One of the things to remember about a statistical-based NBA power rankings model is that small sample sizes will lead to violent shifts in the landscape.
Teams are moving up and down like a bouncing basketball even as things begin to normalize. I mean, we knew the Houston Rockets couldn’t keep a 61 percent true shooting percentage … but we couldn’t have forecast that number dropping to 52.2 percent over the last seven days, either.
Instead, it was the Miami Heat’s turn to have a ridiculously good shooting week: As in a 63.2 true shooting mark in their three games. And yet they still managed to lose one of them, thanks to Dwyane Wade’s inspirational idea at the free-throw line that went a little something like this …
And with that here are the updated rankings, through games played Wednesday, Nov. 13:
1. Indiana Pacers (8-0—last week 3-0, previously No. 2)
So the Pacers just keep smothering teams into submission with their defense. Indiana had a 95.3 defensive rating last week which meant their rating for the season actually went up. Yes, the Pacers have been this good. Paul George didn’t have a spectacular week—very good, yes. Spectacular, no. But when looking at the pieces the Pacers have put together, they’re scary good. Throw Danny Granger back into the mix? They could be even scarier good.
2. San Antonio Spurs (8-1—last week 4-0, previously No. 5)
San Antonio had a net offensive/defensive rating in their four wins last week of plus-19.5. An offensive rating of 107.2 paired with a defensive mark of 87.7? Seriously? And they’re doing it without anyone really going crazy statistically—no one averaged more than 28.3 minutes a game for San Antonio over the last seven days. Of course, when you’re bludgeoning opponents into submission, you really don’t have to tax the starters that much. But consider this: The Spurs won their last four games while Tim Duncan was shooting 5-for-27 and took one night off altogether.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (6-2—last week 4-0, previously No. 10)
The Trail Blazers make a big move up in part because of their board work—no team had a higher rebounding percentage in the last seven days than Portland’s 56.9 mark. A positive sign for the Blazers has to be that they went 4-0 during a stretch where Damian Lillard shot just 29.8 percent from the floor. Getting 13.3 points a game from Robin Lopez had to help, though.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (6-3—last week 3-1, previously No. 4)
The Clippers hold at No. 4 after a monster week from Blake Griffin—24 points, 10.8 rebounds, four assists per game. But Griffin still seems reluctant (read: won’t do it at threat of waterboarding) to shoot his jumper. Chris Paul, meanwhile, only averaged 13 assists a game in the last four, but shot just 37.7 percent. DeAndre Jordan averaged 13 points and 13 boards a game last week while making one of every three free throws he took. Egads.
5. Miami Heat (5-3—last week 2-1, previously No. 6)
The defending champs move into the top five and got 29 points from Michael Beasley in the two games he got off the bench. Beasley did that damage in 28 minutes. Wade had his embarrassing miscue at the free-throw line that cost Miami a game against Boston, but he averaged 18.3 points, 6.3 assists and five boards, so he might be forgiven.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves (6-3—last week 3-1, previously No. 15)
Kevin Love averaged 28.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and six assists per game and shot 44.4 percent from 3-point range. Kevin Margin missed a game, but when he was available averaged 29.7 points and his 55.6 percent from deep. Throw in 17 points a night from Corey Brewer, 16 per from Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio actually making 46.7 percent from the floor while dishing out 11 assists a game and you have a team that should scare the hell out of anyone in the Western Conference.
7. Dallas Mavericks (5-3—last week 2-1, previously No. 7)
Dallas stays where it was. Remember last week when I said Jose Calderon wouldn’t keep shooting 30 percent from the floor? Well, try 51.9 percent from the floor and 60 percent from deep (12-for-20). Monta Ellis got 20 a game for the Mavs last week and DeJuan Blair averaged 10.3 boards in just 22.3 minutes a night. Who cares if they never seem to get any assists?
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-2—last week 2-1, previously No. 8)
The Thunder got handled Wednesday night by the Clippers and Russell Westbrook’s return is a work in progress. He averaged 31.7 minutes a game last week, while shooting just 30.2 percent and averaging 17.3 points 4.7 assists and 4.7 turnovers a game. That will get better. Kevin Durant goes to the free-throw line about 4.5 million times a game (OK, 15 a game last week) and averaged 34.3 points, nine boards and 7.7 assists in the process. Even Serge Ibaka showed signs of life—22-for-33 from the floor and 16.3 points a game.
9. Golden State Warriors (5-3—last week 1-2, previously No. 3)
The Warriors lost a heartbreaker in San Antonio, followed it up by getting pounded in Memphis, then went back home and blew out the Pistons. Stephen Curry missed the San Antonio game, but rebounded to score 47 points in the two games he did play. Klay Thompson came back to earth a bit, too, averaging 12.3 points on 42.1 percent shooting over the last seven days.
10. Houston Rockets (5-4—last week 1-3, previously No. 1)
The video below pretty much sums up Houston’s week:
Jeremy Lin caught fire, averaging 21.8 points per game and shooting 13-for-23 from deep. Dwight Howard made 39.6 percent of his free throws, though, as Hack-A-Dwight is in full effect. James Harden missed the overtime loss in Philadelphia Wednesday night after averaging 24.3 points on 34.5 percent shooting in his previous three games. A positive sign is that Chandler Parsons caught fire a bit, averaging 19.7 points on 50.8 percent shooting.
11. Phoenix Suns (5-3—last week 2-1, previously No. 12)
Eric Bledsoe continues to play well, shooting 53.5 percent and averaging 21.3 points and seven dimes last week. Goran Dragic returned from his sprained ankle and scored 26 points in his two games back and Markieff Morris was out of his mind, shooting 66.7 percent and averaging 19.7 points off the bench. Miles Plumlee put up a double-double week, averaging 12 and 11, respectively, and Phoenix just keeps overachieving.
12. Atlanta Hawks (4-4—last week 2-2, previously No. 11)
Al Horford averaged 20.8 points and shot 57.8 percent for the Hawks, who just keep hanging around, while Jeff Teague had 18 points and 11 assists a night. Rookie Dennis Schroeder had to sit a game after displaying the wrong kind of ball-handling skills in Sacramento, though, and Teague shot just 38.1 percent. Still, the Hawks have looked better than many expected.
13. Philadelphia 76ers (5-4—last week 2-2, previously No. 13)
Tony Wroten had a triple-double in the overtime win over Houston Wednesday night, Spencer Hawes keeps averaging a double-double (14.5 points, 10 boards, 2.8 blocks per game last week) and Michael Carter-Williams managed to average 13.3 points, 7.7 assists and six boards, although he shot just 36.6 percent. Evan Turner continues to look like a legitimate first option, scoring 24 points a game and getting 7.5 boards a night for good measure. James Anderson blew up for a career-high 36 points Wednesday night, as well.
14. Toronto Raptors (4-5—last week 2-2, previously No. 18)
The Raptors move up a bit, even as Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan continue to accumulate brick collections. Gay averaged 23.3 points a game on 23 shots per night while DeRozan managed the even more impressive 16 points and 16.8 shots per game. Gay shot 39.1 percent for the week and DeRozan was even less effective at 29.9 percent. Amir Johnson averaged 10.8 points and 8.5 boards a game—including four a night on the offensive glass; with Gay and DeRozan doing their thing, there are offensive rebounding chances aplenty.
15. Denver Nuggets (3-4—last week 3-1, previously No. 29)
The Nuggets righted the ship after an 0-3 start, even as talk of a Kenneth Faried-for-Iman Shumpert trade percolated. Denver lost center JaVale McGee to a leg fracture, but Timofey Mozgov responded with 10.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in four games, despite averaging just 17.5 minutes. Faried averaged 10.8 points and 10 boards and Ty Lawson put up 22 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds a game—no word on whether his back is sore from carrying the team so completely.
16. Orlando Magic (4-5—last week 1-3, previously No. 9)
The young Magic came back to earth a bit. Arron Afflalo averaged 24.5 points a game on 56.9 percent shooting, buoyed a bit by a huge night Wednesday in a win over the Bucks (36 points, 8-for-11 from 3). Orlando is winless on the road, though and struggled through Jameer Nelson shooting 31.1 percent and Victor Oladipo matching him brick for brick at 31.4 percent. Nikola Vucevic put up 13.3 points and 10 boards per game.
17. Chicago Bulls (3-3—last week 2-0, previously No. 27)
The Bulls played weaker teams and got the wins they should have, even though Derrick Rose tweaked a hamstring and may miss some time. Carlos Boozer continued to score (35 points, 14-for-22 in two games) and Luol Deng had 31 points, 16 boards and 12 assists to go with six steals in the two wins. Rose shot 37.9 percent before being forced out by the hammy, but Joakim Noah rebounded from a slow start to score 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting.
18. Charlotte Bobcats (4-4—last week 1-2, previously No. 17)
The Bobcats keep hanging around because they make free throws (83.1 percent in three games) and protect the ball (13.7 turnovers per game). Al Jefferson made it back and scored 32 points in two games, but Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker are struggling to find their shots. Henderson hit 37.5 percent last week, an absolute marksman compared to Walker’s 26.1 percent.
19. Boston Celtics (4-5—last week 3-1, previously No. 28)
The Celtics got a huge win at Miami on Jeff Green’s buzzer-beater and had a four-game win streak snapped by Charlotte Wednesday night. Green averaged 17.3 points per game last week and had help from surprising places. Avery Bradley averaged 15.5 points and Jordan Crawford emerged from the cobwebs at the end of the bench to score 15 points and hand out 6.3 assists per night (Jordan Crawford passing … I should have warned you to sit down first, my bad). Kelly Olynyk also showed signs of adjusting to the pace of the NBA with 9.3 points and eight boards a game in 26 minutes a night.
20. New York Knicks (3-4—last week 2-1, previously No. 26)
OK, I will warn you to sit down here. Andrea Bargnani averaged 20.3 points and 6.7 rebounds—including 11 boards in New York’s win at Atlanta Wednesday—and shot 6-for-15 from 3. Carmelo Anthony hit 45.6 percent, a vast improvement, and averaged 23 points. Bargnani even tried to fill the void left by the injured Tyson Chandler by blocking six shots in three games. J.R. Smith may still think it’s the playoffs, though; he returned from his five-game suspension to hit 5-of-19 from the floor in his first two games back. Andrea Bargnani rebounding and blocking shots … what’s next? An NFL bullying scandal?
21. New Orleans Pelicans (3-6—last week 1-3, previously No. 20)
So maybe the Tyreke Evans-Jrue Holiday-Ben Gordon thing might have some hiccups after all. The trio combined to shoot 36.6 percent, 41.8 percent and 39.2 percent, respectively, last week, and Holiday combined 7.8 assists with 4.3 turnovers a night. Anthony Davis continued to impress, though, averaging 22.5 points, 11 boards, two steals and two blocks while shooting 55.6 percent and Jason Smith averaged 13.5 points in four games.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (3-5—last week 1-2, previously No. 21)
Somewhere don’t you think Lionel Hollins is doing this …
Mike Conley averaged 20 points and just 4.3 assists per game, the Grizzlies are still near the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency and Dave Joerger is giving Tayshaun Prince 32 minutes a game to do … well, not really sure about that, actually. Marc Gasol did average 17 points and 7.7 boards last week and Zach Randolph averaged 15 points and nine rebounds … while getting less playing time than Prince.
23. Detroit Pistons (2-5—last week 0-3, previously No. 16)
The Pistons have kicked off their first Western trip of the season with a couple of losses and have dropped four straight overall. Golden State humiliated Detroit Tuesday night, taking a 35-16 lead after one quarter and never really looking back. Brandon Jennings is back to being Brandon Jennings (21 points, six assists, 41.8 percent shooting, 5-for-18 from deep). Greg Monroe has been solid at 18 points and 9.3 boards last week, but Detroit shot just 27 percent from 3-point land as a team on 21 attempts a game. Rebuilding Detroit one brick at a time, I guess.
24. Los Angeles Lakers (4-6—last week 2-3, previously No. 22)
Pau Gasol shot 37 percent last week while averaging 12.2 points and 10.8 rebounds a game. Jordan Hill was a man, though, averaging a double-double (11.2 points, 10.4 boards) in just 22.8 minutes a game. Jodie Meeks is heating up from deep, hitting 13-for-26 and averaging 12.6 points and Steve Blake shot a sizzling 58.3 percent from behind the arc, including a game-winner to beat the Rockets. Nick Young, on the other hand, shot 42.3 percent and Wesley Johnson just kept shooting despite hitting just 35 percent.
25. Sacramento Kings (2-5—last week 1-2, previously No. 24)
The Kings broke their five-game losing streak, benching Marcus Thornton and having him come off the bench for 24 points in their win over Brooklyn Wednesday night. DeMarcus Cousins averaged 27.7 points and 10 rebounds and Isaiah Thomas continues to produce off the bench, averaging 114.7 points. Greivis Vasquez is showing signs of getting comfortable in Sac-Town, averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 assists for the week and shooting 53.6 percent. Rookie Ben McLemore shot just 31.3 percent and somehow earned a promotion to the starting lineup.
26. Milwaukee Bucks (2-5—last week 0-3, previously No. 14)
Larry Sanders’ week in a short video clip:
O.J. Mayo averaged 19.7 points and canned 53.8 percent of his 3-pointers last week, while Caron Butler averaged 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds (but took 17 shots a game and hit 35.3 percent). Brandon Knight is back, but has just 12 points and seven assists in 38 minutes and is shooting 33.3 percent. He can’t seem to wrest the starting point guard job away from Nate Wolters, who had just two turnovers in three games while averaging 33.3 minutes.
27. Brooklyn Nets (2-5—last week 0-3, previously No. 19)
OK, so when you get bitch-slapped by the Sacramento Kings, there might be some fundamental flaws that need to be addressed. Kevin Garnett scored 17 points and shot 25.9 percent in three games. Brook Lopez did his thing, averaging 18.3 points and seven boards, but Paul Pierce shot 34.5 percent, Deron Williams checked in at 41.5 percent and Jason Terry came off the bench to hit 29.4 percent. At least they’re turning the ball over a lot, though … so there’s that.
28. Washington Wizards (2-6—last week 1-3, previously No. 23)
Bradley Beal heated up, averaging 22.8 points and shooting 52.6 percent from 3-point range. But as he got hot, John Wall found the ice. Wall averaged 13.8 points, 8.8 assists and six rebounds a game, but shot just 30.4 percent and 26.7 percent from deep. Martell Webster fired away at a 4-for-17 clip from deep. Marcin Gortat averaged 11.8 points. 9.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks, but the Wizards don’t seem to be able to put the pieces together at the same time.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-6—last week 1-3, previously No. 25)
Cleveland shot 40.4 percent as a team last week. Dion Waiters’ 42.1 percent mark actually looks good compared to that. Kyrie Irving got 21.3 points and 6.8 assists a game, but shot only 37.2 percent. Earl Clark shot 29.4 percent. Anthony Bennett took a DNP-CD and was 3-for-12 in the games he did play. Jarrett Jack was a 33.3 percent shooter. Tristan Thompson was a bright spot, averaging 14 points and 11.3 rebounds.
30. Utah Jazz (1-8—last week 1-3, previously No. 30)
The Jazz are bad, anyway you slice it. They shot 40.8 percent. They shot 28.6 from distance. They averaged 89 points a game. They averaged 18 assists and 17 turnovers a night. Gordon Hayward stood out with averages of 22 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists, but he also had four turnovers a game. Derrick Favors put up 15 points and 10.3 rebounds a contest, but Alec Burks took 10.6 shots a game and hit 28.6 percent. Even more perplexing: Richard Jefferson took 10.3 shots a game. That is a thing that happened.