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Power Rankings: Little separation in the pack

Week 3

POSTED: Nov 16, 2015 11:12 AM ET
UPDATED: Nov 16, 2015 11:21 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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The Warriors have been the class of the league in the early going, but the strength of their schedule picks up shortly.

The Golden State Warriors are 11-0, the Philadelphia 76ers are 0-10, and everybody else is kind of lumped in the middle.

Through three weeks of the 2015-16 season, six teams are at .500, another five are within a game of .500, and another six are within two games of .500. Beyond the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, no team has had a start that's beyond some criticism.

On the other end of the spectrum, only four or five teams have had truly ugly starts, and one of those came a few inches from beating the Warriors on Saturday. In both conferences, the 13th place team has one fewer win than the sixth place team.

That's somewhat to be expected with every team having played about 10 games. But in general, the 2015-16 season has been 20 days of parity. Some early surprise teams, like the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves, have come back down to earth. Some early disappointments, like the Miami Heat, have found their footing. Other teams have already had a lot of ups and downs.

It's fair to even question just how dominant the Warriors have been. Yeah, they're 11-0 and have outscored their opponents by 16.5 points per 100 possessions, but they've played just one game against the other 12 teams that currently have winning records.

They'll play three more games against that group this week, when we might get a little more separation elsewhere in the rankings.

* * *

• Last week: Pistons leading an East revival
• This time last year: Spurs, Cavs look stronger -- Ryan Hollins may or may not have tipped Vince Carter's inbounds pass that turned into a game-winning alley-oop to Courtney Lee. The Mavs led the Sixers 54-14, Trey Burke had his Madison Square Garden moment, and the Knicks and Thunder had the same record (3-8).

• Plus-minus studs: P.J. Tucker (PHX) was a plus-52 in two games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: T.J. McConnell (PHI) was a minus-75 in four games last week.

• Hero team of the week: Boston (3-1) -- Despite a couple of injuries in their backcourt, the Celtics have won four of their last five games, and the only one of the wins that wasn't against a 2015 playoff team was in Oklahoma City on Sunday.
• Zero team of the week: Houston (0-3) -- The roller coaster continues and there's no easy explanation for why there's been more lows than highs.

• East vs. West: The East is 27-25 (0.519) against the West in interconference games and was 13-13 (0-3 against the Kings) last week.

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. New Orleans, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Charlotte
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Golden State, 2. Dallas, 3. San Antonio
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.

• High jumps of the week: Boston (+8), Charlotte (+6), Dallas (+6), Denver (+6)
• Free falls of the week: Houston (-16), Detroit (-12), Minnesota (-8), Portland (-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 99.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 100.8 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

* * *

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 (11-0)
Pace: 102.6 (4) OffRtg: 110.6 (1) DefRtg: 94.1 (3) NetRtg: +16.5 (1)
There were signs of vulnerability last week. The Warriors let the Wolves climb back to within five late after leading by as many as 21 on Thursday, and they should have lost Saturday's game against the 1-9 Nets. But the record is still perfect, Stephen Curry is still producing ridiculous highlights, and he's been the league's best shooter (73 percent) on at least 50 attempts in the restricted area.
This week: vs. TOR, @ LAC, vs. CHI, @ DEN

2

Last week: 2

Cleveland (8-2)
Pace: 96.1 (26) OffRtg: 104.4 (4) DefRtg: 97.9 (8) NetRtg: +6.5 (5)
The Cavs were the victims of an inadvertent whistle in Milwaukee on Saturday, but a 700-miles-between-cities back-to-back may have been the biggest reason their eight-game winning streak came to an end. LeBron James hit five threes in that game, but has been putting up MVP-ish numbers without a jump shot. His field goal percentage from outside the paint (32.3 percent) is the worst it's been since his rookie season.
This week: @ DET, vs. MIL, vs. ATL

3

Last week: 7

San Antonio (7-2)
Pace: 98.5 (18) OffRtg: 103.5 (8) DefRtg: 93.5 (1) NetRtg: +10.1 (2)
LaMarcus Aldridge is starting to get comfortable in the Spurs' offense, averaging 18.0 points on 51 percent shooting (with a much higher percentage of his buckets being assisted) as the team has won four straight games. Saturday's win over Philly began a seven-game stretch for the Spurs where six of the games are at home vs. an opponent that's playing the 2nd night of a back-to-back.
This week: vs. POR, vs. DEN, @ NOP, vs. MEM

4

Last week: 6

Oklahoma City (6-4)
Pace: 101.9 (6) OffRtg: 107.1 (2) DefRtg: 99.3 (13) NetRtg: +7.7 (4)
The Thunder offense survived its first 2 1/2 games without Kevin Durant (with a couple of triple-doubles from Russell Westbrook), but came up empty against Boston on Sunday. Unlike last season, Westbrook has shot much better with Durant on the floor than he has with him on the bench. Durant said Sunday that he's feeling "a lot better," but the Thunder obviously have to think long-term with their star.
This week: @ MEM, vs. NOP, vs. NYK, vs. DAL

5

Last week: 5

L.A. Clippers (6-4)
Pace: 100.7 (11) OffRtg: 104.9 (3) DefRtg: 103.0 (20) NetRtg: +1.9 (12)
A big second half from Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford helped the Clippers get a win over Detroit on Saturday while keeping Chris Paul and J.J. Redick on the shelf until (at least) Thursday's rematch with the champs. But defense has been an issue, especially in the second half of games. They gave up 125 points after halftime in Dallas and Phoenix last week and face three top-10 offenses this week.
This week: vs. GSW, @ POR, vs. TOR

6

Last week: 14

Boston (5-4)
Pace: 102.0 (5) OffRtg: 99.4 (18) DefRtg: 94.4 (4) NetRtg: +5.1 (6)
The Celtics are looking legit, having allowed less than 92 points per 100 possessions as they've won four of their last five games. Six guys have averaged double-figures in that stretch, which was highlighted by impressive weekend victories over two teams - the Hawks and Thunder - from last week's top six. With next year's Nets pick in their hands, this weekend's home-and-home is worth more than just two games.
This week: @ HOU, vs. DAL, vs. BKN, @ BKN

7

Last week: 12

Indiana (6-4)
Pace: 97.8 (23) OffRtg: 98.9 (20) DefRtg: 98.0 (9) NetRtg: +0.9 (15)
After an 0-3 start, the Pacers have won six of their last seven games. They've played much better (and slower) with Paul George playing the three than the (nominal) four, and have outscored their opponents by 18.4 points per 100 possessions in 117 minutes with George and Lavoy Allen on the floor with another big. But that other big won't be Myles Turner (fractured thumb) for a while.
This week: @ CHI, @ PHI, vs. MIL

8

Last week: 4

Atlanta (8-4)
Pace: 99.1 (16) OffRtg: 104.3 (5) DefRtg: 100.7 (16) NetRtg: +3.6 (8)
The Hawks went from winning seven straight games to losing three of their last four, allowing both the Wolves and Jazz, two not-so-great offensive teams, to shoot better than 50 percent. The problem on Friday in Boston was a more familiar one (17 offensive rebounds and 24 second chance points for the Celtics). Both Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore are dealing with ankle injuries.
This week: @ BKN, vs. SAC, @ CLE

9

Last week: 8

Toronto (7-4)
Pace: 98.3 (20) OffRtg: 103.4 (9) DefRtg: 99.1 (11) NetRtg: +4.3 (7)
The Raptors got hosed by a non-call against the Knicks, fed on the Sixers and Pelicans, and got bowled over by DeMarcus Cousins last week. With his team coming up empty offensively, Dwane Casey went too long with Bismack Biyombo in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss. The Raptors have been better on both ends of the floor thus far with Jonas Valanciunas in the game than with him on the bench.
This week: @ GSW, @ UTA, @ LAL, @ LAC

10

Last week: 11

Chicago (6-3)
Pace: 100.8 (10) OffRtg: 98.4 (24) DefRtg: 96.4 (5) NetRtg: +2.1 (11)
Joakim Noah was going to start his first game of the season on Monday, but was a late scratch with knee soreness. He recovered to grab 18 rebounds in less than 25 minutes (the first time he's ever done that) off the bench in Friday's win over the Hornets. Last season's starting frontline - Noah and Pau Gasol - has played more than five minutes together in just two of the Bulls' nine games.
This week: vs. IND, @ PHX, @ GSW

11

Last week: 13

Miami (6-3)
Pace: 95.6 (28) OffRtg: 101.9 (11) DefRtg: 93.5 (2) NetRtg: +8.4 (3)
The Heat have the No. 2 defense in the league, having held their opponent under a point per possession in eight of their nine games. Their schedule hasn't been too tough, but they've faced a lot more top-10 offenses (five) than bottom-10 offenses (one). They're the league's best second-half team and 5-1 at the Heat's House, with four more games to go, all against teams with losing records, on their homestand.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. SAC, vs. PHI

12

Last week: 9

Utah (5-5)
Pace: 95.4 (29) OffRtg: 99.8 (16) DefRtg: 96.6 (6) NetRtg: +3.2 (9)
The Jazz lost a couple of heartbreakers and lost Rudy Gobert for two games last week. But they got a big win behind a big game from Derrick Favors in Atlanta on Sunday. Alec Burks had an ugly game in Orlando on Friday, but averaged 19.3 points on the 1-3 trip. Utah has played the most road games in the league, but still doesn't have a multi-game homestand until after Thanksgiving.
This week: vs. TOR, @ DAL

13

Last week: 19

Charlotte (5-5)
Pace: 97.7 (24) OffRtg: 103.9 (7) DefRtg: 101.5 (17) NetRtg: +2.3 (10)
Lance Stephenson's highest scoring game with the Hornets was 20 points. Nicolas Batum has surpassed that in each of his last three games, shooting 57 percent. The Hornets have become a potent 3-point shooting team, but got destroyed in the paint in Friday's loss in Chicago, the third time they've lost when hitting 12 or more threes. The other 29 teams have lost 10 such games.
This week: @ NYK, vs. BKN, vs. PHI

14

Last week: 20

Dallas (6-4)
Pace: 100.4 (12) OffRtg: 101.7 (12) DefRtg: 100.1 (14) NetRtg: +1.6 (13)
At 37, Dirk Nowitzki is still gettin' it done (on offense, at least). He had 31 points on 11-for-14 shooting in Wednesday's win over the Clippers and got Kobe Bryant with the up-and-under on Friday, which was a very cool moment. He got his first rest of the season on Saturday, but the Mavs still won a game in Houston that began a stretch where they play 10 of 13 on the road. They've won four of five, but this is a big few weeks ahead.
This week: @ PHI, @ BOS, vs. UTA, @ OKC

15

Last week: 3

Detroit (5-5)
Pace: 98.0 (22) OffRtg: 97.3 (26) DefRtg: 98.5 (10) NetRtg: -1.2 (19)
An 0-4 finish to their West Coast swing has taken the shine off the Pistons. They scored a measly 85 points against the Lakers' defense on Sunday, and then Stan Van Gundy called out both Andre Drummond ("he is not protecting the rim at all") and Reggie Jackson ("his decision making was terrible") in his post-game comments. After a six-game trip, they only have one day off before hosting the Cavs on Tuesday.
This week: vs. CLE, @ MIN, vs. WAS

16

Last week: 15

Washington (4-4)
Pace: 104.1 (1) OffRtg: 99.6 (17) DefRtg: 104.1 (22) NetRtg: -4.5 (24)
The Wizards are suffering some growing pains with their new identity; They allowed 113.5 points per 100 possessions in losing three straight and rank 29th in first-half defense. But the new Wiz look good when stretch-four Kris Humphries shoots 5-for-8 from 3-point range, like he did in Saturday's win over Orlando. That started an eight-game stretch against teams in the mix for East playoff spots.
This week: vs. MIL, @ DET

17

Last week: 21

Phoenix (5-4)
Pace: 103.9 (2) OffRtg: 98.9 (21) DefRtg: 97.9 (7) NetRtg: +1.0 (14)
Eric Bledsoe has averaged 28.0 points on 68 percent shooting over the last three games and Brandon Knight joined the party with 37 points in a rare offensive win for the Suns against the shorthanded Clippers on Thursday. They're one of two West teams (Utah is the other) that has scored and allowed less than a point per possession, and they face four bottom-10 offenses this week.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. CHI, @ DEN, @ NOP

18

Last week: 24

Denver (5-5)
Pace: 100.2 (13) OffRtg: 98.4 (23) DefRtg: 102.4 (18) NetRtg: -4.0 (23)
Over their last five games, the Nuggets have allowed their opponents to average 61.4 points and shoot 50 percent from 3-point range in the first half. For the season, they're the worst first half team in the league, getting outscored by 14.1 points per 100 possessions. Second-half improvement has mostly come on defense, but Will Barton is averaging 23.6 points per 36 minutes after halftime.
This week: @ NOP, @ SAS, vs. PHX, vs. GSW

19

Last week: 18

Orlando (5-6)
Pace: 99.5 (15) OffRtg: 98.3 (25 DefRtg: 99.2 (12) NetRtg: -0.9 (18)
Injuries have forced Scott Skiles to shuffle his starting lineup around over the last two weeks, which may be a good thing. The Magic starters haven't been very good together and Orlando has outscored its opponents by 8.1 points per 100 possessions in 188 minutes with less than three (regular) starters on the floor. Nikola Vucevic's game-winner against the Lakers was cool, though.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. SAC

20

Last week: 23

New York (5-6)
Pace: 98.3 (21) OffRtg: 100.3 (15) DefRtg: 100.1 (15) NetRtg: +0.2 (16)
Arron Afflalo is back from his hamstring injury and the Knicks called his number multiple times, with mixed results, down the stretch of close games last week. Each of their last seven games has been within five points in the last five minutes, with Carmelo Anthony shooting 2-for-13 on clutch shots in that stretch. Kristaps Porzingis' game-winner in Charlotte was too late because Lance Thomas' pass was too low.
This week: vs. CHA, @ OKC, @ HOU

21

Last week: 25

Memphis (5-6)
Pace: 96.1 (27) OffRtg: 97.0 (27) DefRtg: 105.4 (27) NetRtg: -8.4 (27)
The Grizzlies still aren't defending like we expect them to, but they got an offensive lift from Mario Chalmers (27 total points on just 10 shots) and scored 114 points per 100 possessions in weekend wins over Portland and Minnesota. Chalmers and Mike Conley played just eight total minutes together, but with Courtney Lee shooting poorly (26 percent in his last five games), double point guards is a look Dave Joerger could go to more.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. HOU, @ SAS

22

Last week: 22

Milwaukee (5-5)
Pace: 94.6 (30) OffRtg: 101.5 (13) DefRtg: 104.7 (24) NetRtg: -3.3 (21)
The Bucks are one of two teams to lose multiple games in which they've shot 50 percent or better, further evidence that their defense has been unreliable. But holding the Cavs under a point per possession in Saturday's overtime win was a step in the right direction. They've still given up at least 14 offensive rebounds in each of their last five games. Kenneth Faried beat them in the final seconds with one on Wednesday.
This week: @ WAS, @ CLE, @ IND

23

Last week: 26

Sacramento (4-7)
Pace: 103.3 (3) OffRtg: 100.6 (14) DefRtg: 104.4 (23) NetRtg: -3.8 (22)
What a difference five days can make. On Tuesday, the Kings looked like a complete mess, with a six-game losing streak, a star cursing out his coach, and a coach trying to suspend his star. Now they're on a three-game winning streak, with that star - DeMarcus Cousins - averaging 36.3 points and shooting 9-for-15 from 3-point range. We'll see if they can keep it together on the road, where they play nine of their next 11.
This week: @ ATL, @ MIA, @ ORL

24

Last week: 16

Minnesota (4-6)
Pace: 100.1 (14) OffRtg: 102.4 (10) DefRtg: 102.9 (19) NetRtg: -0.5 (17)
Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns will be perennial All-Stars, but Ricky Rubio is going to be the Wolves' most important player for the foreseeable future. They're 0-4 without their point guard, having allowed 116 points per 100 possessions in the four games he's missed. Going back to last season, the Wolves have lost their last 13 games at home and their last 16 without Rubio.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, vs. DET

25

Last week: 17

Portland (4-7)
Pace: 98.5 (19) OffRtg: 103.9 (6) DefRtg: 105.3 (26) NetRtg: -1.4 (20)
The Blazers have had a fourth-quarter lead in three of their last five games, but they've lost all five. They held their first five opponents of the season under a point per possession, but have allowed the last six to score 113.5 per 100. Allen Crabbe (12.0 points per game on 63 percent shooting in his last six games) has shows signs of being another consistent backcourt contributor, but this team can't stay afloat if it doesn't get stops.
This week: @ SAS, @ HOU, vs. LAC, @ LAL

26

Last week: 10

Houston (4-6)
Pace: 100.9 (9) OffRtg: 99.2 (19) DefRtg: 106.5 (29) NetRtg: -7.4 (26)
Last season, the Rockets won 56 games because they managed to play defense at a top-10 level in the 41 games that Dwight Howard missed. This season, they're 4-6 because they've managed to play defense at a bottom-10 level in the six games he's played (and also in the four he's missed). It hasn't helped that Ty Lawson (shooting 32 percent) has been a bust thus far.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. POR, @ MEM, vs. NYK

27

Last week: 27

L.A. Lakers (2-8)
Pace: 101.3 (7) OffRtg: 96.8 (28) DefRtg: 104.0 (21) NetRtg: -7.2 (25)
The Lakers never ranked higher than 28th in defensive efficiency on any Monday last season. (Read that again.) But their opponents have shot 40 percent or worse in four of their last five games to put them on the brink of actually not being a bottom-10 defense. Unfortunately, after they visit the Suns on Monday, they play four straight games against top-10 offenses, one of which employs Stephen Curry.
This week: @ PHX, vs. TOR, vs. POR

28

Last week: 30

Brooklyn (1-9)
Pace: 97.4 (25) OffRtg: 96.3 (29) DefRtg: 105.1 (25) NetRtg: -8.8 (28)
The Nets won 1.99 games last week against the teams that were in the Western Conference finals six months ago. But an eight-second violation, a silly decision not to foul, and a miss from point-blank range kept them from pulling off what might have ended up being the biggest upset of the whole season. Joe Johnson has shot less than 40 percent in eight of his 10 games.
This week: vs. ATL, @ CHA, @ BOS, vs. BOS

29

Last week: 28

New Orleans (1-9)
Pace: 101.0 (8) OffRtg: 98.6 (22) DefRtg: 108.9 (30) NetRtg: -10.3 (29)
The Pelicans got their first win, but last week's three losses dropped them to 0-5 against the Eastern Conference. If that sounds familiar, it's because last season, they started 8-13 against the East, not a good look when you're competing for a playoff spot in what's supposed to be the stronger conference. Their next nine games are against the West, but that stretch includes three more back-to-backs.
This week: vs. DEN, @ OKC, vs. SAS, vs. PHX

30

Last week: 29

Philadelphia (0-10)
Pace: 98.9 (17) OffRtg: 92.1 (30) DefRtg: 105.7 (28) NetRtg: -13.5 (30)
The Sixers have held a fourth-quarter lead in just one of their 10 games, but did hold both the Thunder and Spurs under a point per possession over the weekend. Their defense has taken a big step backward after ranking 13th last season, and it starts in transition. They've allowed their opponents to record at least 24 fast break points in six of their 10 games after doing so only seven times last season.
This week: vs. DAL, vs. IND, @ CHA, @ MIA