Obviously there isn’t a lot to look at for these initial rankings, and they’re made all the more difficult since teams are playing ridiculous combinations of back-to-backs and back-to-back-to-backs so we’re seeing a lot of inconsistent play that doesn’t necessarily correlate with how good teams actually are. That being said, I’ve placed the clubs into rough groups that will become more and more precise as the season moves along; more games will allow us to understand how important or flukey big wins and losses really are.
1. Miami Heat (5-1): If Dwyane Wade is going to continue relieving LeBron James of his 4th quarter issues from last year, then great.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-1): Russell Westbrook is becoming more of the problem than the solution – how OKC handles the growing RW inefficiency issue will determine their true championship chances.
3. Chicago Bulls (4-1): Have some huge wins, but their offensive rebounding (out-of-this-world good so far) will normalize, then what?
4. Atlanta Hawks (4-1): Chicago and Miami (again) this week will tell us what’s really going on with the Hawks, but I’m predicting they’ll come back to earth soon.
5. Orlando Magic (4-2): Turkoglu thriving, Ryan Anderson is scoring great, and Jameer Nelson has already faced one injury – this all adds up to not a lot of reasons to believe they’ll remain hot, especially as their schedule gets harder.
6. Houston Rockets (2-2): Kyle Lowry is playing some phenomenal ball, and they already have wins over the Spurs and Hawks.
7. San Antonio Spurs (3-2): They should be in the group above and are one of only three Western clubs I’d expect to make the finals (OKC, Dal), but Ginobili’s broken hand is key.
8. Portland Trail Blazers (3-1): Good so far with an easy schedule, but OKC and LAL loom.
9. Denver Nuggets (4-2): PG tandem of Ty Lawson and Andre Miller is great, but the team’s utter lack of offensive rebounds will become a problem at some point.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-3): They lost by a total of 8 points to Miami, OKC, and Milwaukee – then beat Dallas and SAS by 17 and 10. Should only get better as schedule eases up.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (2-2): They’ve split an absolutely brutal 4-game schedule, but it’s troubling they weren’t even close against SAS and Chicago.
12. Philadelphia 76ers (2-2): All wins are huge and all losses are close – these are good signs, but they’re not going to shoot 48% and 44% from deep forever.
13. Los Angeles Lakers (3-3): Bynum and Gasol are keeping them in games, Kobe’s shooting and turnovers are keeping them out.
14. Indiana Pacers (4-1): Their record is the biggest fool’s gold out there: they’ve played nobody and still have a loss. Should be able to ride their D and rebounding into the playoffs pretty easily.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (2-2): Again, great D and bad O keeping them average. So far, only Mike Dunleavy is hurt (although a few others just came back).
16. Dallas Mavericks (2-4): The talent is there, they just need to get it gelling together and figure out who’s going to grab some rebounds.
17. Toronto Raptors (2-3): For what seems like the zillionth year in a row, Toronto has some nice-looking pieces but their D sucks and they just can’t put it together.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (1-3): Have played a brutal schedule and are already facing some injuries. Need more info.
19. New York Knicks (2-3): It was cute while the hype/optimism lasted – just remember they had a losing record before Amar’e predictably got injured.
20. Boston Celtics (3-3): The offense will only get worse, but the D probably won’t get better. Long season ahead.
21. Phoenix Suns (2-3): Take a team built for speed that isn't good defensively and slow them down, and guess what, they suck. Markieff Morris has been great so far.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2): Haven’t played much of anybody yet, and the upcoming schedule doesn’t look much harder. PG’s Kyrie Irving and Ramon Sessions have nearly identical stats.
23. Sacramento Kings (2-3): And again the DeMarcus Cousins trade talks heat up. Remember when he was going to be a franchise cornerstone? That was like, what, 12 months ago?
24. Golden State Warriors (2-3): They’ve been all over the place, with 4 of their 5 games being decided by double-digits.
25. New Orleans Hornets (2-3): Can’t hit shots to save their lives.
26. Utah Jazz (2-3): Are very close to being 0-5 – expect bad things.
27. Detroit Pistons (2-3): Won their last two, but overall they’re just a mess with few usable pieces worth getting excited about.
28. Charlotte Bobcats (1-3): Somehow they almost beat the Heat…before losing to them by 39 four days later.
29. New Jersey Nets (1-5): Losing huge over and over won’t convince Dwight Howard this is his destination.
30. Washington Wizards (0-5): Worst team by a mile, and John Wall is indeed a major reason for it; don’t go thinking otherwise.