NBA Power Rankings November 21st, 2012

Week three of the NBA season is in the books and more clarity continues to emerge among the elite teams. The Western Conference still reigns supreme from top-to-bottom, but it’s the New York Knicks looking like world beaters at the top of our power rankings.

We update the power rankings every Wednesday, so make sure to continue checking back.

Last week’s rankings are in parentheses. 

1. (2) New York Knicks (8-1) – After a great comeback win in San Antonio, the Knicks ascend to the top of our power rankings. Carmelo Anthony continues to put up excellent numbers and is a leading MVP candidate. Raymond Felton continues to regain his form from 2010-11 and things are looking up.

2. (6) Los Angeles Clippers (8-2) – The Clippers are coming off a terrific week for their confidence. Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Blake Griffin and company beat the Heat, Bulls and Spurs to cap off a perfect week. Their second unit is playing well and they’re going to get Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups back eventually.

3. (5) Memphis Grizzlies (8-2) - Wins over the Thunder, Knicks and Bobcats were great. The loss at home to the Nuggets isn’t something to be ashamed of. Zach Randolph is a rebounding machine and has been the game leader in every game so far. Marc Gasol is making a play for the best center in the league.

4. (3) Miami Heat (8-3) – The Heat are happy to end their six-game road trip. A loss at the Clippers was the only blemish this week, with wins at Denver and Phoenix. The Heat began to look weary and sloppy, but the defense is picking up. LeBron James and Chris Bosh can handle it, but Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen need to start producing.

5. (4) Oklahoma City Thunder (8-3) - Offensively, the Thunder are really starting to click. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin are gelling nicely. The major question continues to be the quality of wins for the Thunder. They will have a chance to strengthen their position with games this week against the Clippers, Celtics and 76ers.

6. (1) San Antonio Spurs (8-3) – The Spurs take a tumble after losing two out of three at home this week. Tim Duncan is playing great, Tony Parker is working back to healthy and Manu Ginobili is still MIA. They start a six-game Eastern Conference road trip tonight starting in Boston and ending in Miami.

7. (9) Los Angeles Lakers (6-5) – Mike D’Antoni was supposed to bring the offense. Instead, the Lakers stymied the Nets on Tuesday night and looked really good defensively. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are looking awesome, with Pau Gasol still struggling with his shooting. No return for Steve Nash yet, but it doesn’t seem to matter for now.

8. (10) Milwaukee Bucks (6-3) – The Bucks continue to surprise on the backs of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. A loss in Charlotte isn’t as bad as it once was, but they’ve got a brutal stretch coming and needed a win there. This week, it’s Miami and a home-and-home with Chicago. Ersan Ilyasova is STILL being outplayed greatly by Mike Dunleavy. Oops.

9. (14) Brooklyn Nets (6-3) - We’re impressed by the Nets’ ability to dispatch of lesser teams. The mark of a good team is handling the lesser competition well and mixing in some wins over elite teams. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are impossible to guard for any backcourt in the league. A win over the Lakers would have sold us even further.

10. (15) Philadelphia 76ers (7-4) – Now Andrew Bynum has two balky knees. It’s frustrating, but the pesky 76ers keep plugging away without him. Nick Young has been at his streaky best and Jrue Holiday is a leading candidate for Most Improved Player. Wins at home over Utah, Cleveland and Toronto are what’s expected for a good team.

11. (12) Boston Celtics (6-5)Rajon Rondo is a beast and is racking up assists at a remarkable rate. It’s not creating wins, though. The Celtics got thrashed by the Pistons by 20 on Sunday and can’t find any real consistency. Kevin Garnett is competing and Paul Pierce has heart, but the team isn’t responding like we’re used to.

12. (7) Chicago Bulls (5-5) - The Bulls slowed down a bit with an overtime win in Phoenix and losses in Los Angeles and Portland. The Bulls had a huge lead over the Suns and almost gave the game away. That should never happen. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer giving their all on the same night means a win, but they seem to disappear too often.

13. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves (5-4) – Injuries are taking their toll on the Wolves, who were already hurting without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. With Nikola Pekovic hurting, the Wolves lost on a last-second shot to the Bobcats and got dominated in the paint by the Warriors. Andrei Kirilenko could run away with the Comeback Player of the Year.

14. (11) Denver Nuggets (5-6) - Denver continues to confuse us. It’s understandable to lose to the Heat and Spurs, but for the Nuggets to go into Memphis and win doesn’t make sense. Danilo Gallinari is throwing up airballs when he’s wide open and Ty Lawson is having scoreless games. Andre Iguodala is competing, but nothing else is making sense.

15. (17) Atlanta Hawks (5-4) – The Hawks are in the midst of an easy stretch, with wins over the Kings and Magic last week leading into games against the Wizards and Bobcats this week. Their defense is playing well but the offense stinks. Josh Smith leads the team with just 15.5 points per game. Al Horford, Louis Williams and Jeff Teague need to step up.

16. (23) Golden State Warriors (6-5) - It was a good week for the Warriors, with wins over the Hawks, Wolves and Mavericks. The only loss was in Oklahoma City, which is not bad by any means. Stephen Curry is finally starting to wake up and has gone 26-of-26 from the free-throw line in his last seven games. Klay Thompson went in the tank after Mark Jackson‘s public brow-beating, but at least David Lee is back to being a rebounding machine.

17. (22) Portland Trail Blazers (5-5) - Young teams will have their ups-and-downs, and the Blazers are proving it. They had a light week, with home wins over the Rockets and Bulls. Nicolas Batum has been the man and is playing hard on both ends. LaMarcus Aldridge continues to impress and Damian Lillard is Rookie of the Year material. This team will be good for a while once they grow together.

18. (16) Utah Jazz (6-6) – It’s telling that the Jazz aren’t happy with a .500 record. They expected more (and so did we) and they need to kick in into gear quickly. With so many expiring contracts, that trade deadline will be more enticing than ever if they can’t take care of business. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap will get theirs, but shouldn’t Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward get more looks?

19. (18) Dallas Mavericks (6-6) – Just because a team is filled with veterans doesn’t mean they’ll mesh. The Mavericks are finding this out, as they can’t find much consistency. O.J. Mayo has been solid and Chris Kaman has been a big help. If only Dirk Nowitzki were there to give them more stability. Getting crushed in Indiana is inexcusable at this point.

20. (24) Charlotte Bobcats (5-4) - Give it up for the Bobcats. They’ve played hard and are getting solid contributions from Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Ramon Sessions. They’re slowing moving up the offensive and defensive team rankings and are quietly knocking off good teams like the Wolves and the Bucks.

21. (20) Indiana Pacers (5-7) - Without Danny Granger, it looks like the Pacers are in serious trouble. Roy Hibbert has been a massive disappointment and Paul George can’t seem to get his offense in gear. They’re lucky that the defense has been so good, because they’re horrible offensively. David West is a nice complimentary player, but he shouldn’t be leading your team in scoring.

22. (19) Phoenix Suns (4-7) – They play hard and are never out of a game, but that’s not the objective. Coach Alvin Gentry has looked as upset and surly as ever with the Suns continuing to fall behind. Marcin Gortat is getting vocal about his displeasure and rightfully so. Luis Scola has been great and Goran Dragic is doing all he can. Shannon Brown is trying to get Sixth Man of the Year votes.

23. (13) New Orleans Hornets (3-6) – Without Eric Gordon, the Hornets were still surprising as of a week ago. Then it all came crashing down. Anthony Davis is the real deal, but the rest of the team is lackluster at best. Greivis Vasquez is playing above his head and the rest of the team is filled with role players. It’s going to get darker before the good times return.

24. (21) Houston Rockets (4-7) – The James Harden show is experiencing some technical difficulties. He’s struggled as the only offensive option on the team and Jeremy Lin is showing that he’s a serviceable facilitator and nothing more. When Harden has a great game, the Rockets can win. When he doesn’t, they stink. Omer Asik has been a pleasant surprise.

25. (25) Orlando Magic (3-7) - Playing without Al Harrington, Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick hurts a lot. The Magic can put solid stretches together and Glen Davis does impress from time to time, but they can’t do it long-term. This year is a transition period and it’s starting to show. Arron Afflalo has been good, but he’s not a first option.

26. (27) Toronto Raptors (3-8) – Getting Kyle Lowry back is huge for the Raptors. They dropped a tough one to the 76ers because they ran out of gas but now they can start building that chemistry around Lowry again. Jonas Valanciunas has been woefully inconsistent and Andrea Bargnani is playing as poorly as he ever has. DeMar DeRozan has been a very pleasant surprise.

27. (26) Cleveland Cavaliers (2-8) – The Cavaliers were going to struggle anyways, but with Kyrie Irving missing four weeks with a broken finger, they’re going to be horrendous. Anderson Varejao is a stat monster, but if it results in losses, who cares? Dion Waiters has a big opportunity to show what he can do offensively right now.

28. (30) Detroit Pistons (2-9) – The Pistons are finally starting to wake up. We expected them to finish 10th in the conference, but losing your first eight games makes that more difficult. They picked up quality wins over the 76ers and Celtics this week and Greg Monroe is playing like the stud that he is. If Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight can start making shots, they’ll climb the ladder slowly.

29. (28) Sacramento Kings (2-8) – They’re in the midst of a five-game losing streak and have to face the Lakers, Jazz (twice) and Wolves in their next four games. DeMarcus Cousins isn’t packing the stat sheet like expected, and Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans can’t shoot. There’s no real light at the end of the tunnel right now. Change is needed from the top down.

30. (29) Washington Wizards (0-9) – Ick. Nasty. Terrible. Gross. These are words to describe the Wizards offense. They are averaging just 86.9 points per game. The 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats averaged 87. Jordan Crawford leads the team with just 12.2 points per game. Emeka Okafor leads with just 6.3 rebounds per game. John Wall and Nene can’t get back quick enough.

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HoopsHabit’s Regular Column Schedule:

Monday – NBA Awards Watch
Wednesday – NBA Power Rankings
Friday – NBA Stat Central
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