Now might be the time to debate if the top 16 teams, regardless of conference, should make the postseason. Through seven weeks, the East is the conference with eight teams at .500 or better, while the West only has six. The East has won 14 of the last 20 games played between the two conferences and has a winning record overall (60-59).
But there's a healthy-sized drop-off after the top eight in the East (though the ninth-place Pistons have won three of four for the first time this season). In the West, teams 7-12 each have nine or 10 wins. The Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs have all had disappointing seasons thus far, but they're all just a game or two out of playoff position.
That makes for a fascinating landscape with a large group of players becoming trade eligible on Sunday. Are teams like the Blazers, Kings and Spurs looking for upgrades? How many teams in either conference are ready to be sellers at this point?
There are a few important games within that 7-12 range in the West this week. The Suns play two of them, hosting the Wolves (with whom they're tied at 10-12) on Monday and facing the Spurs in Mexico City on Saturday.
At the top of each conference, the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers are cruising along. And for the third straight week, they occupy the top two spots, with Milwaukee's thumping of the LA Clippers keeping them at No. 1.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Right Way: Eric Bledsoe (MIL) was a plus-67 in three games last week.
- Wrong Way: Kevin Knox (NYK) was a minus-68 in three games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Milwaukee (3-0) -- Let's not make this complicated. The Bucks won their three games, including one against the Clippers, by an average of 32 points.
- Something Just Ain't Right: Cleveland (0-3) -- The Cavs have lost 12 of their last 13 (which says something about the state of the Blazers on Nov. 23), and chatter about discord between the new coach and his players has begun.
East vs. West
- The East is 60-59 (.504) against the West in interconference games after going 11-5 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 7
- Toughest: 1. New Orleans, 2. Atlanta, 3. Cleveland
- Easiest: 1. Dallas, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Indiana
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Atlanta (+4), Boston (+4), Orlando (+4)
- Free falls of the week: Toronto (-6), Denver (-4)
Week 8 Team to Watch
- Boston -- Eastern Conference positioning behind the first-place Bucks remains very interesting, and the Celtics picked up a big win over the Heat on Wednesday, benefitting from a rest advantage over a team that played in Toronto the night before. This week, the Celtics have their own back-to-back within that top five in the East, visiting the Pacers (the first of three meetings) on Wednesday and hosting the Sixers (the first meeting since opening night) on Thursday.
- Last week: Raptors rise to No. 3; Blazers climb 7 spots
- This time last year: Big win in Toronto gets Bucks back to No. 1 -- The Bucks traded for George Hill, the Grizzlies signed Joakim Noah, and Markelle Fultz got a diagnosis on his right shoulder condition. Bulls players thought about boycotting a practice and Devin Booker got into it with DeAndre Ayton in the Suns' locker room. Luka Doncic scored 11 straight points to beat the Rockets, who were 11-14 and in 14th place in the West. The Thunder pulled off a huge comeback, capped by Paul George's game-winning three, in Brooklyn. But two nights later, the Nets ended an eight-game losing streak with their first of seven straight wins.
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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 has averaged 101.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.4 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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