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Power Rankings

Power Rankings: Cavs survive and advance

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Nov 7, 2016 11:24 AM ET

 

Thirteen days into the season, nothing has happened to make us rethink our Cavs-Warriors Finals predictions. The champs have yet to lose and while the Warriors have dropped two games, they've shown us how good they can be when they're clicking.

That doesn't mean that there hasn't been surprises or eye-opening developments in the first two weeks. In the spirit of the season, we can say that the down-ballot races are getting interesting.

The LA Clippers established themselves as the early No. 2 team in the West with the league's best defense and a convincing win in San Antonio on Saturday. The Boston Celtics have taken a step backward rather than forward. Teams like the Hawks, Raptors and Bulls have suffered some weird losses on their home floor, while the Lakers and Bucks have found offense where there was none last season. The Sixers are winless (again), but almost beat the Cavs (again).

We'll have a much better idea of who's good and who's not when teams have played about 20 games apiece. History tells us that's when data and the standings are worth their salt. Until then, there will be ups and downs, more surprises and more trends to watch.

  • Hero team of the week: L.A. Lakers (3-1) -- We know the Lakers are much better than they were last season, but are they ... good? Wins over the Hawks and Warriors certainly help them make the case.
  • Zero team of the week: New Orleans (0-3) -- Two of their losses came in overtime, but the Pelicans looked anemic against three teams - Milwaukee, Memphis and Phoenix - that were searching for answers themselves.
  • East vs. West: The East is 12-9 against the West in interconference games after a 10-6 week (10-2 before the West won all four interconference games on Sunday).
  • High jumps of the week: L.A. Lakers (+14), Milwaukee (+8), Orlando (+8)
  • Free falls of the week: Washington (-10), Memphis (-9), New York (-7)
  • Team to watch this week: Charlotte -- The 4-1 Hornets have a good interconference game against the Jazz on Wednesday, and then face last season's Eastern Conference finalists (Toronto and Cleveland) over the weekend.

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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 99.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.3 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

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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.

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1
Last week:
2

Record: 6-0
Pace: 100.8 (12) OffRtg: 111.9 (1) DefRtg: 102.3 (15) NetRtg: +9.7 (3)

The Cavs' defense didn't hold up against the Rockets and Celtics, but neither of those teams could stop the big three, who combined for 75 and 79 points in the two wins. They got another early-season scare from the Sixers on Saturday, but remain the league's only unbeaten team, with three new Eastern Conference challengers to face this week. With full health and only three back-to-backs in their first 16 games, their depth has yet to be tested. Tyronn Lue is playing a nine-man rotation with no back-up point guard.

This week: vs. ATL, @ WAS, vs. CHA

2
Last week:
4

Record: 5-1
Pace: 100.6 (13) OffRtg: 101.4 (18) DefRtg: 90.7 (1) NetRtg: +10.7 (2)

The Clippers' defense has been strong all season, ranking second in opponent turnover rate and second in the percentage of opponent shots that come from between the restricted area and 3-point range. And their offense finally got going in San Antonio on Saturday, scoring 73 points in the first half and shooting well from the perimeter for the first time (Blake Griffin was 7-for-10 from mid-range). They play two top-five defenses this week, with a chance to avenge Wednesday's loss to the Thunder.

This week: vs. DET, vs. POR, @ OKC, @ MIN

3
Last week:
1

Record: 5-2
Pace: 95.8 (27) OffRtg: 108.0 (4) DefRtg: 100.5 (9) NetRtg: +7.5 (5)

The Spurs lost more home games last week (two) than they did all of last season (one). But it's a make-or-miss league and both losses came with the opponent shooting really well from the perimeter. The Jazz and Clippers shot 54 percent and 47 percent from outside the paint, respectively, with the Utah mark being much better than any team shot from outside the paint against the Spurs last season. There are some offensive concerns too, especially when they have to go to third stringers due to injuries and/or rest.

This week: vs. HOU, vs. DET, @ HOU

4
Last week:
3

Record: 4-2
Pace: 105.0 (2) OffRtg: 107.2 (6) DefRtg: 104.5 (24) NetRtg: +2.7 (9)

The Warriors' week had its highs and its lows. Stephen Curry scored 23 points in a quarter on Tuesday and saw his consecutive-games-with-a-three streak come to an end (at 157) on Friday, shooting 0-for-10 from deep in L.A. The defense was just as bad as the shooting was (on the second night of a back-to-back) against the Lakers. The Warriors have dropped from 15th in defensive rebounding percentage last season to 29th this season. And yes, they were at their best on the defensive glass with Andrew Bogut on the floor last year.

This week: vs. NOP, vs. DAL, @ DEN, vs. PHX

5
Last week:
11

Record: 5-1
Pace: 104.1 (4) OffRtg: 97.1 (25) DefRtg: 95.2 (4) NetRtg: +1.9 (11)

Thursday's loss in Oakland, with Kevin Durant dropping 39 on his old team, was certainly humbling. But the bottom line is that the Thunder earned a split in a tough, road back-to-back against the Clippers and Warriors. The win over L.A. and Saturday's win over the Wolves (who ranked seventh offensively entering the game) give credence to the legitimacy of their defense. Last season, their starting lineup was the defensive unit. It's early, but this season, the starters have allowed 101.2 points per 100 possessions, while all other lineups have allowed just 93.4.

This week: vs. MIA, vs. TOR, vs. LAC, vs. ORL

6
Last week:
10

Record: 4-1
Pace: 100.4 (15) OffRtg: 103.1 (15) DefRtg: 94.1 (3) NetRtg: +9.0 (4)

The Hornets have won a league-high three games after trailing by double-figures, in part because they've been the best third-quarter team in the league, outscoring their opponents by 43.3 points per 100 possessions in the third period. They trailed both Philly and Brooklyn by 13 points in the second quarter last week, but won both games after outscoring them 69-40 (total) in the third. Kemba Walker has shot 37 percent (3-for-11 from 3-point range) in the first half of games and 57 percent (11-for-22) in the second half.

This week: vs. IND, vs. UTA, vs. TOR, @ CLE

7
Last week:
5

Record: 4-2
Pace: 95.6 (28) OffRtg: 105.5 (7) DefRtg: 99.9 (7) NetRtg: +5.6 (7)

One loss to the Kings doesn't mean that the Raptors' guard-heavy, low-assist offense isn't sustainable. But the intent of the Sacramento defense - getting the ball out of DeMar DeRozan's hands - was much like that of the defenses the Raptors have faced in the playoffs. And in each of the last two postseasons, Toronto has suffered a huge drop-off in offensive efficiency from its regular season numbers. Still, they have a top-10 offense with two starters - Kyle Lowry and DeMarre Carroll - shooting a combined 34 percent.

This week: @ OKC, @ CHA, vs. NYK

8
Last week:
6

Record: 4-2
Pace: 102.6 (8) OffRtg: 104.9 (10) DefRtg: 94.0 (2) NetRtg: +10.9 (1)

The Hawks started the season with three double-digit wins, lost to the 1-3 Lakers (unable to get stops) and 0-3 Wizards (unable to make shots), and then beat the Rockets behind Dwight Howard's fifth double-double. Their offense has been rather anemic (96 points scored per 100 possessions) with both Howard and Paul Millsap on the floor, but potent (112) with one of them on the bench. Mike Muscala shooting 71 percent (he and Howard rank first and second in field goal percentage) has something to do with that, but it's worth continued monitoring.

This week: @ CLE, vs. CHI, vs. PHI

9
Last week:
7

Record: 4-3
Pace: 101.6 (10) OffRtg: 104.0 (13) DefRtg: 104.0 (21) NetRtg: +0.0 (16)

Stephen Curry caught fire on Tuesday and Eric Bledsoe hit the game-winner from deep on Wednesday, but the Blazers got outscored 122-66 in the paint in the back-to-back losses. They recovered to hold both the Mavs and Grizzlies under a point per possession while getting big games from Damian Lillard (42 in Dallas) and C.J. McCollum (37 in Memphis). The offense has been at its best (107 points scored per 100 possessions) with both on the floor, good (103) with only Lillard, and weak (92) with only McCollum.

This week: vs. PHX, @ LAC, vs. SAC, vs. DEN

10
Last week:
14

Record: 4-3
Pace: 93.3 (30) OffRtg: 103.6 (14) DefRtg: 103.0 (16) NetRtg: +0.6 (14)

Gordon Hayward is back and scored 28 points in his season debut on Sunday, going 14-for-14 from the free-throw line. With their star healthy, the Jazz had the depth to take advantage of the Knicks' bench in the fourth quarter, as well as what could be a really dangerous closing lineup. George Hill, Rodney Hood, Hayward, Joe Johnson and Rudy Gobert outscored New York 26-12 in 10 minutes on Sunday. Hill and Hood have both shot really well (a combined 48 percent) from outside the paint.

This week: @ PHI, @ CHA, @ ORL, @ MIA

11
Last week:
24

Record: 4-3
Pace: 105.3 (1) OffRtg: 104.8 (11) DefRtg: 103.0 (17) NetRtg: +1.7 (12)

Metta World Peace loves basketball and the Lakers have won three straight games (scoring 113 points per 100 possessions), including two of the best wins any team has had this season. They won in Atlanta on Wednesday and then thumped the Warriors in the dreaded first home game after a road trip. Lou Williams ranks second on the team in scoring and assists, while averaging less than 24 minutes off the bench. His effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage are both career-high marks.

This week: vs. DAL, @ SAC, @ NOP, @ MIN

12
Last week:
13

Record: 4-2
Pace: 98.3 (19) OffRtg: 101.3 (19) DefRtg: 95.5 (5) NetRtg: +5.8 (6)

The Pistons are one of two teams (Indiana is the other) that are undefeated at home and winless on the road. The bigger difference between the Home Pistons and the Road Pistons has been on defense, where they allowed Brooklyn to shoot 54 percent on Wednesday. And now they play six of their next seven games away from the Palace. They don't have more than one day of rest between games until after Thanksgiving (playing 12 games in 20 days), but Stan Van Gundy won't be resting anybody.

This week: @ LAC, @ PHX, @ SAS, @ DEN

13
Last week:
9

Record: 3-3
Pace: 100.5 (14) OffRtg: 110.7 (2) DefRtg: 110.2 (29) NetRtg: +0.5 (15)

Last season, the Celtics never had a streak of six straight games where they failed to hold at least one opponent under a point per possession. But they already have one this year. Not only have they rebounded worse, but they've had a huge drop-off in forcing turnovers, a huge increase in the amount of threes they've allowed, and are putting their opponents on the free-throw line more often. The bulldog trio of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart has only been on the floor together for three minutes, but their defensive issues go beyond that.

This week: @ WAS, vs. NYK, @ IND

14
Last week:
8

Record: 3-3
Pace: 97.1 (23) OffRtg: 109.3 (3) DefRtg: 107.3 (25) NetRtg: +2.0 (10)

Sure, the Bulls' first-week offense wasn't sustainable. But their defense went from allowing 97 points per 100 possessions as they started 3-0 to allowing 118 as they fell to 3-3. They rank last in forcing turnovers and, according to SportVU, they've allowed a league-high 1.15 points per possession on pick-and-rolls. They should be able to improve on those marks by the end of November, because only one of their next 11 games (at Atlanta on Wednesday) is against a team that currently ranks in the top 10 in offensive efficiency.

This week: vs. ORL, @ ATL, @ MIA, vs. WAS

15
Last week:
15

Record: 3-3
Pace: 99.6 (16) OffRtg: 107.9 (5) DefRtg: 109.2 (28) NetRtg: -1.3 (17)

Things are going about how we all expected with the Rockets. Their starting lineup has been the best offensive unit in the league (scoring 120 points per 100 possessions in 72 minutes together) and they rank 28th defensively. James Harden ranks fourth in scoring and first in assists, and the offense dies when he goes to the bench. They've scored a paltry 80 points per 100 possessions (with turnovers being the biggest issue) and are a minus-41 in his 67 minutes off the floor, with two games this week against the best bench in the West.

This week: @ WAS, @ SAS, vs. SAS

16
Last week:
19

Record: 3-3
Pace: 103.5 (5) OffRtg: 99.0 (21) DefRtg: 101.2 (12) NetRtg: -2.2 (18)

The Nuggets' offense was struggling until Emmanuel Mudiay (the league's worst shooter last season and at 27 percent through five games this year) suddenly turned into Jimmy Chitwood in Boston on Sunday, scoring 24 points on 9-for-10 in the first quarter. Feel free to question Mudiay's ability to make shots consistently, but the Nuggets' defense has kept them in most games and Wilson Chandler (averaging 20.7 points over his last three games) is looking like a serious Sixth Man of the Year candidate after missing all of last season (recovering from hip surgery).

This week: @ MEM, vs. GSW, vs. DET, @ POR

17
Last week:
25

Record: 4-3
Pace: 98.7 (17) OffRtg: 102.9 (16) DefRtg: 101.4 (13) NetRtg: +1.5 (13)

The Bucks' offense often appears to be Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker just trying to force their way into a crowded paint. But they got enough in transition and from Mirza Teletovic beyond the arc to score a ridiculous 120 points per 100 possessions over a three-game winning streak last week. And then they scored 75 points in an overtime loss on Sunday to drop from fourth (through Saturday's games) to 16th in offensive efficiency. Early-season number watching can be fun.

This week: vs. NOP, vs. MEM

18
Last week:
21

Record: 3-3
Pace: 101.6 (9) OffRtg: 105.5 (8) DefRtg: 108.5 (27) NetRtg: -3.0 (22)

The Pacers are trying to run, but beat the Bulls handily with only two fast-break points in a slow-paced game on Saturday, because Jeff Teague took care of the ball and finally made some shots. Their starting lineup has played the most minutes in the league, in part because their bench hasn't been very good. Like the Pistons, they've been much better defensively at home than on the road. Unlike the Pistons, they're at home for most of November. After visiting Charlotte on Monday, they play nine of their next 11 games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

This week: @ CHA, vs. PHI, @ PHI, vs. BOS

19
Last week:
20

Record: 2-3
Pace: 97.7 (22) OffRtg: 97.3 (24) DefRtg: 100.0 (8) NetRtg: -2.7 (19)

Heat opponents have taken just 52 percent of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range, the lowest mark in the league. And they're the only team that has held its opponents under 50 percent at the basket. Their defense has been good in four of their five games, but their offense hasn't held up its end of the bargain. Justise Winslow has seen a big increase in usage rate and a big drop in effective field goal percentage. He leads the Heat in field goal attempts, but has shot 34 percent (3-for-18 from 3-point range).

This week: @ OKC, vs. CHI, vs. UTA

20
Last week:
28

Record: 3-3
Pace: 96.2 (26) OffRtg: 98.5 (22) DefRtg: 104.5 (23) NetRtg: -6.0 (25)

The Magic are undefeated in November, getting wins in three different ways last week. They got into the paint in Philadelphia, shot well from the perimeter against Sacramento, and won ugly against Washington. All three games were close late and Frank Vogel used 10 different guys with the score within five points in the last five minutes. His best offensive (floor-spacing) lineups and best defensive lineups could eventually look very different. The defense has been surprisingly bad with Aaron Gordon and Serge Ibaka on the floor together.

This week: @ CHI, vs. MIN, vs. UTA, @ OKC

21
Last week:
12

Record: 3-4
Pace: 96.8 (24) OffRtg: 95.4 (28) DefRtg: 102.2 (14) NetRtg: -6.8 (27)

The Grizzlies' new, three-happy offense wasn't able to sustain the success it had in their first three games. They shot 26 percent from 3-point range in losing three of four last week, with the only win coming (in overtime) when the Pelicans had scoring quarters 11, 13 and 16 points. The Grizz got Chandler Parsons back on Sunday, but will still have to grit 'n grind for some wins, especially if David Fizdale continues to give Mike Conley and Marc Gasol periodic days off. They've scored less than 90 points per 100 possessions with neither on the floor.

This week: vs. DEN, @ MIL

22
Last week:
17

Record: 3-5
Pace: 94.9 (29) OffRtg: 101.4 (17) DefRtg: 107.8 (26) NetRtg: -6.3 (26)

After allowing 110 points per 100 possessions in the first four games, the Kings salvaged their five-game trip by keeping DeMar DeRozan in check and coming back from a double-digit deficit to beat the Raptors on Sunday. They've actually trailed by double-digits in seven of their eight games. Their starting lineup has been good, but they'll welcome the return of Darren Collison (from his eight-game suspension) on Tuesday, with Ty Lawson having missed his last 10 shots.

This week: vs. NOP, vs. LAL, @ POR

23
Last week:
16

Record: 2-4
Pace: 98.6 (18) OffRtg: 104.0 (12) DefRtg: 110.9 (30) NetRtg: -6.9 (28)

If the Knicks continue to have the league's worst defense, they'll continue to have Jekyll-and-Hyde weeks like the one that just passed. Occasionally (like Friday in Chicago, when all five starters scored 15 points or more), the offense will be good enough to overcome the defense. But the bench continues to be bad and they have to find a way to get stops. The shots they're giving up (66 percent of them have been from the restricted area or 3-point range) and their league-worst defensive rebounding percentage tells us that it's not just a make-or-miss issue.

This week: vs. BKN, @ BOS, @ TOR

24
Last week:
23

Record: 1-5
Pace: 96.5 (25) OffRtg: 97.0 (26) DefRtg: 99.7 (6) NetRtg: -2.7 (20)

With Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams both dealing with injuries, it's a good time for the Mavs to have a two-game week. Still, it was a relief to get off the schneid (with their 14th overtime game of the last two seasons) on Sunday. Harrison Barnes topped his career high again, but the Dallas offense has been otherwise ugly. It's been slow (they've taken a league-low 7.7 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock) and lacking layups (they've taken a league-low 24.0 percent of their shots in the restricted area).

This week: @ LAL, @ GSW

25
Last week:
26

Record: 2-4
Pace: 103.3 (6) OffRtg: 100.5 (20) DefRtg: 103.4 (19) NetRtg: -2.9 (21)

The Nets have been inconsistent on both ends of the floor, but the offense surely suffers more with their top two point guards - Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez - both out with leg injuries. They've scored just 95 points per 100 possessions in 117 minutes with neither on the floor thus far, but they got enough stops and hustle plays from Trevor Booker down the stretch against Detroit on Wednesday (after Lin got hurt) to get win No. 2. This week's games are all winnable, but Brook Lopez will probably sit one of the first two (a Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back).

This week: vs. MIN, @ NYK, @ PHX

26
Last week:
27

Record: 2-5
Pace: 104.3 (3) OffRtg: 97.8 (23) DefRtg: 103.2 (18) NetRtg: -5.4 (23)

The Suns' only two wins have come in overtime and they're still struggling to get cohesiveness from their young talent. Only the Raptors have assisted on a lower percentage of their buckets. But vet P.J. Tucker was huge in denying Anthony Davis the ball in Friday's win in New Orleans after playing only 18 minutes in the team's first three games. In the 22.5 minutes that both guys were on the floor (including all of overtime), Tucker allowed Davis to get just two shots and six free throw attempts.

This week: @ POR, vs. DET, vs. BKN, @ GSW

27
Last week:
22

Record: 1-4
Pace: 97.9 (21) OffRtg: 105.3 (9) DefRtg: 101.0 (11) NetRtg: +4.4 (8)

The Wolves' numbers are skewed by Tuesday's 36-point win over a team (Memphis) resting its two best players. Their first three losses were all within five points in the last five minutes, but were also games they led by 17, 18 and 15 points. Take away the Memphis game and they've lost their four third quarters by a score of 121-61, shooting 30 percent with more turnovers (22) than field goals (21). The defense hasn't been to Tom Thibodeau's standards either, and Ricky Rubio is out indefinitely with a sprained elbow.

This week: @ BKN, @ ORL, vs. LAC, vs. LAL

28
Last week:
18

Record: 1-4
Pace: 98.1 (20) OffRtg: 96.6 (27) DefRtg: 104.2 (22) NetRtg: -7.6 (29)

The Wizards haven't been the league's worst second half team only because the Philadelphia 76ers exist. The Wiz led each of last week's three games by at least 12 points, but only got one win (after Kyle Korver missed a three to tie) because they allowed the Raptors, Hawks and Magic to score 114 points per 100 possessions after halftime. John Wall isn't playing both nights of a back-to-back for the time being, and there's another one this week (Friday and Saturday vs. the Cavs and Bulls). The defense has suffered more than the offense with him off the floor thus far.

This week: vs. HOU, vs. BOS, vs. CLE, @ CHI

29
Last week:
29

Record: 0-6
Pace: 102.7 (7) OffRtg: 94.9 (29) DefRtg: 100.7 (10) NetRtg: -5.9 (24)

The Pelicans switched up their starting lineup (moving Omer Asik to the bench) last week, but remained winless with bad defense (against Milwaukee on Tuesday), bad offense (in Memphis on Wednesday) and bad execution down the stretch in all three of their games. One minor bright spot has been the back-up backcourt of Langston Galloway and Buddy Hield, which finally made some shots last week. The other reserve guard - Lance Stephenson - went down with a groin injury and had to be waived so the Pels could sign Archie Goodwin.

This week: @ GSW, @ SAC, @ MIL, vs. LAL

30
Last week:
30

Record: 0-5
Pace: 101.4 (11) OffRtg: 90.7 (30) DefRtg: 103.7 (20) NetRtg: -13.0 (30)

The Sixers have lost 42 straight October-November games, but their three games vs. Cleveland during that streak have been decided by a total of just 14 points. The problem late in the one-point loss on Saturday was the same problem at the end of Tuesday's two-point loss to Orlando. They committed turnovers on all five of their last-minute possessions in those two games, with Joel Embiid responsible for three of the five. With the addition of Ersan Ilyasova, their shooting is better. But that improvement gets curtailed if they can't take care of the ball.

This week: vs. UTA, @ IND, vs. IND, @ ATL


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