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.
Well, the Eastern Conference is finally starting to get some more “average” teams, with three teams boasting records of .500 and three more teams over the .500 mark. But most importantly, it looks like the Pacers are starting to separate themselves from the Heat, who haven’t been playing up to their championship potential as of late. And look at that! The Nets are surprising everyone in 2014. Happy New Year to Eastern Conference fans! Maybe we’re in for a much more exciting second half of the season.
Kolestarz’s Eastern Conference Power Rankings
Now winners of five straight, the Pacers really separated themselves from the Heat, who are fading quickly from making a case for the top spot in the Eastern Conference rankings week by week. I know my RDE colleague already mentioned it, but that Paul George dunk? I lost it after seeing that move. It looks like the offense has come alive, too.
The Heat have played very rough team basketball lately, and it hasn’t been against the best in the NBA, either. Will fatigue start playing a factor for some of Miami’s aging stars? I think we’re starting to see that this may be the case, and that doesn’t fare well for the Heat once mid-April finally comes.
Any day now Toronto will finally have the literal third seed for theirs in the East. They’ve lost two straight to some low-level talent, but this is a team, behind the Nets, that has been the most impressive in 2014 thus far. So what if the Rap Pack is 2-3 following Drake Night? They’ve been trending in the right direction and haven’t majorly slipped yet since Rudy Gay was traded. Fight on, Toronto.
4. Atlanta Hawks (4) – 2013-14 record: 21-19
Atlanta really hasn’t proven that they’re going to be a permanent fixture in the top five after losing Al Horford for the season, but no other team has really proven that they deserve the fourth spot as of right now. I’m not totally sold on the Wizards, Chicago is going to eventually bottom out and the Nets are still on their way (just not No. 4 talent yet). I’m going to predict that this is probably the last week that the Hawks are here, however.
After beating Detroit in back-to-back games a couple of weeks back, Washington’s lone loss in their past five games came against the Pistons. Since it wasn’t a blowout, and because the Wiz also disposed of the Bulls (twice) and the Heat, they look like the team that could be locked into the playoffs a lot sooner than most anticipated. The chemistry is starting to look as good as it ever has, and John Wall seems to be completely zoned in at this point in the season.
8-1 in January against teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors. I don’t think the Nets are no longer a laughing stock, but it still seems as if the Knicks are. Joe Johnson has also been dialed in as well, especially in the first half of games. But how long can this team keep it up without their star centerpiece, Brook Lopez, out of the picture for the season?
See? The top five standing didn’t last for very long, but the Bulls are still nowhere near tanking point, as of now. When you’re facing teams like the Lakers and 76ers, how far do you actually expect to fall/rise despite winning or losing? But hey! We have Bulls-Cavaliers and Luol Deng’s first matchup against his former team to look forward to this week.
This Grantland headline/article by Zach Lowe pretty much sums up how I feel about the Pistons this season and this past week: The Pistons Shouldn’t Be This Bad.
The Bobcats made it back into the playoff picture (woo-hoo!), but I don’t think that lasts very long at all. With Kemba Walker out up to two weeks with an ankle injury, I think this team slides a lot during that time, even though they won’t be facing top-tier NBA talent.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers (11) — 2013-14 record: 15-26
Even after the horrendous loss to the Sacramento Kings during their five-game excursion out West, the Cavaliers rebounded quite nicely with an applaud-able losing effort against the Portland Trail Blazers and a GREAT win against the Denver Nuggets. Going home and losing to Dallas was disappointing (even though they mounted an amazing comeback), but I’m thinking I’m deeming this week as the “tell-all playoff” week on my behalf. This SHOULD be a 3-0 week for the Cavs, and I’ll be disappointed if it’s anything worse.
After looking like they had turned the corner, the Knicks have now lost four straight in very 2013-14 Knick-like fashion. Carmelo Anthony should be bummed that this team has 41 more games to play, with one of them being tomorrow:
Even with Rajon Rondo back, I still don’t think this team turns things around. These are the Cs we expected to see following the departure of the final two members of the original Big Three.
In 10 games in 2013, the 76ers have given up more than 100 points, even with three of those 10 games resulting in victories. The worst defense in the League, ladies and gentlemen.
I honestly think that this team may be more pathetic than Milwaukee at this point. They’ve played tank basketball unlike any other team I’ve seen this season. General manager Rob Hennigan needs to do Arron Afflalo a favor and get him out of this horrible situation and get some value out of him.
Another week passes and the Bucks still have seven wins. Surprise, surprise? At least they have the coolest rookie in the League.
Cwmwrites’ Eastern Conference Power Rankings
1. Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 33-7
The Pacers kept winning and are still really good. This isn’t new. But this is:
2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 30-12
From afar, it seems to me that Miami is truly saving itself for the postseason, and it starts with LeBron James. He’s doing unholy things on the basketball court, but he also was dunked on by Ramon Sessions. Something tells me if that dunk happens in the playoffs, he would have put forth a little more effort. And that goes for the Heat as a whole.
3. Toronto Raptors (3) – 2013-14 record: 20-20
Toronto had their worst week post Rudy Gay in losing to the Celtics and Lakers – two of the worst teams in the NBA right now – but that is no reason to fret if you are Raptors fan. This team is in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic Division and will stay there as long as they stay healthy and don’t look to move Kyle Lowry in a trade.
4. Washington Wizards (6) – 2013-14 record: 20-20
Washington beat the Bulls twice last week, but remain an inconsistent product on the floor night in and night out. Bradley Beal isn’t playing good basketball right now, and their bench is very short. Thank goodness for John Wall, who if you haven’t noticed, is having the best season of his NBA career this season.
5. Chicago Bulls (5) – 2013-14 record: 20-20
The Bulls are still afloat after trading Luol Deng, but Jimmy Butler isn’t doing any better for them. The swingman played 60 minutes against the Orlando Magic last week. Here’s hoping Tom Thibodeau doesn’t take the life out of him.
6. Brooklyn Nets (8) – 2013-14 record: 18-22
The Nets went over to London, absolutely destroyed the Hawks and are slowly creeping back up into the standings and into the playoff picture. So much for Brook Lopez’s foot injury ending their hopes of playing meaningful basketball at the end of April.
7. Atlanta Hawks (4) – 2013-14 record: 21-19
The Hawks gave up 127 points to the Nets in London. Luckily for them, that was their only game last week, and they are still firmly in the playoff hunt.
8. Detroit Pistons (7) – 2013-14 record: 17-24
Last week sums up the Pistons entire season to date. They first lost by 21 points to the Utah Jazz (seriously) and then the next night overcame a 34-point effort from John Wall to beat the Wizards. Simply put, this team plays with no consistency night to night.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers (12) – 2013-14 record: 15-26
Luol Deng so far as a Cavaliers is averaging 18.4 points on 47.9 percent shooting. He’s done what they have needed and expected him to on a nightly basis and, against the Lakers, he showed that he can carry the scoring load from time to time. They’ve gone 3-2 with him on the roster and already look like an improved basketball team on both ends.
10. Charlotte Bobcats (9) – 2013-14 record: 18-25
Despite Al Jefferson playing All-Star caliber basketball, the Bobcats are struggling badly right now. Kemba Walker will be out a few weeks due to an injury and they are struggling to acclimate former top pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back into the fold. They may, after a strong start, be morphing into the Bobcats of old.
11. New York Knicks (10) – 2013-14 record: 15-26
The Knicks were facing an uphill battle already due to their slow start, but it got worse this week when Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin went down with injuries. Or maybe it will be a good thing because Mike Woodson will embrace the small ball lineups that were so effective last season. But probably not.
12. Boston Celtics (11) – 2013-14 record: 14-29
Rondo back! That alone makes the Celtics better, but they are 0-2 with him in the lineup. Still, having one of the league’s best (and smartest) players back playing under the league’s most promising young coaches is reason enough to get excited about Celtics basketball.
13. Philadelphia 76ers (13) – 2013-14 record: 13-28
Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young are good enough as a duo to win an occasional game. That’s about all Philadelphia has going for it right now. But still, only
14.Orlando Magic (14) – 2013-14 record: 11-31
Still, Orlando is really bad and aren’t going to get better anytime soon.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 7-33
This is a tad dated now, but Giannis Anteokounmpo is the one thing Milwaukee has going for it right now considering how badly Larry Sanders is struggling and because, well, they are the Bucks. And the Greek Freak is just amazing.
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.