John Hollinger's Power Rankings are here. And guess who sits on top? That's right, the Miami Heat.
Now, before you go and get all riled up and start theorizing that Hollinger's computer was manufactured in Miami-Dade County and therefore is a rotten homer, plenty of sound logic goes into these rankings. Remember, it's an automated power ranking that seeks to shake out any potential biases of opinion. As he points out on Twitter, it's the very same formula that judged teams five years ago.
So, let's cut to the point: how does a 5-2 team rank higher than a 7-0 team?
Miami sits atop the inaugural Power Rankings with an overwhelming 116.15 rating. Because the league average is set to a rating of 100.0, that means our rating would favor Miami by 16 points against an average team on a neutral court. Despite two mishaps in the Heat's first seven games -- both narrow road losses to highly ranked opponents -- they have been so impressive in their other five games that they still earn the top spot.
So how do the Heat outrank the unbeaten Lakers? Well, as I mentioned, the two factors are scoring margin and strength of schedule. Although the scoring margins are nearly identical -- L.A, in fact, has a 0.4-point edge -- Miami has played the more difficult schedule.
Heat opponents have a .595 winning percentage when they're not playing the Heat, compared to .524 for Lakers foes. Although it seems odd to place Miami's 5-2 record ahead of L.A.'s 7-0, the Lakers have yet to face a night on their schedule as difficult as Miami's visits to Boston and New Orleans (their two losses), or even the Heat's home date against No. 3 Orlando (a 26-point Miami win). The Lakers' highest-ranked opponent to date is No. 8 Phoenix.
I'll fully admit that once upon a time I struggled to wrap my head around the concept that an undefeated team could be considered inferior to a team saddled with losses. But it's why mid-majors in college hoops have such a tough time cracking the top 25 rankings: strength of schedule.
These things even out as time goes on. The Heat have two tough games ahead -- Utah tonight and Boston on Thursday -- but then they don't play a winning team until Orlando on November 24th. After Thursday night's rematch against Boston, Miami's next five games are against teams that are a combined 11-23. That will even out their strength of schedule which also means they'll have to continue blowing out their feeble opponents if they want to hold their spot on the Hollinger throne.
Be sure to read the whole breakdown at Insider. You'll learn a thing or two about this young NBA season.
I know I did.