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.
Wanna know a somewhat disturbing fact? The ninth seed out West–the Denver Nuggets–would be good enough to grab the third seed in the East at 19-17. It gets better for Wine & Gold fans: the Sacramento Kings–the team that just handed Cleveland their worst loss on the year on Sunday–would sit at the 11th seed, which is where the Cavs currently rank. And the Kings hold the second-worst record in the Western Conference. Yeah, things are still really ugly here in the East. Check out below to see how bad things have gotten as of late.
Kolestarz’s Eastern Conference Power Rankings
This was the first week that I actually thought about placing the Pacers down a notch, especially since their offense has looked like complete crap the past two weeks. Yeah, they have won eight out of their last 10, but they haven’t looked too good doing it. Who have the two losses during this stretch come against? The Atlanta Hawks and the Toronto Raptors. Their highest-quality win came against the falling New Orleans Pelicans.
The Heat haven’t lost two straight games since starting the season 1-2, but now they are currently on a two-game skid, losing to both New York teams. But if it wasn’t for their recent road woes, I would, without a doubt, slot the Heat at No. 1. I think Miami could slap around Indiana if the two teams were to meet up within the next few weeks. But alas, this won’t become a reality until late March.
3. Toronto Raptors (3) – 2013-14 record: 18-17
The Toronto Drakes are still rolling, and have added “The Drake 416 Zone” as an official section in Air Canada Centre. The Raptors are winners of seven of their last 10 games, and the three losses have come against the Heat, Pacers and San Antonio Spurs. They’re on their way still, but just wait until this team becomes a whole package. Not making a trade before the deadline would be the smart move, and I know general manager Masai Ujiri is into that type of thinking.
4. Atlanta Hawks (4) – 2013-14 record: 20-18
The Hawks aren’t going down without a fight, I’ll definitely give them that, but it’s only a matter of time before the team above them in the Power Rankings slowly ascends into the third seed. The Hawks need to make a trade/move for a big, and I don’t think that’s going to happen, unfortunately.
The Bulls made a TREMENDOUS leap in the Power Rankings the past two weeks, but that has a lot to do with the opponents they have faced and just how pathetic teams 5 through 15 are. I mean, the Nets even moved into playoff contention this past week, putting together a five-game winning streak of their own just like Chicago. This team is still holding their own on the defensive end, but with the recent dealing of Luol Deng, I’m not sure how long this spot will stay in Chicago’s control. Enjoy your time back in the top five, Chicago, because it most likely won’t last too long.
The Wizards fared pretty well in the four games they played leading up to Week 11, and it’s starting to look like they’re finally pulling things together. We’ll see if that’s the case this week, with matchups against Chicago (twice), Miami and Detroit at the end of the week looming on their schedule. The big one, in my eyes, will be the contest at home against Detroit; another team looking to prove that they belong in the Eastern Conference playoff mess.
Washington and Detroit both had similar weeks, and it’s making my head turn every which way. Good Josh Smith showed up to play this week. How good was he? Check out this clip:
Now let’s take a look at his stat line from this contest against the 76ers: 22 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and four steals. With Smith playing team ball and now inserted back into the starting lineup, we can see how dangerous the Pistons can be on both ends of the court. The only question is can they keep this consistency with Smith as a starter?
Before Saturday night’s loss against the Raptors, the Nets were riding a five-game winning streak (!!!). And where does that put them? At the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Amazing basketball being played here in the Ewwwstern Conference. Side note: Was this team built to beat the Heat? They’ve won both of their matchups against Miami this season, and we have two more to look forward to.
Losers of eight out of their last nine games, the Bobcats are falling real hard right now, and I was a big believer of this season being the one where Charlotte makes it back into the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. But, the offense has gone missing and this team pretty much sums up my hatred with the Eastern Conference at the moment. But hey, this team could go on a mini run and be right back in the “thick” of the playoff chase, but right now they look just as bad as the Bucks.
Before we talk about the other New York team that is trending upward (currently on a four-game winning streak), read this article–otherwise known as a #WojBomb–that was dropped just after New York’s win over Miami. Yeah, talk about a team poison. The Knicks should be on a six-game winning streak if it wasn’t for the stupidity of J.R. Smith. But alas, this team will (hopefully) move on without him. Is good basketball finally back in New York? We’ll see, but I’ve liked what I saw with the Nets and Knicks this past week.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers (12) — 2013-14 record: 11-23
Luol Deng will make this team MUCH better defensively, but what the hell happened in Sactown? Embarrassing. After starting off their West Coast tour with a positive win over the Jazz, the Cavs completely crapped the bed against the Kings. Things need to go well against a team that Cleveland should beat (the Los Angeles Lakers) to start off this next week, or we could be in for another looooong season on the shores of Lake Erie.
The only team boasting a worse losing streak than Boston in the NBA is the Orlando Magic, and they’re trying their best to tank all the way. Things started off on the wrong foot to begin this past week, losing to Denver to the tune of a 129-98 drubbing. YIKES. I think that the Cs will pull the trigger on a big trade soon that doesn’t involve shedding contracts, which could help them return to their prior higher rankings.
113.2: The number of points per game Philadelphia has surrendered over their past four losses. Carry on with your day.
14. Orlando Magic (13) – 2013-14 record: 10-27
Like I said last week when the Cavs miraculously beat the Magic at the Q: No team wants to lose more than the Magic right now. Serious tanking is going on here, people. Call in the fire marshal, because the Magic are quickly burning to the ground.
84.8: The number of points per game that Milwaukee has scored in their past five losses. Carry on to Mr. Manning’s Power Rankings for more snarky remarks.
Cwmwrites’ Eastern Conference Power Rankings
1. Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 29-7
Ho, hum. Indiana just keeps on rolling. They’ve won eight out of their last 10. However, my favorite thing about the Pacers right now is that they are interested in Andrew Bynum and are only so because they don’t want the Heat to sign him as a weapon against Roy Hibbert. I love that level of front office trolling.
2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 27-10
The Heat lost to the Knicks this week. I repeat the Heat lost to the Knicks this week. It was a sight to behold, and overall, the Heat have lost two straight games to New York and the Nets in OT. What happened to the East I knew and loved?
3. Toronto Raptors (4) – 2013-14 record: 18-17
Drake Night must have been a magical experience for those who were able to attend and get one of those amazing OVO Raptors t-shirts. I would have paid fat stacks for one of those, and those people got them free. If only Drake had worn a Bargs or Rudy Gay suit coat instead of a Vince Carter one.
4. Atlanta Hawks (3) – 2013-14 record: 20-18
I think the time has come for this team to slowly fall toward the bottom of the East. However, it could work out in their favor. They can take the highest pick between the Nets and Celtics and may even end up as a lottery team. And they have max cap room, and they will be getting Al Horford back next year. Oh, and some group called Outkast will be playing some festival called Coachella later this year. ATL!
5. Chicago Bulls (8) – 2013-14 record: 17-18
The Bulls have won five straight, but it’s unlikely they can keep this up. Still, with a good draft and some other key moves, they can contend again as early as next year – provided Derrick Rose is back and healthy. That’s kind of scary, and they probably won the Luol Deng trade.
6. Washington Wizards (5) – 2013-14 record: 16-19
Washington has so many issues right now that it’s not even funny. Their entire offense is coming from John Wall right now, and they have won a whopping two games teams with a winning percentage above .500.
7. Detroit Pistons (6) – 2013-14 record: 16-22
This team cannot close out games at all and are still struggling with how to manage minutes between Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. At times, this team has been scary good and at other times just awful. For my money, Smith may have been the wrong move after all.
8. Brooklyn Nets (11) – 2013-14 record: 15-22
They beat the Heat and may not be dead in the water after all. Still, I think this ends up as a lost season, considering Brook Lopez is done until next season.
9. Charlotte Bobcats (10) – 2013-14 record: 15-23
Sliding lower and lower right now, but the Bobcats still have 15 wins. In January. Has this ever happened before?
10. New York Knicks (13) – 2013-14 record: 14-22
New York is looking a little better each day, and I think they can make the playoffs. And again, they beat the Heat. That alone takes the pressure off them – for now.
11. Boston Celtics (7) – 2013-14 record: 13-25
The Celtics have lost eight straight and might be better served discovering what they can do with Rajon Rondo and some of their younger pieces this season. They also will need to see how Rondo and Brad Stevens mesh when Rondo is actually playing basketball.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers (9) – 2013-14 record: 13-24
The Cavaliers lost by 44 points to the Kings. With Luol Deng starting at small forward. Still think he is the cure-all band-aid, Cavs fans?
13. Philadelphia 76ers (12) – 2013-14 record: 12-25
If I’m Philadelphia, this next month is about seeing what you can get in the trade market for Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner and tanking even more so. After that hot start, they are slowly headed toward the cellar and a shot at one of the big four draft prospects. If not for the ineptitude of Orlando and Milwaukee, they might be at the bottom.
14.Orlando Magic (14) – 2013-14 record: 10-27
Orlando, ideally, can use this season to develop Victor Oladipo and others. This summer, via the draft and maybe restricted free agency (cough Eric Bledsoe cough) they can get better very fast. With the right moves, I think they can be a playoff team next year.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 7-29
I cannot believe that this team ever was considered a possible playoff team. And with Larry Sanders now having issues on and off the court, one has to wonder what they do with him. With the right package that likely has to include a first round pick, I think he could be available.
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.