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NBA Power Rankings, Week 5: Spurs Rise In The West, Celtics Top The East

NBA Power Rankings for Week 5 have the Spurs kicking it at the top of the Western Mountain while the in the East those Tres Amigos from Miami continue to fall.

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Nine of the greatest (aka most available) minds from around SB Nation's basketball network came together to create this season's weekly NBA Power Rankings. The rankings themselves are based on a complicated mathematic formula that makes the BCS Computer Rankings look like second grade chicken-scratch. In other words, we all vote and then count the votes.

We will be bringing you NBA Power Rankings each week and have decided to present them by conference instead of all together. While fans of a few top teams want to know how they rank up with the best of the best, we feel that more people will be served if we talk about how teams are ranked within their conferences. Each week a different author will present the power rankings but the list itself is a collaborative effort. That way, you have no one to yell at.

Records and voting do not include action from Monday night.

In past weeks, various eminent SBN bloggers have tried their hands at coming up with witty, power ranking-based banter. While I may not be eminent or witty, I most certainly am various and also, I have hands. 

Eastern Conference 


1. Boston Celtics: Record - 12-4

Last Week's Ranking: 2, SB Nation Blog: Celtics Blog

I can't get over how good Shaq has been for these guys. I can't really explain it, but I have a hunch it was the whole "pretending to be a statue" thing that did it. That was the turning point. Nobody has ever had a bad season after pretending to be a statue.

In any case, Boston is doing a rather swell job (far sweller than I, for one, anticipated) of weathering the absence of Kendrick Perkins.


2. Orlando Magic: Record - 12-4

Last Week's Ranking: 1, SB Nation Blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post

Was the Heat win impressive? For now, I'm going to go ahead and say that the Heat loss was more damning than the Heat win was eye-opening. Of course, those are the types of vicissitudes a team that shoots 57 threes (approx.) a game may reasonably expect. Their defense is legit, however.


3. Chicago Bulls: Record - 9-6

Last Week's Ranking: 3, SB Nation Blog: Blog-a-Bull

The Bulls posted a winning record on their annual circus trip for the first time since the retirement of Michael Jordan (second one). And while 4-3 doesn't sound like that much of a cause for celebration, Chicago kept it close in all three losses (to San Antonio, the Lakers, and the game winner by Carmelo Anthony). Moreover, Derrick Rose has been setting up teammates more efficiently than ever before.

4. Atlanta Hawks: Record - 11-7

Last Week's Ranking: 5, SB Nation Blog: Peachtree Hoops

Was anyone actually convinced by this team's early hot streak? Their +2.9 point differential ranks sixth in the conference, and things have evened out in recent games. Over the next week, they'll play at Miami, at Orlando, and at San Antonio.


5. Miami Heat: Record - 9-8

Last Week's Ranking: 4, SB Nation Blog: Peninsula is Mightier

With Udonis Haslem possibly done for the season, the situation looks bleaker for Miami than anyone- even the schadenfreuidest amongst us- could have predicted. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade simply haven't fit together like we thought they could; coupled with Wade's early season struggles and the team's total lack of interior defense, it's been a disaster.

On the bright side, without the Heat, we wouldn't have the Heat Index, easily the funniest thing on the internet in years.  


6. Indiana Pacers: Record - 8-7

Last Week's Ranking: 6, SB Nation Blog: Indy Cornrows

Since the last Power Rankings, the Pacers have defeated the L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat, and lost to the Magic by 4 and the Thunder by 4 in OT. That's not a terrible stretch of games by any measure. Offensively and defensively, Roy Hibbert has been their best player and has likely replaced Brook Lopez as the Eastern conference center pecking order, for now.

7. New York Knicks: Record - 9-9

Last Week's Ranking: 9, SB Nation Blog: Posting and Toasting

Hey, five wins in a row!

Gallinari, Felton, and Amar'e are all doing their things. Toss in the play of Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields, and it's pretty clear why this is a top-10 offensive team. If they can ever pick it up on the defensive end- even a little bit- they'd make themselves an infinitely more desirable destination for "potential free agents."


8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Record - 7-9

Last Week's Ranking: 8, SB Nation Blog: Fear the Sword

This might be as much excitement as Cleveland will see all year. LeBron James, of course, returns in a few days, and Mo Williams hit an awesome game winner last week: 

9. Milwaukee Bucks: Record - 6-10

Last Week's Ranking: 7, SB Nation Blog: Brew Hoop

Oof. Watching this team play offense is just... oof. The Bucks are the inverse of the Knicks, but on steroids. No team in the NBA plays less efficient offense than them. At 100.2 points per 100 possessions, they've really, really struggled to put the ball in the bucket. But at 100.8 points allowed per 100 possessions, they've also got the second most efficient defense in the league.

Their offensive woes are mostly predicated on a complete lack of shooting ability... which makes their outburst against the Lakers two weeks ago that much more surprising.

10. New Jersey Nets: Record - 6-11

Last Week's Ranking: 13, SB Nation Blog: Nets Daily

The defensive job Avery Johnson has done with this team is decent... but they're still pretty terrible on that end. And obviously they also suck at offense. 

11. Charlotte Bobcats: Record - 6-11

Last Week's Ranking: 10, SB Nation Blog: Rufus on Fire

Back-to-back losses to the Knicks on back-to-back days is never fun. Coupled with allowing 104 points to the offensively inept Bucks? Even less so. This is another team that's just tough to watch, although Stephen Jackson's quick hook the other night was at least mildly amusing.


12. Toronto Raptors: Record - 6-11

Last Week's Ranking: 11, SB Nation Blog: Raptors HQ

Toronto got imminently more watchable with the addition of Jerryd Bayless last week. With wins over Boston and Orlando now, Toronto probably has the best resume of the teams in this group.

13. Detroit Pistons: Record - 6-11

Last Week's Ranking: 12, SB Nation Blog: Detroit Bad Boys

There's a lotta 6-11 teams in this conference, eh? Detroit played the Mavericks tough this week in Dallas along with a convincing win over Milwaukee, but the committee still has ‘em dropping by a spot.

14. Washington Wizards: Record - 5-10

Last Week's Ranking: 15, SB Nation Blog: Bullets Forever

They almost pulled off a shocking upset over the Magic, but alas, couldn't hold on late. In that particular game, Gilbert Arenas certainly looked in prime form. I'm still unconvinced that a contender will want Arenas off their bench (especially if they need to give up anything of value to acquire him), but if he can keep this up... who knows.

15. Philadelphia Sixers: Record - 4-11

Last Week's Ranking: 14, SB Nation Blog: Liberty Ballers

I've got nothing productive to say here, so I'll just mention that Dongaila (via Liberty Ballers) has got to be the funniest nickname of the year.



Western Conference


1. San Antonio Spurs: Record - 14-2

Last Week's Ranking - 2, SB Nation Blog: Pounding the Rock

Let's welcome our new Western Conference leader.  With various top teams stumbling this week, San Antonio maintained its torrid pace with impressive victories over the Jazz and Hornets.

Offense has been their calling card, but the Spurs are playing some impressive defense too, spurred by a vastly improved ability to force turnovers.


2. Los Angeles Lakers: Record - 13-4

Last Week's Ranking: 3, SB Nation Blog: Silver Screen and Roll

Last week, L.A. won all four of its games and dropped two spots in the power poll. This week, the Lakers lost twice but move up a spot. Blame the fickleness of the Power Ranking Gods (or the fact that the Pacers loss happened after votes were in, your call).

If the Spurs have been good offensively, the Lakers have been something else. Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are having great years, and behind them, L.A. has crazy offensive depth in guys like Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, and Matt Barnes. But what's up with the defense? The 118 points allowed to the Bucks two weeks ago was a bad sign, and things haven't exactly picked up much since.

L.A. hasn't been bad, it should be mentioned, as they currently rank 5th in the conference in defensive efficiency. But for a team that led the conference a year ago, they probably expect better of themselves.


3. Dallas Mavericks: Record - 12-4

Last Week's Ranking: 5, SB Nation Blog: Mavs Moneyball

The Mavs took care of business against Miami and also ended the Spurs' 12 game winning streak this week. That was enough for our voters to bump them into the West's top 3.

Overall, they've now won 5 straight games since dropping back-to-back contests against Chicago and New Orleans a week ago.

4. Utah Jazz: Record - 13-5

Last Week's Ranking: 4, SB Nation Blog: SLC Dunk

Are you kidding me? Two more double-digit comebacks? And one of those against the Lakers, no less? Sure, you can make a case that they can't keep doing this all year and that their current streak of comebacks is actually a negative indicator for the future. But you know what? Their wins this year have been damn impressive. We're not even out of November, and they've already defeated the Heat, the Magic, the Lakers, the Thunder, and the Hornets, five of the better/more heralded teams in the early going.


5. New Orleans Hornets: Record - 12-4

Last week's Ranking: 1, SB Nation Blog: At the Hive

That's what happens when you lose to the Clippers and fail to be competitive against both the Jazz and the Spurs in the same week. The magical start to Monty Williams' season has given way to tougher times for the Hornets, especially defensively. And on the offensive end, this team simply isn't doing as well as a team with Chris Paul should.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Record - 11-6

Last Week's Ranking: 6, SB Nation Blog: Welcome to Loud City

As of Monday, the Thunder still had a negative point differential. For a team that had title aspirations heading into the season, that's unsettling. It also explains why statistical rankings like those of John Hollinger are so down on the Thunder. Since our last rankings, they lost to the Rockets, struggled to put away Minnesota and Indiana, and lost to the Mavericks. The primary culprit? Their shooting. At 49.4 eFG%, the Thunder rank just 12th in the Western Conference.

7. Denver Nuggets: Record - 10-6

Last Week's Ranking: 7, SB Nation Blog: Denver Stiffs

In case you missed it, Melo's clutch shot this week:


8. Portland Trail Blazers: Record - 8-8

Last Week's Ranking: 8, SB Nation Blog: Blazers Edge

The Blazers got their Eastern Conference swing off to an ugly start with a loss at New Jersey on Sunday. That was their third consecutive loss overall.

So to reiterate a question posed in last week's rankings: why are they ranked this high? Probably because the West isn't as deep as we thought it would be. The Blazers still stand a good shot of making the postseason despite their horrific run of injuries.

9. Golden State Warriors: Record - 8-9

Last Week's Ranking: 10, SB Nation Blog: Golden State of Mind

Anyone else see the GSW to San Francisco rumors? What's up with Bay Area teams wanting to move all the time? In terms of actual Warriors news, the team finally snapped a 5 game losing streak with a win over the Timberwolves. However, a new losing streak could well be on the horizon. GSW gets San Antonio, Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Dallas, San Antonio, Miami, and Utah over their next seven.

10. Phoenix Suns: Record - 8-9

Last Week's Ranking: 9, SB Nation Blog: Bright Side of the Sun

I hate rumors in general, and I realize that the Nash leaving Phoenix rumors have been thoroughly debunked... but Nash on the Magic would be kind of amazing, right? His vision with the Magic's collection of shooters and Dwight Howard? Oh well, it's probably not happening.

Nash returned from injury this week to lead Phoenix to a 2-2 record. The fewest points the Suns scored was 108 (against the Clippers), but the fewest points they allowed was 115 (against Chicago). That's kind of Phoenix's season in a nutshell.

11. Memphis Grizzlies: Record - 7-10

Last Week's Ranking - 11, SB Nation Blog: Straight Outta Vancouver

Memphis went 2-1 vs. the Pistons, Warriors, and Cavs this week... so rather nondescript. Where are all the people that said this was a playoff team? Do they still exist?


12. Houston Rockets: Record - 5-11

Last Week's Ranking: 12, SB Nation Blog: The Dream Shake

Don't look now, but Houston has slowly creeped back to league average status in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. From this point forward, the Rockets have a wide, wide open range of future possibilities. They could possibly turn things around with the return of Aaron Brooks, but they're equally likely to sell off their players for picks and new talent.


13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Record - 4-13

Last Week's Ranking: 14, SB Nation Blog: Canis Hoopus

The rumors are true, Darko still sucks.

14. Sacramento Kings: Record - 4-11

Last week's ranking: 13, SB Nation Blog: Sactown Royalty

How soon is too soon to start worrying about Tyreke Evans? He's only 14 games in, but his floor percentages are just wildly off. The most troubling fact might be that he's getting shots at the rim at a lower rate this year (6.3 attempts versus 8.4 a season ago).

15. Los Angeles Clippers: Record - 3-15

Last Week's Ranking: 15, SB Nation Blog: Clips Nation

The Clips actually had an outstanding week by their standards- back to back wins for the first time all year (vs. New Orleans and Sacramento at home). And if John Wall doesn't shake his injury issues soon, Blake Griffin is running away with the R.O.Y. in a hurry.