Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Hollinger's NBA Power Rankings
The Spurs, who are tied for the best record in the NBA at 9-1, lead the Hollinger Power Rankings.
John Hollinger has moved on, but the Hollinger Power Rankings -- our daily look at where all 30 teams stand -- are still here. Our 5-on-5 crew weighs in on the entirely automated ranking system.
1. What's the biggest surprise in the Hollinger Power Rankings?
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Henry Abbott, ESPN.com: The Timberwolves tuck into second behind the near-perfect Spurs. Most of the talk of the young season has been that the Pacers have been the class of the league in the early going. But Minnesota has played almost as well against a tougher schedule.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Insider: The Philadelphia 76ers rank 27th and yet lead the Atlantic in the standings. Man, that division has had a rough go, huh? I knew the 76ers' hot start was a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors act but I didn't realize it was to this extent. Losing by an average of 8.6 points in the past 10 games will do that.
James Herbert, Hardwood Paroxysm: The Toronto Raptors being as high as No. 14 despite a 4-7 record feels like a huge surprise. While their point differential and strength of schedule explain the disparity between the Raptors' win total and their ranking, the city of Toronto is not exactly optimistic about its team, which is ranked 30th in both pace and assist ratio.
Danny Nowell, TrueHoop Network: This early in the season, the rankings are full of surprises, but let's go with Minnesota at No. 2. I knew Minny had been great in flashes, and had established itself as a bona fide Western heavyweight, but its average margin relative to strength of schedule proves the Timberwolves have been among the elite.
Tom Sunnergren, Hoop76: Toronto in the top 15. The Raptors are 4-7, have exactly zero wins against teams in the top half of Hollinger's rankings, and a single W against a squad with a winning record (the 6-5 Grizzlies). Oh, and their season's most conspicuous, penetrate-the-public-consciousness moment came when their small forward took 37 shots in a game and hit 11 of them. No. 14 just seems kinda high.
2. Which top-15 East team is most likely to slide to the bottom 15?
Abbott: With only five East teams in the top 15, there aren't many choices. My math goes like this: Not the Pacers, Heat, Bulls or Hawks. So ... sorry Raptors!
Haberstroh: Toronto Raptors. We only have five teams to choose from! That said, I'm not surprised that the Raptors are one of them, since they've lost three tight games at the last moments. A few bounces go their way and they could be at 7-4, not 4-7. Still, of all the five East teams, they're the most likely to go into the tank.
Herbert: Toronto. It's not even necessarily that the Raptors are going to play significantly worse any time soon -- they're about to go to Philadelphia, then return at home to face the struggling Wizards and Nets -- but rather that a number of bottom-15 teams seem like they have to turn it around. Toronto's the most likely Eastern casualty.
Nowell: The Raptors are barely in the top 15, so it'd be easy to pick on them, but let's say the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have been good, but with a roster built for trades in the pursuit of star power, I'd wager there's a decent chance they're rolling out a weaker roster for some of this season.
Sunnergren: Toronto. There are five Eastern Conference teams in Hollinger's Fine 15: the 9-1 one, the twice-defending champs, Derrick Rose's team, the guys with Millsap and Horford patrolling the post, and … the Raptors -- the only member of the above quintet with either a losing record or a negative scoring differential. Sorry again, Toronto.
3. Which top-15 West team is most likely to slide to the bottom 15?
Abbott: The Pelicans are hanging on by a thread, so this dubious prize is theirs to lose. But don't forget the tank-a-tronic Suns are in the top 10 for now, and we all seem to think the Blazers will be cooling off at some point.
Haberstroh: Phoenix Suns. They're not the Charlotte Bobcats of last season that started out 7-5 and then dropped 18 straight games. That team had warning signs, namely the negative point differential. The Suns are a different story, but at some point Eric Bledsoe won't play like an MVP and Markieff Morris won't play like an All-Star.
Herbert: The Suns. They can't possibly keep this up, can they? Under Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix's players look like they believe they can be a winning team. At some point, though, you have to think their awesome defense will slip a bit.
Nowell: The Phoenix Suns play with an energy that borders on reckless, and their Dragic-Bledsoe backcourt is one of the league's most fun. Still, as much of a revelation as Bledsoe has been and as surprisingly effective as the rotation players have proven, I'll be shocked if Phoenix has the talent to stay so highly rated.
Sunnergren: Phoenix. It's easy to like the Suns. The group entered the season with what looked to be the worst roster in the NBA, and yet it's three close losses and a late collapse against the Thunder away from 9-0. But here's the thing: It's unclear if Markief Morris and Eric Bledsoe can maintain their torrid pace, and even less clear if a front office infatuated with the top of the 2014 draft class wants them to.
4. Which bottom-15 East team is most likely to rise to the top 15?
Abbott: The Nets have to get better, don't they? I've been down on this team since the day of the big trade, but I never thought they'd be this bad. But I'll bet you this: By the end of the season at least the Magic or Celtics will be ahead of the Nets on this list.
Haberstroh: Washington Wizards. The talent is there, but the results are not. Prediction: Randy Wittman doesn't last to see December. The Wizards open that month with three home games against Orlando, Milwaukee and Denver. Soft schedule means ripe conditions for a coaching change. And an eventual jump into the top 15.
Herbert: The Nets. There's just too much talent here for them to keep being this bad. Brooklyn looks like a disorganized mess on offense and even worse on defense, but part of that is due to early season chemistry issues and part of it is a result of injuries. Things should get smoother.
Nowell: The Detroit Pistons. The Pistons have a roster devoid of floor-spacers and replete with redundant talent, but they're also brimming with young players and imports who might take time to jell. When you factor in that the Pistons are as likely a trade candidate as any playoff hopeful, they seem like the clear candidate to rise.
Sunnergren: Detroit. A lot of options, given that a full two-thirds of the conference is down here. But while the Nets have the pedigree, and the Wizards have John Wall, the smart money is on a Motor City rebound. The Pistons' Big 3 are an odd fit -- the spacing issues aren't going away -- but the team has a lot of talent and, in Andre Drummond, a star in the middle. They'll figure it out.
5. Which bottom-15 West team is most likely to rise to the top 15?
Abbott: The Grizzlies have had anything but a dream season in the early going, but I have to believe they'll sort out their new, post- "grit and grind" identity at some point. With a little improvement, Dave Joerger's squad will make it to Page 1 of the rankings created by the guy who helps run that team now.
Haberstroh: Memphis Grizzlies. After an identity crisis to start the season, the Grizzlies have slowly returned to their defensive brand of basketball. And their offense isn't this bad. Outside of Mike Miller, the team is shooting a ghastly 27.7 percent from downtown. Mike Conley, Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless and Tayshaun Prince didn't just forget how to shoot 3s in the offseason.
Herbert: Memphis. While the Grizzlies obviously haven't enjoyed the sort of strong start they had last season, the talent is still there. It's taking time for them to find their footing, but they've shown against the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers that they can still be dangerous.
Nowell: The Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizz have grit-and-ground their way to a winning start while looking like a shell of themselves, and it seems likely to me that more time with Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis in the rotation should help a great deal. The Grizzlies are still short of shooting and leaning on Tayshaun Prince and Mike Miller, but they should be able to rejoin the league's top half.
Sunnergren: Memphis. The Grizzlies are still good. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph give them arguably the best frontcourt in the NBA, Mike Conley is so underrated that people only very recently started calling him underrated, Kosta Koufos was a tremendous offseason pickup, and Tony Allen is ... still Tony Allen. The rise may already be underway: Memphis has won three straight, including a win against the Clippers.