Throughout the 2013-14 NBA season, co-editors Zak Kolesar and Chris Manning will be ranking the 15 Eastern Conference teams on a week-by-week basis every Monday. After each team’s ranking, the two will give a brief description of their rationale behind each ranking and will provide the week’s previous ranking (PR).
Editor’s Note: These rankings are decided on this week’s win/loss record and where Zak and Chris think these teams will ultimately end up at the season’s end. Feel free to voice your opinion below in the comment section, or reach out to Zak (@Kolestarz) and Chris (@cwmwrites) on Twitter.
This past week, Bill Simmons of Grantland wrote a scathing review of teams 3 through 15 in the Eastern Conference with great points brought up about each squad. The top is set with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers at 1 and 2, and the bottom seems to be defined by the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks at 14 and 15. The middle is a mess that would get eaten alive in the Western Conference, and that’s where we still stand today. Although things looked better for our Cleveland Cavaliers this week, the same can’t be said about every team.
Kolestarz’s Eastern Conference Power Rankings
1. Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 18-3
Oklahoma City was the first team that really took it to Indiana this year, but that shouldn’t be too concerning, as it was against a prime Thunder squad with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook playing at their peak levels. Not to mention, the game was also played at Chesapeake Energy Arena, where the Thunder are a perfect 10-0 on the season. This team is still the best in the League.
2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 16-5
It always seems that when the Heat slip (their definition of slipping is losing two straight), there are reports immediately out that the team is “in trouble” and looking to add more pieces. Although Dwyane Wade is missing games here and there, I don’t think it’s any reason to panic. The team rebounded without him by crushing both the Timberwolves Pistons (Wade did play in the Minnesota matchup). This Tuesday the Heat and Pacers match up, so that should be tons of fun.
3. Atlanta Hawks (3) – 2013-14 record: 11-10
The Hawks can definitely nab the third seed in the Eastern Conference, but with Brad Stevens proving himself as a head coach in the NBA thus far, this spot could potentially end up going to Boston. Many thought that their season was thrown away at the 2013 Draft, but the Nets and Cs have gone in opposite directions. Atlanta is holding firm for now behind the very effective shooting of Kyle Korver. Let’s see if they can hold it together over the next couple weeks.
4. Detroit Pistons (7) – 2013-14 record: 10-11
How great is the Jennings/Drummond duo working out thus far? Although the Josh Smith project hasn’t gone as planned (or has it?), Drummond is playing at a freakishly high level, and it’s starting with Brandon Jennings, who is averaging 8.1 assists per game. That’s more than two whole assists greater than his career average. This team is surging right now. Watch out.
5. Charlotte Bobcats (5) – 2013-14 record: 9-11
The Bobcats have similar problems at small forward as the Cavaliers are experiencing right now, but it’s because of injury instead of ineptness. They’re beating the teams that they should be beating and playing top teams across the League very close. For once Michael Jordan has to be happy with how his team is playing through the first quarter of the 2013-14 season.
6. Boston Celtics (10) – 2013-14 record: 10-12
Yes, this is a big jump, but it’s a deserving one. After losing six straight in mid-November, the Cs have now won six of their last eight, and most recently dismantled the Knicks by 41 points in New York on Sunday. They travel to Barclays Center next on Tuesday, so that should be fun to watch for Brooklyn fans.
7. Chicago Bulls (4) – 2013-14 record: 8-10
Although they managed to put 100 points up on the Heat, Luol Deng seems to be the only Bull playing at a consistent level offensively night in and night out. The Pistons most recently held Chicago to a season-low 75 points. Derrick Rose, you are missed.
8. Washington Wizards (8) – 2013-14 record: 9-10
Without Bradley Beal, I’ve been waiting for this team to cave in for a couple weeks now. However, Wall is proving that he may have been worth the $80 million deal he was granted this past offseason. Although this team isn’t shooting particularly well, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman has his squad playing team basketball. That’s their saving grace right now.
9. Orlando Magic (6) – 2013-14 record: 6-14
Losers of five straight, I’m sad to see this team take such a dive over the past week. Arron Afflalo has been playing great basketball so far this season, but the defense has really taken a beating over the past few games. They won’t win many games giving up the second most points in the League.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers (12) – 2013-14 record: 7-13
If the Cavaliers played every game at home, this would be a very enjoyable team to watch. It’s just whenever this team hits the road, they lose any sense of fight or physicality that they play with in front of the Quicken Loans crowd. The offense comes out flat, and as a result, the defense loses the motivation to want to compete. It’s a huge problem, but one that comes with young teams. Times are getting better in Cleveland, especially with the progressing play of the frontcourt.
11. Toronto Raptors (9) – 2013-14 record: 7-12
Are we allowed to start talking about box scores in the Toronto locker room now?
12. Philadelphia 76ers (11) – 2013-14 record: 7-14
Coming back down to Earth, and that’s not a bad thing. This team is poised to be one of the premier squads in the Eastern Conference in the near future. If they play their cards right, they can land another talented prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft.
13. Brooklyn Nets (13) – 2013-14 record: 6-14
Injuries are hurting this team much more than they are New York, even though the Knicks are badly missing Tyson Chandler. I just genuinely believe that New York is a horrible team. I did, however, watch the Nets get absolutely destroyed by the Knicks earlier this week, but then…
14. New York Knicks (14) – 2013-14 record: 5-13
The 41-point drubbing handed out by the Celtics on Sunday marked one of the lowest points in New York basketball history. Players seemed unaware of where they were supposed to be, or even where their opponents were. It was ugly. And to make matters worse, New York attempted one more field goal than the Celtics.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 4-16
Keep doing your thing, Milwaukee.
Cwmwrites’ Eastern Conference Power Rankings
1. Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 18-3
Despite a loss to the Thunder, this team is still the NBA’s best overall team. They have all the necessary ingredients to make this success last all season.
2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 16-15
They have struggled when Dwyane Wad has missed games with injuries, making his health essential to their success moving forward.
3. Atlanta Hawks (3) 2013-14 record: 11-10
Atlanta, with a solid front court and some of the league’s best ball movement, stand as the third best team out East.
4. Detroit Pistons (8) – 2013-14 record: 10-11
Their jump four spots up is startling. Maybe it’s because Brandon Jennings has finally decided to pass more?
5. Washington Wizards (6) – 2013-14 record: 9-10
Wall is, again, playing fantastic basketball. If they can get better production from their role players, a jump up this list is likely.
6. Charlotte Bobcats (5) – 2013-14 record: 9-11
This in itself is a victory for Charlotte. Their next step will be defined by what they can get out of their young talent. As it stands, the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchirst and Cody Zeller are both role players and nothing more.
7. Boston Celtics (10) 2013-14 record: 10-12
The Cs lead the Atlantic (not that it says much) and are playing inspired basketball under Brad Stevens, who might be my Coach of the Year if the season ended today. Rajon Rondo coming back from injury may be the biggest talent acquisition one team can make.
8. Chicago Bulls (4) – 2013-14 record: 8-10
The Bulls are starting to fade after the loss of Derrick Rose. Will they be able to avoid a total collapse? And should the sell their talent before the deadline comes?
9. Toronto Raptors (7) – 2013-14 record: 7-12
The Raptors are about to bottom out after trading Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings. Masai Uriji is seemingly a wizard.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (11) – 2013-14 record: 7-14
A small bump up this week, but I’m still waiting on the 76ers to sell and then plummet. It has to happen, right?
11. Cleveland Cavaliers (12) – 2013-14 record: 7-13
I am hesitant to put the Cavaliers in this spot due to their blowout loss in Atlanta, but solid wins over the Clippers and Nuggets puts them on the up and up.
12. Orlando Magic (9) – 2013-14 record: 6-14
Aaron Affolo is the player having a career year that no one is talking about. As the trade market is heating up, do the Magic look to move him for picks/young talent?
13. New York Knicks (14) – 2013-14 record: 5-14
The Knicks are ahead of New York in the battle for New York mediocrity. If you are a Cavs fan in search of some optimism, just check out Knicks Twitter. Trust me on that.
14. Brooklyn Nets (13) – 2013-14 record: 6-14
See above, except the Nets lost to the Knicks. However, if I had to pick one of these two teams to turn it around and make a decent postseason run, I’d pick Brooklyn.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 4-16
They have wins over the Cavaliers, Wizards and Celtics (twice). They’ve also been held to under 80 points twice by the Bobcats. Thank goodness for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Make sure to sound off in the comment section below whether or not you agree with the rankings and check back next week to see if any of your teams moved up or down in the rankings.