After four weeks of the 2012-13 NBA season, our power rankings have a new look at the very top and the same horrid team at the bottom. We’re not sure what happened to Los Angeles as a whole this week. Vinny Del Negro continues to lead inconsistent Clippers teams and the Lakers can’t seem to get out of their own way.
We update the power rankings every Wednesday, so make sure to continue checking back.
Last week’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. (3) Memphis Grizzlies (10-2) – Memphis had a light week, with two wins at home against the Lakers and the Cavaliers. Zach Randolph continues to be solid on the glass, and Tony Allen leads the No. 3 defense in the league.
2. (6) San Antonio Spurs (12-3) – Four consecutive road wins this week, over the Celtics, Pacers, Raptors and Wizards are what we expect out of an elite team. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili lead the pace, as they have for a decade.
3. (4) Miami Heat (10-3) – The Heat had just two games in 11 days, both wins at home, against the Bucks and Cavaliers. LeBron James leads the team in minutes, points, rebounds and assists. It’s troubling that Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen are battling injury and inconsistency so early in the year.
4. (5) Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4) – The Thunder offense is in high gear and only a loss in Boston messed up a perfect week. Kevin Durant is the leading MVP candidate and Russell Westbrook is averaging 8.6 assists per game.
5. (9) Brooklyn Nets (9-4) – We’ve believed in the Nets from the beginning and they’re proving us right. A loss at Golden State started the week, but wins over the Clippers, Blazers and Knicks made it a great one. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are impossible to defend.
6. (1) New York Knicks (9-4) – The terrific defense we saw early is beginning to fade. They’ve fallen back to the No. 9 defense after giving up over 100 points three times in their (1-3) week. Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton are balling, but J.R. Smith is coming back to earth.
7. (2) Los Angeles Clippers (8-6) – That shows us. Just when we believe in the Clippers, they go (0-4) with losses to the Thunder, Nets, Hawks and Hornets. They’re still good, but not elite. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford need the bench to pick it back up.
8. (15) Atlanta Hawks (8-4) – A perfect week is great and a five-game winning streak is nice. The level of competition wasn’t strong, which keeps the Hawks from jumping higher. Josh Smith trade talks don’t seem to bother him and Jeff Teague is evolving as a passer.
9. (14) Denver Nuggets (8-7) – The Jekyll and Hyde Nuggets continue their strange play. They beat the Wolves, Warriors and Hornets, then lose to the Jazz in a game that Andre Iguodala gets ejected. Ty Lawson will wake up eventually and the Nuggets will be terrific.
10. (10) Philadelphia 76ers (9-6) – Andrew Bynum is out indefinitely, and eventually it’s going to hurt. The 76ers went (2-2) this week, but with Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner leading the way. The problem is the narrow home victories over the Suns and Mavs. Good teams should handle the bottom half teams at home.
11. (11) Boston Celtics (8-6) – No. 22 in the league in defense. It’s hard to believe. Rajon Rondo could be a superstar if he were more likable. Paul Pierce is playing well and Kevin Garnett always competes. No player averages over .8 blocks per game for this team.
12. (8) Milwaukee Bucks (7-5) – Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are doing their best to carry the team, but they’ll wear themselves out at this pace. A great comeback victory over the Bulls shows that the Bucks have heart, but do they have enough talent?
13. (7) Los Angeles Lakers (7-8) – It was expected that the Lakers would struggle defensively, but they weren’t supposed to score just 77 points at home against the Pacers, with 40 from Kobe Bryant. The offense looks bad, with them just jacking up threes at will. Pau Gasol looks lost and Dwight Howard can’t go 3-for-12 from the FT line anymore.
14. (12) Chicago Bulls (6-7) – What should have been a nice week turned into trouble after blowing a huge lead to the Bucks. Carlos Boozer has been really good this week, but where’s the ball movement? They’re missing Derrick Rose badly, although Kirk Hinrich is doing his best. Joakim Noah and Luol Deng play well, they win.
15. (16) Golden State Warriors (8-6) – Even without Andrew Bogut, the Warriors are starting to gel. David Lee and Stephen Curry are waking up and Harrison Barnes is looking really good, including a ferocious dunk against the Wolves. Klay Thompson is still struggling.
16. (13) Minnesota Timberwolves (6-7) – Kevin Love has returned and is averaging 24 points and 16.5 rebounds. His shooting is struggling, but his effect on the team has been good. Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko form a tough front line. Ricky Rubio is ahead of schedule, as well.
17. (24) Houston Rockets (7-7) – Between James Harden and Jeremy Lin, they can beat the bad teams. They need someone else to step up, and Chandler Parsons has been the guy as of late. Wins over the Bulls, Knicks and Raptors capped a perfect week. Very interested to see how they fare at OKC.
18. (18) Utah Jazz (8-7) – The Jazz outscored the Nuggets by 13 in the second half of a nice win this week, behind Al Jefferson. Paul Millsap played just 24 minutes in the game, with Derrick Favors also playing 24. Are they getting ready to move Millsap and if so, shouldn’t they feature him a bit?
19. (21) Indiana Pacers (7-8) – The Pacers are horrid offensively, but are now the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA. A very nice win over the Lakers in L.A. capped a solid week where Paul George stepped up and scored 37 in an overtime win against the Hornets.
20. (22) Phoenix Suns (7-8) – It hasn’t been the starters who have been carrying the load, but the bench for the Suns. They went (3-1) this week, with solid contributions from Jermaine O’Neal, Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat. Speaking of Gortat, his refusal to sign an extension isn’t good.
21. (20) Charlotte Bobcats (7-6) – The Bobcats have been playing much better, regardless of the thrashing this week at the hands of the Thunder. Ramon Sessions, Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are playing hard and the Bobcats have the same wins as all of last year as a result.
22. (19) Dallas Mavericks (7-8) – Without Dirk Nowitzki, it was expected to be a struggle. However, O.J. Mayo is playing well and the Mavs are competing. Chris Kaman has been a nice pickup, but where’s the rebounding? We can’t help but laugh watching Vince Carter score and stare down his defender like it’s 15 years ago.
23. (17) Portland Trail Blazers (6-8) – Damian Lillard is the Rookie of the Year front runner, but he can’t pass to himself. Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge are really good, but that’s all they have. Could their bench beat good college teams? Probably, but it would be close.
24. (25) Orlando Magic (5-8) – After some confidence building against the Pistons and Cavs, the Magic took the Celtics to overtime before losing. Now they’ve got the Spurs, Nets and Lakers. Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis and J.J. Redick have their work cut out for them.
25. (23) New Orleans Hornets (4-9) – What is going on with Eric Gordon? When will Anthony Davis get back healthy? Who knew Greivis Vasquez was so good? I guess Ryan Anderson didn’t need Dwight Howard after all. And, the Hornets really are going to be good some day.
26. (28) Detroit Pistons (4-11) – The Pistons continue the trend from 2011-12. Two road losses and two home wins. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have put together quite the front court, but Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight need to pick up their end of the slack.
27. (29) Sacramento Kings (4-10) – How can DeMarcus Cousins continue to struggle so badly? They blew out the Lakers and Jazz and have been playing better. Marcus Thornton could get Sixth Man of the Year consideration on a better team. Tyreke Evans still needs a new team and a new start.
28. (26) Toronto Raptors (3-12) – Kyle Lowry was supposed to come back to make things better, but the Raptors continue to struggle. Their 2013 first-round draft pick is protected (1-3), so at what point do they start thinking about tanking? Andrea Bargnani is better than he’s showing and DeMar DeRozan has been better than expected.
29. (27) Cleveland Cavaliers (3-12) – It’s too bad that Anderson Varejao will probably not make the All-Star team, because he deserves it. With a team this poor, only one player will get many votes and Kyrie Irving will likely be that guy. Varejao has been the game rebounding leader in six straight.
30. (30) Washington Wizards (0-12) – We’re convinced that the Wizards will be a decent team when John Wall comes back and everyone is fully healthy. Unfortunately, it looks as if it will be too late. They’ve dug too much of a hole. Jordan Crawford needs more consistency.
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