Dec 31, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers won 91-76. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Eastern Conference Power Rankings: Week 9

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 9 already? This season is flying by, and nothing seems to be getting better in the Eastern Conference. The playoff picture remains relatively the same sans the Boston Celtics, who have finally been overtaken in the Atlantic Division by the swimming—not sinking—Toronto Raptors. The Raptors have me excited about this week’s power rankings, because they’re a team that actually talks about wanting to win instead of obviously looking like a tanking squad. Anyways, it’s been a bad couple past weeks for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but let’s find out if any teams below played average enough to surpass the Wine & Gold.

Kolestarz’s Eastern Conference Power Rankings

1.  Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 25-5

Not facing much competition, the Pacers had another perfect week and have been perfect since dropping the contest in Miami against the Heat last week. But the Pacers have been cruising in their three previous games, blowing out opponents by an average of 15-plus points. The best starting five in the NBA continues to show it on the court.

2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 24-7

The limping Heat only dropped one contest, but they were involved in games decided by five points or less in their four wins. As soon as it looked like this team was hitting their unbeatable stride, some subpar opponents brought this team down to Earth. But I truly believe that this team doesn’t give full effort against opponents that they know they can beat—which is a long list.

3. Toronto Raptors (4) – 2013-14 record: 14-15

Quite possibly the greatest quote that we will be supplied with during the 2013-14 season courtesy of DeMar DeRozan: “You can sink and drown, or you can float. And we out here like Michael Phelps.” The Raptors are currently dominating in the Eastern Conference pool amongst teams not named the Heat or Pacers. Gold medals may not be in their future this season, but since dealing Rudy Gay this team has become an offensive juggernaut in a weak conference.

4. Atlanta Hawks (3) – 2013-14 record: 18-14

The season-ending surgery that center Al Horford has to undergo after colliding with Anderson Varejao in the Hawks’ double-overtime win really hurts this team’s chances of keeping the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference. With the surging Raptors backed behind a more than confident DeRozan, Toronto is on the rise and Atlanta will start to downtrend.

5. Charlotte Bobcats (6) – 2013-14 record: 13-15

I’m not sure what will happen to Atlanta without one half of their fantastic frontcourt duo now just consisting of Paul Milsap, but this is, again, where it gets tough to sift through the mid-level teams. But Charlotte continues to be a team that just won’t go away by having horrible weeks. With the rising of Kemba Walker and the fact that Charlotte has played in three overtimes over seven games—in which six have been decided by four points or less—shows that they can hang with all sorts of teams in the NBA. Winning these games consistently will come with time.

6. Washington Wizards (7) – 2013-14 record: 14-14

Like I said last week, two back-to-back wins against Detroit would really show where this team stands in the East. The away-and-home series victories against the Pistons (24 points at home and nine points on the road) is proof that Washington is the front-runner amongst the teams that were proclaimed fringe playoff contenders in the offseason.

7. Detroit Pistons (5) – 2013-14 record: 14-19

They’re hot, and then they’re cold. Detroit dips below Washington for the reasons mentioned above. After crushing Cleveland by 22 points one week ago, Detroit followed up the performance with a 17-point loss to the lowly Orlando Magic. It seems as if this team is in a situation where as Josh Smith goes, this team goes.

8. Boston Celtics (8) – 2013-14 record: 13-18

Are the Cavaliers the only mid-level (they’ve fallen much below that mark, in my opinion) Eastern Conference opponent that teams can beat nowadays? I bet these teams are looking forward to games with the Wine & Gold in the near future.

9. Chicago Bulls (9) – 2013-14 record: 12-18

D.J. Augustin is making this team a pretty exciting one to watch as of late. And it’s amazing that this team ranks second in the League in points allowed this season. This is why I cringe every time Mike Brown says his team can win with better defensive play.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (10) – 2013-14 record: 10-21

No more moral victories. I’m sick of seeing this team get so close and then break my heart. But hey, things have been getting better since the Andrew Bynum mess got put aside. You’re already noticing just how fast this team can move on the court without the lazy seven-footer.

11. Orlando Magic (13) – 2013-14 record: 10-21

If the Cavaliers lose their matchup against the Magic on Thursday, I just don’t even know what I’ll think. At least the disasters in New York moved this team up a couple spots, though.

12. New York Knicks (11) – 2013-14 record: 9-21

It must suck to be following New York basketball on a daily basis this season. This team is a joke, and until Mike Woodson gets the boot and someone competent steps into the head coaching role, this is a totally lost season. Actually, I don’t think anything can bring this team back from the current situation they’re in.

13. Brooklyn Nets (12) – 2013-14 record: 10-21

Losers of six of their last seven, with their only win in that stretch coming against the Milwaukee Bucks. WOOF. Which New York team will end up being the bigger joke when the season ends?

14. Philadelphia 76ers (14) – 2013-14 record: 9-21

Last Saturday’s loss against Milwaukee still doesn’t have me convinced that this team is worse than the Bucks.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 7-24

It’s very close, though.

Cwmwrites’ Eastern Conference Power Rankings

1. Indiana Pacers (2) – 2013-14 record: 25-5

The NBA is definitely a little odd. The Pacers are the best team in the league, but they play in the far less superior conference. They’ve also won their last four games by an average of 22.3 points per game. They have earned this spot.

2. Miami Heat (1) – 2013-14 record: 24-7

The Heat fall from the top spot by virtue of losing to the Sacramento Kings, not exactly one of the league’s best teams. However, they did beat the Blazers without LeBron James thanks to a Chris Bosh game winner. I just wish Indiana and Miami could play against each other every week.

3. Toronto Raptors (4) – 2013-14 record: 14-15

This is such a bizarre ranking. Toronto is by no means a contender, but with the Hawks now without Al Horford, they may be the least dysfunctional team not playing in Miami and Indiana.

4. Washington Wizards (5) – 2013-14 record: 14-14

Still inconsistent and hard to gauge. One night, they get blown out by the Timberwolves. The next night, they beat the Pistons by 24 points. Can the real Washington Wizards please stand up?

5. Atlanta Hawks (3) – 2013-14 record: 18-14

Al Horford tearing his pectoral muscle and now being out for the season is sad news. Atlanta now is likely to be done as the de facto third best team in the East. It’s hard to say, but the most interesting part of the their season is now written.

6. Charlotte Bobcats (6) – 2013-14 record: 13-15

Three tight games last week mean the ‘Cats are still in the same space they were a week ago. They are definitely better than expected and I think a legitimate sleeper candidate to be the East’s third best team.

7. Detroit Pistons (7) – 2013-14 record: 14-19

Josh Smith was benched again. So far this Pistons-Smith marriage isn’t going so well and one must wonder if they start looking to flip Smith or Greg Monroe in search of more cohesive basketball.

8. Boston Celtics (8) – 2013-14 record: 13-18

Oddly, the Celtics played one game last week, as they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers by a score of 103-100. That win keeps them exactly where they were a week ago.

9. Chicago Bulls  (9) – 2013-14 record: 12-18

The Bulls now turn the ball over at the highest rate in the league and have so many issues  right now. I think it’s just a matter of time until they implode. Their win over the Nets was just a temporary reprieve from mediocrity.

10. Orlando Magic (13) – 2013-14 record: 10-21

Orlando has taken a brief break from being awful, winning two straight. Also: If Aaron Afflalo doesn’t make the All-Star team in his career-best season, I’ll be fairly upset with the whole system.

11. Cleveland Cavaliers (10) – 2013-14 record: 10-21

The Wine & Gold are losers of five straight (possibly six as they are currently tanking on the Indiana Pacers) and have yet to find consistency on either end. But something tells me that the end of the Andrew Bynum era will be a good thing moving forward.

12. Brooklyn Nets (12) – 2013-14 record: 10-21

Oh Brooklyn. Jason Kidd basically gave up on Christmas Day and this team and its coach look dead in the water. The only title left is for “Not The Worst Team in New York.”

13. New York Knicks (11) – 2013-14 record: 9-21

Losing to the Thunder is one thing, but it’s just embarrassing to lose twice to the Raptors twice in two nights. This team has barely competed since Carmelo Anthony has been out with injury.

14. Philadelphia 76ers (15) – 2013-14 record: 9-21

Thaddeus Young was great last week, averaging almost 25 a game over his last five. Philadelphia has a huge trade chip in the stretch four as they continue to live in the cellar.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (14) – 2013-14 record: 7-24

This team lost to the Brooklyn Nets by double-digits last week. Need I say more?

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