Throughout the 2013-14 NBA season, co-editors Zak Kolesar and Chris Manning will be ranking the 15 Eastern Conference teams on a week-by-week basis every Monday. After each team’s ranking, the two will give a brief description of their rationale behind each ranking and will provide the week’s previous ranking (PR).
Editor’s Note: These rankings are decided on this week’s win/loss record and where Zak and Chris think these teams will ultimately end up at the season’s end. Feel free to voice your opinion below in the comment section, or reach out to Zak (@Kolestarz) and Chris (@cwmwrites) on Twitter.
Week 8–the week before Christmas–contained a lot less joy and much more misery for the Eastern Conference. The Brooklyn Nets have lost their All-Star center in Brook Lopez for the season, the Orlando Magic have officially joined the Bucks and 76ers at the bottom of the East as teams that have a snowball’s chance in hell of garnering a playoff spot in the Leastern Conference and Detroit and Boston followed up impressive week 7s with disappointing week 8s. But NBA fans did get one present from the NBA Gods: a great Miami-Indiana matchup. Is it time for the playoffs, yet? Nope, not even close.
Kolestarz’s Eastern Conference Power Rankings
1. Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 22-5
Was there a foul by LeBron James on that final Paul George shot Wednesday? Doesn’t matter now, but it does prove that Miami-Indiana is going to be fun all season long and into the postseason. The Pacers rebounded with blowout wins against the Rockets and Celtics following the loss in Miami, so no concern here with keeping Indiana at No. 1.
2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 20-6
Miami had a perfect week, but as stated above, the Indiana game could have gone either way. However, the Heat showed resilience down the stretch against the Pacers with great ball movement and pinpoint three-point shooting: the primary strengths of the defending champs.
3. Atlanta Hawks (3) – 2013-14 record: 15-12
And Atlanta also put in a perfect week, but against similar opponents to the Heat: the Kings, Jazz and Lakers. It’s going to take a lot for any of these top 3 teams to dip into four-and-below territory. I don’t foresee it anytime soon, either, especially with the news that just hit the Nets (a team that had the most potential of turning around their season).
4. Toronto Raptors (6) – 2013-14 record: 11-14
With the self-destructing Atlantic Division continuing on a path of turmoil, SG DeMar DeRozan is absolutely right about this Raptors team: “We ain’t out of nothin’.” With their most recent wins coming against proven Western Conference teams (OKC and Dallas), DeRozan is absolutely right. The Raptors have a chance to take over the Atlantic. Pay no attention to the fans calling for the team to tank.
5. Detroit Pistons (4) – 2013-14 record: 13-16
The Pistons had an off-week, but looking at their upcoming schedule this week, they can definitely get back to .500 by the week’s end. The two most important matchups will be their away-and-home series with the Washington Wizards, which starts on Saturday and ends on Monday. Washington will be a team that Detroit will be competing with all season long to avoid a first-round playoff matchup with the Heat or Pacers; or to just secure a playoff spot in general.
6. Charlotte Bobcats (7) – 2013-14 record: 13-15
This is where it starts to get tough, once again. The Eastern Conference in general didn’t see the best of competition in week 8, matching up against teams such as the Utah Jazz multiple times (even though Charlotte lost their only contest of the week against the hapless Jazz). However, Charlotte is a pleasant surprise in the East this season, and continues to prove it. With news of shooting guard Jeffrey Taylor missing the rest of the season, Charlotte will need to look for a trade if they want to end their playoff drought.
7. Washington Wizards (10) – 2013-14 record: 12-13
No. 3 pick Otto Porter has played in six games off of the bench thus far since becoming healthy enough to play for the Wiz. This included crunch-time minutes in a comeback victory over Boston—a great win for Washington. Once his role becomes more defined and he hits a stride, Washington has the potential to surge even higher in the power rankings and, more importantly, the Eastern Conference standings.
8. Boston Celtics (6) – 2013-14 record: 12-17
Rough, rough week for the Cs, but at least they’re not the Nets. Close losses to teams that rank on the same level as them in the Eastern Conference (Wizards and Pistons) and they were most recently blown out by the Pacers. These are games they need to come out victorious in and be competitive. Neither happened this past week.
9. Chicago Bulls (8) – 2013-14 record: 10-16
They’re still not poised to have a great 2013-14 campaign, but Cleveland’s near loss to the Bucks and pathetic performance against the Bulls in Chicago on Saturday allowed the Bulls to jump in front of Cleveland; at least for this week. They were riding a four-game losing streak heading into the matchup against the Cavaliers, however. The slide shall continue for the Bulls.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers (10) – 2013-14 record: 10-16
Cleveland could have really turned the corner beginning on Friday with their first of three matchups with Central Division foes. Instead, Milwaukee matched the Cavs’ intensity on the boards (even though Cleveland got the overtime win over the Bucks eventually) and Chicago slaughtered the Wine & Gold early on despite boasting one of the worst offenses in the NBA. With a Monday tilt against the Pistons, the Cavs need to get the train back on track by getting their divisional record closer to .500.
11. New York Knicks (13) – 2013-14 record: 8-18
If it weren’t for the Nets’ misfortunes, New York would be at No. 12, no questions about it.
12. Brooklyn Nets (11) – 2013-14 record: 9-17
RIP 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets with the loss of Brook Lopez. Last two teams to make big offseason moves and to be featured on the SI NBA Preview cover have gone on to start and fnish way below expectations (see 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers). The Nets have been far more of a disaster, however.
13. Orlando Magic (12) – 2013-14 record: 8-19
Losses against the Jazz and Kings at home. WOOF.
14. Philadelphia 76ers (14) – 2013-14 record: 8-20
At least Philly got their last-second win against the Nets after Damian Lillard ripped their hearts out a week prior. This team needs bigs, badly.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 6-21
I don’t know what I would have written here if the Bucks would have beaten Cleveland at the Q Friday night. It would’ve looked something like this: A@$5$%4KLJAD%@#.
Cwmwrites’ Eastern Conference Power Rankings
1. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 20-6
Miami gets the top spot this week by virtue of defeating Indiana last week behind LeBron James and a vintage Dwayne Wade performance. They closed that game incredibly well and look to be turning it up a notch. All in favor of only Indiana and Miami making the Eastern Conference playoffs say, “aye.”
2. Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 22-5
Indiana is still very, very good, but they blew a seven-point lead against the Heat, and that takes them out of the number one spot. Still, it wasn’t a total loss. They’ve gotten Danny Granger back and, if they can incorporate him into their rotation, they might soon be too deep for anyone to handle.
3. Atlanta Hawks (3) – 2013-14 record: 15-12
Ho-hum for the East’s third-best team. They are going to be here all season, for better or worse. This week’s highlight: Lou Williams has been great off the bench after an ACL surgery.
4. Toronto Raptors (4) – 2013-14 record: 15-12
This is the weirdest single thing happening in the NBA right now. The Raptors are 5-2 since trading Rudy Gay and won last week in Oklahoma City and Dallas. So much for Andrew Wiggins starting his pro career in Toronto.
5. Washington Wizards (8) – 2013-14 record: 12-13
Washington won three in a row this week, solidifying them as the most up and down team in the NBA. This might be the team most likely to break into the Top-3.
6. Charlotte Bobcats (9) – 2013-14 record: 13-15
The Bobcats, winners of three straight, look like a real playoff team, especially considering the state of the Eastern Conference. And don’t look now, but Kemba Walker is playing very good basketball.
7. Detroit Pistons (5) – 2013-14 record: 13-16
Two double-digit losses takes this team out of the top 5 this week. They still have no idea how to handle their spacing issues and have yet to #FreeGiGi. At least they have Andre Drummond.
8. Boston Celtics (6) – 2013-14 record: 12-17
No longer the top team in the Atlantic Division, but with Rajon Rondo on his way back, Boston may be too good to stay out of the top spot. So much for picking in the lottery.
9. Chicago Bulls (12) – 2013-14 record: 10-16
How a depleted Bulls roster beat the Cavaliers by 16 is beyond me. D.J. Augustin even played completely out of his mind. I really have idea what to think of this team.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers (7) – 2013-14 record: 10-16
I was ready to put this team at the same spot as last week (or higher) after their performance against the Blazers. But then games against the Bucks and Bulls happened and made me realize that this team is as average as ever. The same issues keep repeating themselves over and over again, and until those are corrected, I can’t see them getting any better.
11. New York Knicks (11) – 2013-14 record: 8-18
This week in Andrea Bargnani bad plays. The longer this team plays big and neglects the small ball lineups that helped them be so successful last year, the longer they stay at the bottom of the East.
12. Brooklyn Nets (10) — 2013-14 record: 9-17
With Brook Lopez now out for the season, any chance of a Nets playoff run are now over. In necessary reading, Tom Ziller explains why it’s too late to turn back now.
13. Orlando Magic (13) – 2013-14 record: 8-19
Beat Chicago, lose to the Jazz and Kings. Huh? They played even more dysfunctional than the Memphis Grizzlies this week.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 6-21
The Bucks rise out of the bottom spot by virtue of going 1-2 this week and looking semi-functional. Now they have progress and Giannis.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (14) – 2013-14 record: 8-20
The Sixers are now giving up the most points per game in the NBA and lost to the Bucks this past week. The cellar they have long been destined for is now finally theirs.
Make sure to sound off in the comment section below whether or not you agree with the rankings and check back next week to see if any of your teams moved up or down in the rankings.