When you try to put the 30 NBA teams in order of quality every week, you find that there are some lines of delineation that are clear and others that are blurry.
Through four weeks of the season, there's a lot of blurriness. We have a clear big three with the LA Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors all having lost just two games. The Clippers' losses have been by a total of six points, one of the Cavs' losses came without LeBron James, and the Warriors are riding a seven-game winning streak. At 10-3, having righted the ship after a 1-3 stretch, the San Antonio Spurs would clearly be the fourth team if we voted to see who makes the NBA semifinals (thank goodness we don't).
After that, it's anybody's guess as to which teams are really good, which are solid, and which are heading for an ugly season. After Cleveland, the East has a group of five teams - Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, and Toronto - that could be beating each other up for the next five months. After the Clippers, Warriors and Spurs, the West has some good offensive teams and some good defensive teams, but nobody that has shown signs of putting it all together.
So we have a lot of teams that can look good one night and terrible the next, can beat a good team and lose to a bad one. If you know what to make of teams like the Pacers, Bucks, Wolves or Jazz, you're smarter than me. The good news is that when you don't put all 30 teams in quite the right order, you get to try again next week.
- Last week: Clippers climb to No. 1
- This time last year: Problems arise for Bucks, Clippers -- The Clippers were 6-7 and Josh Smith was having a meltdown in the locker room. The Sixers were 0-14 and the Warriors were 15-0 after coming back from 23 down to beat the aforementioned Clips. Russell Westbrook scored 40-plus in two straight games (with Kevin Durant out), Jonas Valanciunas broke his hand, and the Rockets fired Kevin McHale.
- Plus-minus stud: Blake Griffin (LAC) was a plus-67 in four games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (BKN) was a minus-78 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Memphis (4-0) -- The Grizzlies still have a negative point differential (because that's how they do it), but picked up two impressive road wins over the Jazz and Clippers last week, and then held the Mavs and Wolves to 135 total points on 34 percent shooting.
- Zero team of the week: Brooklyn (0-4) -- The Nets played two bottom-five defenses last week and their defense was worse. They lost their four games (three of which were seemingly winnable going in) by an average of 19.5 points.
- East vs. West: The West is 34-31 (.523) against the East in interconference games after going 15-12 (4-0 against the Nets) last week.
- Toughest schedules through Nov. 20: 1. Sacramento, 2. Dallas, 3. Washington
- Easiest schedules through Nov. 20: 1. Atlanta, 2. Memphis, 3. Milwaukee
- 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: New York (+8), Memphis (+7), Indiana (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Brooklyn (-8), Milwaukee (-8), Utah (-8)
- Team to watch this week: L.A. Lakers -- Having lost three of their last four games with some pretty atrocious defense, the Lakers are teetering in the eighth spot in the West. If a game this early can be described as critical, Tuesday's visit from the Thunder would fit the bill. And then a home-and-home with the Warriors will really test that defense.
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 99.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.8 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.