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NBA Power Ranking SCS Editor List, Week 8 – West Confusion

By Tamberlyn Richardson
December 25, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30, left) dribbles the basketball against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) in the fourth quarter of a NBA basketball game on Christmas at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 89-83. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
December 25, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30, left) dribbles the basketball against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) in the fourth quarter of a NBA basketball game on Christmas at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 89-83. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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I found myself with a pile of 4 weeks worth of notes and power ranking lists sitting beside my computer and scratched my head as to why I can’t seem to get them loaded quickly enough. Suffice to say my list for weeks 8 through 11 are getting posted all in one week and therefore I plan on giving you quick hits as opposed to my usual lengthy spills on each team. In fact don’t be shocked if my weeks 9 and 10 are just the list, so I can focus on week 11 just to get back on track.

I am taking these lists directly from my notes though so there isn’t any hi-jinx at work here, which I’m sure you’ll figure out once you see some teams who I incorrectly judged to either keep progressing (Wolves) or expected to regress (Knicks).

I’ve grouped the list into 3 categories until I return to week 12 where I’ll once again return to a grouping of 5 teams per category:

To wit week 8 there isn’t much shifting of my power ranking list as the teams seem to be settling in for the most part into the aforementioned three tiers:

Bottom Feeders

Sixers: 1-28

This Week: 30th – Last Week: 29th 

Offensive Rank: 30th Defensive Rank: 26th Net Ranking: 30th

At a certain point you have to start ranking a team where they belong which is the case for the 76ers as they fall to the bottom of my ladder. Sure, I’ve argued the talent would keep them above teams like the Lakers, but posting a League worst 28 losses coupled with dropping 5 spots defensively points to the need for some vets on this squad, right now! This week they play Memphis, Milwaukee and Phoenix so they’ll be an opportunity to get their second win.

Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview: Something Smells Hinkie

Lakers: 4-23

This Week: 29th – Last Week: 30th

Offensive Rank: 29th Defensive Rank: 29th Net Ranking: 29th

Since announcing this would be his last season Kobe Bryant has seemed to be playing more relaxed and even had a big dunk this week. Week 9 finds the Lakers playing Denver, Oklahoma City, the Clippers on Christmas Day and Memphis.

Lakers Season Preview: Bryant’s Swan Song?

Nets: 7-20

This Week: 28th – Last Week: 28th

Offensive Rank: 28th Defensive Rank: 21st Net Ranking: 28th

Back to another sweeping week – – that is a sweep of 4 straight games. I said this team would be the real losers this season and I stand by that. At least the Sixers and Lakers have young talent and potential lottery picks to bank on not to mention the allure of Hollywood for one team. Brooklyn only has an aging core and Russian billionaire with zero picks as their calling card.  Week 9 finds the Nets playing the Bulls, Mavericks and Wizards.

Brooklyn Nets Season Preview: Russian Roulette With 6 Bullets

Pelicans: 8-19

This Week: 27th  – Last Week: 27th

Offensive Rank: 11th Defensive Rank: 30th Net Ranking: 27th

Sorry, but I think they are destined for the lottery. Perhaps someone can explain to me how Anthony Davis will once again be in the MVP and DPOY discussions next year when his team ranks 30th on defense this year! Trade rumors continue to swirl around Ryan Anderson. Following a decent 2-2 week they play Portland, Houston and Miami

Pelicans Season Preview: The BROW Era

Bucks: 11-18

This Week: 26th – Last Week: 26th

Offensive Rank: 25th Defensive Rank: 28th Net Ranking: 26th

They had a heck of week becoming the first team to beat the Warriors, but they lost their other 3 games.  And though these  deer also beat LeBron James crew until Milwaukee learn to play with consistency and create flow on their offense they’ll continue to lose games and be earmarked as a team of the future.  Next up they face the Sixers and Raptors

Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview: Team Futuristic

Nuggets 11-16

 This Week: 25th – Last Week: 25th

Offensive Rank: 24th Defensive Rank: 27th Net Ranking: 25th

They fight every game posting a 2-2 week, but the plunge downward seems inevitable without enough talent … at least this year. Still, kudos to Mike Malone for not accepting anything less than 100% effort nightly. This week they face the Lakers, Suns, Spurs and Thunder.

 

Denver Nuggets Season Preview: Malone’s Reformulation

Blazers: 11-18

This Week: 24th – Last Week: 20th

Offensive Rank: 7th Defensive Rank: 23rd Net Ranking: 20th

You have to pay the Blazers management credit for seeing into the future by giving a number of young studs a shot at becoming more than just a space filler. I thought Noah Vonleh would make the most of his opportunity but it’s Alan Crabbe who has grabbed the bull by horns and is raises eyebrows League wide.  Following a 1-3 week they’ll face the Hawks, Pelicans, Cavaliers and Kings

 

Portland Trail Blazers Season Preview: Free Fall

Suns: 12-17

This Week: 23rd – Last Week: 23rd

Offensive Rank: 18th Defensive Rank: 18th Net Ranking: 19th

Sputtering to losses, discord on and off the court, coaching uncertainty … it’s not pretty in Arizona these days. What started off as such a positive summer with the Suns almost stealing Aldridge from the Spurs is quickly descending downward! They follow their 1-3 week with winnable games vs. the Nuggets, Sixers and injury riddled Jazz

Phoenix Suns Season Preview: Project Desert Identity

Wizards: 11-14

This Week: 22nd – Last Week: 22nd

Offensive Rank: 20th Defensive Rank: 24th Net Ranking: 23rd

No team in the East has been less exciting or more disappointing than the Wizards who vowed to be the pace setters on offense. Although they’ve suffered multiple injuries it’s not enough to explain why they’ve played so poorly, especially on defense. I have a feeling they believe they’ll swoop in and become contenders late in the season, but they best be careful expecting to snap their fingers to fix that brutal defense! After another losing week (1-2) they play the Kings, Grizzlies and Nets.

Washington Wizards Season Preview: Wittman Gets Hip

Kings: 11-16

This Week: 21st – Last Week: 24th

Offensive Rank: 15th Defensive Rank: 25th Net Ranking: 22nd

So much talent and yet even with Rondo playing like he did when the Celtics won their title no one is buying they can maintain the efforts long enough to be playoff contenders. Boogie Cousins is a beast, but until he leads his team to play CONSISTENT defense you can forget about this team going anywhere.  After a 2-1 week they play the Wizards, Pacers and Blazers

Sacramento Kings Season Preview: Royal Turmoil

Middle Ground

The teams who continue to hover in the middle generally remain in this middling area. Occasionally a team will drop down a level or up a level but none have experienced a streak that will keep them up or down. The one team we could see do that will be the Jazz once they get healthy just like the Hornets may never get back out of this tier now that they’ve lost momentum and suffered multiple injuries.

Knicks: 14-14

This Week: 20th – Last Week: 22nd

Offensive Rank: 21st Defensive Rank: 16th Net Ranking: 17th

The Knicker-Bockers continue to surprise with how well they’ve fared the rough storm from last season with a rookie their fans booed on draft night and now have fallen madly in love with (I picked him to go to the Lakers and I bet Mitch Kupchak wishes he’d read my mock draft seeing the youngster lighting teams up! They might luck into a playoff seed, but ultimately I expect another swoon which knocks them back down the ladder again. After a solid 3-0 week they get some stiff competition this week vs. the Magic, Cavaliers, Hawks and Celtics

New York Knicks Season Preview: The Melo Rebuild

Jazz: 11-14

This Week: 19th – Last Week: 18th

Offensive Rank: 17th Defensive Rank: 19th Net Ranking: 18th

Suffering so many injuries no doubt hurt this squad which begs the question if they ever find a groove offensively and get enough bodies back could the fact they are staying close be enough to vault them out of the dreaded 7th and 8th seeds in the West? They finished the week 1-2 and this week play the Suns, Warriors and Clippers.

Utah Jazz Season Preview: Return To Old School Jazz

 

Grizzlies: 15-14

This Week: 18th – Last Week: 17th

Offensive Rank: 26th Defensive Rank: 2oth Net Ranking: 24th

Like the Rockets this team has been dreadfully inconsistent with major blow-outs to show for it. Though they continue to march to their ‘Grind House’ drum it feels like management might just decide to start rebuilding now. My guess is if they can’t move into the upper seeds out West by the trade deadline expect to see multiple players including one or two of the untouchables (Conley, Gasol, Randolph) leaving town. They follow a 2-2  week with games vs. the Sixers, Wizards, Hornets and Lakers

Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview: The Constant Grind

Celtics: 14-13

This Week: 17th – Last Week: 7th

Offensive Rank: 23rd Defensive Rank: 3rd Net Ranking: 9th

Ask any knowledgeable fan to select any current NBA coach to be given a 10 year contract and take over their team. Odds are Brad Stevens might even rank ahead of Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle for many. What he’s doing without All-Star talent continues to beg the question what will he do with it?  The Celts follow up a bad 0-3 week with a chance to rebound with games versus the T-Wolves, Hornets, Pistons and Knicks.

Boston Celtics Season Preview: The Win -Win Season

 

Timberwolves: 11-16

This Week: 16th – Last Week: 19th

Offensive Rank: 14th Defensive Rank: 17th Net Ranking: 16th

Yeah, I know I keep ranking them too high, but looking at their major category rankings they still are in the middle range and besides like the Magic this team is my guilty pleasure to watch. They might not be making me out to be a soothsayer for suggesting they could contend for that 8th playoff seed, but they sure are fun to watch. I might have pushed them up one season too early, then again with the way the West is playing they could just as easily go on a major winning streak and surprise everyone. If not I can’t help, but see visions of Kat and Wiggins for years to come as they rise up the ranks! They follow up a 2-2 week with games vs. the Celtics, Kings and Pacers.

Minnesota Timberwolves Season Preview: Ascending Youth

Houston: 14-14

This Week: 15th – Last Week: 15th

Offensive Rank: 13th Defensive Rank: 22nd Net Ranking: 21st

Their record is indicative of their season – middling. That’s fine for a team who are learning to win, on the rise or suffering multiple injuries, but not for a Western Conference Finalist who was expected to vie for the title. The only thing they can claim so far this season is they are consistently inconsistent. This past week they split their games going 2-2 and week 9 finds them playing the Hornets, Magic, Spurs and Pelicans

Houston Rockets Season Preview: The “Hard”en Pursuit

Magic: 15-12

This Week: 14th – Last Week: 16th

Offensive Rank: 19th Defensive Rank: 8th Net Ranking: 12th

They’ve sputtered occasionally which is to be expected with a young, inexperienced team. Skiles has them continuing to bring effort especially defensively and man is their future bright! They had a solid 3-1 week and follow it in week 9 with games vs. the Knicks, Rockets and Heat.

Orlando Magic Season Preview: Identity Crisis

13th – Clippers: 16-12

This Week: 13th – Last Week: 13th

Offensive Rank: 6th Defensive Rank: 15th Net Ranking: 10th

Fact: they still have a solid offense regardless of who is on the floor and they still don’t scare any of the top 10 teams! Sure feels like this team is fools gold, then again if you know anything about me you know I’m not a fan. Credit to J.J. Redick for making the team better than they deserve to be. They’ll follow a 2-2 week with games against the Thunder, Lakers and Jazz.

Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview: Dance Lessons With Ballmer

Mavericks: 15-12

This Week: 12th – Last Week: 12th

Offensive Rank: 16th Defensive Rank: 13th Net Ranking: 13th

Another winning week (2-1) from the team everyone keeps expecting to fall off the charts, but who continue to surprise. Carlisle is the master of getting middling or veteran players to exceed expectations and is doing it again this year with Zaza Pachulia, Charlie Villanueva and Raymond Felton. This week they play the Raptors, Nets and Bulls

 

Dallas Mavericks Team Preview: Recovery From the Shaft

Hornets: 15-11

This Week: 11th – Last Week: 6th

Offensive Rank: 5th Defensive Rank: 10th Net Ranking: 5th

As quickly as they rose up the ranks they’ve begun to fall without 2 starters available and the defense is where it’s showing most dramatically. They follow a 1-2 week (where they were gifted their lone win by the zebras) with games versus the Rockets, Celtics and Memphis.  Nicolas Batum has made himself a very interesting free agent this summer as he’s improved the Hornets backcourt to arguably second behind the Raptors in the East and shown he can play three positions (SG, SF or PF) and does everything well on both ends of the floor.

Charlotte Hornets Season Preview: Buzzkill

Masters

The Top of my ladder remains relatively unchanged specifically in terms of the 5 teams who seldom fall below 7 on my list (Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, Cavaliers and Raptors) while the remaining teams who make up my top 10 see 2 new entries who’ll no doubt drop back to the middle next week.

Bulls: 15-10

This Week: 10th – Last Week: 8th

Offensive Rank: 27th Defensive Rank: 2nd Net Ranking: 15th

Unlike the Pacers the team I do expect to stay in the top 10 and actually climb the ladder is the Bulls who I picked to vie with the Raptors and Heat for the top seeds in the East behind Cleveland. This week they’ll try to recover from that horrendous Pistons game and 2-2 week playing Brooklyn, Oklahoma City and Dallas. Of note: until the starters buy in to Hoiberg’s offense the team won’t improve (but the bench is sold which is garnering them playing time during clutch situations)

Chicago Bulls Season Preview: Culture Change

Pacers: 16-10

This Week: 9th – Last Week: 9th

Offensive Rank: 10th Defensive Rank: 6th Net Ranking: 7th

Another week and I’m reiterating the fact I’m not buying this teams top 10 ranking (remaining 9th) and continue to expect them to fall off. Eventually their 3-point shooting is going to disappear as teams adjust on Miles and while I love Vogel it’s hard to believe there are enough pieces to maintain the defense.

 Indiana Pacers Season Preview: Experimenting Warp Speed

Heat: 16-10

This Week: 8th – Last Week: 10th

Offensive Rank: 12th Defensive Rank: 5th Net Ranking: 6th

Though they had a strong showing of 3-1 they rank 8th on my list because they still haven’t traveled and their opponents haven’t been tough. This week they again remain in the East playing the Pistons, Pelicans and their furthest trip takes them in state to face Orlando. They’ve remained near the top based on their solid defense, but the question is will it travel out West?

Miami Heat Season Preview: Heating Up

Pistons: 16-12

This Week: 7th – Last Week: 14th

Offensive Rank: 22nd Defensive Rank: 11th Net Ranking: 14th

The other team making a jump upward is the Pistons who rise 7 spots after a 2-1 week including a 4 quarter OT victory over the Bulls.  No doubt they’ll fall back down into the middle if not by next week then the following one as they still haven’t found consistency, but for now they’ve earned the jump. This week they face the Heat, Hawks and Celtics.

Detroit Pistons Season Preview: Forming a Wall

Raptors: 17-12

This Week: 6th – Last Week: 4th

Offensive Rank: 8th Defensive Rank: 12th Net Ranking: 8th

Tough week going 1-3 BUT they had one game arguably stolen by the zebras and another tainted with a questionable oust of Kyle Lowry. What is it with the referees always tossing Lowry when he plays the Kings?  Hard to drop them down too far given their tendency to rebound. Watch them rebound next week after games vs Dallas and Milwaukee to finish the week top 10 in all major categories.

Toronto Raptors Season Preview: Northern Rising

Hawks: 17-12

This Week: 5th – Last Week: 11th

Offensive Rank: 9th Defensive Rank:  14th Net Ranking: 11th

One of the biggest jumps on my ladder finds the Hawks moving up 6 rungs to Fifth after a 3-1 (with big wins).  Despite continuing to play well offensively with that awesome ball movement they haven’t seemed to be able to improve in the other categories. Next up they’ll play Portland, Detroit and the Knicks

Atlanta Hawks Season Preview: Soaring in Unity

Cavaliers: 18-7

This Week: 4th – Last Week: 5th

Offensive Rank: 4th Defensive Rank: 7th Net Ranking: 4th

Though they had a 3-0 week and are finally healthy it’s notable they’ve had a relatively easy start ot the year without much travel or games versus top teams. That doesn’t mean they won’t prevail it just speaks to how much the League likes to help the King (i.e. they knew Irving would miss the start of the season, so it’s interesting they barely traveled West or had difficult teams to face in the first 2 months plus of this years campaign. Is it irony their first Western trip aligns to when Irving has returned to the line-up then?  This week they play the Knicks, Warriors and Trail Blazers.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview: Long Live the King

Thunder: 18-9

This Week: 3rd – Last Week: 3rd

Offensive Rank: 2nd Defensive Rank: 9th Net Ranking: 3rd

My preseason pick to win the title is showing signs of gaining momentum with each win as the differential in those efforts continues to widen. The problem is whether the Thunder can utilize their youth and talent to focus on the defensive end, which is ultimately where they’ll need to improve in order to move past the 2 teams in front of them. In week 8 they posted a 2-1 record and will face both Los Angeles teams this week, the Bulls and Nuggets.

Oklahoma City Thunder Season Preview: The Revenge Tour

Spurs: 23-5

This Week: 2nd – Last Week: 2nd

Offensive Rank: 3rd Defensive Rank: 1st Net Ranking: 2nd

The Spurs enter the week with more losses than the Dubs have, but like the Warriors boast an unbeaten home record and look very strong. As the Spurs continue to boggle the minds of everyone with their 1980’s era defense the offense is also starting to click. To be honest I have a feeling this team will find it’s way atop the ladder soon especially if the Warriors keep flirting with letting teams stick around while San Antonio continue to hold teams well under 100 points! They’ll follow a 3-0 week with games versus Indiana, Minnesota, Houston and Denver this week.

San Antonio Spurs Season Preview: Master Class

Warriors: 26-1

This Week: 1st – Last Week: 1st

Offensive Rank: 1st Defensive Rank: 4th Net Ranking: 1st

The Bucks learned why it’s not a great idea to celebrate too much as the Warriors got revenge on their own court. The thing is Golden State didn’t win this one quite as easy as most expected. Does that point out the way to bother the best team in the Association is via length? Certainly that’s the one thing the Bucks bring to the court.  That bodes well for the Cavaliers who offer plenty of length especially upfront. This week they’ll find out exactly how well the teams match up as they play for the first time since the finals. The only other game the Dubs have this week is a game versus the Jazz.

Golden State Warriors Season Preview: All Hail the Champs

So there you have it, my week 8 NBA Power Ranking list. Let me know your thoughts on whether you agree, disagree or have some stats that might influence my decision next week.

Archived Weekly Power Ranking Lists

Week 1 – Shock and Awe

Week 2 – Power Shift

Week 3 – Preseason Favorites Lose Ground

Week 4 – Parity, Coaches and Western Turmoil

Week 5 – Holy Parity Ballman

Week 6 – Southwest Adjustment

Week 7 – Quarter Mark

Next: Join Space City Scoop Writing Team

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

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