If, before the season started, you were told that the league's two best records on Dec. 1 would belong to teams that didn't win a playoff series last season, you probably would have guessed that it was Chicago and Cleveland. Maybe Dallas.
Instead, it's Memphis (15-2) and Golden State (14-2), two teams that have been a part of the second tier in the Western Conference the last few years.
The Thunder would probably be at or near the top had they had a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and the Spurs have dealt with a combination of injuries and complacency. The Warriors have played one of the easier schedules in the West, but the Dubs and Grizz are where they're at because of how they've played, not who they've played.
Memphis (6-2) and Golden State (5-2) have the two best records in games played between the 16 teams with winning records, outscoring their opponents in those games by 9.2 and 7.6 points per 100 possessions, respectively.
Both teams have spent the entire season in our top three. And while the Grizz have the slightly better record and the Warriors haven't been tested too much on their nine-game winning streak, Golden State remains at No. 1 because of a 4-1 record on the road against teams currently over .500. Road wins are good wins, and the Dubs have nine of them already.
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• Last week: West continues to dominate lackluster East
• This time last year: The Western Conference is just too darn deep -- Andrew Bynum went for 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks against the Bulls, while Michael Beasley was playing productive minutes for the Heat, who had won 10 straight games. Westbrook beat the Warriors after this crazy sequence, Jason Kidd spilled his drink, Anthony Davis broke his hand, the 6-10 Raptors led the Atlantic Division, and the Lakers gave Kobe Bryant $48 million.
• Plus-minus stud: Chris Paul (LAC) was a plus-92 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Kemba Walker (CHA) was a minus-73 in four games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Memphis (3-0) -- The Grizz picked up two road wins against teams with winning records, extending their winning streak to five games.
• Zero Team of the Week: Charlotte (0-4) -- The Hornets played four teams with winning records and have played the most games against the West of any East team. But there's no explanation for Saturday's shellacking at the hands of the Hawks.
• High jumps of the week: Oklahoma City (+8), Cleveland (+4), Five teams (+2)
• Free falls of the week: New Orleans (-4), Utah (-4), Seven teams (-2)
• East vs. West: The West is 63-26 (0.708) against the East in interconference games and was 18-7 last week.
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Sacramento, 3. Philadelphia
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Portland, 3. Toronto
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
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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 95.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.3 points scored per 100 possessions through Sunday.
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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.
Golden State (14-2)
Pace: 100.9 (1), OffRtg: 106.8 (7), DefRtg: 95.1 (1), NetRtg: +11.7 (1)
Not only do the Warriors have Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but they have three of the most improved shooters in the league. Marreese Speights (plus-12.0 percent), Harrison Barnes (plus-11.7 percent) and Draymond Green (plus-8.1 percent) have all had huge jumps in effective field goal percentage from last season. The Dubs have won nine straight.
This week: vs. ORL, vs. NOP, @ CHI
(15-2) Pace: 94.4 (22), OffRtg: 106.3 (8), DefRtg: 97.8 (4), NetRtg: +8.5 (4)
The most important development of the first five weeks of the season could be that the Grizzlies have the second best offense (109 points scored per 100 possessions) in games played between teams with winning records. They shot 54 percent in Portland on Friday
and face two teams with winning records and top-five defenses this week. This week:
@ HOU, vs. SAS, vs. MIA
San Antonio (12-4)
Pace: 95.8 (13), OffRtg: 104.2 (16), DefRtg: 96.2 (2), NetRtg: +8.0 (5)
Kawhi Leonard averaged 23.7 points over the last three games of The Finals, but had never averaged 20-plus over three straight regular season games until last week, when he scored 21, 21 and 19 against the Nets, Pacers and Kings. Two of those games were coached by Ettore Messina, so you could say that Gregg Popovich is Leonard's Dean Smith.
This week: @ PHI, @ BKN, @ MEM, vs. MIN
Pace: 96.5 (9), OffRtg: 107.7 (4), DefRtg: 99.9 (6), NetRtg: +7.7 (6)
Wesley Matthews has been on fire, shooting 19-for-31 (61 percent) from 3-point range over the last three games. But the Blazers' defense failed a big test against Memphis on Friday. While the World Cup helped some players hit the ground running this season, it may have worn down Nicolas Batum, who's dealing with a knee injury and shooting 38 percent.
This week: @ DEN, vs. IND, @ NYK
(13-5) Pace: 96.0 (12), OffRtg: 113.8 (1), DefRtg: 102.9 (13), NetRtg: +10.9 (2)
Though they lost to the Pacers and almost lost to the Knicks, the Mavs' week was a positive, because they got their best victory of the season, winning in Toronto on Friday. Facing his old team put a spark in Tyson Chandler, who averaged 16 points and 16 boards in his team's three wins. His rebounding percentage (21.7 percent
) is a career high. This week:
@ CHI, @ MIL, vs. PHX, vs. MIL
(13-4) Pace: 96.9 (8), OffRtg: 110.6 (2), DefRtg: 102.0 (10), NetRtg: +8.6 (3)
The Raptors' run of good health came to an end this week. None of their starters missed more than five games last season, but DeMar DeRozan is likely to miss a lot more than that with a tendon tear in his groin. Offense wasn't the problem in the Raps' first game without him
and big wings will continue to be a matchup issue in all three games this week. This week:
@ SAC, @ UTA, vs. CLE
(11-5) Pace: 95.4 (18), OffRtg: 108.8 (3), DefRtg: 103.7 (15), NetRtg: +5.2 (8)
The Clippers have rebounded from their early struggles to win six of their last seven, scoring 114 points per 100 possessions in that stretch
. The difference has been in the backcourt, where Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford have combined for an effective field goal percentage of 62 percent
, up from 50 percent in their first nine games. This week:
vs. MIN, vs. ORL, vs. NOP
(13-4) Pace: 96.1 (10), OffRtg: 101.8 (21), DefRtg: 96.2 (3), NetRtg: +5.6 (7)
The Rockets' most efficient offensive game came without a point guard against what was a top-five defensive team on Saturday in Milwaukee
. Donatas Motiejunas wasn't a very good shooter with Dwight Howard off the floor last season
, but he's found a groove with Howard out this year, shooting 41-for-73 (56 percent) in the six games the big guy's missed. This week:
vs. MEM, @ MIN, vs. PHX
(11-6) Pace: 96.0 (11), OffRtg: 105.1 (12), DefRtg: 101.3 (9), NetRtg: +3.8 (9)
The Bulls are 5-0 with their starting lineup intact, and it's outscored their opponents by 22.6 points per 100 possessions
over 99 minutes. Jimmy Butler has been terrific all season, but has gone to the free throw line 35 times in the last three games
and now leads all guards (even James Harden) with a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 0.632. This week:
vs. DAL, @ CHA, vs. GSW
Pace: 95.5 (17), OffRtg: 102.1 (19), DefRtg: 99.9 (5), NetRtg: +2.2 (11)
The Wizards have shot well from 3-point range (they rank sixth at 37.2 percent), but haven't shot enough from there. Only the Wolves have taken a lower percentage of their shots from deep. Washington has the talent to be a good offensive team, but their tendency to rely on so many mid-range shots (and a recent rash of turnovers) continues to hold them back.
This week: vs. MIA, vs. LAL, vs. DEN, @ BOS
Pace: 95.2 (20), OffRtg: 107.0 (5), DefRtg: 104.3 (17), NetRtg: +2.6 (10)
If it weren't for the Nuggets, the Cavs would have been the roller coaster team of November. They're on the upswing again, with the offense leading the way. Kevin Love has shot 29-for-50 over the last four games, in part because he's getting closer to the basket. His average shot distance is down from 14.1 feet in his first 11 games to 12.5 in his last four.
This week: vs. MIL, @ NYK, @ TOR
(9-7) Pace: 92.1 (29), OffRtg: 104.9 (13), DefRtg: 104.4 (18), NetRtg: +0.5 (15)
Dwyane Wade looked sharp in his return, scoring 27 points on 11-for-18 shooting in New York on Sunday
. He and Chris Bosh didn't get much help, but you don't need much when you're playing the Knicks. With Josh McRoberts still coming off the bench, the Heat's four best players (Wade, Bosh, McRoberts and Luol Deng) have played just 17 minutes together. This week:
@ WAS, vs. ATL, @ MIL, @ MEM
Pace: 95.6 (15), OffRtg: 104.3 (15), DefRtg: 104.4 (19), NetRtg: -0.2 (17)
The Kings played the Spurs and Grizzlies tough over the weekend, outrebounding both teams. But they've now lost their last 15 games (going back to March of 2013) that DeMarcus Cousins (out with a virus) has missed. In only two of this season's 17 games have they outscored their opponent in the minutes that Cousins has been off the floor.
This week: vs. TOR, vs. IND, vs. ORL
(9-6) Pace: 95.4 (19), OffRtg: 107.0 (6), DefRtg: 104.9 (21), NetRtg: +2.1 (12)
Interior defense remains a concern, but the Hawks' offense is humming along, with Jeff Teague looking like an All-Star, Dennis Schroder playing more consistently, Kyle Korver being Kyle Korver, and DeMarre Carroll adding some shooting of his own. His effective field goal percentage has jumped from 49 percent
to 57 percent
in the last two years. This week:
vs. BOS, @ MIA, @ BKN, vs. DEN
Pace: 99.2 (5), OffRtg: 104.4 (14), DefRtg: 102.8 (12), NetRtg: +1.6 (13)
The Suns survived one game without Isaiah Thomas, but have dropped two straight (two of their worst offensive games of the season) as he recovers from an ankle injury. If it weren't for the Knicks, they'd have, by far, the worst free throw discrepancy in the league. It's been three weeks (Nov. 9) since they've attempted more free throws than their opponent.
This week: vs. IND, @ DAL, @ HOU
Pace: 95.5 (16), OffRtg: 99.8 (24), DefRtg: 100.1 (7), NetRtg: -0.3 (18)
The Bucks' offense has been improved (108 points scored per 100 possessions over their last four games), but Saturday's loss to Houston, in which the Rockets scored 117 points, may have been a bad harbinger as their improved defense starts to really get tested. Nine of their next 15 games are against the league's top six offenses.
This week: @ CLE, vs. DAL, vs. MIA, @ DAL
(8-8) Pace: 99.2 (4), OffRtg: 105.8 (10), DefRtg: 105.5 (24), NetRtg: +0.3 (16)
As Evan Fournier looked like an early-season Most Improved candidate in Orlando, the Nuggets looked silly for trading a young player to pay Arron Afflalo a lot more money to help them lose games. But Denver has won six of seven and Afflalo has looked more like the player they traded for, shooting 18-for-31 (6-for-7 from 3-point range) over the last three games
. This week:
@ UTA, vs. POR, @ WAS, @ ATL
New Orleans (7-8)
Pace: 94.3 (23), OffRtg: 106.1 (9), DefRtg: 105.2 (22), NetRtg: +0.9 (14)
An offense that ranked third just a week ago has hit the skids, scoring less than a point per possession as the Pelicans have lost four of five. Eric Gordon (out with a torn labrum) hasn't shot well since he left L.A., but he spaces the floor better than new starter Austin Rivers, who along with Tyreke Evans may be the league's worst shooting wing combo.
This week: vs. OKC, @ GSW, @ LAC, @ LAL
Pace: 93.1 (27), OffRtg: 98.9 (25), DefRtg: 102.6 (11), NetRtg: -3.7 (20)
The Pacers have remained a top-two defensive rebounding team without David West, Paul George and Lance Stephenson, who totaled 17.2 defensive boards per game last season. Roy Hibbert (plus-8.8 percent) and Ian Mahinmi (plus-9.2 percent) have had the league's two biggest increases in defensive rebounding percentage. West is back to help out.
This week: @ PHX, @ POR, @ SAC
(5-12) Pace: 93.1 (26), OffRtg: 96.2 (29), DefRtg: 100.4 (8), NetRtg: -4.2 (22)
Even before Russell Westbrook returned, the Thunder defense had tightened up, and it's allowed less than 90 points per 100 possessions in their last three games
. With Westbrook looking the way he did
in Friday's win
, with Kevin Durant back soon, and with the schedule aligning right, a six-game winning streak before the Cavs visit next week is possible. This week:
@ NOP, @ PHI, @ DET
(7-12) Pace: 95.6 (14), OffRtg: 98.4 (26), DefRtg: 104.0 (16), NetRtg: -5.7 (24)
Just when you were ready to give up on the Magic, they pulled out a plucky win in Phoenix on Sunday
. They had to rely on effort and defense, because offense continues to be a struggle, particularly in the third quarter, when they've been worse than the Sixers
. They've scored a total of 47 points in their last three third quarters, and face the No. 1 defense on Tuesday. This week:
@ GSW, @ LAC, @ UTA, @ SAC
(4-10) Pace: 100.0 (2), OffRtg: 103.5 (18), DefRtg: 107.4 (27), NetRtg: -3.9 (21)
In the last eight days, the Celtics have hung around with the Blazers, Bulls and Spurs. But hanging around doesn't count when you're the second worst fourth-quarter team in the league
. Last week's losses to Chicago and San Antonio were the fifth and sixth time they've been outscored by double-figures in the final period. This was a problem last season, too
. This week:
@ ATL, vs. DET, vs. LAL, vs. WAS
(6-9) Pace: 95.2 (21), OffRtg: 102.0 (20), DefRtg: 103.2 (14), NetRtg: -1.2 (19)
In his 20th season, Kevin Garnett leads the league in both defensive rebounding percentage
(for the second straight year) and bite attempts
. He's been one of the only bright spots for the Nets, who have shot 34 percent over their last nine fourth quarters. Joe Johnson has shot 6-for-35 in the fourth over the last 11 games, after going 13-for-20 in the first three. This week:
@ NYK, vs. SAS, vs. ATL
Pace: 98.9 (6), OffRtg: 100.8 (23), DefRtg: 111.1 (29), NetRtg: -10.4 (29)
With Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic all out, the kids are getting to play, but Flip Saunders has yet to use an all-youth lineup of Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett and Gorgui Dieng. The Wolves have been outscored by 21 points per 100 possessions in 268 minutes with at least three of those guys on the floor.
This week: @ LAC, vs. PHI, vs. HOU, @ SAS
(4-13) Pace: 97.4 (7), OffRtg: 105.5 (11), DefRtg: 113.7 (30), NetRtg: -8.2 (27)
If the Lakers stay undefeated against the East (3-0 so far), they'll win at least 31 games. Kobe Bryant, who dropped 12 dimes in his 20th career triple-double
on Sunday, should keep passing. His teammates have an effective field goal percentage of 52 percent off his passes
and 50 percent otherwise. He's effectively shooting a career-low 42 percent himself. This week:
@ DET, @ WAS, @ BOS, vs. NOP
(5-12) Pace: 92.8 (28), OffRtg: 103.5 (17), DefRtg: 108.8 (28), NetRtg: -5.3 (23)
Monday's loss to the Bulls was one of Trey Burke's better games (18 points and 10 assists), but he ended it with a brutal sequence, throwing a behind-the-back pass into Enes Kanter's legs
and then failing to get back on D as Mike Dunleavy put in the game-winning tip-in. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert saw some time together in Saturday's loss to the Clips. This week:
vs. DEN, vs. TOR, vs. ORL
(4-14) Pace: 92.1 (30), OffRtg: 100.8 (22), DefRtg: 107.2 (26), NetRtg: -6.4 (25)
The Knicks are a weird team. They rank seventh in 3-point percentage
, but 22nd in offensive efficiency. And they rank first in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area
, but 26th in defensive efficiency. The problems are that they don't get enough shots near the basket, can't defend shots away from it, and have a huge free throw disparity. This week:
vs. BKN, vs. CLE, @ CHA, vs. POR
(4-14) Pace: 94.1 (24), OffRtg: 97.6 (27), DefRtg: 106.0 (25), NetRtg: -8.4 (28)
Bring back the Bobcats, because these "Hornets" are terrible. They miss Josh McRoberts and Lance Stephenson hasn't fit in, but the biggest difference is rim protection. They've gone from fifth in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area last season
(58 percent) to 29th this year
(66 percent). Weird thought: Maybe Bismack Biyombo should play more. This week:
vs. CHI, vs. NYK
(3-14) Pace: 93.8 (25), OffRtg: 96.9 (28), DefRtg: 104.7 (20), NetRtg: -7.8 (26)
Andre Drummond had a breakout in the absence of Brandon Jennings, averaging 22.0 points on 64 percent shooting in three games that Jennings missed. Then the point guard returned and Drummond shot 1-for-8 on Sunday
. Andrew Bogut had something to do with that, but Drummond has shot better (and more often) with Jennings off the floor
. This week:
vs. LAL, @ BOS, vs. PHI, vs. OKC
(0-16) Pace: 100.0 (3), OffRtg: 90.9 (30), DefRtg: 105.5 (23), NetRtg: -14.5 (30)
The Sixers are ready to break through. They hung around with Portland
, had chances to beat Brooklyn
, and held a second-half lead against Dallas
. So Wednesday's game in Minnesota, with a share of the Nets' all-time 0-18 record on the line, is one to watch. Tony Wroten's injury means more of K.J. McDaniels, who scored 21 points against the Mavs. This week:
vs. SAS, @ MIN, vs. OKC, @ DET