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In the new year, Hawks fly to the top of the list

Power Rankings: Week 10

POSTED: Jan 5, 2015 11:02 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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Win after win, the Hawks continue to prove they are a legit force in the NBA -- and in our rankings.

The start of 2015 appears to be a time of transition in the standings.

The Atlanta Hawks have taken over the top spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to an 18-2 record since Thanksgiving and some slippage from the Toronto Raptors. Speaking of slippage, the Miami Heat appear to be sliding right out of the playoffs, with the Indiana Pacers starting to gain some traction and the Detroit Pistons looking like a new team sans Josh Smith.

The Golden State Warriors remain steady at the top of the West, but teams 2-7 continue to be in flux. And we still have some drama for the eighth spot, with the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans holding off the Oklahoma City Thunder by playing their best basketball of the season.

We're about 40 percent through the season, with more than 700 games to go and lots of questions to be answered. If you have a clear championship favorite at this point, you must know something that that rest of us don't.

* * *

• Last week: Top teams in the East proving themselves
• This time last year: Downtrodden Atlantic Division showing some life in 2014 -- Joe Johnson began the Nets' turnaround with a game-winner in Oklahoma City. Chris Paul was lost for more than a month with a separated shoulder, while Ryan Anderson was lost for the season after a nasty collision with Gerald Wallace. Brian Shaw and Andre Miller got into it on the Nuggets' bench, Gary Neal and Larry Sanders got into it in the Bucks' locker room, Andre Iguodala hit another game-winner, and the Knicks took a really dumb shot for the second time in two weeks.

• Plus-minus stud: Andre Drummond (DET) was a plus-60 in three games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: K.J. McDaniels (PHI) was a minus-72 in three games last week.

• Hero Team of the Week: Atlanta (3-0) -- The Hawks capped off a perfect week with an impressive win in Portland on Saturday.
• Zero Team of the Week: Philadelphia (0-3) -- The Sixers played three good Western Conference teams on the road, but when you lose by an average of 30.7 points, schedule strength isn't going to keep you out of this spot.

• High jumps of the week: Detroit (+7), Oklahoma City (+4), Atlanta (+3), Brooklyn (+3), Dallas (+3)
• Free falls of the week: Sacramento (-6), Cleveland (-4), Houston (-4), Miami (-4)

• East vs. West: The West is 122-72 (0.629) against the East in interconference games, and was 15-7 (3-0 against both Philadelphia and Toronto) last week.

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. New Orleans, 2. L.A. Lakers, 3. New York
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Washington, 2. Portland, 3. Brooklyn
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)
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 103.5 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: 4

Atlanta (25-8)
Pace: 96.3 (14), OffRtg: 105.7 (10), DefRtg: 100.7 (7), NetRtg: +5.0 (6)
The Hawks' Legitimacy Tour ran through Portland, where they improved to 10-5 against teams currently over .500. Paul Millsap scored 53 points (16 in the fourth quarter) against the two above-.500 opponents -- the Cavs and Blazers -- they beat last week. The Hawks lead the conference and their leading All-Star vote-getter ranks 13th among East bigs.
This week: @ LAC, vs. MEM, @ DET, vs. WAS

2

Last week: 2

Portland (26-8)
Pace: 96.7 (11), OffRtg: 105.9 (8), DefRtg: 99.0 (3), NetRtg: +6.8 (4)
The Blazers' defense hand been holding up OK without Robin Lopez, but they got scorched by the Hawks on Saturday and lost Joel Freeland (who had been starting for Lopez) to a shoulder injury in the process. So Terry Stotts will now have to dust off Meyers Leonard, increase Chris Kaman's minutes, use Thomas Robinson at center, or all of the above.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. MIA, vs. ORL, @ LAL

3

Last week: 3

Golden State (26-5)
Pace: 100.7 (1), OffRtg: 108.6 (4), DefRtg: 96.5 (1), NetRtg: +12.1 (1)
The Warriors still rank as a top-five defense since losing Andrew Bogut, and that mark isn't schedule aided, because five of their 12 opponents have been top-10 offenses. They've assisted on 71 percent of their buckets in their last seven games and are 13-1 at Oracle Arena, with a home-heavy schedule continuing through the end of January.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. IND, vs. CLE

4

Last week: 1

Chicago (24-10)
Pace: 96.1 (15), OffRtg: 105.9 (7), DefRtg: 101.0 (10), NetRtg: +4.9 (7)
Derrick Rose shot 24 percent and the Bulls had some missteps last week, going 11 minutes without a bucket in Indiana and then losing to the Nets at home a night later. But they're still 12-2 over the last four weeks. In addition to his 29 points and 16 rebounds against Boston on Saturday, Pau Gasol had a seven-assist game and nine-block game last week.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. UTA, @ WAS, vs. MIL

5

Last week: 8

Dallas (25-10)
Pace: 97.1 (9), OffRtg: 112.7 (1), DefRtg: 103.8 (17), NetRtg: +8.9 (2)
The Mavs have won five straight, have allowed less than a point per possession since trading for Rajon Rondo, and are a plus-17.3 points per 100 possessions with Rondo and Dirk Nowitzki on the floor together. The trade has provided another opportunity for Richard Jefferson, who has shot 8-for-11 from 3-point range during the winning streak.
This week: @ BKN, vs. DET, @ LAC

6

Last week: 7

Memphis (24-9)
Pace: 93.9 (27), OffRtg: 105.7 (11), DefRtg: 102.4 (11), NetRtg: +3.2 (11)
Though Zach Randolph's absence has given them the opportunity to space the floor more, Grizzlies not named Mike Conley have shot 20-for-90 from 3-point range in their seven games sans Z-Bo. But they did put together a three-game winning streak (and a second straight win against the Spurs) before suffering a schedule loss in Denver on Saturday.
This week: vs. NYK, @ ATL, @ NOP, vs. PHX

7

Last week: 9

San Antonio (21-14)
Pace: 95.1 (22), OffRtg: 105.0 (12), DefRtg: 100.5 (4), NetRtg: +4.5 (8)
Cory Joseph is playing the best basketball of his career, Patty Mills just played his best game since returning to action last weekend, and the Spurs had one of their best offensive games of the season against a top-five defense. But they're just 7-7 without Tony Parker, so they'll gladly welcome his return, which could come Tuesday against the Pistons.
This week: vs. DET, vs. PHX, @ MIN

8

Last week: 5

Toronto (24-10)
Pace: 95.9 (17), OffRtg: 111.1 (2), DefRtg: 105.0 (22), NetRtg: +6.1 (5)
After running out of gas at the end of their trip West, the Raptors have three days off before hosting the Hornets on Thursday. That could allow for the return of DeMar DeRozan, which will help us determine just how important he is to his team's defense. What was a top-10 defense last year and at the time of his injury has somehow fallen into the bottom 10 since.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. BOS

9

Last week: 10

L.A. Clippers (23-11)
Pace: 96.3 (13), OffRtg: 110.3 (3), DefRtg: 103.4 (14), NetRtg: +6.9 (3)
Blake Griffin's is shooting a career-low 48 percent and he hasn't cut down on the mid-range jumpers, but he remains one of the best passing big men in the league. He's dished out 11 assists twice in the last two weeks and has averaged 6.8 dimes in his last 12 games. He leads all non-point-guards (and ranks ninth overall) with 73 assists on 3-pointers.
This week: vs. ATL, vs. LAL, vs. DAL, vs. MIA

10

Last week: 6

Houston (23-10)
Pace: 97.6 (8), OffRtg: 102.1 (19), DefRtg: 98.0 (2), NetRtg: +4.1 (9)
Early in the season, James Harden was struggling with his shot and getting by on free throws and clutch threes. He's shot 54 percent over the last seven games, but as a whole, the Rockets still haven't put two good offensive games together, in part because they have little playmaking on their bench. The offense has fallen apart with Harden off the floor.
This week: @ CHI, @ CLE, @ NYK, vs. UTA

11

Last week: 15

Oklahoma City (17-17)
Pace: 96.0 (16), OffRtg: 102.5 (18), DefRtg: 100.7 (8), NetRtg: +1.8 (13)
There was no rust on Kevin Durant as he returned from a six-game absence to score 78 points on 25-for-41 shooting in wins over the Suns and Wizards. Russell Westbrook (19-for-59 in his last three games) is in a bit of a slump and the Thunder play 10 of their next 13 games on the road, but they're 9-2 with Durant and have great handshake game.
This week: @ GSW, @ SAC, vs. UTA

12

Last week: 14

New Orleans (17-16)
Pace: 95.2 (20), OffRtg: 106.0 (6), DefRtg: 106.1 (24), NetRtg: -0.0 (16)
With wins over Phoenix and Houston, it could have been a really great week for the Pelicans if Omer Asik didn't send Wednesday's game in San Antonio to overtime by scoring for the Spurs ... or if they didn't let the clock run down for Tyreke Evans to shoot a three when they were losing in the extra period. Anthony Davis is 18-for-20 in clutch time, by the way.
This week: vs. WAS, @ CHA, vs. MEM

13

Last week: 13

Phoenix (20-16)
Pace: 98.9 (4), OffRtg: 107.4 (5), DefRtg: 104.4 (19), NetRtg: +3.0 (12)
A back-to-back doesn't get much more important than the one the Suns had last week. And they lost to both the Pelicans and Thunder in the final minutes, with Goran Dragic committing a critical turnover each night. They got a comfortable win over the Raptors on Sunday, but have lost nine of their last 12 games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
This week: @ MIL, @ MIN, @ SAS, @ MEM

14

Last week: 11

Washington (22-11)
Pace: 95.8 (18), OffRtg: 103.9 (14), DefRtg: 100.6 (6), NetRtg: +3.3 (10)
After winning in Houston on Monday, the Wizards surrendered 115 points per 100 possessions in Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. They allowed 50-plus points in the paint in three of the four games, allowing their opponents to shoot 70 percent in the restricted area. And their next opponent has two of the top three guys in restricted-area shots.
This week: @ NOP, vs. NYK, vs. CHI, @ ATL

15

Last week: 16

Milwaukee (18-17)
Pace: 96.4 (12), OffRtg: 101.4 (22), DefRtg: 100.6 (5), NetRtg: +0.9 (14)
No team has played more road games than the Bucks, who are 11-10 with four straight wins away from the Bradley Center. They've held their opponents to a paltry 85 points per 100 possessions in the four games, even though Larry Sanders hasn't played any of them. The last time they had a winning road record (2000-01), they went to the conference finals.
This week: vs. PHX, @ PHI, vs. MIN, @ CHI

16

Last week: 12

Cleveland (19-15)
Pace: 94.6 (25), OffRtg: 105.7 (9), DefRtg: 105.5 (23), NetRtg: +0.2 (15)
The Cavs are 1-4 without LeBron James (who's probably out another five games) and have been outscored by 8.8 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor. If there's good news, it's that Kevin Love had two of his best offensive games over the weekend, totaling 57 points on 20-for-36 shooting against the Hornets and Mavs. It's his team for now.
This week: @ PHI, vs. HOU, @ GSW, @ SAC

17

Last week: 20

Brooklyn (16-17)
Pace: 94.5 (26), OffRtg: 100.7 (23), DefRtg: 102.8 (13), NetRtg: -2.1 (18)
Last season, the Nets went 4-0 against the Heat, becoming the first team to sweep a LeBron James team 4-0 in the regular season. This year, they've lost at home to Miami without Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng in November, and without Chris Bosh in December. On Sunday in Miami, they had both momentum and the rest advantage, and still lost.
This week: vs. DAL, vs. BOS, vs. PHI, @ DET

18

Last week: 25

Detroit (10-23)
Pace: 95.4 (19), OffRtg: 100.0 (24), DefRtg: 103.6 (16), NetRtg: -3.6 (23)
The 3-point shooting is what stands out and Brandon Jennings' hot streak obviously doesn't appear to be sustainable, but the Pistons also have allowed less than 92 points per 100 possessions since waiving Josh Smith. They've forced a lot more turnovers and had been keeping their opponents off the line until the Kings got there 36 times on Sunday.
This week: @ SAS, @ DAL, vs. ATL, vs. BKN

19

Last week: 21

Utah (12-22)
Pace: 92.5 (28), OffRtg: 104.0 (13), DefRtg: 107.7 (27), NetRtg: -3.7 (24)
The Jazz have been beating the teams they're supposed to beat with what's been a top-10 defense over the last 2 1/2 weeks (though that's somewhat skewed by a game against Philly). Increased minutes for Rudy Gobert, the league's best rim protector, has been a factor. With injuries in the backcourt, we're seeing more of the Trey Burke - Dante Exum combo.
This week: vs. IND, @ CHI, @ OKC, @ HOU

20

Last week: 22

Indiana (13-22)
Pace: 95.1 (21), OffRtg: 98.1 (29), DefRtg: 101.0 (9), NetRtg: -2.8 (21)
The Pacers are in the middle of a brutal travel schedule (they go from Oakland to Philly in three days this week), but as they try to catch the Heat for eighth place in the East, their losses against the Bulls (in which they missed two shots for the win) and Lakers (in which they blew a 13-point lead to a bad team) last week are going to be tough to swallow.
This week: @ UTA, @ GSW, vs. BOS, @ PHI

21

Last week: 17

Miami (15-20)
Pace: 91.6 (30), OffRtg: 103.1 (17), DefRtg: 106.7 (26), NetRtg: -3.6 (22)
Though he's getting to the basket far less than he ever has, Dwyane Wade is still shooting better than 50 percent for the third straight season. The Heat can seemingly pick up a win against the Nets when they need one, but don't face Brooklyn again until March. So their slide (3-7 in their last 10) could continue as they head West for a five-game trip.
This week: @ POR, @ LAC

22

Last week: 19

Charlotte (11-24)
Pace: 94.8 (23), OffRtg: 98.4 (28), DefRtg: 103.6 (15), NetRtg: -5.2 (25)
Over the last two Saturdays, Kemba Walker has scored 72 points against the Magic. The Hornets got the win this time, ending a five-game losing streak in which they scored just 86 points per 100 possessions. We may see more numbers like that with Al Jefferson (groin strain) out at least four weeks, though they play some bad defenses coming up.
This week: @ BOS, vs. NOP, @ TOR, @ NYK

23

Last week: 23

Denver (14-20)
Pace: 98.7 (5), OffRtg: 101.9 (20), DefRtg: 104.7 (21), NetRtg: -2.8 (20)
The Nuggets are the worst jump-shooting team in the West, with an effective field goal percentage of 34.2 percent from outside the paint. But they shot 21-for-39 from outside against Memphis on Saturday. Including that one, five of their eight best offensive games have been at home against a team on the second night of a back-to-back.
This week: @ MIN, vs. ORL, @ SAC

24

Last week: 18

Sacramento (14-20)
Pace: 96.8 (10), OffRtg: 103.7 (16), DefRtg: 106.4 (25), NetRtg: -2.7 (19)
The Kings ranked 15th defensively (103.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) when they first lost DeMarcus Cousins to what turned into viral meningitis and 18th (104.2) when they fired coach Mike Malone. They've already fallen to 25th (106.4) under Tyrone Corbin, who's heading toward familiar territory. His Jazz ranked last defensively last season.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. DEN, vs. CLE

25

Last week: 26

L.A. Lakers (11-23)
Pace: 97.7 (7), OffRtg: 103.9 (15), DefRtg: 109.7 (29), NetRtg: -5.8 (27)
Kobe Bryant hit some clutch shots this weekend (he's taken 16 more than anybody else this season), but it would be nice if he didn't have to overrule his coach and point guard when it's obviously time to foul. Carlos Boozer has better numbers (14.2 points per game on 57 percent shooting) coming off the bench than he did as a starter (12.4, 50 percent).
This week: @ POR, @ LAC, vs. ORL, vs. POR

26

Last week: 27

Boston (11-20)
Pace: 100.3 (2), OffRtg: 101.6 (21), DefRtg: 102.8 (12), NetRtg: -1.2 (17)
The Celtics put together a great tribute for Rajon Rondo, who said that he hadn't played defense "in a couple of years" and then scored more points (29) in his return than he had in a couple of years. Marcus Smart hasn't been handed the reins yet, with Evan Turner starting at point guard the last three games. As you'd expect, that experiment has been hit or miss.
This week: vs. CHA, @ BKN, @ IND, @ TOR

27

Last week: 24

Orlando (13-24)
Pace: 94.6 (24), OffRtg: 99.2 (26), DefRtg: 104.6 (20), NetRtg: -5.4 (26)
They Magic got a win in Miami and a near triple-double from Elfrid Payton in a near comeback against Brooklyn last week. But if they wanted to compete for a playoff spot, they needed more from their last 10 games, with seven of them at home and nine of them against teams that are below .500. They went 3-7, scoring less than a point per possession.
This week: @ DEN, @ LAL, @ POR

28

Last week: 28

Philadelphia (4-28)
Pace: 99.4 (3), OffRtg: 91.0 (30), DefRtg: 104.1 (18), NetRtg: -13.1 (30)
After losing five games out West by an average of 26 points, the Sixers are probably happy to be home. But of course, they haven't won a home game all season. Tony Wroten is back to putting up big numbers again (20-plus points in four of his last five games), but the Philly offense has barely been better in its last 10 games than it was in its first 10.
This week: vs. CLE, vs. MIL, @ BKN, vs. IND

29

Last week: 29

New York (5-31)
Pace: 92.4 (29), OffRtg: 99.9 (25), DefRtg: 108.7 (28), NetRtg: -8.8 (28)
The Knicks have lost 21 of their last 22 games, which is something that the Sixers haven't even done this season. Their point differential during this 11-game losing streak (minus-15.2 points per 100 possessions) has been much worse than that of the 10-game losing streak that preceded it (minus-9.5). Having their draft pick is their one saving grace.
This week: @ MEM, @ WAS, vs. HOU, vs. CHA

30

Last week: 30

Minnesota (5-27)
Pace: 98.4 (6), OffRtg: 98.8 (27), DefRtg: 110.0 (30), NetRtg: -11.2 (29)
The Wolves have been, by far, the league's worst defensive team since they lost Ricky Rubio, and their issues start in transition. The league averages less than 13 fast break points (per team) per game, but the Wolves have allowed at least 10 in 30 straight games. And turnovers aren't the issue. They rank in the middle of the pack in live-ball turnovers.
This week: vs. DEN, vs. PHX, @ MIL, vs. SAS