Skip to main content

Main content


Power Rankings: Pistons leading an East revival

Pacers, Hawks soaring too as Eastern Conference shines bright

POSTED: Nov 9, 2015 11:11 AM ET
UPDATED: Nov 10, 2015 9:10 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Drummond, Jackson Go Off

Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson lead Detroit past Portland.

It's time to start tuning into NBA League Pass a little earlier than in years past, because there's some entertaining basketball being played at 7 and 7:30 p.m. ET every night.

It's early, so we won't make any serious conclusions from the Eastern Conference's 14-12 record against the West through the first two weeks. Neither the Warriors or Clippers have played a game against the opposite conference. But it can't be denied that the East is a lot more interesting than it was a year ago.

The Cavs are the Cavs and the Hawks are still very good. The Raptors and Wizards still have super talented backcourts, and the Bucks have a pair of young forwards that provide highlights every night. The Heat are whole, Paul George is back, Kristaps Porzingis is a real thing, and Isaiah Thomas needs a #PizzaGuyAlert every time he enters a game.

And if you missed Sunday night's fourth quarter in Portland, you need to see what the Pistons are doing now that Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond have space to operate. Detroit is 4-0 against the other 14 teams with winning records thus far. The only other team that is unbeaten within that group is the Warriors (2-0), who host the Pistons on Monday (10:30 ET, League Pass).

The West hasn't only had a better record than the East in 15 of the last 16 seasons, it has played at a faster pace and with more efficient offense. But from the looks of the first two weeks, the East is closing the gap in more ways than one.

* * *

• Last week: Warriors just keep on setting the pace
• This time last year: Kings keep surprising, keep climbing up the charts -- No teams were still undefeated, while the 0-7 Sixers were the only team without a win. The 6-1 Raptors were at the top of the East, Lance Stephenson beat the Hawks at the buzzer, and Ricky Rubio suffered an ankle injury that would keep him out almost three months.

• Plus-minus stud: Draymond Green (GSW) was a plus-70 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Courtney Lee (MEM) was a minus-64 in four games last week.

• Hero team of the week: Houston (4-0) -- The defense isn't there yet, but Houston scored 109 points per 100 possessions over their four wins.
• Zero team of the week: Brooklyn (0-4) -- The Nets gave the Bucks and Lakers their first wins last week. Unfortunately for the Sixers, they don't face Brooklyn for another month.

• East vs. West: The East is 14-12 (0.538) against the West in interconference games and was 11-5 last week.

• High jumps of the week: Houston (+15), Indiana (+11), Atlanta (+6)
• Free falls of the week: Memphis (-16), New York (-11), Sacramento (-8)

* * *

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 100.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 100.3 points scored per 100 possessions this 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

Golden State (7-0)
Pace: 104.8 (4) OffRtg: 111.3 (1) DefRtg: 92.3 (2) NetRtg: +19.1 (1)
Last season, the Warriors ranked second in offensive efficiency and first in defensive efficiency. This season, they're somehow one of four teams (others are Miami, New York and Oklahoma City) that has improved on both ends of the floor. The Dubs blew a 17-point lead to the Clippers and a 14-point lead to the Kings last week, but held their opponents to 5-for-17 in the clutch to pull out both wins.
This week: vs. DET, @ MEM, @ MIN, vs. BKN


Last week: 6

Cleveland (6-1)
Pace: 97.2 (25) OffRtg: 104.5 (6) DefRtg: 96.1 (8) NetRtg: +8.3 (3)
The Cavs have won six straight games, but haven't made things easy on themselves with some ugly first halves. They've scored almost 20 points per 100 possessions more after halftime (115.5) than they have before it (93.6). They've been the league's sixth worst team in the first quarter, but second best, with LeBron James and Kevin Love combining to shoot 35-for-56 (63 percent), in the third.
This week: vs. UTA, @ NYK, @ MIL


Last week: 3

Detroit (5-1)
Pace: 97.8 (22) OffRtg: 100.0 (12) DefRtg: 94.6 (6) NetRtg: +5.4 (9)
Last season, the Pistons outscored their opponents by 15.7 points per 100 possessions when Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond were on the floor without Greg Monroe. This season, that number is plus-18.8, thanks in part to Sunday's huge fourth quarter in which Jackson scored 26 points and Detroit turned a 13-point deficit into a 17-point win. Drummond did his eye-opening offensive work earlier in the night.
This week: @ GSW, @ SAC, @ LAC, @ LAL


Last week: 10

Atlanta (7-1)
Pace: 99.8 (18) OffRtg: 104.4 (7) DefRtg: 98.2 (10) NetRtg: +6.2 (7)
Five of them were within five points in the last five minutes, but the Hawks have won seven straight games, and their offense is starting to click again. Their top six guys have all scored at least 20 points at least once during the winning streak, and they've scored 112 points per 100 possessions over the last three, assisting on almost 80 percent of their buckets. They face three top-10 defenses this week.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. NOP, @ BOS, vs. UTA


Last week: 4

L.A. Clippers (4-2)
Pace: 102.8 (8) OffRtg: 105.4 (3) DefRtg: 99.3 (14) NetRtg: +6.0 (8)
Chris Paul got hurt and the Clippers lost two games, but it was a somewhat encouraging week, in that they made a big run against the champs with Paul on the bench and might have beat the Rockets without him if the refs didn't miss the goaltending call on Dwight Howard. Blake Griffin has been the league's second best finisher and is shooting like Dirk Nowitzki (47 percent) from mid-range.
This week: vs. MEM, @ DAL, @ PHX, vs. DET


Last week: 2

Oklahoma City (4-3)
Pace: 102.0 (9) OffRtg: 108.9 (2) DefRtg: 101.7 (19) NetRtg: +7.2 (6)
The Thunder shot 3-for-19 in the clutch (0-for-12 against the Rockets and Raptors) as they lost three straight games last week. But second-unit defense is their biggest issue. Whether he's getting paid $6 million or $16 million, Enes Kanter is still a disaster at that end of the floor. Their starting lineup has allowed 88.8 points per 100 possessions. All other lineups have allowed 106.8.
This week: @ WAS, vs. PHI, vs. BOS


Last week: 7

San Antonio (4-2)
Pace: 99.1 (19) OffRtg: 101.9 (9) DefRtg: 93.8 (4) NetRtg: +8.0 (4)
The jumpers were falling against Charlotte on Saturday, but the Spurs have taken 50.1 percent of their shots from between the restricted area and the 3-point line, the third highest mark in the league and the team's highest mark since 2003-04. And that's not just about LaMarcus Aldridge. Kawhi Leonard ranks third in the league in mid-range attempts, and won't continue shooting 50 percent from there.
This week: @ SAC, @ POR, vs. PHI


Last week: 8

Toronto (5-2)
Pace: 99.1 (20) OffRtg: 99.2 (16) DefRtg: 96.7 (9) NetRtg: +2.6 (13)
The Raptors got a signature win in Oklahoma City on Wednesday and are still undefeated outside of Florida. Dwane Casey wanted more ball movement and better defense this season, and he's gotten both, for the most part. But DeMarre Carroll is banged up and the Raps came up empty from 3-point range (8-for-42) in weekend losses to the Magic and Heat. They've hit five or fewer threes in four straight games.
This week: vs. NYK, @ PHI, vs. NOP, @ SAC


Last week: 11

Utah (4-2)
Pace: 94.1 (30) OffRtg: 99.1 (17) DefRtg: 90.3 (1) NetRtg: +8.8 (2)
Jazz games continue to be rather slow and ugly, but Trey Burke is off to a strong offensive start, scoring in double-figures off the bench in each of the last five games after a scoreless opener. Utah's bench has good passers - Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles - on the wings, so Burke can be more of a scorer than a playmaker in backing up rookie Raul Neto. His usage rate is up, but his assist rate is way down from last season.
This week: @ CLE, @ MIA, @ ORL, @ ATL


Last week: 25

Houston (4-3)
Pace: 101.3 (10) OffRtg: 99.6 (14) DefRtg: 106.0 (25) NetRtg: -6.4 (24)
A 4-0 week, with wins over the Thunder and Clippers, is a good way to recover from an ugly start. The difference between the bad Rockets and good Rockets has mostly been on offense, where James Harden has found his shot and where Marcus Thornton has given them a shot in the arm. They've scored 113.7 points per 100 possessions with their three starting guards - Ty Lawson, Harden and Thornton - on the floor together.
This week: vs. BKN, @ DEN, vs. DAL


Last week: 5

Chicago (4-3)
Pace: 99.9 (16) OffRtg: 97.0 (23) DefRtg: 98.8 (12) NetRtg: -1.9 (18)
Wins over the Cavs and Thunder. Losses to the Pistons, Hornets and Wolves. The Bulls are the clear Jekyll and Hyde Team of the first two weeks. Derrick Rose hit some huge shots against OKC on Thursday, but Nikola Mirotic is 0-for-7 on clutch shots and Jimmy Butler is 0-for-9 since hitting one in the opener against the Cavs. The Bulls were 1-for-20 in the final 11:30 of Saturday's loss to Minnesota.
This week: @ PHI, vs. CHA


Last week: 23

Indiana (3-4)
Pace: 97.4 (24) OffRtg: 96.9 (24) DefRtg: 100.0 (16) NetRtg: -3.2 (20)
Paul George is clearly back to being Paul George, averaging 31.3 points, 11.0 reboounds and 4.0 over the last three games, with an effective field goal percentage of 58 percent. Weekend performances against Miami and Cleveland were just the second time in his career that he's scored 30-plus in two straight games. The Pacers haven't quite turned into the Warriors as a result, but the offense has picked up a bit.
This week: vs. ORL, @ BOS, vs. MIN


Last week: 14

Miami (4-3)
Pace: 95.7 (29) OffRtg: 101.7 (10) DefRtg: 93.8 (5) NetRtg: +7.8 (5)
The Heat haven't won or lost two games in a row yet, and Chris Bosh has been the only starter giving them somewhat consistent production. But Sunday's win over Toronto began a seven-game, 16-day homestand where all the remaining opponents were Lottery teams last season. They don't have another back-to-back until mid-December and don't play in the Mountain or Pacific time zones until Jan. 8.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. UTA


Last week: 19

Boston (2-3)
Pace: 105.3 (1) OffRtg: 98.3 (21) DefRtg: 95.2 (7) NetRtg: +3.1 (10)
Isaiah Thomas might not have been starting if Marcus Smart (sprained toe) wasn't hurt, but the Celtics' new starting lineup produced the team's first strong start and an offensive breakthrough against Washington on Friday, thanks in part to Thomas' pick-and-pop work with Jared Sullinger, who has shot well over the first two weeks. The Cs have forced 20 or more turnovers in four of their five games.
This week: @ MIL, vs. IND, vs. ATL, @ OKC


Last week: 13

Washington (3-3)
Pace: 104.9 (2) OffRtg: 98.3 (22) DefRtg: 102.3 (20) NetRtg: -4.0 (21)
The Wizards got a big win on Wednesday with Bradley Beal faking LaMarcus Aldridge out of his shorts before draining the game-winner. But they've allowed more than 106 points per 100 possessions in four of their six games and could use the practice time that comes with just four games in a 16-day stretch. The first of the four is Tuesday's visit from a Prince George's County native who will be a free agent next summer.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. ORL


Last week: 16

Minnesota (3-2)
Pace: 101.3 (11) OffRtg: 96.1 (27) DefRtg: 93.1 (3) NetRtg: +3.0 (11)
Andrew Wiggins shot 17-for-58 (29 percent) through his first four games, but busted out with 31 points in Chicago on Saturday, hitting four threes in the first half and tying the game with a ridiculous spin and dunk late in the fourth quarter. The Wolves rank 29th in effective field goal percentage, but their starters have been the league's best defensive lineup. They have a pretty rough, five-game week coming up.
This week: @ ATL, vs. CHA, vs. GSW, @ IND, vs. MEM


Last week: 21

Portland (4-3)
Pace: 99.8 (17) OffRtg: 104.5 (5) DefRtg: 101.6 (18) NetRtg: +3.0 (12)
If Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum never cool off, the Blazers will be the surprise team in the Western Conference. The pair averaged 51.3 points, with an effective field goal percentage of 61 percent, in the team's 3 3/4 wins last week. Given the flammability of its backcourt, it's hard to tell if this team is for real, but we'll know for sure by Christmas. Sixteen of their 24 games between now and then are on the road.
This week: @ DEN, vs. SAS, @ MEM, @ CHA


Last week: 22

Orlando (3-4)
Pace: 100.0 (15) OffRtg: 98.7 (19) DefRtg: 98.3 (11) NetRtg: +0.4 (16)
All seven of the Magic's games have been within five points in the last five minutes and Scott Skiles has called on 12 different guys (none of whom have shot particularly well) in "clutch" minutes. Put Evan Fournier on your list of early Most Improved candidates. He's averaging 18.7 points, with an effective field goal percentage of 54 percent. After Monday's visit to Indiana, the Magic play seven of their next nine at home.
This week: @ IND, vs. LAL, vs. UTA, @ WAS


Last week: 24

Charlotte (2-4)
Pace: 97.8 (21) OffRtg: 104.6 (4) DefRtg: 103.3 (22) NetRtg: +1.3 (14)
The Hornets rank as the league's most improved offensive team, but that's mostly on the strength of their two wins over the Bulls and Mavs last week. Their starting lineup has continued to be strong, but they've allowed 107.6 points per 100 possessions with at least one reserve on the floor. The most improved offensive team visits the most improved defensive team on Tuesday.
This week: @ MIN, vs. NYK, @ CHI, vs. POR


Last week: 15

Dallas (3-3)
Pace: 100.2 (13) OffRtg: 99.5 (15) DefRtg: 99.2 (13) NetRtg: +0.4 (17)
The Mavs' third leading scorer isn't Wesley Matthews or Chandler Parsons, or even J.J. Barea. It's Dwight Powell, the 24-year-old big man who was seemingly a throw-in in the Rajon Rondo trade last December. He's finishing like Tyson Chandler and even making some mid-range shots. The Mavs are plus-29 in 50 minutes with Powell and Dirk Nowitzki on the floor together.
This week: @ NOP, vs. LAC, vs. LAL, @ HOU


Last week: 17

Phoenix (3-4)
Pace: 103.5 (6) OffRtg: 96.7 (26) DefRtg: 100.9 (17) NetRtg: -4.1 (22)
The Suns haven't taken advantage of a relatively soft early schedule, but can get back on the right side of 0.500 with a four-game homestand that starts Thursday. They have the league's third best first-quarter defense, but are a bottom-10 defense over quarters 2, 3 and 4, with Jeff Hornacek still trying to figure out what wings he can count on off the bench. Sonny Weems has gone from sixth man in the first week to a DNP on Sunday.
This week: vs. LAC, vs. DEN


Last week: 27

Milwaukee (4-3)
Pace: 96.1 (28) OffRtg: 102.2 (8) DefRtg: 104.7 (23) NetRtg: -2.5 (19)
After starting 0-3, allowing 117 points per 100 possessions, the Bucks have won four straight games, allowing just 95. Jabari Parker's first game back was a bit of a struggle, but he shot 7-for-13 over the weekend, throwing down some eye-opening dunks against both the Knicks and Nets. Since moving to Milwaukee, Jason Kidd is 10-2 against the two New York teams, with whom he has some history.
This week: vs. BOS, @ DEN, vs. CLE


Last week: 12

New York (3-4)
Pace: 100.1 (14) OffRtg: 100.6 (11) DefRtg: 99.9 (15) NetRtg: +0.8 (15)
Earlier than many expected, Kristaps Porzingis has become a useful player. He hasn't found his stroke from 3-point range yet, but has scored in double-figures in six of his seven games, is one of only two rookies with multiple double-doubles, and has a habit of throwing down tip dunks (like this one and this one) on All-Star power forwards. The Knicks' defense has been at its best with Porzingis and Robin Lopez on the floor together.
This week: @ TOR, @ CHA, vs. CLE, vs. NOP


Last week: 20

Denver (2-4)
Pace: 100.5 (12) OffRtg: 96.8 (25) DefRtg: 103.1 (21) NetRtg: -6.3 (23)
Despite an ugly start to Friday's loss at Golden State, the Nuggets are a plus-2 in 44 minutes with Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried at the four and five, a look that Mike Malone has used in four of their six games. Emmanuel Mudiay was happy to drop 10 dimes against Byron Scott's Lakers, but he's the only player shooting worse than Kobe Bryant on at least 75 shots.
This week: vs. POR, vs. MIL, vs. HOU, @ PHX


Last week: 9

Memphis (3-4)
Pace: 96.2 (27) OffRtg: 94.1 (29) DefRtg: 106.0 (26) NetRtg: -11.9 (28)
The Pelicans have been similarly disappointing, but they're not nearly as healthy as the the Grizzlies, who have had serious problems in the middle two quarters. In their three losses last week, they got outscored 72-27 by the Warriors, 72-48 by the Blazers, and 56-38 by the Jazz over the second and third quarters. Five of their top six guys have shot less than 40 percent and the Matt Barnes addition has been a serious bust thus far.
This week: @ LAC, vs. GSW, vs. POR, @ MIN


Last week: 18

Sacramento (1-6)
Pace: 104.8 (3) OffRtg: 99.9 (13) DefRtg: 106.6 (28) NetRtg: -6.7 (25)
The Kings gave the Warriors a real scare on Saturday, but are now 8-37 without DeMarcus Cousins over the last four seasons. Cousins could be back this week, but George Karl has already used six different starting lineups and his top reserve - Darren Collison - has a hamstring injury. After hosting the Spurs on Monday, the Kings play eight straight games against the Eastern Conference.
This week: vs. SAS. vs. DET, vs. BKN, vs. TOR


Last week: 29

L.A. Lakers (1-5)
Pace: 103.7 (5) OffRtg: 99.0 (18) DefRtg: 108.4 (29) NetRtg: -9.3 (26)
The Lakers had a nostalgic weekend in New York and got their first win, but the Tour de Kobe must roll on. Friday's win in Brooklyn began a stretch where they're playing 15 of 19 games on the road, with nine of the East's 15 arenas possibly getting their last look at the Mamba. Jordan Clarkson scored 30 points in Tuesday's loss to Denver and ranks as one of the league's most improved shooters.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ DAL, vs. DET


Last week: 26

New Orleans (0-6)
Pace: 103.2 (7) OffRtg: 98.7 (20) DefRtg: 111.9 (30) NetRtg: -13.3 (30)
The Nets and Sixers are also winless, but the Pelicans are the only team that hasn't had a lead in the fourth quarter, which is hard to get when you're allowing an average of 58.3 points in the first half. New Orleans has seen the biggest increase in pace, but have suffered serious regressions on both ends of the floor. Injuries or not, you have to wonder if the Pels need to play slower.
This week: vs. DAL, @ ATL, @ TOR, @ NYK


Last week: 30

Philadelphia (0-6)
Pace: 97.4 (23) OffRtg: 95.0 (28) DefRtg: 105.8 (24) NetRtg: -10.8 (27)
The Sixers would have a win if they could put together their two first halves (54-49 and 50-49) against the Cavs. Their offense has shown some signs of life, thanks in part to new starting point guard T.J. McConnell, one of many guys who wouldn't be in the league if it weren't for this team. He had 37 assists and just nine turnovers (and was a plus-2) in their four games last week.
This week: vs. CHI, vs. TOR, @ OKC, @ SAS


Last week: 28

Brooklyn (0-7)
Pace: 96.7 (26) OffRtg: 93.7 (30) DefRtg: 106.1 (27) NetRtg: -12.4 (29)
It may not be possible for the Nets to be worse than they've been thus far, but they can't afford to lose Brook Lopez, who had another foot scare over the weekend. Their best chance to get an early win was Friday against the Lakers, but they managed to shoot 3-for-19 from 3-point range against an atrocious defense. When you have a worse offense than the Sixers, you're in trouble.
This week: @ HOU, @ SAC, @ GSW