This week, you’ll find that a few Eastern Conference teams are moving their way up the rankings.
A couple Western Conference teams have slid down after having a rough past week or so.
Although the West is clearly the Superior conference, the scales are balancing a bit.
I, somewhat, view the East and West as two different leagues in the regular season.
Who each team has competed against factors into these rankings, but not enough to give a solid Eastern Conference team a disadvantage they can’t control.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (4-16, Down 1): Milwaukee ranks 28th in shooting percentage as well as shooting efficiency. Those stats are pretty disappointing as the Bucks have very good shooters: OJ Mayo, Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour, Ersan Ilyasova, Caron Butler.
29. Utah Jazz (4-18, Up 1): All is well with this organization when the team competes and shows promising potential for the future. Utah is likely going to draft a franchise-changing piece in 2014 to go along with this solid group of young players.
28. Orlando Magic (6-14, Down 4): The Magic have a lot of flexibility with their starters, but that also presents some problems. Nelson, Oladipo, and Afflalo is a very small 1-3. Mo Harkless has not found his rhythm this season. Orlando still awaits the return of potential future All-Star, Tobias Harris.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (7-14, Down 2): Michael Carter-Williams stands as the clear favorite to win Rookie of the Year. The young point guard is putting up stellar numbers: almost 18 points, over seven assists, almost six rebounds, and three steals. Huge props to Philly’s front office and scout team in preparing for the 2013 Draft.
26. Sacramento Kings (5-13, Up 2): Sacramento GM Pete D’Alessandro said “we owe it to fans to be aggressive.” I find that very respectable. The Kings were stuck in a ditch with their current team. Sacramento made two huge moves in acquiring Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-13, Up 2): The Cavs have quietly started to play some respectable basketball in the past week. Irving is still having his off-nights, but the team seems to be functioning much better since the Dion Waiters drama.
24. Toronto Raptors (7-12, Down 2): The high-flying Rudy Gay didn’t exactly have a Vince Carter-like fan base. Sacramento is a great fan base and should give him a warm welcome. Obviously, Masai Ujiri and the Raptors felt it was best to go another direction. It was definitely beneficial to slide his oversized contract off the table.
23. Brooklyn Nets (6-14, Down 2): Deron Williams can’t just come back and play basketball. He needs to understand it’s his responsibility to lead the Nets in the right direction. Assuming Williams can make a healthy return, I’m expecting the Nets to step up their level of play.
22. New York Knicks (5-14, Up 4): Melo’s Knicks were extra motivated to prove they owned Brooklyn and they did so with a 30-point victory on the road. However, New York displayed a lousy effort a couple games later, losing by 40 to Boston.
21. Charlotte Bobcats (9-11, Down 1): Michael Jordan must have taught Jeffery Taylor a trick or two…actually, athleticism is a trait. Regardless, nasty high-flying finish.
20. Boston Celtics (10-12, Up 3): Bringing back Rajon Rondo may ruin Boston’s plans of landing a top five pick in the draft. That’s why Boston will likely hold him out a while longer. The Celts have won six of eight including three straight.
19. New Orleans Pelicans (9-10, Even): Anthony Davis’ injury opens up a lot of opportunity for the rest of the team. Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith can provide solid minutes. We’ll be able to see how much weight the talented guards can carry. Figure the Pelicans will have a tough time reaching the playoffs, anyway.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (9-10, Down 7): The Grizz have unpleasantly taken the steepest drop this week. Without Gasol or Randolph on the court, they don’t have much to offer. On top of that, Memphis continues to be one of the worst outside shooting teams in the league.
17. Chicago Bulls (8-10, Down 4): Even with Derrick Rose out, I expect the Bulls to capture a top five seed in the East. They aren’t exactly helpless without Rose, but they also aren’t a threat to the Heat or Pacers. Hopefully, Rose has a quick and safe rehab process.
16. Phoenix Suns (11-9, Up 1): I haven’t actually heard Jeff Hornacek’s pre-game speeches. However, I’ll bet effort and defense are big topics in his prep talks. Through one-fourth of the season, Phoenix has been the league’s biggest overachiever.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-11, Down 1): The Wolves’ schedule has been brutal in the past couple weeks. Even with an improved team, the Wolves’ all-around defense has really been holding them back. They give up too many points in the paint as well as a high three-point percentage.
14. Washington Wizards (9-10, Up 1): The Wizards have been playing without their best scorer for about two weeks. When Beal returns to action, expect Washington to hang around the sixth seed (assuming the Knicks and Nets eventually reach the top eight).
13. Detroit Pistons (10-11, Up 5): Detroit showed they’re capable of hanging tough in the East with an impressive road win over Miami. Shooting percentage will never be Brandon Jennings’ specialty. However, he’s done a good job running the offense under Mo Cheeks, thus far.
12. L.A. Lakers (10-10, Even): Hey, the Lakers finished over .500 without Kobe. That’s a promising sign for them going forward. It might take Kobe a few more games to get settled in. Then again, it might not.
11. Atlanta Hawks (11-10, Up 5): One problem with Atlanta (and every Eastern team) is they’re a little too hot-and-cold. The Hawks have a chance to separate themselves from the pack with five home games in ten days.
10. Denver Nuggets (12-8, Down 2): The Nuggets could easily be on a ten game winning streak right now. After eight straight wins, they lost games to Cleveland and Boston (likely from fatigue). Denver finishes its six game road trip with Washington tonight.
9. Golden State Warriors (12-9, Even): Golden State has been just average since Iguodala went down with a hamstring injury. However, they still lead the league with an outstanding 42.7 three-point percentage.
8. L.A. Clippers (13-8, Down 1): The Clippers are in the middle of a long and tiring seven game road stand. Philly, Boston, Brooklyn, and D.C. in the next six days. Three wins would have them feeling great on the way back home.
7. Dallas Mavericks (13-8, Up 3): Rick Carsisle drew up a perfect play to free up Monta Ellis for a game-winning jumper at the buzzer. The defense was totally caught off guard, thinking Dirk would likely wind up with the ball in his hands.
6. Houston Rockets (15-7, Even): Houston’s offensive attack is dynamite (1 in PPG, 1 in free throws, 3 in shooting %, etc.) One huge problem is turnovers. That is James Harden’s biggest weak spot and will continue to hurt the Rockets if he doesn’t work on that.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (17-4, Even): I’m not ready to put the Blazers ahead of the Heat or the Spurs. The four teams ahead of Portland are far more proven than them. Not to say Portland isn’t playing fantastic basketball. I just don’t feel ready to rank them over championship quality teams like Miami and San Antonio.
4. Miami Heat (16-5, Down 2): Dwyane Wade has missed six of Miami’s 21 games thus far. Expect Wade’s playing status to continue being regulated. That won’t be a problem for Miami…until they’re playing Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals at Indiana.
3. San Antonio Spurs (15-4, Up 1): San Antonio doesn’t have the star power of the three teams ahead of them. However, with Kawhi Leonard slowing down stars such as James and Durant, the Spurs remain on a level playing field with those opponents.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (15-4, Up 1): OKC is cruising, having won ten of its last 11 games. There’s absolutely no cure to stopping Durant and Westbrook. All you can do is try to make them tired. Even that is difficult.
1. Indiana Pacers (18-3, Even): Indiana suffered its first 20+ point loss on Sunday vs OKC. No need to overlook the fact. It happens to the best of them, especially against great teams like the Thunder. Next up is the Miami Heat.