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Spurs on top in early going, but it's wide open

Power Rankings: Preseason

POSTED: Oct 27, 2014 11:35 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Could this finally be the year that the Spurs repeat as NBA champions?

For just the second time in the 13-year history of the GM Survey, five different teams received multiple votes to win The Finals. The San Antonio Spurs got the most votes, but still less than half.

Yep, nobody really knows what's going to happen this season. All we know is that the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers are probably going to meet in the Eastern Conference finals. But even that depends on the health of some players that haven't been all that healthy in recent years. We've said the same about the Bulls and Miami Heat before, only to see that get blown up by Derrick Rose's injuries and the Indiana Pacers' defense.

The West seems particularly wide open, given the age of the Spurs and the health of Kevin Durant. The Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers all could be heirs to the throne if new personnel fits right or if they take the needed step forward on one end of the floor or the other.

May and June are a long ways away, but we'll start getting answers to all our questions about the 2014-15 season on Tuesday.

For now, here's how the teams stand, starting with the champs and the guy they could be facing in The Finals for the third straight year.

* * *

• Summer: LeBron's move brings parity to the East
• This time last year: Heat start the year on top -- Derrick Rose looked great in the preseason, the Wizards traded for Marcin Gortat four days before the season started, the Thunder began the year without Russell Westbrook, and some dummy thought the Phoenix Suns were the worst team in the league.

• High jumps of the preseason: Cleveland (+5), Utah (+5), Detroit (+3)
• Free falls of the preseason: Indiana (-9), Minnesota (-7), Oklahoma City (-5)

* * *

Records and stats in the table below are from last season.

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 averaged 96.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.0 points scored per 100 possessions last season.

* * *'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

San Antonio (62-20)
Pace: 97.1 (12), OffRtg: 108.2 (6), DefRtg: 100.1 (4), NetRtg: +8.1 (1)
The Spurs' underwhelming preseason (2-5, fourth worst NetRtg) will either be looked back at as another reason to ignore these games or as the first sign that they didn't have what it takes to repeat. It's probably the former, but you know Gregg Popovich doesn't want to hear that. Dallas-San Antonio on Tuesday is a pretty good way to get the season started.
This week: vs. DAL, @ PHX


Last week: 7

Cleveland (33-49)
Pace: 95.7 (18), OffRtg: 101.3 (23), DefRtg: 104.8 (17), NetRtg: -3.5 (23)
If the Cavs' offense wasn't scary enough, note that they led the preseason in offensive rebounding percentage ... with two guys grabbing more offensive boards (in fewer minutes) than Kevin Love. Interestingly, they played at the preseason's slowest pace, which doesn't seem like a great idea when you have the talent advantage every night.
This week: vs. NYK, @ CHI


Last week: 3

L.A. Clippers (57-25)
Pace: 98.4 (7), OffRtg: 109.4 (1), DefRtg: 102.1 (7), NetRtg: +7.3 (2)
Here's a team that really needs to flip the switch. The Clips ranked 29th defensively in the preseason and were the league's worst rebounding team. They still have questions on the wing, where Matt Barnes shot a brutal 1-for-24 from 3-point range. Good news: they play eight of their first nine games at Staples Center and don't leave California for three weeks.
This week: vs. OKC, @ LAL, vs. SAC


Last week: 5

Golden State (51-31)
Pace: 98.5 (6), OffRtg: 105.3 (12), DefRtg: 99.9 (3), NetRtg: +5.4 (6)
Steve Kerr's offensive changes seem to be working. The Warriors passed the ball more in the preseason and led the league in effective field goal percentage by a wide margin, as Klay Thompson campaigned for a max contract extension. But if Harrison Barnes is going to start and play more minutes than Andre Iguodala, the defense is going to suffer.
This week: @ SAC, vs. LAL, @ POR


Last week: 4

Dallas (49-33)
Pace: 95.7 (17), OffRtg: 109.0 (3), DefRtg: 105.9 (22), NetRtg: +3.0 (11)
As you might have guessed, the Mavs' offense looked unstoppable at times in the preseason, with nine different guys hitting at least five 3s. Though an injury to Dirk Nowitzki or Tyson Chandler would still be devastating, this team is ridiculously deep in the backcourt and on the wings. Rick Carlisle is going to have some fun this season.
This week: @ SAS, vs. UTA, @ NOP


Last week: 6

Chicago (48-34)
Pace: 92.7 (28), OffRtg: 99.7 (28), DefRtg: 97.8 (2), NetRtg: +1.9 (12)
Derrick Rose's World Cup performance wasn't all that worrisome, but his preseason was fantastic in comparison. He finished plays much better, shot much better, and turned the ball over less, averaging 27.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per 36 minutes. But if Joakim Noah's left knee is really "going to be an issue all season long" ... uh, oh.
This week: @ NYK, vs. CLE, @ MIN


Last week: 2

Oklahoma City (59-23)
Pace: 97.9 (9), OffRtg: 108.1 (7), DefRtg: 101.0 (5), NetRtg: +7.1 (3)
As long as Kevin Durant's foot heals OK, the Thunder will be fine in the long run. In the meantime, watching Russell Westbrook without Durant is going to be fascinating. Also, while the Spurs are playing just two games in their first eight days of the season, the Thunder are going from Portland to L.A. to OKC to Brooklyn to Toronto in their first seven days.
This week: @ POR, @ LAC, vs. DEN


Last week: 8

Portland (54-28)
Pace: 97.5 (10), OffRtg: 108.3 (5), DefRtg: 104.7 (16), NetRtg: +3.5 (8)
Only the Spurs go into the season with more continuity than the Blazers, who may be a little deeper than they were last year if C.J. McCollum continues to get minutes in the backcourt come Wednesday. They will still lean heavily on their starters and still need to turn it up defensively if they want to challenge the top three teams in the West.
This week: vs. OKC, @ SAC, vs. GSW


Last week: 11

Memphis (50-32)
Pace: 92.2 (30), OffRtg: 103.3 (16), DefRtg: 102.1 (8), NetRtg: +1.2 (14)
Quincy Pondexter is back and Vince Carter has been added, but the Grizz will still lack floor spacing in their starting lineup, with Courtney Lee and Tony Allen at the wings. Taking health out of the equation, they might be the easiest team in the league to project. They're going to play great defense, not-so great offense, and land a lower seed in the West.
This week: vs. MIN, @ IND, @ CHA


Last week: 10

Toronto (48-34)
Pace: 94.4 (23), OffRtg: 105.8 (9), DefRtg: 102.4 (9), NetRtg: +3.5 (9)
Terrence Ross is still inconsistent and Jonas Valanciunas is still getting less than 20 percent of his team's shots when he's on the floor, so it remains to be seen how the Raptors will improve offensively. But after a slow start, their defense was strong in the preseason, holding each of their last four NBA opponents under 90 points per 100 possessions.
This week: vs. ATL, @ ORL, @ MIA


Last week: 9

Houston (54-28)
Pace: 98.8 (5), OffRtg: 108.6 (4), DefRtg: 103.1 (12), NetRtg: +5.5 (5)
Isaiah Canaan's strong preseason (28.0 points per 36 minutes on an effective field goal percentage of 59.1 percent) eases worries about backcourt depth, but how well the Rockets perform when Dwight Howard sits will be interesting. Undrafted rookie Tarik Black looks to be the back-up center as they play seven of their first 11 games on the road.
This week: @ LAL, @ UTA, vs. BOS


Last week: 12

Washington (44-38)
Pace: 95.5 (19), OffRtg: 103.3 (18), DefRtg: 102.4 (10), NetRtg: +0.9 (15)
The Wizards already weren't a high volume 3-point shooting team. But with Trevor Ariza in Houston and both Bradley Beal and Martell Webster sidelined, they're really struggling to space the floor. Only the "Let's take it back to '79" Lakers made fewer 3s per game and only the Sixers scored fewer points per possession in the preseason.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, vs. MIL


Last week: 15

Phoenix (48-34)
Pace: 98.2 (8), OffRtg: 107.1 (8), DefRtg: 103.8 (13), NetRtg: +3.3 (10)
Jeff Hornacek went to a three-point-guard lineup down the stretch of a preseason win over the Jazz on Friday. We'll see if he goes back to it when the games count. The pressure will mostly be on the Morris twins to replace Channing Frye's floor spacing, take some of the scoring burden off the guards, and keep the Suns in the top 10 offensively.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. SAS, @ UTA


Last week: 14

Miami (54-28)
Pace: 93.3 (27), OffRtg: 109.0 (2), DefRtg: 102.9 (11), NetRtg: +6.1 (4)
Chris Bosh posted up more in the preseason, but is still very much a jump-shooting big. He took 62 percent of his preseason shots from outside the paint (up from 60 percent last season). Not coincidentally, the Heat were still one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, allowing 11.6 offensive boards and 16.0 second-chance points per game.
This week: vs. WAS, @ PHI, vs. TOR


Last week: 16

Charlotte (43-39)
Pace: 94.7 (21), OffRtg: 101.2 (24), DefRtg: 101.2 (6), NetRtg: +0.1 (16)
We're still waiting for signs that Lance Stephenson will bring improved offense to Charlotte. The Hornets had the 27th-ranked offense and the league's worst effective field goal percentage in the preseason, and they were worse offensively in the four games Stephenson played than in the four he missed. Getting him comfortable may take some time.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. MEM, @ NYK


Last week: 17

Brooklyn (44-38)
Pace: 93.7 (25), OffRtg: 104.4 (14), DefRtg: 104.9 (19), NetRtg: -0.6 (17)
You don't think run-and-gun when you think of Lionel Hollins, but the Nets made the league's biggest jump from their pace last season to their pace in the preseason. No matter how fast they're playing, their success will depend on the ankles of Deron Williams and the right foot of Brook Lopez, who suffered another setback just three games into his return.
This week: @ BOS, @ DET


Last week: 19

Atlanta (38-44)
Pace: 96.9 (13), OffRtg: 103.4 (15), DefRtg: 104.1 (14), NetRtg: -0.7 (18)
The Hawks fell off more defensively than offensively when they lost Al Horford last season, but with his return, the potential is there for Spurs East to be a really tough team to stop. They have a quick and competent point guard, a willingness to share the ball, Kyle Korver's shooting, and the floor-spacingest frontline in the league. Depth remains a concern.
This week: @ TOR, vs. IND


Last week: 20

New Orleans (34-48)
Pace: 94.5 (22), OffRtg: 104.7 (13), DefRtg: 107.3 (25), NetRtg: -2.6 (21)
The return of Ryan Anderson gives the Pelicans the floor spacing they were missing last season, Omer Asik is a big defensive upgrade, Jrue Holiday is healthy, and Anthony Davis is the next big thing. The ingredients for the West's biggest win increase are there, and the preseason provided hints as to such. But will it be enough to crack the top eight?
This week: vs. ORL, vs. DAL


Last week: 21

New York (37-45)
Pace: 92.6 (29), OffRtg: 105.4 (11), DefRtg: 106.5 (24), NetRtg: -1.0 (19)
It's a long season and it takes a while for a team to master the Triangle, which looked rather stiff and robotic in the preseason. But the Knicks' first eight games will be fascinating in regard to their goal of making the playoffs. They play five teams that finished ahead of them last season (including the Hawks twice), as well as the Cavs and Pistons.
This week: vs. CHI, @ CLE, vs. CHA


Last week: 23

Detroit (29-53)
Pace: 97.4 (11), OffRtg: 102.9 (19), DefRtg: 107.3 (26), NetRtg: -4.4 (24)
Josh Smith took less than 10 percent of his preseason shots from 3-point range (down from 21 percent last season), a product of Stan Van Gundy staggering the minutes of his big three. But Smith took almost half his shots from mid-range, which is worse than launching 3s. The Pistons did show defensive improvement and did share the ball.
This week: @ DEN, @ MIN, vs. BKN


Last week: 22

Denver (36-46)
Pace: 100.7 (3), OffRtg: 103.3 (17), DefRtg: 105.4 (21), NetRtg: -2.1 (20)
Better get your spot on the Jusuf Nurkic bandwagon while there's still room. The No. 16 pick from Bosnia, a big dude with good hands, averaged 13.8 points and 17.4 boards per 36 minutes in the preseason and could make it tough for JaVale McGee to get back in the rotation and earn weekly spots on "Shaqtin' a Fool" once he's fully healthy.
This week: vs. DET, @ OKC


Last week: 13

Indiana (56-26)
Pace: 94.9 (20), OffRtg: 101.5 (22), DefRtg: 96.7 (1), NetRtg: +4.8 (7)
You knew that the Pacers' offense was going to be brutal, but when you see Chris Copeland playing a lot of minutes at small forward and failing to stay in front of guys like Richard Jefferson, you realize how much the Indy defense is going to suffer as well. They have the Sixers, Bucks and Celtics in their first six games, but also a bunch of early injuries.
This week: vs. PHI, vs. MEM, @ ATL


Last week: 24

Sacramento (28-54)
Pace: 96.7 (14), OffRtg: 102.9 (20), DefRtg: 106.3 (23), NetRtg: -3.4 (22)
Darren Collison or Ramon Sessions at the point? Ben McLemore or Nik Stauskas at the two? Carl Landry, Jason Thompson or Derrick Williams at the four? Mike Malone could go a lot of ways with his lineups this year, but its likely a case of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic until the Kings can add another player at or beyond DeMarcus Cousins' level.
This week: vs. GSW, vs. POR, @ LAC


Last week: 29

Utah (25-57)
Pace: 93.6 (26), OffRtg: 100.6 (25), DefRtg: 109.1 (30), NetRtg: -8.4 (28)
No bad team showed more promise in the preseason than the Jazz, who ranked ninth offensively and second defensively. Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward shot well, Dante Exum showed promise of early production, Alec Burks shook Kobe, and even though Quin Snyder wants his fours to shoot 3s, they were still strong on the boards. Maybe they're the new Suns.
This week: vs. HOU, @ DAL, vs. PHX


Last week: 18

Minnesota (40-42)
Pace: 99.8 (4), OffRtg: 105.6 (10), DefRtg: 104.1 (15), NetRtg: +1.4 (13)
The Wolves have a lot of young talent, but also a handful of solid vets, some of whom looked very good in preseason. Flip Saunders might want to stay competitive, but his team is still in the Western Conference. So you have to wonder which of those vets might be available to a playoff team as the season goes on. J.J. Barea is already on his way out the door.
This week: @ MEM, vs. DET, vs. CHI


Last week: 25

L.A. Lakers (27-55)
Pace: 101.0 (2), OffRtg: 101.9 (21), DefRtg: 107.9 (28), NetRtg: -6.0 (27)
No Steve Nash. No 3-pointers. No defense. This is going to get real ugly at times and you know it's bad when you're holding on until Nick Young returns. But hey, Julius Randle will be fun to watch and at some point in December, Kobe Bryant will pass Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. It would be cool if he did it in Chicago on Christmas.
This week: vs. HOU, @ PHX, vs. LAC, @ GSW


Last week: 26

Boston (25-57)
Pace: 95.9 (15), OffRtg: 99.7 (27), DefRtg: 105.2 (20), NetRtg: -5.5 (20)
Rajon Rondo could be back for the Celtics' opener on Wednesday, but his team had the No. 1 defense of the preseason, for what it's worth, without him. They led the league in opponent turnover rate, with Marcus Smart ranking second with 19 preseason steals. A Smart-Avery Bradley backcourt will not be friendly to opposing ball-handlers.
This week: vs. BKN, @ HOU


Last week: 27

Orlando (23-59)
Pace: 95.9 (16), OffRtg: 99.3 (29), DefRtg: 104.8 (18), NetRtg: -5.5 (25)
This is supposed to be the year that the Magic start moving forward, but they may have the league's worst record come Christmas, because Victor Oladipo is hurt, Channing Frye is hurt, they play 19 of their first 28 games on the road (where they were 4-37 last season), and six of the nine home games are against the Wizards, Raptors, Clippers, Heat and Warriors.
This week: @ NOP, vs. WAS, vs. TOR


Last week: 28

Milwaukee (15-67)
Pace: 94.3 (24), OffRtg: 100.2 (26), DefRtg: 108.9 (29), NetRtg: -8.7 (29)
Jason Kidd's coaching career in Brooklyn got off to a rough (10-21) start. It may be deja vu all over again in Milwaukee, because the young Bucks play 23 of their first 39 games on the road and don't have a homestand of more than two games until mid-January. O.J. Mayo and Jared Dudley combined to shoot 26-for-43 (60 percent) on preseason 3s.
This week: @ CHA, vs. PHI, @ WAS


Last week: 30

Philadelphia (19-63)
Pace: 101.6 (1), OffRtg: 96.8 (30), DefRtg: 107.5 (27), NetRtg: -10.7 (30)
It would be nice if Philly could throw a lineup of Michael Carter-Williams, K.J. McDaniels, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid into the fire right now. But only two of those guys -- McDaniels and Noel -- will be on the floor when the season starts. They'll block a lot of shots, but it doesn't look like this team is moving up from 30th in offensive efficiency anytime soon.
This week: @ IND, @ MIL, vs. MIA