Jan 22, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (right) reacts in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Eastern Conference Power Rankings: Week 13

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.

So it looks like the Raptors, Bulls, Wizards and Nets are going to be locked in a tight race for a bit, and if Brooklyn keeps surging like they have been, they could upset a lot of people who had written them off earlier this season. It doesn’t take much to be put back in the Eastern Conference playoff race this year, but the Nets have made some impressive ground from their horrible start. Now if only the Cavaliers could go on a streak like Brooklyn, then these rankings wouldn’t be so bleak every week. So, here we go.

Kolestarz’s Eastern Conference Power Rankings

1.  Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 34-9

The Pacers haven’t been particularly good on their current five-game road trip (which ends on Tuesday against the Lakers), but momentum built over the past two weeks keeps Indiana at the top once again. I’m not sure that Miami will be able to overcome the Pacers after weeks like this past one until the season is about to wrap up.

2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 32-12

Even if Dwyane Wade is able to make a comeback to the starting lineup before midweek, Wednesday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder won’t have too much significance put behind it without Russell Westbrook back. Even without Westbrook, I think the Thunder can still take it to the Heat in Miami. They were, however, able to beat a battered Spurs team this week, but that’s not enough to convince me they deserve a No. 1 ranking.

3. Toronto Raptors (3) – 2013-14 record: 22-21

If Terrence Ross’ 51 points were able to topple the Clippers in Toronto, I would have lost it. He was, to quote fellow Raptors ambassador Drake, “on one” against Los Angeles. The Raptors continue to show the NBA that they’re not about to go away anytime soon.

4. Atlanta Hawks (4) – 2013-14 record: 23-20

Give it up to Atlanta for still being able to perform at a very high level without Al Horford. I’m not trying to give wins against the Bucks and Magic more significance than they deserve, but Atlanta is still not budging from the third spot in the East despite the charge that Toronto has recently been on. Behind outside shooting, the Hawks are finding new ways to win games without their star center, and Paul Millsap has a lot to do with it.

5. Washington Wizards (5) — 2013-14 record: 21-22

The Wiz still weren’t able to get over the .500 mark against the Utah Jazz this past Saturday (which is disappointing), but a tough stretch ahead may set Washington back a bit. Contests against the Clippers, Warriors and Thunder await the Wizards this week, and they could easily fall behind the Nets by the end of this week. I think John Wall will have something to say about that.

6. Brooklyn Nets (6) — 2013-14 record: 20-22

Now 10-1 in January, these Nets are red hot. Their cast is starting to come together and Jason Kidd is realizing which guys he can depend on in his starting lineups. Winners of five straight, the Nets have contests against the Raptors, Thunder and Pacers awaiting them this week. This’ll be a big week in determining whether Brooklyn will rise or fall again in the rankings. This week, they kept their spot.

7. Chicago Bulls (7) — 2013-14 record: 22-21

Another team that is hot in 2014, the Bulls have beaten the teams that people now expect they should. And on top of that, they embarrassed the Cavaliers at home without Kirk Hinrich or Carlos Boozer. And this was the Luol Deng-era Cavs. I don’t know how much longer Chicago can hold it, but they’re sure doing a hell of a job doing so.

8. New York Knicks (11) — 2013-14 record: 17-27

New York was off to a hot start earlier in 2014, but since cooling down via a five-game skid, the Knicks have proven that they are better than both the Pistons and the Bobcats at this point. That’s a very sad story for two teams that looked like (fake) contenders in the Eastern Conference playoff race this season.

9. Detroit Pistons (8) — 2013-14 record 17-27

When you lose against Milwaukee, you know you’re reeling. Can anyone on this team step up to prevent a further downfall?

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (10) — 2013-14 record: 16-28

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse after the Bulls loss, Sunday’s game against the Suns happened. Has anything changed about the Cavaliers other than their roster-make over the past three seasons? It sure as hell doesn’t look like it from how they’re playing this season.

11. Charlotte Bobcats (9) – 2013-14 record: 18-25

Losing Kemba Walker may end up costing this team if he can’t return soon and revert back to his regular self. But not even the return of Kemba will help to fix just how horrible this defense is.

12. Boston Celtics (12) — 2013-14 record: 15-31

Rondo back, but we won’t start seeing on the court results in the form of wins until a few weeks from now. But I really don’t know how much better he actually makes this hodgepodge team. My guess is maybe one or two rungs higher in the power rankings ladder.

13. Philadelphia 76ers (13) – 2013-14 record: 14-30

The trades that this team will likely make before the deadline might be enough to help the 76ers end with the second-worst record in the East. I don’t see anyone surpassing Milwaukee’s level of suck this season. But hey, at least Philly has Michael Carter-Williams.

14. Orlando Magic (14) – 2013-14 record: 12-33

January has been a lovely month for the Magic in terms of tanking. They’ve gone 2-12 and still have three more games left to play this month. They’ll end January facing the Bucks, and if they lose that contest, they may make me think twice about bumping Milwaukee up a spot.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 8-35

The Cavs won their lone game this past week against the Bucks. Hooray! Milwaukee is still on pace to capture those quarter odds in the lottery even though they got to eight wins over a reeling Detroit squad.

Cwmwrites’ Eastern Conference Power Rankings

1. Indiana Pacers (1) – 2013-14 record: 34-9

Indiana gave up 114.7 points on their recent five game road trip, showing some cracks in what was looking like an impenetrable fortress. Still, the Pacers went 3-2 out west and remain atop the standings. Also, Paul George is really good at basketball.

2. Miami Heat (2) – 2013-14 record: 32-12

With Dwyane Wade ailing right now, Chris Bosh has really stepped up and is burdening more of the scoring load while Wade recovers. However, one must worry about the production of key role players like Shane Battier and Ray Allen. The former is showing some wear and tear from banging in the post against the likes of David West, while the former is finally starting to look his age. Who would have thought Michael Beasley and Rashard Lewis would have become essential to Miami’s chance at three-peat.

3. Toronto Raptors (3) – 2013-14 record: 22-21

I’m of the opinion that someone from the Raptors deserves to be an All-Star and if I had to pick just one, I’d pick Kyle Lowry. The point guard (who is still subject to trade rumors) could be the starter in the East at point guard and has really played solid basketball since Rudy Gay was traded to the Kings.

4. Atlanta Hawks (7) – 2013-14 record: 23-20

Speaking of players who deserve to be an All-Star, Paul Millsap should be taking a trip to New Orleans. Since Al Horford went down with an injury, he’s been averaging a double-double and playing out of his mind. He’s also shooting a career high 36.7 percent from deep. I don’t know if he’ll get in, but I’d like to see Millsap get in.

5. Brooklyn Nets (6)  – 2013-14 record: 20-22

The Nets have an 8-1 record in January – the best record in Eastern Conference this month – and are starting to round into their form after their awful start. Plus, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett finally made their long-awaited return to Boston and it was as emotional as you’d expect it to be:

6. Washington Wizards (4) – 2013-14 record: 21-22

I cannot figure this Washington team out. Last week, they lost to the Celtics and Jazz while beating the Suns. That doesn’t make any sense when you add it up.

7. Chicago Bulls (5) – 2013-14 Record: 22-21

The Bulls did beat the Cavaliers last week, and are more alive than I expected they would be after losing Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. They are right in the thick of it in the East–plain and simple.

8. New York Knicks (11) – 2013-14 record: 17-27

I was covering Cavs-Bucks in my dorm room when Melo went off for 62, and it took all of my personal strength to not flip channels and watch history. Part of me wishes I would have. Don’t look now, but the Knicks are just one game back of the eighth seed in the East.

9. Charlotte Bobcats (10) 2013-14 record: 19-27

The Bobcats are really bad–don’t get that twisted. Still, they are holding onto the eighth spot in the East. It helps that the teams around them–Cleveland, New York, Detroit, etc–are all messes, and the Bobcats are just slightly less of one. But if even one of these teams gets it together, expect Charlotte to plummet.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (9) – 2013-14 record: 16-28

This Cavaliers team is a special kind of inept. They look amazing in one half, and then after a short break, they look like the life has been sucked out of them. And if Anderson Varejao is out for any extended period of time, it could get even uglier on the shores of Lake Erie. At this point, it’s starting to feel like every winnable game for the Cavaliers is a must win. That’s not a good sign.

11. Detroit Pistons (8) – 2013-14 record: 17-27

The Pistons are just a mess right now and it’s only getting worse. Outside of Andre Drummond, no one is even playing remotely well, and the trio of Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith just isn’t working. Sad as it is, they are best served trying to trade Monroe and attempt to salvage this season by making their roster fit more naturally.

12. Boston Celtics (12) – 2013-14 record: 14-29

This picture from the Boston Globe instantly made me smile. Still, the Celtics are pretty bad on the court right now and it’s likely that they trade Jeff Green before the deadline as they are bound for the lottery. It doesn’t help that Rajon Rondo is beyond rusty.

13. Philadelphia 76ers (13) – 2013-14 record: 15-31

Two things to watch with the Sixers this season: 1. What can they get in return for Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner and 2. When will Nerlens Noel make this debut? At least one of these questions will be answered in the next few weeks.

14. Orlando Magic (14) – 2013-14 record: 12-33

Aaron Afflalo should be an All-Star, no ifs, ands or buts about it. When he is introduced, I demand that Kendrick Lamar walk him out rapping the first verse to the below song:

15. Milwaukee Bucks (15) – 2013-14 record: 8-35

The Bucks beat the Pistons, but were blown out twice last week as well. But about Giannis: If the 2014 Draft was redone today, where would he be selected? I think he could be a Top-3 pick.

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. 

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