Eastern Conference Power Rankings: Week 10

Jan 5, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (10) drives to the basket as Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen (34) defends during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Week 10 didn’t really show us anything new. The Raptors are still surging, Indiana and Miami remain at their respective top positions and Atlanta is continuing to slip. But for Cleveland fans, the Wine & Gold finally fell from their perch at 10th in the League. Find out how far they dropped below. Or maybe how far they climbed?

Kolestarz’s Eastern Conference Power Rankings

1.  Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 27-6

The Pacers offense may have slowed down a bit (and by that I mean they haven’t been shooting like a championship-caliber team), but I don’t think that really matters. You know how the old cliché goes: Defense wins championships. And nobody is better at making NBA teams look like a Big 10 squad than the Indiana Pacers. As you probably witnessed this past Sunday, the Cavaliers were out-toughed by the Pacers, but not by that much. The point is, a 10-point Indiana lead is a 20-point lead by any other team in the NBA; that’s how good they are defensively.

2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 26-8

To start the week, Miami was outdone by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. It actually looked like the Heat gave a damn about this contest, and for the Warriors to come in–riding an impressive winning streak–to the house of the Big Three and pin them down with a fight, it’s a game that definitely had Miami stepping back and thinking about their level of seriousness. Two straight wins following the loss–including an impressive victory over the surging Raptors–has the Heat poised for a big week 11.

3. Toronto Raptors (3) – 2013-14 record: 16-16

They’re still a-coming! The Raptors got to .500 this week, rode over the hump but then barely fell to the Heat on Sunday. So they’re still floating like Michael Phelps, but they can continue to get separation from the field of Eastern Conference teams below and possibly even make their way up to the No. 3 seed by the end of this next week. They whooped the Pacers, stomped on the Wizards and even took a lead against the Heat into the fourth quarter. If they can get over Indiana again on Tuesday and then capture wins over the Pistons and Nets, the literal three seed could be theirs for the taking.

4. Atlanta Hawks (4) – 2013-14 record: 18-16

Atlanta needs to add a big man if they want to continue to succeed in the weak East, because there’s only so much Paul Millsap can do in the frontcourt without Al Horford by his side. Injuries suck, and the Horford one has to be one of my least favorite of the NBA season thus far. This team was discretely one of the most well-put together squads in the League, and we’re seeing what one main player missing from the bunch is/will be doing to them very soon.

5. Charlotte Bobcats (5) – 2013-14 record: 15-20

The Bobcats got downed and destroyed by two Western Conference opponents–the Clippers and the Trial Blazers (both formidable foes)–before ending their five-game skid against the Kings to cap off a 1-4 five-game road trip. Now, the ‘Cats return home to face the Wizards. This is a good gauge game for the Bobcats. They head on the road for two games to end the week after their Tuesday matchup with Washington. They can’t afford to head into another road trip cold.

6. Chicago Bulls (9) — 2013-14 record: 14-18

It began with beating Cleveland up at home. Since then, Chicago has done their best job at doing away with teams that fall below the average rating. Wins against the Cavs, Nets, Grizzlies (this season), Celtics and now the falling Hawks have resulted in somewhat of a turnaround for the Bulls since the loss of Derrick Rose. With Tom Thibodeau at the helm, this team can definitely beat up on the scrap pile that is the Eastern Conference. At least for now.

7. Washington Wizards (6) — 2013-14 record: 14-17

I’m convinced that a majority of the teams below the Raptors in the Eastern Conference legitimately don’t want to win, and the Wizards are proof. Even with Bradley Beal back, this team isn’t winning on a consistent enough basis to convince me that they deserve to be winning the “offseason expectations” race against the Cavs and Pistons. For now they rank fifth in the Eastern Conference, but a tough schedule awaits them over the next seven games.

8. Detroit Pistons (7) — 2013-14 record 14-20

There was only one game to judge the Pistons on because of a six-day break from action (!!), but with a four-day week looming (three on the road), the Pistons need to get out of their funk (I’m looking at the Josh Smith mess especially) by breaking even. That may be good enough to move them up in the standings in the East.

9. Boston Celtics (8) — 2013-14 record: 13-21

A team dealing with a tough stretch like the Celtics (losers of six of their last seven) are bound to go through some close losses (i.e. against Atlanta and New Orleans at home), so just realize that the real Cs that we expected to see in the offseason are now appearing. The most miserable news for Cleveland fans is that their one win during one of two horrible streaks this season came against the Cavs at home. But hey, they almost blew a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, so there’s that.

10. Brooklyn Nets (13) — 2013-14 record: 12-21

I was giving the Knicks (and Magic for that matter) much more credit than they were due for putting them in front of the Nets consistently in these rankings. I mean, Brooklyn is still pretty horrible and still pretty banged up, but pit them against the Cavs, Magic or Knicks 10 times, and nine times Brooklyn comes out victorious. Still nothing to brag about, though.

11. New York Knicks (12) — 2013-14 record: 11-22 

J.R. Smith pretty much ruined what could have been a perfect week for the Knicks. I’m pretty dumbfounded by his lack of knowledge on the basketball court at times, but it comes to no surprise at this point. So look on the bright side, New York; you have a pretty decent road team, “boasting” a 6-10 mark.

12. Cleveland Cavaliers (10) — 2013-14 record: 11-23

It’s starting to get THAT bad. Offense? Buehler?

13. Orlando Magic (11) – 2013-14 record: 10-23

I’ve never seen as big as a tank job this season than the Magic’s last-second loss against the Cavs this past week. This was a matter of a team really not wanting to win. Granted, their starting center Nikola Vucevic was out, but still. Kyrie was missing. No reason why Cleveland should’ve come back down nine with just over a minute to go.

14. Philadelphia 76ers (14) – 2013-14 record: 12-21

Hey! They’ve won four straight. And it came on the latter end of a six-game road trip against Western Conference teams such as the Nuggets and Trail Blazers.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 7-26

Still here, still sincere to losing.

Cwmwrites’ Eastern Conference Power Rankings

1. Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 27-6

Indiana is just cruising along, doing everything very good and relying on their stalwart defense to carry them when they look sluggish on offense, like they did twice against the Cavaliers. Currently my pick to win it all come June.

2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 26-8

The Heat may have taken the top spot if not for a loss to the Golden State Warriors. The Heat have won 8 of 10 games overall, though, and are as scary as ever. Just too bad they don’t play Indiana again until March.

3. Atlanta Hawks (4) – 2013-14 record: 18-16

Paul Millsap has been outstanding since Al Horford went down. And while their real chances of sneaking into the Finals are now likely over, a trio of Millsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver is really entertaining and solid.

4. Toronto Raptors (3) – 2013-14 record: 16-16

Toronto has a lot of players that you need to be paying attention to. Terrence Ross, who is coming into his own, however, is my favorite. And all of this happened after the Raptors traded away Rudy Gay.

5. Washington Wizards (4) – 2013-14 record: 14-17

My pick to finish third in the East since Al Horford is done for the season. They just need to get more out of players not named John Wall on a consistent basis.

6. Detroit Pistons (7) – 2013-14 record 14-20

Losers of four of six, but moves up in the rankings. Eastern Conference Basketball, ya’ll!

7. Boston Celtics (8) – 2013-14 record: 13-21

Still my pick to ultimately win the Atlantic Division. Jared Bayless should be an interesting fit however, as they don’t need another point guard or wing with the ball in their hands.

8. Chicago  Bulls (9) – 2013-14 record: 14-18

The Bulls beat the Celtics by 12 last week and are getting solid play from the likes of D.J. Augustin. The big question remaining regarding this team is whether or not they will be sellers or buyers come the trade deadline.

9. Cleveland Cavaliers (11) – 2013-14 record: 11-23

Without Kyrie Irving, this team has struggled, and the trade rumors keep swirling around and getting more out there everyday. Still, as of right now, this team is very bad and has a lot of flaws. It’s starting to get hard to watch the incompetence on a nightly basis.

10. Charlotte Bobcats (6) – 2013-14 record: 15-20

The ‘Cats have lost five in a row after looking like a sneaky decent playoff team. The next few weeks should tell us more about a Charlotte team that is likely going to be in the playoffs.

11. Brooklyn Nets (12) – 2013-14 record: 12-21

The Nets came back to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder after being down 16 points. That’s enough for me to bump them up a spot and deem them the less horrible New York basketball team.

12. Philadelphia 76ers (14) – 2013-14 record: 12-21

Thaddeus Young may be the best player available on the market right now, and he single handily helped the 76ers win a game over the Portland Trail Blazers. The odd part is that, depending on what they do with (or get for) Young, this team could be good next year.

13. New York Knicks (13) – 2013-14 record: 11-22

I love not being a Knicks fan. They have Carmelo back from injury now, but they still are just dysfunctional across the board. But again, they play in the Atlantic Division where anything is possible.

14.Orlando Magic (10) – 2013-14 record: 10-23

The Magic have lost 12 of 15 on the road this season, including a loss to the Cavaliers this past week where it didn’t exactly look like either team knew what basketball was. This team is on the way down, which in the end, may be better for their longterm rebuilding plans.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 7-26

I hope Andrew Wiggins likes cheese, freezing weather and beer (once he turns 21, of course). Otherwise, he’s really going to hate playing in Milwaukee, which is now dealing with reports of infighting between Gary Neal and Larry Sanders.

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. 

Topics: Cleveland Cavaliers, Eastern Conference, NBA Power Rankings

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