Throughout the 2013-14 NBA season, co-editor Zak Kolesar will be ranking the 15 Eastern Conference teams on a week-by-week basis every Monday. After each team’s ranking, Kolesar will give a brief description of why he chose the team at that specific spot and will provide the week’s previous ranking (PR) along with the MVP for each team on that specific week.
Editor’s Note: These rankings are decided on this week’s win/loss record and where Zak thinks the teams will ultimately end up. Feel free to voice your comment below or tweet Zak at @Kolestarz.
This week the Pacers and Heat look ready to take on each other in the Eastern Conference Finals only five games into the season. It looks like, with the debacle of the New York Knicks and too many questions surrounding the endurance of the Nets and Bulls, these teams won’t be tested by too many East foes this season, but it is only the first week of basketball. Although the conference already looks bottom heavy, there do look like teams that are ready to claim playoff spots this season that didn’t last year.
1. Indiana Pacers (2) – 2013-14 record: 4-0
Even with returning frontcourt members Roy Hibbert and David West averaging around eight and 10 points respectively, the Pacers are looking primed to finally leapfrog the Heat this season. That’s because, as expected because of a dominant postseason performance, Paul George has emerged into a true leader for this squad and role players like Luis Scola are beefing up the frontcourt. For now, this team looks like it’s sporting the most complete roster of any team in the League.
MVP: Paul George – 27.0 PPG, 4.3 APG, 8.8 RPG
2. Miami Heat (1) – 2013-14 record: 3-2
The Heat will continue to be awfully bad at rebounding and incredibly dominant on offense, especially with LeBron really honing in on his passing skills. He is currently leading the team, averaging eight assists a game to help lead the Heat to the second-highest assist average in the NBA. The Heat and Pacers have to wait until Dec. 10 until they first match up, so look for Miami to run all over the East in the meantime.
MVP: LeBron James – 25.6 PPG, 8.0 APG, 5.6 RPG
3. Brooklyn Nets (3) – 2013-14 record: 2-2
Even though this team won a tight contest with the Heat without head coach Jason Kidd, I think having the former Net back on the coaching staff and sideline is what’s going to be best for Brooklyn. Minutes were juggled improperly during his suspension, but what needs to be fixed is the offensive game of Deron Williams. Yes, it’s nice that he’s taking on a different role by passing more, but he can’t be averaging 8.5 points a game. Brooklyn won’t be able to keep up with the top dogs without major offensive production from Deron.
MVP: C Brook Lopez – 20.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.0 BPG
4. Atlanta Hawks (5) – 2013-14 record: 2-2
I think I’m really going to like this Hawks team this season. Picking up Paul Millsap and saying farewell to Josh Smith may just turn out to be a game changer for Atlanta. Al Horford, who is averaging 18.0/11.8, 2.5 steals and 2.0 blocks, looks to be as dominant as ever, Millsap looks to be a great fit for this team, Kyle Korver is off to a great start, Jeff Teague is averaging 18.3/8.8 and even Dennis Schroder is seeing action and making the most out of it. Keep your radar on these birds.
MVP: C Al Horford – 18.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.5 SPG, 2.0 BPG
5. Chicago Bulls (3) – 2013-14 record: 1-2
Not too sure about this Bulls team. Offense still looks stagnant, and they can’t rely on Carlos Boozer to be the main plug in the Chicago O. They have a chance to prove themselves in an ESPN matchup with the Pacers on Wednesday, but losses to the Heat and the 76ers and a nail-biting win over the Knicks already is bringing up concerns.
MVP: PF Carlos Boozer – 2013-14 record: 22.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 65.9 FG%
6. Philadelphia 76ers (13) – 2013-14 record: 3-1
Hot start aside, the 76ers have beaten both the Heat and Bulls to start the season, being led by rookie Michael Carter-Williams. In his first NBA game ever, Carter-Williams scored 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals, while shooting 60 percent from the field. I think we’ll really start to see what this team is about in a couple of weeks.
MVP: SG Michael Carter-Williams – 20.0 PPG, 7.8 APG, 5.0 RPG
7. Detroit Pistons (12) – 2013-14 record: 2-2
Looking back, I initially ranked the Pistons much too low than they should have been. I think I was banking on the team chemistry not being there, but Detroit has some fun lineups they can run with this season, even though Smith is back to shooting like his old self from long range. Even though Jennings and Smith haven’t been efficient early on, this team has lost two games against the Grizzlies in overtime and the Pacers on Tuesday by eight points. Monroe/Drummond-sanity should be fun this season.
MVP: SF Josh Smith – 17.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.3 BPG
8. Toronto Raptors (10) – 2013-14 record: 2-2
We’ll know more about this team once Jonas Valanciunas sees more (valuable) starting time, but for the meantime they’re going to be stuck in a similar situation as the Bucks were in last year. Rudy Gay, for example, can’t be shooting 32.3 percent from the field when putting up around 16 shots per game.
MVP: SG DeMar DeRozan – 20.5 PPG, 46.5 FG%
9. Cleveland Cavaliers (8) – 2013-14 record: 2-2
Can Mike Brown be making this much of an impact already? Cleveland is ranking second in defensive efficiency (85.4), 10th in rebounding rate (51.2) and second in points allowed (91.3). This must be the bizarro Cavs, because, currently, Kyrie is shooting 36.9 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from three, C.J. Miles is averaging 14.8 points off the bench and Andy is shooting 63 percent from the line compared to Tristan Thompson’s 73 percent.
MVP: PF Tristan Thompson – 13.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 47.6 FG%
10. New York Knicks (6) – 2013-14 record: 1-3
With the news coming Tuesday night that center, and efficient bright spot, Tyson Chandler would be missing four to six weeks with a fractured right fibula, this could be a disaster season in New York. Fans seem too content with moving on to the “crazy” free agency period coming to a theatre near you this summer, but the Knicks may have zero stars when it’s all said and done.
MVP: C Tyson Chandler – 7.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.5 BPG, 60 FG%
11. Milwaukee Bucks (7) – 2013-14 record: 1-2
With the Cavs matching up against the Bucks on Wednesday night, we’ll get a close-up look at how this team looks now. There is too much potential talent waiting to burst on this team, and they currently spots six double-digit scorers (three bench players). But without a full-go Larry Sanders, I think we’ll see that against other stout defensive squads, they won’t be able to penetrate on offense.
MVP: C Zaza Pachulia – 13.0 PPG, 7.7 PRG, 2.3 APG, 58.3 FG%
12. Orlando Magic (14) – 2013-14 record: 2-2
This team has been a pleasant surprise to watch to open up the season, as they also sport six roster members averaging in double-digits. Even though I didn’t rank them above the Bucks, I think we’ll see the Magic start to climb in the following weeks. And for Cavs/Oladipo fans, the No. 2 overall pick is averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals off the bench.
MVP: C Nikola Vucevic – 14.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 56.5 FG%
13. Charlotte Bobcats (15) – 203-14 record: 2-2
Let’s try and not remember that they beat the Cavs last week.
MVP: SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – 10.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 50.0 FG%
14. Boston Celtics (11) – 2013-14 record: 0-4
I knew that the Celtics were going to struggle this season, but I didn’t think they’d get off to this bad of a start. They can’t score (29th in the League), they can’t rebound (28th) and they can’t pass (30th). But they can still grind like the Boston teams of recent past. This will get up to levels of ugliness that New York may reach this year, but at least this was expected.
MVP: PF Jeff Green – 16.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 40.0 3P%
15. Washington Wizards (9) – 2013-14 record: 0-3
I want a bigger sample size with Wall and Beal playing together on the court at the same time, but I don’t think the Wiz will be down here for too long.
MVP: PG John Wall – 19.0 PPG, 8.7 APG, 2.3 SPG
Make sure to sound off in the comment section below whether or not you agree with the rankings. Make sure to check back next week to see if any of your teams moved up or down in the rankings.