The NBA as seen by the writers of the PickandPop after 4 weeks:
1. San Antonio (12-1): The Spurs have won 10 in a row, the hold the best point differential in the league, they are the best team in the NBA. Their ability to go on a three point shooting binge means no team lead is safe against this juggernaut.
2. Indiana (13-1): They can do EVERYTHING well. Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson has become a revelation as well as a legitimate triple-double threat. This team wants the 1st seed and home court throughout the playoffs.
3. Miami (10-3): The Heat have won 6 in a row and nine of their last ten. If not for one point losses against bottom feeders Brooklyn and Boston they would be 12-1 on the season and atop the power rankings despite playing no where near their best on defense. With not a lot of competition in the East this team could end up hovering around 70 wins.
4. LA Clippers (10-5): The Clips are second in the league behind only Miami in offensive efficiency and they are 6th in the league in pace with 100 possessions per game. This incredible offensive prowess has led to Doc Rivers’ squad scoring over 100 in every game by 3 so far (the three the didn’t score over 100, they lost). The best part about the Clippers though is their balance. They have 6 players scoring in double digits with incredible depth all the way around. As long as CP3 and Blake stay healthy, this team will be among the elite. (AL)
5. OKC (9- 3): We all know how good this team is with all hands on deck. A healthy Westbrook, good for 20+ nightly to go along with KD makes them as dangerous as anyone. 4 straight wins, including a dominant effort against the Clippers has this squad rolling and trending upward.
6. Portland (13-2): I have been saying this team looked stacked since the draft and it’s making me look good so far. Lillard and Aldridge are dominant stars themselves, but a surrounding cast of players as talented as Batum, Matthews, Lopez, and Mo Williams allows them to put up points on pace with any team in the league. 11 straight wins speaks for itself. I love the direction of this team.
7. Houston (9-5): Houston reminds me a lot of the Clippers team from last year. Against below average teams they force turnovers and score off every single one, looking like an unstoppable force, but against good teams who take care of the ball they struggle. If the Rockets want to get where they planned on being when they signed Dwight, they need to take less chances on defense and play the sound ball that will work against the elite teams.
8. Golden State (8-6): A three game losing streak looks bad on paper, but two of those three they were without their best player Steph Curry. Curry was back in action in the teams’ loss to Portland however I remain very confident in this team moving forward. They lead the league in three point shooting percentage at 44% and show no signs of slowing down. I love watching this team play. The health of both Curry and Andre Iguodala will be the keys to their long term success. (AL)
9. Memphis (7-6): Two weeks ago the Grizzlies were trying to push the tempo to improve their scoring. Finally Dave Joerger has come to his senses, decreased the pace (currently last in the NBA in pace) and won with defense/post play. If they can hold down the fort while Marc Gasol heals this team should be right among the Western Conference powers by seasons end.
10. Minnesota (8-8): The Wolves rid themselves of a distraction today trading away Derrick Williams to Sacramento. This team can focus on what it does best and that is get out and score. Run, run, run and rely on your bigs to secure you defensive rebounds. It’s nice to have Kevin Love on you team.
11. Dallas (8-6): Dallas has one of the most potent offenses in the league. This allows them to consistently blow the doors off bad teams but the question remains, can they hang with the good teams when the points are harder to come by in the playoffs.
12. Atlanta (8-6): With Derrick Rose out for the remainder of the year, the Hawks could potentially be the third best team in the East. After a hot offensive start with lackluster defense the Hawks have improved their defense to become the 9th best defensive team in the league (according to defensive rating). Combine that with what could end up being the Nets lottery pick and they could be scary in the future.
13. Phoenix Suns (7-6): The Suns remain one of the biggest surprises in the league. The Morris brother have both excelled in rotational roles while the return of Goran Dragic has been key with Eric Bledsoe banged up. Dragic has averaged 16.4 and 6.4 since returning to provide a huge boost to the back-court. (AL)
14. New Orleans (6-6): The Hornets are an elite team on the glass and in the turnover department, regardless of how a team plays if they win those two areas of the game they will have a chance to come out with a W. With Ryan Anderson back the Hawks now have a floor space to draw the big men away from the hoop and allow driving lanes and rebounding opportunities for the Brow and their solid guard rotation.
15. Chicago (6-7): They are going to fall down on this list soon for reasons I am too sad to discuss, but as long as you’re an Eastern Conference with an almost .500 record, you’re going to be this high in the power ranks.
16. Charlotte (7-7) The Bobcats, once a laughingstock of an organization, looks like they finally might make a push for the playoffs. With the 4th best defensive rating in the league, they are locking teams down and playing just enough defense to stay in playoff contention. Look for them to take advantage of the myriad of teams tanking and pick up some help for the stretch run at the trading deadline.
17. Denver (7-6): three straight wins against playoff bound teams has the Nuggets feeling pretty good. They certainly aren’t as golden as last year, but there is a faint shimmer starting to show in Denver.
18. LA Lakers (7-7): The Lakeshow has won three straight and Kobe Bryant inked a two year extension as he nears his return from last years torn achilles. WIth expectation so low for this season, things couldn’t be much better right now for the .500 Lakers. If Kobe can play at an All Star Level this will be a playoff team. (AL)
19. Washington (5-8): Washington has won three of its last four behind their young talented back court of John Wall and Bradley Beal. They are finally showing the chops that had many expecting them to make a playoff push this year. They will further distinguish themselves from the have nots after December 15th (the day players who signed contracts this year can be traded) with some win now moves.
20. Toronto (6-7): 4th in the NBA in total rebound rate and 1st in offensive rebound rate have this team staying competitive thanks to second chance points. Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry continue to shoot sub 40% and have this offense sputtering, but as the two round back into form Toronto should find itself in the playoff hunt and perhaps at the top of the division. (AL)
21. Philadephia 7ers (6-9): Losers of 5 of their last 6 and yet still in first in the Atlantic Division. They lead the NBA in pace with just north of 102 possessions per game and have six players scoring in double digits. They play hard every night but will continue to struggle defensively. MCW, Evan Turner, and Spencer Hawes have all played great so far. (AL)
22. Detroit (6-8): This team has absolutely no identity. The idea that Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond could work was criticized before the season and shockingly, things aren’t working. I know I sound like a broken record with this, but someone is getting moved.
23. Boston (6-10): Boston has been all about streaks; Lost 4, won 4, lost 6 and now have won 2 in a row. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of young role players including back-up point guard Phil Pressey as well as the young big man trio. This team lacks elite 4th quarter closers which will lead to some tough loses, but despite the teams shortcomings, there are a lot of positives coming out of beantown. (AL)
24. Orlando (4-9): Orlando’s stellar defense has suddenly waned dropping from the top ten to 18th in the NBA in defensive rating. After a hot 3-2 start they have dropped 4 in a row and 7 of their last 8. They will continue to lose all season and bolster their young core with a lottery pick who should lead them to the playoff next year.
25. Sacramento (4-9): Offensively, the Kings have a few brightspots led by DeMarcus Cousins’ 21 and 11 average. The Pint Sized Pitbul, Isiah Thomas has been outstanding as well and is among the elite sixth men in the game. The problems in Sacramento are on the defensive end where they allow nearly 47% shooting to opponents. (AL)
26. Cleveland (4-10): The “Ew” team of the year right here. Yikes, guys. I can’t find one good thing to say about this basketball team. Kyrie’s good, but he’s not playing like it. Anthony Bennett might be worse than Kwame Brown. Mike Brown looks even more lost than he usually does and several players look like they hate playing on this team.
27. Brooklyn (3-10): Who would have thought Brooklyn and NY would be the worst teams in the Atlantic one month in? Well this is sadly the case as Brooklyn has been dealing with numerous injuries throughout their team. They have lost 5 in a row and none of the three players they acquired from the Celtics are shooting above 38%. KG is shockingly shooting 35% and looking older every game. Brook Lopez is playing well offensively, but again this year is barley rebounding. With the talent here, i think this team will turn it around, but the horrible start to the year continues. (AL)
28. New York (3-10): The Knicks have lost six in a row and show no signs of turning this season around. JR Smith has been woeful offensively, while Carmelo has been putting up big scoring numbers albeit with poor efficiency as he is under 43% from the field. Literally no one on this team is showing good offense efficiency as nearly every major offensive player is shooting below 43%. The team NEEDS to change up their offense dramatically and likely bring in some fresh faces. Mike Woodson also has to go. (AL)
29. Milwaukee (2-11): The Bucks want to be the Jazz soo bad. I can just see management sitting in meetings devising the best(worst) lineups they can trot out there on a given night. The Bucks need a big time draft pick, since we know for damn sure that no free agents are willingly taking their talents to Wisconsin.
30. Utah (2-14): The hapless Jazz are just a horrible team. They lack any true star power and Derek Favors looks to have taken a step back this season. Not what you want to hear after signing the kid to a lucrative contract this offseason.