We're almost there. About halfway through Wednesday's 10-game slate, we'll reach the 1/4 mark of the season (308 of 1,230 games played), the point when it's fair to believe in what we've seen so far, what teams are good, and what teams aren't.
Over the last 10 (82-game) seasons, 136 of the 160 teams (about 14 per year) that eventually made the playoffs were in playoff position at the 1/4 mark of the season. Last season, all eight of the teams that made the West playoffs were in the top eight on Dec. 5 (when 302 games had been played). In the East, six of the eventual playoff teams were in the top eight, with the Hawks (a half game out) and the Wizards (three games out) being the exceptions.
We had some parity over the first month this season, but through Sunday, there are actually fewer teams within two games of .500 (six) than there were at the quarter mark last season (eight). Over the last couple of weeks, teams have begun to sort themselves out.
Nine teams have already hit the 20-game mark and the other 21 will do so this week. Over the last 10 full seasons, 98 of the 102 teams that had at least 12 wins through their first 20 games made the playoffs.
Over that span in the East, almost 70 percent teams that had a 9-11 record through their first 20 games have made the playoffs, while the percentage dropped dramatically for teams with an 8-12 record or worse. In the West, the cut-off has been at 11 wins.
That's good news for teams like the 11-8 Pelicans and 11-9 Pacers, who weren't expected by most to make the playoffs, but have gotten off to good starts. And it may make us look a little closer at the Oklahoma City Thunder's 8-11 record through Sunday.
- Last week: Celtics climb to No. 1 with comeback win over Warriors
- This time last year: Warriors streak to the top -- The Warriors and Cavs were a combined 28-4, while the Spurs were 10-0 on the road. Kevin Love scored 34 points in a quarter, Zach LaVine threw one down on Alex Len, and Nick Young stole the ball from a teammate in order to hit a game-winner vs. Oklahoma City.
- Plus-minus stud: Luc Mbah a Moute (HOU) was a plus-78 in two games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Justin Holiday (CHI) was a minus-72 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Miami (3-0) -- The Heat followed up their streak-busting win over the Celtics with an impressive road win in Minnesota on Friday. Then they climbed over .500 by recovering from a seven-point first quarter in Chicago on Sunday.
- Zero team of the week: Memphis (0-4) -- The Grizzlies are without Mike Conley, but their eight-game losing streak includes five losses at home, two to Dallas and Brooklyn last week.
- East vs. West: The East is 63-59 (.516) against the West in interconference games after going 9-11 last week. The East teams that have played the fewest games against the West are Cleveland (2-2) and Boston (6-0), while the West teams that have played the fewest games against the East are Memphis (0-5) and Dallas (2-4).
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Indiana, 3. Charlotte
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Boston, 2. Portland, 3. Cleveland
- 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: Cleveland (+9), Miami (+6), New Orleans (+6)
- Free falls of the week: Memphis (-9), Orlando (-6), Milwaukee (-5)
- Team to watch in Week 7: Philadelphia -- Coming off their three most comfortable wins of the season and having won five of their last six games, the Sixers face four tough Eastern Conference tests. They host the Cavs on Monday and the Wizards on Wednesday, travel to Boston on Thursday, and return home to face the Pistons on Saturday. They'll have a rest disadvantage against the Celtics, but both Washington and Detroit will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
* * *
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 100.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.3 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.
* * *