109.4 (1), DefRtg: 99.1 (6), NetRtg: +10.3 (3)
As Miami has won 10 straight games, their defensive ranking has risen 22 spots, LeBron James has shot 61 percent from the field, 48 percent from 3-point range and 84 percent from the free-throw line, Michael Beasley has averaged 18.1 (productive) minutes, Shane Battier has grown and shaved a hideous mustache, and Chris Bosh has morphed into Ray Allen. Eight days until Heat-Pacers.
This week: vs. DET, @ CHI, @ MIN, @ DET


Last week: 3

Oklahoma City (12-3)
Pace: 99.1 (6), OffRtg: 104.4 (10), DefRtg: 98.1 (5), NetRtg: +6.3 (5)
Russell Wesbrook's game-winner has been the highlight of the Thunder's seven-game winning streak that has included wins over the Nuggets, Clippers, Spurs, Warriors and Wolves. The young bench - Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb in particular - continues to provide a big lift. Two more marquee matchups - against the Blazers' No.3 offense and Pacers' No. 1 defense - await this week.
This week: @ SAC, @ POR, @ NOP, vs. IND


Last week: 4

San Antonio (14-3)
Pace: 97.5 (12), OffRtg: 105.0 (7), DefRtg: 93.5 (2), NetRtg: +11.5 (2)
The Spurs had been cruising through a relatively easy schedule, but went 0-2 against fellow Western Conference contenders - OKC and Houston - last week. Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili combined to shoot 4-for-29 from 3-point range in the two games. The league's top two defenses meet for the first time at the AT&T Center on Saturday. Both teams will be rested.
This week: vs. ATL, @ MIN, vs. IND


Last week: 5

Houston (13-5)
Pace: 99.3 (5), OffRtg: 109.3 (2), DefRtg: 100.7 (9), NetRtg: +8.6 (4)
The Rockets have won eight of their last nine games, a run capped by Saturday's win in San Antonio, their second fourth-quarter comeback on the road in the last week. The injuries are piling up (Jeremy Lin is out at least two weeks and Chandler Parsons is dealing with back spasms), but their defense has been better, having held each of their last four opponents under a point per possession.
This week: @ UTA, vs. PHX, vs. GSW, vs. ORL


Last week: 6

Portland (14-3)
Pace: 95.9 (19), OffRtg: 108.0 (3), DefRtg: 103.6 (21), NetRtg: +4.4 (7)
Counting preseason, the Blazers are 1-3 against the Suns and 18-2 against the rest of the league. Fortunately for Portland, they don't see Phoenix again until April. Fortunately for us, they host the Pacers and Thunder this week. And maybe it's the Indiana defense that can slow down Wesley Matthews, who doesn't seem to understand that human beings are not supposed to shoot this well.
This week: vs. IND, vs, OKC, vs. UTA, vs. DAL


Last week: 7

Denver (10-6)
Pace: 100.1 (3), OffRtg: 105.0 (9), DefRtg: 102.4 (14), NetRtg: +2.6 (10)
Remember when the Nuggets were 1-4 and had lost their starting center to a stress fracture? They're 9-2 with the league's fourth best offense since then. Nate Robinson has shot 29-for-52, including 13-for-24 from 3-point range, over the last five games. And he's doing it microwave-style, with a quarter of at least 10 points in each of the last four. He had 18 in the fourth on Sunday in Toronto.
This week: @ BOS, @ CLE, @ BOS, @ PHI


Last week: 8

L.A. Clippers (12-6)
Pace: 98.4 (8), OffRtg: 107.7 (4), DefRtg: 102.7 (17), NetRtg: +5.0 (6)
You just can't keep Willie Green out of the Clippers' starting lineup for very long. Chauncey Billups' injuries forced Green to start 60 games last season and now, with J.J. Redick out 6-8 weeks with a broken hand, Green is back as a starter, having played just 52 minutes in the Clips' first 17 games. Doc Rivers went with two point guards on the floor for 10 minutes in Sunday's loss to the Pacers.
This week: @ ATL, @ MEM, @ CLE


Last week: 9

Phoenix (9-8)
Pace: 96.5 (14), OffRtg: 105.0 (8), DefRtg: 102.4 (15), NetRtg: +2.6 (9)
After missing last season, it took Channing Frye a little while to warm up. But after shooting 6-for-27 from 3-point range through his first eight games, Frye has shot 25-for-51 on threes over the last nine. The Suns have scored 114.2 points per 100 possessions with Frye and Goran Dragic on the floor together, the second-highest mark among tandems that have logged at least 300 minutes together.
This week: @ MEM, @ HOU, vs. TOR


Last week: 10

Dallas (10-8)
Pace: 98.3 (9), OffRtg: 106.3 (5), DefRtg: 104.8 (25), NetRtg: +1.5 (13)
After a 6-1 stretch, the Mavs have lost four of their last five. It's been a mix of bad offense and bad D, so there are no easy answers, though they could just blame the schedule, having played six back-to-backs in November and 11 of their 18 games against teams at or above .500. But they have another back-to-back early this week and then head out west to face the Blazers, Kings and Warriors.
This week: vs. CHA, @ NOP, @ POR


Last week: 11

Golden State (10-8)
Pace: 98.6 (7), OffRtg: 103.6 (11), DefRtg: 99.4 (7), NetRtg: +4.2 (8)
It was a thrilling week in Warrior World, as their four games were determined by a total of eight points. But the bottom line is that their only two wins in the last seven games were nail-biters against the Pelicans and Kings. They did break out offensively (thanks to 15 threes in 25 tries) in Sacramento on Sunday after scoring fewer than 98 points per 100 possessions over the previous six games.
This week: vs. TOR, @ HOU, @ MEM


Last week: 12

Minnesota (9-10)
Pace: 101.0 (2), OffRtg: 103.3 (12), DefRtg: 101.2 (11), NetRtg: +2.1 (11)
The Wolves have lost six of their last eight games to slip below .500 and into 13th place in the unforgiving Western Conference standings. They ranked fifth defensively just nine days ago, but have allowed opponents to shoot 47 percent from 3-point range and score 110 points per 100 possessions over their last five games. And now they face the two teams that met in The Finals.
This week: vs. SAS, vs. MIA


Last week: 13

L.A. Lakers (9-9)
Pace: 99.9 (4), OffRtg: 101.4 (15), DefRtg: 102.7 (16), NetRtg: -1.3 (17)
Which was the more surprising event in the Lakers' week, the announcement of Kobe Bryant's extension on Monday or the charge that DPOY candidate Nick Young took to beat the Pistons on Friday? It will be great to have Bryant back (maybe this week), but it's also been a blast seeing this band of misfits manage to win nine games without him. The somwhat-decent defense has been a real surprise.
This week: @ SAC, vs. TOR


Last week: 14

Washington (8-9)
Pace: 95.9 (18), OffRtg: 100.8 (17), DefRtg: 102.8 (18), NetRtg: -2.0 (20)
The Wizards have won six of their last eight games and can get to .500 on Monday, but depth has been an issue. They've been without Al Harrington and either Trevor Ariza or Bradley Beal for the last nine. Their starters (with either Beal or Ariza) are a plus-64 over those nine games, while all other lineups are a minus-59. With just three games in the first 12 days of December, there's a chance to get healthier.
This week: vs. ORL, vs. MIL


Last week: 15

New Orleans (8-8)
Pace: 96.6 (13), OffRtg: 105.7 (6), DefRtg: 103.8 (23), NetRtg: +1.9 (12)
Just when we were starting to see how potent the Pelicans could be with their best five players on the floor, Anthony Davis went down with a broken left hand. With Ryan Anderson shooting like he is (28-for-52 from 3-point range), the 'Cans should still be able to score some points, but they face two top-five defenses this week and have been a pretty bad defensive team with Davis on the bench.
This week: @ CHI, vs. DAL, vs. OKC


Last week: 16

Chicago (7-8)
Pace: 94.3 (25), OffRtg: 97.3 (25), DefRtg: 96.9 (3), NetRtg: +0.5 (14)
The Bulls' week started with the news that Derrick Rose was out for the season and a 39-point loss to the Clippers. But the low point (on-court, at least) may have been Saturday's loss in Cleveland, in which their defense failed them. Overall, it was a brutal, 1-5 circus trip and they will have to regroup to hang around that .500 mark. The schedule over the next two weeks is certainly favorable.
This week: vs. NOP, vs. MIA, vs. DET


Last week: 17

Atlanta (9-9)
Pace: 97.6 (11), OffRtg: 101.0 (16), DefRtg: 102.1 (12), NetRtg: -1.1 (16)
If it weren't for a 24-12 fourth quarter and Al Horford's game-winner against the Mavs on Friday, the Hawks would be on a five-game losing streak. Their offense is struggling, especially with Kyle Korver missing the last three games. Jeff Teague has shot 32 percent over the last five. But after they visit San Antonio on Monday, the Hawks play seven of their next eight games at the Highlight Factory.
This week: @ SAS, vs. LAC, vs. CLE


Last week: 18

Memphis (8-8)
Pace: 92.1 (30), OffRtg: 100.1 (21), DefRtg: 103.1 (19), NetRtg: -2.9 (21)
The Grizzlies have won five straight on the road (allowing 96.4 points per 100 possessions) and lost four straight at home (allowing 109.9). If that latter streak doesn't end on this six-game homestand (which began with Saturday's Zach Randolph-less loss to the Nets), they're in serious trouble. Eight of their next nine games are against teams in the top 13 in the West standings.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. LAC, vs. GSW


Last week: 19

Charlotte (8-10)
Pace: 94.1 (26), OffRtg: 94.3 (29), DefRtg: 97.9 (4), NetRtg: -3.6 (22)
Sunday's loss in Miami basically confirmed that the Bobcats are indeed a good defensive team, even with Al Jefferson on the floor. They held the No.1 offense to just 61 points over the first 36 minutes before Chris Bosh & Co. shot 8-for-13 from outside the paint in the fourth quarter. Of course, their eight wins have been against opponents with a cumulative winning percentage of 0.381.
This week: @ DAL, vs. PHI


Last week: 20

Orlando (6-10)
Pace: 98.1 (10), OffRtg: 100.7 (18), DefRtg: 102.3 (13), NetRtg: -1.5 (19)
After allowing 95.3 points per 100 possessions through their first seven games, the Magic have allowed 107.9 over their last nine. But they slowed down the the Hawks and Sixers in wins last week and have been getting more consistent production from Victor Oladipo since moving him to the starting lineup. He's scored 15-plus points in five of his six starts, shooting 47 percent in the six games.
This week: @ WAS, @ PHI, @ NYK, @ HOU


Last week: 21

Detroit (7-10)
Pace: 96.3 (15), OffRtg: 102.2 (13), DefRtg: 103.7 (22), NetRtg: -1.4 (18)
Andre Drummond had a huge game (31 points, 19 rebounds and six steals) against the Sixers on Sunday, but Rodney Stuckey has been the Pistons' best and most consistent offensive player this season. He's scored 16 or more points off the bench in each of the last 10 games, shooting 52 percent over that stretch and even throwing down a nasty dunk against Carlos Boozer and the Bulls.
This week: @ MIA, @ MIL, @ CHI, vs. MIA


Last week: 22

Toronto (6-10)
Pace: 94.8 (24), OffRtg: 100.7 (20), DefRtg: 100.4 (8), NetRtg: +0.2 (15)
With a three-game losing streak, the Raptors' Atlantic Division lead is down to a half game. (Yes, they still lead the division at 6-10.) Their schedule isn't getting easier any time soon. Sunday's loss to Denver began a stretch of 11 games in which eight of the opponents are West teams with winning records. They're 0-6, scoring just 95.3 points per 100 possessions, against teams currently above .500.
This week: @ GSW, @ PHX, @ LAL


Last week: 23

Boston (7-12)
Pace: 95.8 (20), OffRtg: 96.9 (26), DefRtg: 101.1 (10), NetRtg: -4.3 (23)
The Celtics have a storied history, but when Jordan Crawford recorded a triple-double against the Cavs on Friday, he was only the ninth Celtic to do it. Jared Sullinger continues to be Boston's best player, now averaging 15.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in seven games as a starter. The Celtics have been more than 11 points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. DEN, @ NYK


Last week: 24

Philadelphia (6-12)
Pace: 102.4 (1), OffRtg: 98.3 (24), DefRtg: 105.0 (26), NetRtg: -6.7 (26)
With eight losses in their last nine games, the Sixers are looking more like the team we thought they'd be. But Evan Turner continues to redefine himself, averaging 20.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists over the last seven games. He's been much more efficient this season, but Spencer Hawes has actually seen a bigger true shooting percentage jump (9.3 percent vs. 6.5 percent) from last year.
This week: vs. ORL, @ CHA, vs. DEN


Last week: 25

Brooklyn (5-12)
Pace: 94.9 (23), OffRtg: 99.7 (22), DefRtg: 106.6 (29), NetRtg: -6.9 (27)
The silver lining to an ugly start? Jason Kidd has been so desperate for answers that, in addition to spilling drinks, he's given guys at the end of the bench a chance to play real minutes. Mason Plumlee, Tyshawn Taylor and Mirza Teletovic have all had their moments, which could pay off down the line as Kidd tries to keep his veterans fresh (once they get healthy). The Nets play 13 of their next 19 at home.
This week: vs. DEN, vs. NYK, @ MIL


Last week: 26

Sacramento (4-11)
Pace: 95.4 (22), OffRtg: 100.7 (19), DefRtg: 105.4 (28), NetRtg: -4.7 (24)
Swapping Luc Mbah a Moute for Derrick Williams doesn't seem like a wise move for a team that has played the league's worst defense over the last five years. But the Kings did play two of their better games of the season with Williams in the starting lineup. They just couldn't get the buckets (in OT against the Clippers) or the stops (in the fourth quarter against the Warriors) they needed to win either one.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. LAL, @ UTA


Last week: 27

Cleveland (5-12)
Pace: 96.1 (16), OffRtg: 94.3 (28), DefRtg: 103.2 (20), NetRtg: -8.8 (28)
Did Andrew Bynum have his breakout game on Saturday, or were his 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks against Joakim Noah and the Bulls just a fluke? It was his seventh straight start and the most minutes he's played in over a year and a half, so maybe he's starting to get comfortable. The Cavs desperately need something inside offensively, which might help Kyrie Irving get on track.
This week: vs. DEN, @ ATL, vs. LAC


Last week: 28

Utah (3-15)
Pace: 94.1 (27), OffRtg: 94.8 (27), DefRtg: 106.8 (30), NetRtg: -12.0 (30)
The Jazz are 2-2 since going small with their starting lineup. For the season, they are a minus-176 in 403 minutes with two of their three bigs (Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert) on the floor, scoring 87.6 points per 100 possessions. They're a plus-2 in 465 minutes with less than two bigs on the floor, scoring 101.1 points per 100 possessions. Trey Burke has given the offense a boost.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. IND, @ POR, vs. SAC


Last week: 29

New York (3-13)
Pace: 93.3 (29), OffRtg: 99.0 (23), DefRtg: 105.4 (27), NetRtg: -6.3 (25)
There are no easy answers for the Knicks, especially because they have nobody who can competently defend a pick-and-roll until Tyson Chandler gets back. Even Kenyon Martin has been at the center of a bunch of defensive breakdowns. They've lost nine straight games (and seven straight at home) and will be in last place in the East if the Bucks can beat Boston on Tuesday or Detroit on Wednesday.
This week: @ BKN, vs. ORL, vs. BOS


Last week: 30

Milwaukee (3-13)
Pace: 94.0 (28), OffRtg: 93.1 (30), DefRtg: 104.2 (24), NetRtg: -11.1 (29)
After scoring 18 points on 5-for-27 shooting in his first three games back from a hamstring injury, Brandon Knight scored 37 points on 14-for-25 shooting over the last two. Of course, if the Bucks want to win a game, they need more than one guy putting points on the board. That's what they got in Saturday's win over the Celtics, when O.J. Mayo caught fire and dropped 22. Break up the Bucks!
This week: @ BOS, vs. DET, @ WAS, vs. BKN