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Kings keep surprising, keep climbing up the charts

Power Rankings: Week 2

POSTED: Nov 10, 2014 10:00 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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Led by DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings have put together a solid start to 2014-15.

Down they went. The Miami Heat suffered their first loss on Tuesday, at the hands of the Houston Rockets. The Rockets fell to Golden State on Saturday, the same night that the Memphis Grizzlies picked up loss No. 1 in Milwaukee. And the next night, the Warriors fell from the top of the standings with a defeat in Phoenix.

So nobody's going 82-0 this season. But the Dubs are still undefeated with Klay Thompson. The Rockets are still undefeated with Dwight Howard. The Grizzlies are still undefeated with Vince Carter. The Raptors are still undefeated with Amir Johnson. And heck, the Sixers are still undefeated with Michael Carter-Williams.

There's been a lot to sort out over the first two weeks of the season. The Warriors are still at No. 1, thanks to quality wins over the Blazers, Clippers, Rockets (even though they were short-handed) and Kings. Yes, a victory in Sacramento can now be considered a quality win.

We're still a few weeks away from the time when we can really evaluate things. The Clippers have yet to leave California, the Lakers have yet to face a team that had a losing record last season, the Cavs haven't played a home game that wasn't preceeded by a concert starring Kendrick Lamar, and the Nets and Nuggets have yet to play a back-to-back.

That doesn't mean that certain teams haven't been surprising or disappointing, or that there hasn't been plenty to learn from the first 97 games of the season.

Keep reading...

* * *

• Last week: Warriors lead four unbeatens
• This time last year: Pacers rise above early parity -- Indiana was the only team without a loss, Utah was the only team without a win, we finally learned which Morris twin was which (because one of them won Player of the Week), Andre Iguodala threw this pass, J.R. Smith returned from a five-game suspension with flair, and Jeff Green beat the Heat at the buzzer.

• Plus-minus stud: Dwight Howard (HOU) was a plus-62 in three games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Arron Afflalo (DEN) was a minus-65 in four games last week.

• Hero Team of the Week: Toronto (4-0) -- The Raptors moved to the top of the Eastern Conference with a perfect week, including a sound thrashing of the Wizards on Friday.
• Zero Team of the Week: New York (0-4) -- The Knicks gave the Pistons their first win, got hammered by the Wizards and Nets, and blew a 15-point lead in Atlanta.

• East vs. West: The West is 16-8 (0.667) against the East in interconference games and was 10-7 last week.

• High jumps of the week: Portland (+7), Toronto (+6), Milwaukee (+5)
• Free falls of the week: New York (-13), Cleveland (-7), Denver (-7), Oklahoma City (-7)

* * *

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

The league has averaged 96.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.4 points scored per 100 possessions through Sunday.

* * *

NBA.com'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.

1

Last week: 1

Golden State (5-1)
Pace: 103.3 (1), OffRtg: 102.2 (15), DefRtg: 91.4 (1), NetRtg: +10.8 (2)
Not only are the Warriors the best defensive team in the league, they're also the best shooting team in the league. But you can't shoot if you turn the ball over first, and their league-high turnover rate caught up with them in Phoenix on Sunday, when they coughed the ball up 27 times, the second time in two days they eclipsed last year's high.
This week: vs. SAS, vs. BKN, vs. CHA, @ LAL

2

Last week: 4

Houston (6-1)
Pace: 97.6 (8), OffRtg: 105.1 (10), DefRtg: 92.5 (2), NetRtg: +12.5 (1)
The Rockets' defense mostly held up OK without Dwight Howard on Saturday, though Patrick Beverley's ability to check Stephen Curry was missed. But Howard's screens and post-ups were clearly absent on offense, where the Rockets looked a lot like last year's post-Howard Lakers, shooting 3s (10-for-42) without first going inside.
This week: @ MIN, vs. PHI, @ OKC

3

Last week: 3

Memphis (6-1)
Pace: 94.0 (25), OffRtg: 99.5 (21), DefRtg: 92.6 (3), NetRtg: +6.8 (6)
After playing five of their last six games on the road, the Grizz will play six of their next seven at home. No matter the location, they need something out of their bench. They're 6-1, but every player but the six guys who have started has a negative plus-minus. Vince Carter was shooting 36 percent before getting the night off in Milwaukee on Saturday.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. SAC, vs. DET

4

Last week: 10

Toronto (6-1)
Pace: 97.1 (10), OffRtg: 109.4 (3), DefRtg: 99.9 (7), NetRtg: +9.5 (3)
With no Bradley Beal, we didn't get an answer on the better-backcourt question, but the Raptors' easy win over the Wizards on Friday was a good way to start a seven-game homestand. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been consistently good, but Terrence Ross' 3-point shooting (8-for-13 over the weekend) is more noteworthy.
This week: vs. ORL, vs. CHI, vs. UTA

5

Last week: 9

L.A. Clippers (4-2)
Pace: 97.5 (9), OffRtg: 106.3 (9), DefRtg: 106.1 (24), NetRtg: +0.2 (16)
The Clips got their butts handed to them by the Warriors on Wednesday, but fought through some early struggles to pick up an important win over Portland on Saturday. The defense hasn't been as bad as it was at the start of last season, but it's not nearly at a title-contender level. They've been bailed out at times by Jamal Crawford's shot-making.
This week: vs. SAS, vs. PHX

6

Last week: 13

Portland (4-3)
Pace: 95.3 (19), OffRtg: 107.7 (6), DefRtg: 99.0 (6), NetRtg: +8.7 (4)
The Blazers just might have an improved bench and an improved defense. They held the Warriors, Cavs and Mavs (three teams that could finish as top five offenses) to about 92 points per 100 possessions in three straight games before getting burned by J.J. Redick and the Clippers over the weekend. The next test will be Brooklyn's No. 2 offense on Saturday.
This week: vs. CHA, @ DEN, vs. BKN

7

Last week: 2

Miami (5-2)
Pace: 94.3 (21), OffRtg: 108.3 (5), DefRtg: 103.7 (19), NetRtg: +4.6 (8)
The Heat have two of the season's three highest assist totals, including 31 dimes in Sunday's impressive win in Dallas, and both Chris Bosh (12 assists per 100 possessions) and Dwyane Wade (25) are recording the highest assist rate of their careers. But the team's offense disappeared when they got no help against the Rockets and Hornets last week.
This week: vs. IND, @ ATL, vs. MIL

8

Last week: 11

Sacramento (5-2)
Pace: 97.8 (7), OffRtg: 103.3 (13), DefRtg: 100.0 (8), NetRtg: +3.3 (10)
Further tests lie ahead, but the Kings passed a big one in Phoenix on Friday. DeMarcus Cousins was denied the ball most of the night and then fouled out in regulation. Rudy Gay couldn't make a shot and they faced an overtime deficit of seven points before winning in double OT behind Darren Collison and Ben McLemore, who's starting to look like a player.
This week: @ DAL, @ MEM, vs. SAS

9

Last week: 5

San Antonio (2-3)
Pace: 95.6 (17), OffRtg: 96.9 (26), DefRtg: 101.4 (12), NetRtg: -4.5 (22)
The Spurs haven't been very good no matter who's on the floor, but their injuries and rest days haven't allowed for any kind of early continuity. Their most-used lineup has played just 26 minutes together, the fewest of any team's most-used lineup. That could make for better depth down the line, but it's scary that Kawhi Leonard might not see right for a while.
This week: @ LAC, @ GSW, @ LAL, @ SAC

10

Last week: 8

Chicago (5-2)
Pace: 95.0 (20), OffRtg: 108.6 (4), DefRtg: 102.6 (17), NetRtg: +6.0 (7)
Aaron Brooks is the latest diminutive, back-up point guard that has flourished with the Bulls ... on offense at least. Relying too much on Brooks, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell, the Bulls' defense hasn't been up to their standards. They've allowed 111 points per 100 possessions with at least two of those four guys on the floor.
This week: vs. DET, @ TOR, vs. IND

11

Last week: 7

Dallas (4-3)
Pace: 94.1 (23), OffRtg: 112.0 (1), DefRtg: 108.2 (26), NetRtg: +3.8 (9)
The Mavs still have the No. 1 offense in the league, but defense and rebounding (they rank 29th in defensive rebounding percentage) are big problems, they're 0-3 against teams that were in the playoffs last year, and Rick Carlisle criticized their competitiveness after Sunday's loss to the Heat. It's kind of early for that kind of an issue.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. PHI, vs. MIN

12

Last week: 15

Washington (5-2)
Pace: 95.5 (18), OffRtg: 101.5 (17), DefRtg: 98.2 (5), NetRtg: +3.2 (11)
It could have been an ugly weekend for the Wizards if the Pacers didn't run out of gas after cutting a 21-point, second-half deficit down to three on Saturday. Garrett Temple did a pretty good Trevor Ariza impersonation (14-for-27 from 3-point range) through five games, but was 1-for-8 against Toronto and Indy, maybe feeling the effects of four games in five nights.
This week: vs. DET, vs. ORL

13

Last week: 6

Cleveland (2-3)
Pace: 93.3 (28), OffRtg: 102.1 (16), DefRtg: 108.6 (27), NetRtg: -6.5 (24)
The Cavs were more cohesive in Denver on Friday, and a light schedule (one game in six days) will help them work on some things. But defense is a bigger problem than offense, and depth is an issue with Matthew Dellavedova (MCL sprain) out up to six weeks. David Blatt was leaning on Dellavedova and has basically played eight guys the last two games.
This week: vs. NOP, @ BOS, vs. ATL

14

Last week: 14

Phoenix (4-3)
Pace: 98.1 (6), OffRtg: 102.9 (14), DefRtg: 102.0 (14), NetRtg: +0.9 (13)
He's the new guy and he's coming off the bench, but Isaiah Thomas has been a barometer for the Suns' success. They're 4-0 when he's scored 20 points or more, including Sunday's win over the Warriors when he put up 15 in the fourth quarter. But they're 0-3 when he's scored 15 or less, like when he shot 1-for-4 against his old team on Friday.
This week: vs. BKN, vs. CHA, @ LAC

15

Last week: 18

Brooklyn (4-2)
Pace: 95.9 (15), OffRtg: 109.5 (2), DefRtg: 102.0 (13), NetRtg: +7.5 (5)
The Nets have the East's fifth-best record, its best offense, and its second-best point differential. But they've played the league's easiest schedule and are one of two teams (Denver is the other) that has yet to play a back-to-back. This week brings them one of those (Wednesday and Thursday against the Suns and Warriors), along with some real competition.
This week: @ PHX, @ GSW, @ POR

16

Last week: 20

New Orleans (3-2)
Pace: 95.7 (16), OffRtg: 100.8 (19), DefRtg: 100.3 (9), NetRtg: +0.4 (15)
Monday's game in Cleveland could tell us just how improved the Pelicans' defense is. The offense will continue to be bad if Eric Gordon (3-for-17 from 3-point range) can't hit from the outside or if Tyreke Evans (19-for-48 in the restricted area) can't finish on the inside. Somehow, Austin Rivers has been their most efficient guard by a wide margin.
This week: @ CLE, vs. LAL, vs. MIN

17

Last week: 17

Boston (3-3)
Pace: 99.2 (4), OffRtg: 107.1 (7), DefRtg: 107.0 (25), NetRtg: +0.1 (17)
Thankfully, Marcus Smart is out only 2-3 weeks. His injury means more of Evan Turner, who was just horrendous in Wednesday's loss to the Raptors, but solid as the starting point guard in Saturday's win in Chicago. The Celtics scored 109 points per 100 possessions in weekend wins over last season's top two defenses (Pacers and Bulls).
This week: vs. OKC, vs. CLE

18

Last week: 19

Atlanta (2-3)
Pace: 96.2 (13), OffRtg: 103.4 (12), DefRtg: 102.4 (16), NetRtg: +1.0 (12)
Shelvin Mack was a reliable back-up point guard last season, but a slow start this year gave Dennis Schroder a chance last week. The 21 year old proceeded to tie his career high with 10 points in Friday's loss in Charlotte and surpass it with 11 in Saturday's win over New York. He dunked on Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard and is 7-for-8 in the restricted area.
This week: @ NYK, vs. UTA, vs. MIA, @ CLE

19

Last week: 21

Charlotte (3-4)
Pace: 94.2 (22), OffRtg: 96.9 (25), DefRtg: 100.5 (10), NetRtg: -3.6 (20)
Gerald Henderson was been a staple in the Bobcats' rotation for four years, so it's weird to see him riding the pine for the Hornets. But their offense hasn't been so awful with P.J. Hairston on the floor. Lance Stephenson needs to go glass on all his 3-pointers, because Friday's game-winner is the only 3 he's hit all season.
This week: @ POR, @ PHX, @ GSW

20

Last week: 23

Utah (3-4)
Pace: 93.6 (27), OffRtg: 106.9 (8), DefRtg: 109.5 (28), NetRtg: -2.6 (19)
It's still early, but Dante Exum might already be better than Trey Burke. Neither has been great, neither can shoot, and there's no reason the Jazz can't keep both of them for a while. But it will be interesting to see which one Quin Snyder relies on more down the stretch of close games. It was Burke against the Cavs on Wednesday and Exum in Detroit on Sunday.
This week: @ IND, @ ATL, @ NYK, @ TOR

21

Last week: 25

Minnesota (2-4)
Pace: 97.0 (11), OffRtg: 100.9 (18), DefRtg: 102.3 (15), NetRtg: -1.4 (18)
The Wolves have been a tough out, with wins over Detroit and Brooklyn and narrow losses to Memphis and Chicago. But Ricky Rubio's ankle injury really hurts, because there's a big drop-off from him to Zach LaVine on both offense and defense. The team has been outscored by 14.1 points per 100 possessions in 149 minutes with Rubio off the floor thus far.
This week: vs. HOU, @ NOP, @ DAL

22

Last week: 27

Milwaukee (3-4)
Pace: 96.2 (14), OffRtg: 96.9 (24), DefRtg: 96.3 (4), NetRtg: +0.6 (14)
Sometimes it comes down to the little things, like Brandon Knight's head fake that got Marc Gasol to stand up before Knight scooted by him for the game-winning and-one on Saturday. The Bucks are a top-five defense, but have played five of their seven games against bottom-10 offenses. They play two more on Tuesday (Thunder) and Friday (Magic).
This week: vs. OKC, @ ORL, @ MIA

23

Last week: 16

Oklahoma City (2-5)
Pace: 94.0 (24), OffRtg: 96.7 (29), DefRtg: 106.1 (23), NetRtg: -9.4 (27)
The Thunder picked up more injuries last week and they haven't been able to rely on defense to get them through this stretch (maybe because they're missing one of the league's best shot-contesters), but they did get an important win over the Kings on Sunday and play three very winnable games this week. Treading water is still within the realm of possibility.
This week: @ MIL, @ BOS, vs. DET, vs. HOU

24

Last week: 26

Detroit (2-4)
Pace: 93.0 (29), OffRtg: 97.9 (23), DefRtg: 104.1 (20), NetRtg: -6.1 (23)
Stan Van Gundy broke the seal on the Smith-Monroe-Drummond combination last week, starting the big three in the last three games. They were a plus-5 in 38 total minutes, but the opponents (New York, Milwaukee and Utah) weren't exactly top-notch. Greg Monroe is the only one of the three that hasn't had a disappointing start to the season.
This week: @ CHI, @ WAS, @ OKC, @ MEM

25

Last week: 12

New York (2-5)
Pace: 91.2 (30), OffRtg: 100.2 (20), DefRtg: 109.8 (29), NetRtg: -9.6 (28)
If you only watched the Knicks this week, you might be wondering how they won two games last week. Carmelo Anthony shot 31 percent in the four games, their only healthy point guard is 5-foot-11 and played less than 500 minutes last season, and the Triangle continues to look bad at times. But unsurprisingly, the defense has been a more consistent problem.
This week: vs. ATL, vs. ORL, vs. UTA, vs. DEN

26

Last week: 28

Orlando (2-5)
Pace: 96.7 (12), OffRtg: 96.8 (27), DefRtg: 103.3 (18), NetRtg: -6.5 (25)
Not only did the Magic get two wins last week, but rookies Elfrid Payton (5-plus assists in all but one game) and Aaron Gordon (17 points in Friday's win over the Wolves) have looked rather competent at times. Evan Fournier (15.5 points on 49 percent shooting) has looked like a Most Improved candidate and Victor Oladipo is closer to a return.
This week: @ TOR, @ NYK, vs. MIL, @ WAS

27

Last week: 29

L.A. Lakers (1-5)
Pace: 98.9 (5), OffRtg: 103.5 (11), DefRtg: 114.6 (30), NetRtg: -11.1 (29)
Thanks to a big game from Jeremy Lin and the Hornets' anemic offense, the Lakers got off the schneid just before they began a stretch of seven games against six playoff teams and the Pelicans. Ed Davis -- shooting 71 percent and just a minus-1 in 136 minutes on a team that's been outscored by 59 points overall -- needs more playing time.
This week: @ MEM, @ NOP, vs. SAS, vs. GSW

28

Last week: 24

Indiana (1-6)
Pace: 93.8 (26), OffRtg: 96.7 (28), DefRtg: 101.1 (11), NetRtg: -4.3 (21)
The Pacers have been competitive every night, getting big games from guys like Chris Copeland, Donald Sloan (31 points in Washington on Wednesday) and Solomon Hill (28 against the Wiz on Saturday). But their injury situation just got worse with Roy Hibbert going down with a bruised left knee, and they'd be winless if it weren't for the Sixers.
This week: vs. UTA, @ MIA, vs. DEN, @ CHI

29

Last week: 22

Denver (1-5)
Pace: 101.3 (2), OffRtg: 98.6 (22), DefRtg: 105.8 (22), NetRtg: -7.2 (26)
More than a year into the job, Brian Shaw is still searching for answers. The pieces are there (and they're healthy this year), but Randy Foye is the only one playing particularly well. The Nuggets can't seem to put a decent game together on both ends of the floor, a problem that will quickly put them in a big hole in a good conference.
This week: vs. POR, @ IND, @ NYK

30

Last week: 30

Philadelphia (0-7)
Pace: 100.4 (3), OffRtg: 93.5 (30), DefRtg: 105.1 (21), NetRtg: -11.6 (30)
The four players in the league averaging more than 20 points and six assists are Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James and ... Tony Wroten, who has taken on the numbers-accumulating role of Michael Carter-Williams. Philly is once again the worst offensive team in the league. MCW returned to practice last week and will move Wroten to the two.
This week: @ DAL, @ HOU