NBA power rankings, Week 5: Memphis Grizzlies' reign continues

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

The Memphis Grizzlies remain at the top in the latest edition of NBA Power Rankings.

Each of the league's top teams showed a bit of weakness this past week, while a few teams in what's generally been regarded as the second tier began to heat up and some clubs at the very bottom showed spasms of life. The deeper we get into the season, the steadier things will get, but teams stay scramblin' in November.

As always, if you feel strongly that something's out of order here, you're probably right.

Rank Team Record Prev. Rank Last Week
SB Nation Blog
1 Memphis Grizzlies 9-2 1 W: LAL; L: DEN Straight Outta Vancouver
The Grizzlies lost again, looking limp and weary against the glass-pounding Nuggets. After they got a few days of rest, though, Memphis played much more like themselves in a win over the Lakers. One budding, minor worry -- even through the win over L.A. -- is that the bench wasn't quite as reliable over the past week. They're still great, though.
2 San Antonio Spurs 11-3 4 W: @BOS, @IND, @TOR; L: LAC Pounding the Rock
San Antonio's small forwardlessness isn't helping their defense or rebounding, but they've scored enough recently to at least take care of inferior teams. Tim Duncan may or may not be a unicorn.
3 Oklahoma City Thunder 10-4 5 W: LAC, @PHI; L: @BOS Welcome to Loud City
You got a sense for how much Oklahoma City's bench relies on Kevin Martin to produce when his scoring suddenly dropped off in each of the last two games -- a loss to the Celtics and tough win over the Sixers. The Thunder need Martin and the reserve corps to maintain a pretty high level of offense, because their defense has faltered noticeably over the last five or six games.
4 Miami Heat 10-3 6 W: MIL, CLE Hot Hot Hoops
They've got the East's best record, but even after returning home and getting multiple days of rest following a grueling road trip, it feels like the Heat have been blending into the style of their opponents and doing juuuust enough to win each night. They continue to win, though, so there's something to be said for that approach. The Spurs and Nets should be more of a test after Miami gets another prolonged rest this week.
5 Los Angeles Clippers 8-5 2 W: @SAS; L: @OKC, @BRO, @ATL Clips Nation
I kind of thought the Clippers would stride ahead of Memphis this week, but after vanquishing the Spurs, they tripped up pretty hard in a three-game road swing against tough competition in Oklahoma City, Brooklyn and Atlanta. In all three games, it was the defense -- a surprising strength of the Clippers thus far -- that betrayed Los Angeles. In general, the Clippers looked a bit sluggish and slow to react like they did during that brief rough patch to start the year, though to be fair, they did it against better teams this time around. It's still a bit of a letdown after L.A. had looked so thoroughly dominant in previous weeks. They should -- should -- be able to get back on track with six of their next seven at home against the league's bottom-dwellers.
6 New York Knicks 9-3 3 W: @NOH, DET; L: @DAL, @HOU Posting and Toasting
Back when the Knicks were doing everything right to open the season, we were all over here like "yeah, they can defend, but there's no way this shooting is sustainable." Lo and behold, New York got back to shooting absurdly well this past week, but their defense backslid enough to waste all that offensive efficiency. The swarming defense we saw from New York through the first two weeks has devolved into reckless switching and trapping without any subsequent help. The drop-off goes right down to Tyson Chandler, who's become weirdly passive as New York's defensive anchor.
7 Brooklyn Nets 8-4 10 W: LAC, POR; L: @LAL, @GSW Nets Daily
Joe Johnson's offense seems to have finally arrived in Brooklyn. It was Brooklyn's defense, though, that stood out in the impressive win over the Clippers and that decisive fourth quarter against the Blazers.
8 Atlanta Hawks 8-4 16 W: ORL, WAS, @CHA, LAC Peachtree Hoops
The foundation of Atlanta's win streak was built from pretty weak competition, but that lockdown win over the Clippers makes a lovely capstone. And that's not to call the win streak at five, either, because they've got a relatively winnable schedule this week before a tough road trip with stops in Memphis and Miami. They've also got what is, as of right now, the most efficient defense in the NBA. That is a good thing to have.
9 Los Angeles Lakers 7-7 8 W: BRO, @DAL; L: @SAC, @MEM Silver Screen and Roll
It feels like so much has already happened in the Mike D'Antoni era. A close debut win over the Nets was followed by a humiliating loss to the Kings and a series of failed comebacks in Memphis, which was followed by a rousing blowout of the Mavs that felt significant somehow. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have been alternately dismal and productive. Antawn Jamison has suddenly exploded. Kobe Bryant has been a pick-and-roll maven. D'Antoni himself has been botching Muppets references. One week!
10 Boston Celtics 8-6 11 W: OKC, @ORL; L: SAS Celtics Blog
I don't know, I guess we're just supposed to wait until Boston's defense blooms. The fact that they beat the Thunder this week just makes things more confusing. If I may, a solution to keep everyone happy while we figure out who/what the Celtics are this year: Get Jason Collins some second-unit minutes and instruct him to behave exactly like Kevin Garnett does, right down to the barking and fist-pounding.
11 Milwaukee Bucks 6-5 7 L: @CHA, @MIA, CHI Brew Hoop
As long as Brandon Jennings is back upright sooner rather than later, the Bucks seem game to bounce back from this first little losing streak ... or this could be the beginning of a steep drop. TUNE IN NEXT WEEK!
12 Denver Nuggets 8-6 19 W: @MEM, @MIN, GSW NOH Denver Stiffs
... and they're back! One remedy for poor free throw shooting is simply getting to the line more and taking the edge in that department by brute force. Denver's free-throw rate was improved over the last three games -- all wins -- and, to be fair, they shot well from the foul line in two of those three. Ty Lawson played this last week like someone wound him back up, too, which is helpful. This season's trend dictate that the Nuggets have another slide coming, but we shall see.
13 Golden State Warriors 8-6 20 W: @DAL, BRO, MIN; L: @DEN Golden State of Mind
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (or at least one of the two) have finally been scoring well enough of late to compensate for the fact that Golden State gives away excess points at the free throw line and off turnovers. At least that's what I've heard, because any memory I had of the Warriors or anything at all got wiped the moment I saw this Harrison Barnes icepick on the head of Nikola Pekovic. As far as I'm concerned, nothing ever happened before that dunk and nothing else has happened since.
14 Chicago Bulls 6-6 12 W: @MIL, L: @HOU Blog a Bull
Chicago's offense -- particularly late in games -- is struggling to the point that they must lock down defensively and recoup a substantial portion of their own misses to stay competitive. They seem to know that, though, and are still doing a good job of both.
15 Philadelphia 76ers 8-6 9 W: TOR, PHO; L: @CLE, OKC Liberty Ballers
The Sixers continue to defend decently enough to keep games competitive without Andrew Bynum (and all signs suggest they'll have to keep doing that for a while). On occasions when a Sixer aptly assumes Bynum's role as offensive centerpiece, they have enough to win those games. Jrue Holiday's been the guy most likely to step up.
16 Minnesota Timberwolves 5-7 13 L: DEN, @POR, @GSW Canis Hoopus
The frontcourt is happily intact once more, but that only accentuates the short-handedness of the backcourt. The return of Kevin Love has been magnificent, but not enough to compensate for the lack of production and defensive resistance Minnesota's been getting from a motley platoon of would-be/should-be reserve guards.
17 Utah Jazz 7-7 18 W: HOU, SAC; L: @SAC SLC Dunk
Once again, the Jazz seem on track to be a fine home team that can't win on the road. Has anyone figured out why this is the case? Is, for instance, the drinking water in Salt Lake City especially nutritious? If the Jazz really are just a bad road team, then their poor record might be explained by the fact that nine of 14 games have been away from their choice source of hydration.
18 Houston Rockets 6-7 17 W: CHI, NYK; L: @UTA The Dream Shake
I called the Rockets "inconsistent" last week, but I'm not sure that even captures it. Their ability to loaf around chucking isolation jumpers one night, then morph into a fast-paced, picking-and-rolling onslaught the next is astounding. Granted, the Knicks' defense wasn't its usual self on Friday, but the Rockets just dismembered them in that one. They suddenly looked like the most dangerous offense on the planet. That makes you look back at losses like the one on Monday against the Jazz and scratch your head (or whatever body part you scratch in moments of puzzlement). Of course, the caveat to all this is that Houston is without head coach Kevin McHale, who is occupied with far more important, devastating, heartbreaking matters. It would be completely understandable if McHale isn't back with the team anytime soon.
19 Dallas Mavericks 7-7 15 W: NYK; L: GSW, LAL Mavs Moneyball
The Mavs have actually been a solid enough offensive team with Dirk Nowitzki out, but their defense is (and will continue to be, I imagine) pretty bad, and it was made to look especially horrid against the Lakers. They don't win games these days unless they can crack 100 points. At least they're doing that with some frequency, including their explosive win at home against the Knicks on Wednesday. O.J. Mayo hasn't really lost steam yet and Vince Carter has been quietly, sickeningly picking up his productivity as well.
20 Portland Trail Blazers 6-7 14 W: MIN; L: @PHO, @BRO Blazer's Edge
Losing LaMarcus Aldridge (hopefully not for long) only heightened the bench's utter inability to produce. In Sunday's loss to the Nets, the reserves couldn't generate a single point until midway through the fourth quarter. The offense has evidently been good enough, though, because the Blazers are still almost .500 despite one of the league's least efficient defenses and a pretty tough schedule to date.
21 Charlotte Bobcats 7-5 22 W: MIL, TOR, @WAS; L: ATL Rufus on Fire
The 2012-2013 Bobcats have the same win total as the 2011-2012 Bobcats, but something about this team's timing tells me they could beat last year's squad, if not Kentucky, too. It feels like we're awaiting a bit of a slide after Charlotte narrowly beat a couple very bad teams (and with the Thunder and Hawks coming up).
22 Indiana Pacers 6-8 25 W: @WAS, NOH; L: SAS Indy Cornrows
Indiana squandered what could have been an uplifting win against the Spurs. They'd seemed a little more animated and even offensively effective in spurts leading up to that game, so it'll be interesting to see whether the collapse disrupted their momentum.
23 Phoenix Suns 6-8 23 W: POR, NOH; L: @PHI Bright Side of the Sun
Phoenix continues to let teams shoot outlandishly well from downtown -- 43 percent through 14 games with no other team in the NBA allowing even 40 percent. There's a point at which you cross over from poor shot defense to, like, giving shooters tips on their form and wishing them the best instead of closing out. Phoenix is still hanging around, though.
24 Orlando Magic 5-8 26 W: DET, CLE; L: @ATL, BOS Orlando Pinstriped Post
He's not quite the takeover player they need, but the Magic have played much more like a basketball team with Jameer Nelson on the floor.
25 Sacramento Kings 4-9 29 W: LAL, UTA; L: @UTA Sactown Royalty
What has otherwise been a poor rebounding team -- the defensive glass being the major weak point -- took a couple of wins this past week simply by hoarding possession time off the boards.
26 New Orleans Hornets 3-9 21 L: NYK, @IND, @PHO, @DEN At the Hive
Things are bleak in a world with neither Eric Gordon nor Anthony Davis, but the group leading and losing games right now looks like it'd be comfortable in a support role. With full health and a bit more creativity from the guard positions, the Hornets seem like they could compete, but, ya know, couldn't we all.
27 Cleveland Cavaliers 3-10 28 W: PHI; L: @ORL, @MIA Fear the Sword
Not only did the Cavs manage to break their losing streak (and very nearly vanquish the Heat) sans Kyrie Irving, but their bench has looked moderately un-terrible over the last few games. C.J. Miles and Omri Casspi have finally had some moments and Jeremy Pargo -- the hero of that win over the Sixers -- should be a genuinely solid back-up once Irving returns. Does anybody know if there are more Pargo brothers? There ought to be. I really hope there's a Jamiroquai Pargo coming up the pipeline.
28 Detroit Pistons 3-11 27 W: TOR; L: @ORL, @NYK Detroit Bad Boys
Detroit's distribution of playing time remains in constant, sometimes puzzling flux. The rookies' minutes come and go, Austin Daye hardly plays, Jonas Jerebko may have stunk his way out of the rotation, and Charlie Villanueva just resurfaced out of the blue.
29 Toronto Raptors 3-11 24 L: @PHI, @CHA, @DET, SAS Raptors HQ
If you encounter any Raptors fans today, give them hugs. They need hugs.
30 Washington Wizards 0-11 30 L: IND, @ATL, CHA Bullets Forever
If you encounter any Wizards fans, take care and be prepared to defend yourself. They are stir-crazy, desperate, and quite possibly contagious.
31 Juneau FrostDonkeys 0-whatever 31 --- None yet
The Donks looked poised to finally play their first game, but were forced to forfeit after being implicated in a point shaving scandal. Assistant coach Harv Vargebly -- filling in for head coach Marv Biscuits, who is still on parole and recovering from a bout of mange -- loudly reminded his team to "do some great point shaving out there wait I mean what ha ha nothing" within earshot of a referee minutes before tip-off of their thrice-postponed home opener.
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