NBA Roundtable

Power Rankings

In General NBA on January 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

The power rankings on this site will be made at five different points in the season – Preseason, First Quarter, Halfway, Third Quarter, prior to the Playoffs.

Teams under these Power Rankings are being judged when at full capacity (healthy) + when in form. Teams do not slide down the standings due to poor recent form (say losing five straight despite being a 60 win team) or because their star player is out injured (Yao Ming). The idea behind that is to take a longer view on the capabilities of the roster in terms of current ability. Also, it’s the reason why they are only quarterly reports (smaller variance).

A belated power rankings after the first quarter point of the 2009/10 season

Eastern Conference

#1 Boston Celtics

They’re the frontrunner until someone proves they can knock off a healthy Celtics team.

#2 Orlando Magic

The Magic have played well but I’m disappointed in their lack of use of Vince Carter as a playmaker and I’m not sure they’re getting the most out of their frontcourt options.

Anyway, the Magic are in good shape to make a run at the title.

#3 Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers were highly impressive in their two victories over the LA Lakers but I still don’t like how they matchup with Orlando. That’s why they’re still in third place for the time being.

I’m looking forward to seeing the Cavs play the Celtics. To see where they stand versus Boston, and whether they should be ranked above or below them.

For now, their inability to beat Orlando leaves them in third place because both Orlando + Boston have a much better chance of beating both of the other two contenders than Cleveland does.

#4 Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are one step away from becoming a legitimate contender.

They’re capable of beating anyone in the playoffs but are incapable of sustaining that form for four playoff rounds.

#5 Washington Wizards

Now I don’t know what to think of the Wizards.

Would their season have turned around? Is Gilbert Arenas capable of improving his post-injury form? Could Caron Butler have re-discovered his game while playing alongside all those scorers in Flip’s offense? Are the Wizards bevy of shot-happy role players hampering their three main scorers to that large of a degree?

Too many unanswered questions. Washington could be the fifth best team in the East or the second worst.

Anyway, if Gilbert’s on-going suspension is killing their chances of turning their season around and the longer it goes on the the worse Washington’s playoff chances gets. It looks like the Wizards will be play at 25-30 win pace without Gilbert and there’s a good chance Gil is done for the season. So we’re looking at a return to the lottery.

#6 Chicago Bulls

The Bulls are playing much better basketball since Kirk Hinrich replaced John Salmons in the starting unit. They will play slightly above .500 ball the rest of the way, and, that’s a good indication of their talent level.

#7 Miami Heat

Miami are keeping their heads above water and that’s all they can expect to do for now.

It doesn’t look like Beasley will break out in his second year. He needs more time to develop.

#8 Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats are a solid team. Not much upside or future for them though.

#9 Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks season ended the minute Michael Redd got injury + was incapable repeating his past performance level.

Without that offensive weapon, the Bucks are too weak to mount a serious run for the playoffs. They’re a 31-35 win team.

#10 Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have won 11 of their last 17 and are looking good for a playoff spot due to several other playoff hopefuls falling apart around them.

Note: I wasn’t sure on where to place Philadelphia and Detroit. My problem with both teams is the coaching and not with the players. In terms of talent, they’re both slightly above .500 teams and would placed in the same bracket as Chicago (just below the Bulls).

Anyway, they could just as easily been #7 and #8 as down here. I’ll have to put some more thought into this coaching issue and misuse of players. For now, I’ve decided to drop them until I see the changes happen.

#11 Philadelphia 76ers

Will somebody please for the love of god fire Eddie Jordan?

Eddie Jordan is making a mockery out of this team.

Talent wise, Phily is a slightly above .500 caliber team.

#12 Detroit Pistons

The Pistons have been a whopping disappointment over the last month and a half and I’m not convinced that they know how to get themselves back on track.

A lot of rotation/combination issues have arisen over the past six weeks and questions are being asked of John Kuester. I don’t like how he’s handled his team recently but I still think he’s a heck of a coaching prospect who will do very good once given an easier team/rotation/talent to manage. He’s a keeper.

Ben Wallace has been the Pistons best player this season and it’s not close.

#13 Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are a disheveled team. They need to get their house in order.

#14 New York Knicks

The Knicks have played better of late but I’m not convinced Wilson Chandler can sustain his strong play.

They’re a notch below a playoff team.

#15 New Jersey Nets

The Nets given up. They’ve quit.

They’re no longer giving max effort/focus and haven’t for some time.

I’m not sure I’d be saying the same thing if Lawrence Frank were still around. That was a bad decision.

I still believe they have the talent level to be a 27-31 win team … but they’re not playing up to their talent and I don’t think that will change. They will finish with the worst record in the NBA.

Western Conference

#1 Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are vulnerable but nobody in the West looks strong enough to take them out.

#2 Portland Trailblazers

I’m thinking that Portland are the frontrunner for the 2011 Championship.

#3 San Antonio Spurs

Are the Spurs a legitimate contender? Do they deserve to be mentioned alongside the Lakers?

Or, are they in that second tier alongside Dallas and Denver?

Questions without answers for now. The Spurs have been a disappointment.

#4 Dallas Mavericks

Josh Howard is still a major variable in all of this. He could push Dallas into serious contention or leave twiddling their thumbs.

Dallas should look for a trade to find a more dependable source of secondary scoring behind Dirk Nowitzki. They also need to address some of their matchup issues.

#5 Denver Nuggets

The improvement hasn’t been there … but they are a very good team.

#6 Oklahoma City Thunder

The more I see Oklahoma play, the more I’m convinced that they’re capable of knocking off any of the second tier sides in the West.

Not a contender, not even close, but a very dangerous team come playoff time.

#7 Houston Rockets

Same auld for the Rockets — Injuries have decimated their team, leaving a squad that should play .430-.530 basketball. The team looks like the 9th-11th best roster in the West.

I’m docking them because the Tracy McGrady story has officially come to an end. We now know, for definite, that he won’t be able to make a triumphant return to the court for Houston.

He’s still a positive trade asset for Houston, and the Rockets have a lot of options this summer, but Houston needs to upgrade their talent level before I put them back up amongst the best of the West.

I’m thinking a healthy Yao + a plethora of quality role players makes Houston a very good regular season team (around 55 wins) but only a good playoff team due to their lack of offensive versatility + quality. That places them firmly in the second tier alongside Dallas and Denver.

#8 Utah Jazz

Are Utah a second tier side that deserves to mentioned alongside Dallas and Denver?

Or are they a third tier side that should be mentioned alongside the Suns?

Either way, they’re not a contender and for the fourth year in a row their management has sat on their hands while watching this happen.

#9 Phoenix Suns

Preseason quote:

The Suns are still a good team. Not an elite team. Not a very good team. Not a threat in the playoffs. But good.

#10 Los Angeles Clippers

No Blake Griffin for the rest of the season. No playoffs either.

Eric Gordon is quickly becoming one of my favourite two guards in the NBA though.

The Clippers are team in transition. They have two key role players with expiring contracts (Camby, Butler) this summer as well as another lottery pick + good cap space to work with. This present team is unlikely to be the one we see next year when Griffin returns.

#11 Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are about to ruin their franchise, again. Watch.

#12 New Orleans Hornets

The defense has been picking up over recent weeks. New Orleans are starting to resemble a 45 team.

Their W-L record has already seen the appropriate jump but their performance level is still too inconsistent. The Hornets need to continue improving their level of play before we welcome them back.

#13 Sacramento Kings

Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans continue to struggle to find a comfort level alongside one another and inside of a five man unit out there on the court.

The Kings are a decent team but not a playoff team. Not without the above problem becoming a source of strength.

#14 Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry has been very impressive.

Golden State needs to go through a full rebuilding mode and retool around Curry + Morrow + Randolph.

#15 Minnesota Timberwolves

Their Head Coach is killing their team. Their best players simply aren’t geared towards the Triangle offense. Dump the offense and the Wolves will start performing better.

It’s good to see Kevin Love back on the court. It’s a lot of fun to watch this guy rebound the basketball.


Western Conference Landscape

  • One elite team – Lakers
  • Two teams who may make the jump to elite — Rockets and Blazers
  • Four very good teams all capable of winning 50 or more games –  Spurs, Mavs, Nuggets and Jazz (?)
  • Three good teams — Suns, Thunder, Hornets (??)
  • Two mediocre team – Clippers, Grizzlies
  • One decent teamsKings
  • One poor teams — Warriors
  • One very poor team — Wolves
  • Two teams decimated by injuries already — Rockets + Portland — both would be elite or near elite teams if healthy.

Eastern Conference Landscape

  • Three elite teams – Celtics, Cavs and Magic
  • One very good team — Hawks
  • Two solid teams – Bulls, Sixers and Pistons — Pistons and Sixers here for talent rather than performance. Deserve to be in decent + poor categories respectively based on performance.
  • Four decent-to-mediocre teams —  Bobcats, Heat, Bucks, Raptors
  • Two poor-to-decent teams – Pacers, Knicks
  • One very poor teams – Nets
  • One wild card – Wizards

Power Rankings Archive

2008/09 Season

  1. “The Grizzlies are about to ruin their franchise, again. Watch.”

    I’m curious to why you said that.

  2. Not a bad power rankings; pretty fair, and true. Lakers always play uninspired around this time of year (since the Shaq days). Good L.A. Sports recap here, too:

  3. Dino Gunners,

    I think their owner + GM are putting too much into their strong play over the last two months. They think they’re on track to build something special, a future contender, and I think they’re going to be seduced into committing to this core … and that will kill them.


    (1) 24th in defensive efficiency + 28th in defensive eFG%. Where does the improvement come from if committing to this starting five?

    (2) Zach Randolph has been their best, or second best (Gasol), player this season. He is having a career season that far out-ranks anything he’s done in the past. His contract is up in 18 months time and he’ll want $12-15 million per year on a long term deal. Do you resign him? Do you trust him to keep it up for another five years? If not, how do you replace him?

    (3) How much potential do Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol have? And will they fulfill their potential in Memphis under their current conditions?

    (4) What ability to Memphis have to acquire high quality talent if they retain their core pieces? Draft picks? Cap space? Non-core players as trade assets?

    (5) Who is their best player and how does he compare to other contender’s best player? Their second best versus other’s second best? Their third versus third? And so on … do they enough elite talent at the top of their roster.


    After Michael Heisley traded away Pau Gasol, he explained how he had previously made a mistake of just wanting to field a playoff team instead of a contender and his rush to that goal cost his team the chance to build something better. As a result, they ended up getting stuck in that 45-50 win zone and never made a dent in the playoffs and eventually had to break up their team, go through a full rebuilding process, in order to start again and try again to build an actual contender. Heisley has consistently repeated this statement for the last two years.

    That’s the goal and that’s the mistake he doesn’t want to repeat.

    I don’t his goal is possible while committing to these core five players and building around them. I do think he’ll repeat his past mistakes if he does so.


    Memphis thinks they’re walking down a road that allows them to make sustainable progress and eventually build a contender.

    That evaluation of their team, of their talent, will result in them making poor decisions and building around a core that shouldn’t be built around.

  4. Hmm.. which of the 5 don’t you like? Clearly Z-Bo will never be a key part of a team that wins in the playoffs in this league, so he’s gotta go. As for the other 4, I’m not in love with Conley and would prefer to see Mayo off the bench as a combo or starting at the 1. But, Gay is a stud and I think Gasol is too.

    Re-upping Z-Bo would be fatal, but I think the other 4 can play significant roles on a contender… or do you disagree?

  5. Scott G,

    I like each member of the starting five. I just don’t like them together as a core.

    I think they have a couple of guys who’ll make a good third or fourth wheel (Gay, Gasol, Z-Bo, Mayo) on a contender … but not able to be the top guy(s).

    And Conley is a very good role player. He could be a key glue guy on a contender. I think he’s too passive to be more than that, otherwise I’d be much higher on him.

    Gay & Mayo

    I’m also more intrigued by Mayo as a point guard than as a two guard. I don’t think he has much potential at the two. He doesn’t effect the game enough in non-scoring methods (passing, defense, rebounding). It worries me that Memphis are trying to develop him as a two guard.

    Not convinced that Gay fulfills his potential in Memphis either. His development has been very slow there. He looks like he may the type of player who needs more defensive orientated environment for things to click for him.

  6. interesting… while I agree that ZBO cannot be considered a long-term piece of this core, I feel the rest of the core would mesh well with a shot blocker like Thabeet (albeit I have not seen much of him play). If Thabeet were to fullfil his promise as a defense force (I believe the ratings at Basketball Prospectus had rated him highly and his ) he complements Gasol very well and can act like a shield ahead of Gay and Mayo which would improve their defense (more aggresive on the perimeter knowing they have support). I know Thabeet is very raw, but the potential is still there.

    Looking at their salary cap situation, I feel encouraged that the Griz chose a short-term option of Z-Bo over a long commitment like Lee because they have no committed salary for the 2011/2012 season; an excellent salary cap position. Using hoopshype, if they picked up all of their rookie options and signed both Gay and Gasol to 10-12 mill/year contracts (on average the sum of the 2 should be around there) they would have a salary commitment of 40-45 million, roughly enough to sign a max free agent (or at least a elite role player/semi star player) in two years time. This would be their roster:

    pg: Mayo
    sg: max free agent (pref with some defensive attributes)
    sf: gay
    pf: gasol
    c: thabeet

    6th man: conley
    Rotation: arthur, carroll, young (whoever makes it as a pro)

    I think the Griz are in a fantastic medium to long-term cap position and will not make a fatal mistake like signing ZBO long-term after this deal ends.

  7. Dave – agree that Gay’s development has been pretty disappointing thus far. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that he could really blossom in the right environment, since he has all the physical tools to be a star. (Then again, so do a lot of guys in the NBA…)

    As for Mayo, I feel like MEM is trying him out at the 2 in order to allow Conley to get on the floor. I think Mayo could be a pretty good scorer off the bench if they can get their hands on a legit starting 2. Can Sam Young become that guy? Maybe, but far from certain…

    Dino – I don’t think Thabeet and Gasol are a good fit together in the front court. Two post-only players on O and D — I don’t think Marc’s skill away from the basket is as good as Pau’s. Thabeet can’t score outside 2 feet. I think Gasol is their 5, and I think they should try to move Thabeet for another young piece. But, no doubt they’re in a nice cap situation… that will become what they make of it.

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