The East-West disparity may have reached a new high (or low, depending on your perspective).
After an 18-3 week, the West is an incredible 45-19 against the East this season. We're well on our way to the West's 15th winning record in the last 16 seasons, a stretch that has seen a lot of good teams miss the playoffs in one conference while bad ones make the postseason in the other.
And right now, the East is mostly made of bad teams. The Toronto Raptors are basically the only team in the conference that has played really well, but even Wednesday's win over the Grizzlies comes with the context that Memphis was without three of the top six guys in their rotation.
The Washington Wizards are 9-3, but who have they beat? The Miami Heat have managed to stay above .500 without Dwyane Wade by chewing on the carcasses of the Nets and Hornets last week. And the 6-5 Hawks lost to the Lakers at home on Tuesday. 'Nuff said.
Of course, it's difficult for the East teams that are any good to prove themselves when the rest of the conference is so bad. But the Orlando Magic are a playoff team for crying out loud!
The West holds six of the top seven spots in the rankings. The Warriors are hanging on to the top spot after a light week, the Grizz picked up a big win over the Clips, and the Blazers are on the longest winning streak of the early season.
* * *
• Last week: Spurs, Cavs look stronger as Raptors, Clippers slip
• This time last year: Injuries deal tough blow to trio of title-contending squads -- Derrick Rose was lost for the season with a torn meniscus in his right knee. On the same night, the Grizzlies lost Marc Gasol for a month and a half with a sprained MCL and the Warriors lost Andre Iguodala for four weeks with a hamstring injury. The Blazers were on their way to winning 11 straight, Spencer Hawes made this ridiculous shot, and Paul Millsap dunked on Jared Sullinger's head.
• Plus-minus stud: Lou Williams (TOR) was a plus-66 in three games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Tony Wroten (PHI) was a minus-60 in four games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Toronto (3-0) -- Three other teams won in Cleveland last week, but the Raps also handed the (shorthanded) Grizzlies their second loss and blew out a Bucks team that had won three straight.
• Zero Team of the Week: Cleveland (0-4) -- The Cavs played some good teams, but lost more home games last week (three) than the 2008-09 Cavs lost all season (two).
• High jumps of the week: Denver (+10), L.A. Lakers (+5), Orlando, Toronto, Washington (+4)
• Free falls of the week: Charlotte (-7), Brooklyn (-5), Cleveland (-5)
• East vs. West: The West is 45-19 (0.703) against the East in interconference games and was 18-3 last week.
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Minnesota
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Toronto, 2. Denver, 3. Phoenix
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 95.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.2 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.
(10-2) Pace: 101.6 (1), OffRtg: 105.4 (9), DefRtg: 94.4 (1), NetRtg: +11.0 (3)
The Dubs continue to find ways to win. They made up for their worst shooting game of the season in Oklahoma City on Sunday
by committing a season-low 10 turnovers. David Lee is coming back and Andre Iguodala is underused, but Steve Kerr shouldn't break up a starting lineup that's outscored opponents by almost 30 points per 100 possessions
. This week:
@ MIA, @ ORL, @ CHA, @ DET
(12-2) Pace: 94.3 (23), OffRtg: 106.0 (6), DefRtg: 97.9 (4), NetRtg: +8.1 (5)
We can get caught up in the matchups at power forward and point guard when the Grizz face the Clippers. But on Sunday
, L.A. had no answer for Marc Gasol (30 points and 12 boards), who has won his last seven games against the Clips and is an early MVP candidate as the anchor on both ends of the floor for the team with the league's best record. This week:
@ LAL, @ POR, @ SAC
Pace: 95.9 (13), OffRtg: 107.7 (4), DefRtg: 98.9 (7), NetRtg: +8.8 (4)
The Blazers' seven-game winning streak is the longest of the season thus far. It's included only one quality win (Friday against the Bulls), but they just started a stretch where they play 13 of 18 games on the road, with two of the home games against the Grizzlies (Friday) and Spurs. So if they're still in the West's top four on Christmas, they will have passed some tests.
This week: @ PHI, @ CHA, vs. MEM, vs. MIN
Pace: 96.3 (11), OffRtg: 110.4 (2), DefRtg: 98.9 (6), NetRtg: +11.6 (2)
After Lou Williams Weekend (58 points and three buzzer-beaters in wins over Milwaukee and Cleveland), the Raptors have contender numbers on both ends of the floor. But they've played the league's easiest schedule, which doesn't really get tough until late December. And they might be fortunate to play the "fragile" Cavs two more times in the next 15 days.
This week: vs. PHX, @ ATL, vs. DAL, @ LAL
(9-4) Pace: 95.8 (15), OffRtg: 101.6 (21), DefRtg: 95.1 (3), NetRtg: +6.5 (6)
The Spurs have the depth, the system and the defense to make up for the loss of a player or four. But the absences of Patty Mills and now Cory Joseph have Tony Parker carrying a larger load. His minutes are back over 30 per game and the 39:12 he logged on Saturday
was the most he's played in regulation in a regular season game since Feb. 2012. This week:
vs. IND, vs. SAC, @ BOS
(10-3) Pace: 97.0 (8), OffRtg: 100.6 (24), DefRtg: 94.5 (2), NetRtg: +6.0 (7)
The Rockets' defensive improvement (league-high 8.6 points per 100 possessions better than last season) achieved legitimacy with Saturday's win over the Mavs
, in which they held the No. 1 offense under a point per possession without Dwight Howard. But what happened to their offense? It's scored 94 points per 100 possessions over their last eight games
. This week:
vs. NYK, vs. SAC, vs. LAC, @ MIL
(10-4) Pace: 95.4 (20), OffRtg: 115.9 (1), DefRtg: 103.0 (13), NetRtg: +12.9 (1)
The Mavs are 7-0 with a margin of victory of 24.9 points against teams with losing records. But after Saturday's loss in Houston
, they're 3-4 against teams with winning records. Dirk Nowitzki (8-for-30 against the Wizards and Rockets last week) has an effective field goal percentage of 74.4 percent against the losers and 44.7 percent against the winners. This week:
vs. IND, vs. NYK, @ TOR, @ PHI
Pace: 96.1 (12), OffRtg: 103.0 (20), DefRtg: 98.5 (5), NetRtg: +4.4 (8)
Bradley Beal hasn't shown much rust, shooting 21-for-41 (5-for-11 from 3-point range) in his first three games. The Wiz needed the offensive boost, though putting him in the starting lineup would break up a unit that's been excellent defensively. Of course, a plantar fascia injury to Nene, who left Saturday's win in Milwaukee in the first quarter, might do the same thing.
This week: vs. ATL, @ CLE, vs. NOP
(7-5) Pace: 96.5 (9), OffRtg: 106.3 (5), DefRtg: 104.7 (20), NetRtg: +1.6 (14)
The Clips have more issues on defense, but their offense, which ranked No. 1 last season, has been rather anemic in their five losses, scoring just 96 points per 100 possessions
. Matt Barnes isn't the only wing with shooting issues, as J.J. Redick is shooting a career-low from the field and 3-point range. Doc Rivers actually turned to Hedo Turkoglu last week. This week:
@ CHA, @ DET, @ HOU, @ UTA
Pace: 95.4 (18), OffRtg: 104.5 (14), DefRtg: 101.7 (10), NetRtg: +2.8 (11)
Injuries to Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose caught up with the Bulls on the West Coast, where they lost two straight for the first time this season and where they lost Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson to more injuries. Though their offense is improved, they can't rely on their defense when guys like Aaron Brooks, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic are getting big minutes.
This week: @ UTA, @ DEN, @ BOS, @ BKN
(8-5) Pace: 96.5 (10), OffRtg: 105.1 (11), DefRtg: 103.3 (14), NetRtg: +1.9 (12)
The Kings are the only team that hasn't had an above-average defense in the last eight seasons. They're average now, and their starting lineup has been the best defensive unit that has played at least 75 minutes
, having held opponents under 40 percent shooting in eight of its 12 games. All other Kings lineups have allowed 110 points per 100 possessions. This week:
@ NOP, @ HOU, @ SAS, vs. MEM
(8-6) Pace: 92.0 (29), OffRtg: 105.9 (7), DefRtg: 104.2 (18), NetRtg: +1.7 (13)
When they beat two playoff teams from last year (Brooklyn and Charlotte) and a team that sits in the top eight this season (Orlando) without Dwyane Wade, you can call it a good week for the Heat. Mario Chalmers has stepped up in Wade's absence, averaging 20 points and seven assists
, while shooting 58 percent over the last six games. This week:
vs. GSW, @ NYK
(9-5) Pace: 98.5 (5), OffRtg: 105.4 (8), DefRtg: 102.0 (11), NetRtg: +3.4 (9)
The Suns have been fattening up on the Eastern Conference, though they needed Eric Bledsoe layups in the final minute to win in both Boston and Detroit. The big test comes Monday in Toronto, but nobody had to play big minutes in weekend wins in Philly and Indiana. Their point guard data
shows how important Isaiah Thomas' bench crew has been. This week:
@ TOR, vs. DEN, @ DEN, vs. ORL
(7-5) Pace: 95.5 (17), OffRtg: 108.5 (3), DefRtg: 105.0 (21), NetRtg: +3.4 (10)
Anthony Davis put up 43 and 14 on Saturday and is on pace to be the first player since 1991-92 (David Robinson) and the third player in NBA history (Hakeem Olajuwon did it four times) to average at least two steals and three blocks. But the Pelicans' defense hasn't been very good without Omer Asik
, who's missed the last four games with a back issue. This week:
vs. SAC, @ ATL, @ WAS
(5-7) Pace: 95.9 (14), OffRtg: 104.4 (15), DefRtg: 107.0 (26), NetRtg: -2.6 (19)
Just when you thought defense was the problem, the Cavs go and score a paltry 92 points per 100 possessions in an 0-4 week, with guys not named LeBron James or Kyrie Irving shooting 11-for-51 (22 percent) from 3-point range. James voiced his distaste for his minutes early in the week and his team's resilience on Saturday. His body language spoke even louder
. This week:
vs. ORL, vs. WAS, vs. IND
(6-5) Pace: 95.4 (21), OffRtg: 105.2 (10), DefRtg: 105.6 (24), NetRtg: -0.5 (16)
Jeff Teague carried the offense on Friday
, but the Hawks really needed a decent defensive performance after allowing the Cavs and Lakers to score about 125 points per 100 possessions in their previous two games. Of course, holding the Pistons' 27th-ranked offense under a point per possession isn't necessarily a decent defensive performance. This week:
@ WAS, vs. TOR, vs. NOP, vs. CHA
(7-7) Pace: 95.5 (16), OffRtg: 97.6 (26), DefRtg: 100.7 (8), NetRtg: -3.2 (20)
Giannis Antetokounmpo shut down Joe Johnson late in Wednesday's triple-OT win in Brooklyn
, but the Bucks couldn't get full stops against the Raps or Wiz, allowing them to convert 35 total offensive rebounds into 59 second-chance points. For the second straight season, the team Jason Kidd coaches ranks 28th in defensive rebounding percentage. This week:
vs. DET, @ MIN, @ DET, vs. HOU
Pace: 98.6 (4), OffRtg: 103.9 (16), DefRtg: 105.1 (22), NetRtg: -1.2 (17)
Out of nowhere, the Nuggets have won four straight, with Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler and Ty Lawson all averaging 17-plus points per game. In key spots, they've had contributions from other guys, including JaVale McGee, who picked up 12 points, five rebounds and a block of Anthony Davis in the fourth quarter of Friday's win over the Pelicans.
This week: vs. CHI, @ PHX, vs. PHX
(6-9) Pace: 95.4 (19), OffRtg: 100.6 (23), DefRtg: 104.0 (17), NetRtg: -3.4 (21)
Victor Oladipo is back and starting, but Elfrid Payton was making big plays as the Magic finished off a huge comeback in Charlotte on Friday
. They got back into the game with Channing Frye and four guards and have scored 107 points per 100 possessions in 95 minutes with Frye playing center, much more efficient than when he's next to Nikola Vucevic. This week:
@ CLE, vs. GSW, @ IND, @ PHX
(4-8) Pace: 100.0 (3), OffRtg: 105.0 (12), DefRtg: 106.9 (25), NetRtg: -1.9 (18)
Given the opponent, Sunday's 94-88 loss to Portland was the Celtics' best defensive game of the season. But the offense that ranked as the league's most improved just a few days ago
has started to regress, and Jeff Green has shot 3-for-26 from 3-point range in his last six games
. Marcus Smart could return to practice this week, with the Celtics off until Friday. This week:
vs. CHI, vs. SAS
Pace: 92.3 (28), OffRtg: 97.3 (28), DefRtg: 101.6 (9), NetRtg: -4.3 (23)
Though the Pacers keep getting hit with minor injuries, the awfulness of the East has allowed them to stay somewhat afloat. And every day that passes is a day closer to the returns of David West, George Hill and C.J. Watson. But they play six of their next seven games on the road, against the Mavs, Spurs, Cavs, Suns, Blazers and Kings. That's a rough stretch.
This week: @ DAL, @ SAS, vs. ORL, @ CLE
(5-9) Pace: 93.0 (27), OffRtg: 104.5 (13), DefRtg: 108.2 (27), NetRtg: -3.7 (22)
Is it time for Rudy Gobert to see an increased role? The Jazz defense has been pretty terrible with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor, and Gobert has strong rim protection numbers
. He isn't any kind of a threat outside of three feet, but he can almost dunk without jumping. Favors and Gobert have played just one minute together. This week:
vs. CHI, @ OKC, vs. LAC
Pace: 94.4 (22), OffRtg: 103.9 (17), DefRtg: 104.0 (16), NetRtg: -0.1 (15)
Fourteen months after they signed him to a contract that people thought was sketchy, the Nets seem to be done with Andrei Kirilenko. And two months after he won gold with the U.S. National Team, Mason Plumlee is behind Jerome Jordan and Cory Jefferson in Lionel Hollins' rotation. The Nets are still searching for a good win or something that works.
This week: @ PHI, vs. CHI
(3-11) Pace: 97.2 (7), OffRtg: 103.8 (18), DefRtg: 114.4 (30), NetRtg: -10.5 (29)
We got the full Swaggy P experience (save for a circus layup) in Nick Young's first four games of the season. He scored 33 points on 12-for-25 shooting in the first two, with his swag rubbing off on his teammates. Then he shot 4-for-19 over the weekend. Kobe Bryant has passed him the ball more (18 times) than he's passed it to Kobe (14 times)
. This week:
vs. MEM, vs. MIN, vs. TOR
(3-9) Pace: 98.4 (6), OffRtg: 101.5 (22), DefRtg: 111.5 (29), NetRtg: -10.0 (28)
Kevin Martin hit seven 3-pointers in a game in which he broke his wrist
. At that point, none of his teammates had hit as many as seven 3-pointers all season. So yeah, Martin will be missed and the Wolves will have spacing issues in his absence. Andrew Wiggins (29 points against the Kings on Saturday) has had his moments, but the Wolves' defense still stinks. This week:
vs. MIL, @ LAL, @ POR
(4-10) Pace: 92.0 (30), OffRtg: 103.7 (19), DefRtg: 108.4 (28), NetRtg: -4.7 (24)
The Knicks have a long way to go, but avoided disaster by beating the Sixers on Saturday. They also got Jose Calderon back, which might allow Derek Fisher to get a little more consistent with his rotation. The depleted Pacers and Thunder each have multiple lineups that have played more minutes together than the Knicks' most-used five-man unit (31 minutes)
. This week:
@ HOU, @ DAL, @ OKC, vs. MIA
Pace: 93.5 (24), OffRtg: 98.3 (25), DefRtg: 104.3 (19), NetRtg: -6.0 (25)
The most disappointing team outside of Cleveland has lost five straight games (and seven of its last eight), blowing fourth quarter leads in each of its last three (and a 23-point lead to the Magic on Friday). The Hornets' defense is bad, their offense is worse, and there's no relief on the horizon. Their next five games are against teams with winning records.
This week: vs. LAC, vs. POR, vs. GSW, @ ATL
(4-11) Pace: 93.1 (26), OffRtg: 94.7 (29), DefRtg: 102.2 (12), NetRtg: -7.5 (27) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have begun to practice
, the Thunder have played good teams close, and they now play their easiest stretch of schedule. But the hole is getting deeper as they've lost six straight, with their top four scorers all shooting less than 40 percent during the streak
. It really hurts when you get beat by the likes of Marreese Speights. This week:
vs. UTA, vs. NYK
(3-10) Pace: 93.5 (25), OffRtg: 97.4 (27), DefRtg: 103.5 (15), NetRtg: -6.0 (26)
A team with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith shouldn't rank 29th in restricted-area shooting
. And Drummond shouldn't be one of two players shooting less than 50 percent on at least 75 attempts in the restricted area
, where he shot 67 percent last season. Yeah, the Pistons need perimeter shooting, but making layups would be a good start. This week:
@ MIL, vs. LAC, vs. MIL, vs. GSW
(0-13) Pace: 100.0 (2), OffRtg: 88.8 (30), DefRtg: 105.2 (23), NetRtg: -16.3 (30)
As the Sixers approach the worst start in NBA history (0-18) with the worst offense since the league started tracking turnovers in 1977, their defense hasn't been so bad in four of their last five games. They've allowed less than 92 points per 100 possessions in 133 minutes with Nerlens Noel and Henry Sims on the floor together
, which is pretty good, really. This week:
vs. POR, vs. BKN, vs. DAL