Take a good look at the standings. It's only Dec. 5, but come April 13, they won't look much different than they do now.
About halfway through Monday's 11-game slate of games, we'll reach the 1/4 mark of the season (308 of 1,230 games). This is the point where we typically have a good idea of where teams stand, who's good and who's not.
Sixteen teams make the playoffs every year. And over the last 10 full seasons (throwing out the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season), an average of 13.6 of the 16 have been in playoff position at the quarter pole. Basically, seven of the top eight teams in each conference at this point in the season will stay there.
At this point last year, Boston (1/2 game out of eighth in the East) and Portland (one game out of eighth in the West) were the only eventual playoff teams that weren't in the top eight in their conference after Dec. 6 (when we had played 303 total games). Two years ago, it was only Boston and New Orleans.
Over those 10 seasons, the '10-11 Memphis Grizzlies climbed out of biggest hole at the quarter mark to reach the playoffs. They were 8-14 at this point, five games in the loss column behind the 11-9, eighth-place Phoenix Suns. That same season, the 16-6 Utah Jazz (who said goodbye to both Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams over the next few months) had the best quarter-mark record of a team that didn't make the playoffs over the last 10 years.
So, while some lower-tier teams (like Orlando and New Orleans) have shown some signs of life over the last couple of weeks, they're not in a favorable spot, even with 60-plus games to play.
Anything can happen between now and April 13. There will be injuries, trades, improvement and regression. But overall, what we're going to see over the next 18 weeks won't be much different than what we've seen over the last six (which has been great, by the way).
- Last week: Warriors streak to the top
- This time last year: Parity makes for some good East basketball -- The top 10 teams in the East were all above .500, with 11-13 wins apiece. The Warriors were 22-0, Kobe Bryant had some late-game heroics in Washington, and Jeff Green beat the Suns with an alley-oop dunk.
- Plus-minus stud: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (DET) was a plus-82 in four games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Mike Muscala (ATL) was a minus-56 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Detroit (3-1) -- Before falling at home to Orlando on Sunday, the Pistons won in Charlotte, Boston and Atlanta. Road wins, especially in your conference against other playoff contenders, are good wins.
- Zero team of the week: Atlanta (0-4) -- The Hawks went down to the wire at Golden State on Monday, but then also lost in Phoenix and got smoked by the Pistons and Raptors by a total of 80 points.
- East vs. West: The West is 62-54 (.534) against the East in interconference games, but the East was 14-12 (3-0 against Sacramento) last week.
- Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Dallas, 2. Sacramento, 3. L.A. Lakers
- Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Chicago, 3. Orlando
- 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: Orlando (+9), Detroit (+5), Milwaukee (+5), Oklahoma City (+5), Utah (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Atlanta (-9), Denver (-5), L.A. Lakers (-5)
- Team to watch this week: Golden State -- A five-game week is highlighted by Wednesday's trip to L.A. for the Warriors' first meeting of the season with the Clippers. Then it's on to Utah for a great offense-defense matchup.
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 is averaging 99.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.1 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.