The NBA: Power Rankings: Week 4

The NBA season is a month old. We are starting to get some ideas on which teams could be a threat to dethrone the Miami Heat (Grizzlies, Spurs, Thunder). We are also seeing teams who have almost zero chance at a playoffs berth (Wizards, Pistons, Cavs, Kings).

There are also a few who have been intriguing enough to merit considerations as playoffs contenders like the Bucks, Warriors, Hawks and Sixers.

The state of New York and city of Los Angeles have two teams each that are very close to being an elite team. Recent losses and strength of schedule have kept them away from being at the elite level. The gap between contenders to elite is very small and things can change by next week.

The standings are current up to November 27. The rankings from last week refer to Week 3.

Ray Allen of the Miami Heat has been lights out off the bench.
Was he able to propel the Heat into the top spot?
(Image by: Miami Herald)
1. Memphis Grizzlies | 10-2 | Last Week: 1 | Same
The Grizzlies played 2 games last week and they won both. They had an impressive win over the Lakers and they beat the Cavs without Mike Conley. The Grizz have the opportunity to win a couple of easy games over the Raptors and Pistons at home before going to San Antonio on a back-to-back. Randolph had his consecutive double-double games streak snapped at 11. He leads the NBA in that category.

2. San Antonio Spurs | 12-3 | Last Week: 5 | +3
So far, the Spurs have not felt the loss of Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson. They just keep on winning in their current road trip (4-0) with two more games to go at Orlando and Miami which is a back-to-back. A showdown with the Grizzlies awaits on Saturday. Tim Duncan is still holding back father time with averages of 20 and 11 in his last 5 games.

3. Miami Heat | 10-3 | Last Week: 4 | +1
The loss of Shane Battier for a few games will hurt their rotation. He is tied with Ray Allen for the team lead for threes made (27). Ray Allen has been money during the clutch, helping the Heat win their past 2 games with superb play in the 4th quarter and overtime. The Heat have been troubled by playing to the level of their competition, having a hard time beating weaker teams like the Bucks and Cavs. They have big games versus the Spurs and Nets this week. Let's see if they can raise their play to match superior teams.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder | 11-4 | Last Week: 6 | +2
The Thunder annihilated the Bobcats in their last game for a 49-point blowout. The Bobcats have been playing decent too. The Rockets and James Harden come into town on Wednesday night with a 3-game winning streak. The Thunder are 2nd in points per game and Durant has climbed to 3rd in scoring. His rebounds have gone down though but that is nitpicking.

5. Brooklyn Nets | 9-4 | Last Week: 9 | +4
The Nets won the first battle of New York with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez leading the way. After the Nets lost to the Lakers, they have won 3 straight with impressive wins over the Clippers, Blazers and Knicks. Things dont go any easier for the Nets with 3 of their next 4 games against contenders: Celtics, Magic, Heat and Thunder.

6. New York Knicks | 9-4 | Last Week: 2 | -4
The Knicks went 1-3 last week and lost the first battle of New York. They were lazy defensively in a couple of games with Melo being the culprit a few times. They surrendered 114 to the Mavs and they lost to Linsanity and the Rockets by allowing 131 points. Plus, Im not sure it's a good thing to give Rasheed Wallace around 16 minutes of playing time. He can still score and make threes but his defense has been poor.

7. Atlanta Hawks | 8-4 | Last Week: 12 | +5
Guess which team has the current longest winning streak? It's the Hawks with a 5-gamer. They can stretch that winning streak into 7 games with their next 2 games versus the Bobcats and Cavaliers. Both games are at home and very winnable. The Hawks have been playing superb defensively and they now rank 3rd on points allowed. Al Horford just earned the Player of the Week award for the East.

8. Los Angeles Clippers | 8-6 | Last Week: 3 | -5
A week ago, the Clippers were the hottest team in the NBA. A week later, they look like a different team. They dropped 5 spots after losing 4 straight games. Blake Griffin has struggled offensively including a 4-point effort against the Hornets who played without Anthony Davis. Jamal Crawford has started to cool down. He only averaged 13 points in his last 5 games.

9. Philadelphia 76ers | 9-6 | Last Week: 8 | -1
The Sixers still keep on winning without Andrew Bynum. Jrue Holiday has kept this team afloat and he had a monster game of 33 and 13 against the Suns. Thad Young and Evan Turner have been playing great. Both players are roughly averaging 13 points and 7+ rebounds. Jason Richardson and Nick Young have provided the firepower from downtown.

10. Boston Celtics | 8-6 | Last Week: 11 | +1
Rajon Rondo continues to be on his streak of getting double-digit assists. Im convinced that he will shatter the record that belongs to Magic Johnson. The Celtics have been inconsistent so far and the only thing consistent they have is Rondo getting his 10+ assists (win or lose). Garnett continues to play below 30 minutes a game which is good for him but Rondo is close to 40 a game.

11. Milwaukee Bucks | 7-5 | Last Week: 7 | -4
The Bucks had an impressive win over the Bulls when they came from behind (down by 27) to win by a point. The more impressive tidbit was that the Bucks won the game by playing their 2nd unit against the Bulls' starters. Im not sure the Bucks can win more games using their bench against starters. Their starters should not rely on their bench to bail them out.

12. Golden State Warriors | 8-6 | Last Week: 13 | +1
The Warriors have been okay without Andrew Bogut. He was projected to play over the weekend but that plan was scrapped. Guess who their most efficient (PER) player is? Clue: he is not a starter. Answer: Carl Landry continues to produce with 15 and 7 and a PER of 22. The Warriors are still in the hunt for a playoffs spot this early.

13. Denver Nuggets | 8-7 | Last Week: 17 | +4
The Nuggets have done things in streaks. Lose 3 straight then win 4 straight, then lose another 3 then win another 4. Their last game was a lose so we might be looking at another losing streak for the Nuggets. That's possible since the next games are Warriors and Lakers. The only consistent thing for the Nuggets has been the effort and hustle of Kenneth Faried.

14. Utah Jazz | 8-7 | Last Week: 14 | Same
Jamal Tinsley has played pretty good in the past 2 games as a starter (14 and 7) when he replaced the injured Mo Williams. More importantly, the Jazz won those games. Paul Millsap has been struggling lately but that's okay since the Jazz have Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter who have been serviceable when on the court.

15. Los Angeles Lakers | 7-8 | Last Week: 10 | -5
Steve Nash is still injured and his return is uncertain. More problems for the Lakers as they went 1-3 last week including a 79-77 lose to the Pacers. Kobe scored 40 in that game and the Lakers only got 6 points from their bench. Pau Gasol has been horrible lately and now he has knee tendinitis. The Gasol trade rumors have now started. What's the over/under for total games lost before Gasol gets traded? I say 15.

16. Houston Rockets | 7-7 | Last Week: 22 | +6
The Rockets have rallied with 3 straight wins even without Coach Kevin McHale who had attended to a family matter. Houston defeated the Bulls, Knicks and Raptors in that stretch. The Rockets have won 3 of their 4 "homecoming" games. The team just found out that the coach lost his daughter to lupus and their final "homecoming" game is against the Thunder in OKC.

17. Dallas Mavericks | 7-8 | Last Week: 15 | -2
The Mavs benched Elton Brand and Darren Collison as starters for 1 game versus their old team, the Sixers. Both have struggled lately especially Brand who was scoring 6 ppg. They played well but the team still lost. Dirk Nowitzki is still about a month away from playing.

18. Chicago Bulls | 6-7 | Last Week: 16 | -2
The Bulls have lost 4 of their last 5 games. To make things uglier, they lost their last game vs. the Bucks by losing a 27-point lead to the second unit. Derrick Rose is still about 2 months away from realistically coming back. If the Bulls continue to lose and appear to just be on the fringe of making the playoffs, Rose might decide to skip the whole year.

19. Charlotte Bobcats | 7-6 | Last Week: 18 | -1
The Bobcats already equalled their win total last year and they are still above .500. But they dropped down a spot because of that embarrassing 49-point loss to the Thunder. The game was essentially over during the 2nd quarter. The Bobcats only scored 24 points total during the first half. Even last year's team did not lose a game by that big a margin.

20. Phoenix Suns | 7-8 | Last Week: 23 | +3
The Suns shuffled their starting lineup by sitting Scola and Dudley in favor of Shannon Brown and Markief Morris. The result was winning 3 of their past 4 games. The bad news is Michael Beasley who has been on a slump. His last 5 games: 11.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in almost 27 minutes. Is it about time to bench Beasley too?

21. Indiana Pacers | 7-8 | Last Week: 21 | Same
They almost lost to a flu-ridden Kobe after leading the game for 95% of the way. Good thing that George Hill came to the rescue with a nifty layup at the buzzer. His last shot eerily looked like one of the shots that Steve Nash normally makes. On that last play, Hill drove by Pau Gasol and threw up a shot over Howard for the win. This win kinda makes up for their collapse against the Spurs a game earlier.

22. Minnesota Timberwolves | 6-7 | Last Week: 20 | -2
The T'wolves got Pekovic back and even Kevin Love made a surprising and early return from injury but they lost 3 straight with Love before winning against the Kings. Kevin Love has been amazing averaging 24 points and 16.5 rebounds in his first 4 games. His shooting stroke has been absent though (42% overall, 21% threes).

23. Portland Trailblazers | 6-8 | Last Week: 19 | -4
The Blazers rely so much on their starters that if one of them gets injured, their chances of winning fall close to zero. Aldridge missed one game and the Blazers lost that game. He came back the next game and they still lost versus the lowly Pistons. On the bright side, Damiam Lillard continues to impress. The rookie has the ROY award safely in his position since Anthony Davis has not made much of an impact due to injuries.

24. New Orleans Hornets | 4-9 | Last Week: 25 | +1
Nice win by the Hornets against the Clippers in Staples even without Anthony Davis. The Brow will miss maybe another 2 weeks trying to recover from a foot injury. In his absence, Jason Smith and Austin Rivers have picked up their games. Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson and Grievis Vasquez continue to make plays for the Hornets.

25. Orlando Magic | 5-8 | Last Week: 25 | Same
The Magic had a good last week by winning versus the Pistons and Cavs. Those were winnable games for them. Then they lost to the Celtics which was predictable. Their upcoming games feature the Spurs, Nets and Lakers. All losable games. But if the Magic can just win one game from that bunch, Im sure they would prefer Dwight Howard's homecoming. The Lakers are also struggling so it's a realistic shot.

26. Toronto Raptors | 3-12 | Last Week: 26 | Same
The Raptors are 1-6 in games that either forced overtime and was within 5 points. If they won more than half of the games in the clutch, the Raps would still be in playoffs contention (7-8 instead of 3-12). DeRozan and Valanciunas are playing very good basketball but Bargnani has been horrible. He still rebounds like a point guard and his shooting is abysmal (40%).

27. Sacramento Kings | 4-10 | Last Week: 27 | Same
The Kings impressed by beating the Lakers in a blowout but they could not follow that win with a winning streak. They lost 2 of the next 3 games. Tyreke Evans has started to score more: 21 points on 55% shooting in the last 5 games. Meanwhile, Cousins has struggled (17 and 7) in his last 5 games including getting ejected in another loss. If Evans and Cousins get hot together, the Kings could make some noise.

28. Detroit Pistons | 4-11 | Last Week: 29 | +1
Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe are starting to get it going. Even Charlie Villanueva has gotten playing time in the last 2 games and he responded with 13.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Kyle Singler has been a nice surprise scoring 16 and grabbing 7 boards in his last 2 games. Singler spent last year playing overseas.

29. Cleveland Cavaliers | 3-12 | Last Week: 28 | -1
Coach Byron Scott said that only Andy Varejao is playing well for the Cavs. He is absolutely right. Varejao leads the league in rebounding. His last 5 games: 15 points and 18 boards. It's too bad that while Varejao plays like an all-star, his teammates are struggling. The Cavs have lost 4 straight.

30. Washington Wizards | 0-12 | Last Week: 30 | Same
The Wizards are still winless. They came close twice to getting their first win. They lost to the Bobcats and Hawks in overtime and both games were just a one-possession game. They are last in the league in points scored as a team and they really need John Wall to return ASAP. His return date is still up in the air. The Wizards need to win against the Blazers next because the Knicks and Heat follow. They could be 0-15 by next week.

Biggest Rise: Houston Rockets +6
Biggest Fall: Clippers and Lakers -5

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