FOXSports.com NBA power rankings: Week 3
NOV 20, 2013 1:21p ET
Starting to feel comfortable in that seat yet? As we settle into the NBA season, the distinction between fool’s gold and legitimacy is becoming a tad bit clearer.
The Pacers remain in pole position, the Heat move up a spot and the Bulls show life, but the rest of the East reaches an even more hideous level. Out West, a pack of teams move closer to the top, yet the defending conference champ remains out front.
Follow the NBA season through the lens of Jimmy Spencer on Twitter at @JimmySpencerNBA.
1 Pacers 9-1
Everyone is waiting for the pace car to get the heck off the track so the real race can start. But even a crash in Chicago isn’t enough to knock the Pacers from the No. 1 spot. Indy’s defense has just been too good, and it’s why they maintain a small distance ahead of the Spurs.
2 Spurs 9-1
Here are the Spurs -- once again -- dominating under Pop’s potent system. The Spurs aren’t for general consumption, of course. Like the foreign film category at the Oscars, only true buffs really appreciate the beauty of what’s happening. They should have subtitles for Spurs games.
3 Heat 8-3 +1
How frustrating is it to own Dwyane Wade in a fantasy league? This guy is more questionable than a seafood buffet at a strip club. Until he is consistently healthy, it’s hard to get a true gauge of just how elite Miami is.
4 Warriors 8-3 +2
When you think Warriors, it’s the shooting of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson that flutters through your head, isn’t it? While that’s pretty and all, the real difference is the Warriors’ defense that allows opponents to shoot just 42.3 percent (fourth best in the league).
5 Clippers 7-4
It's just a single regular-season game, but this Memphis Grizzlies roadblock has to feel a bit disconcerting. Physical interior threats are an issue for Los Angeles. The Clippers are allowing 46.7 points in the paint, second worst in the league.
6 Thunder 7-3 -3
It’s understandable that Oklahoma City would stumble a bit without Russell Westbrook. But even since its star guard returned, the Thunder are still just 2-2 against teams with winning records. A swing out to California included road losses to the Warriors and Clippers.
7 Trail Blazers 9-2 +2
Portland shouldn’t be a surprise after a sneaky good offseason to grab depth. Having a guy like Mo Williams (averaging 10.5 points and 4.9 assists) off the bench highlights the difference from last season to this season. Thomas Robinson and Dorell Wright also offer nice support to a starting five with firepower.
8 Bulls 6-3 +2
The Indy win was impressive, Chicago. You are now officially the only other East team beside the Pacers and Heat even worth talking about. Derrick Rose looked fancy in his latest return from injury and claims to be feeling just dandy. The league is better with him healthy.
9 Rockets 8-4 -1
Welcome to the front court, Terrence Jones. The second-year Kentucky product has given the Rockets a boost since entering the starting lineup, averaging 12.2 points and 10 rebounds in the last five games, four of which were wins. Don't ask Omer Asik how he feels about it.
10 Grizzlies 6-5 +3
That was really messed up of Chris Paul to headbutt Tony Allen’s leg like that. Seriously though... Allen called it an accident, but the rest of us can call it: "don't drive on the Grizzlies."
11 Timberwolves 7-5 -4
The funny thing about expectations is how quickly they can change. The Wolves were regarded as an easy target throughout last season, but health and a strong start swiftly created a new standard. Now, if Minnesota wants to maintain the new respect, it needs to learn how to beat bad teams. Three of the Wolves' five losses are against losing teams.
12 Mavericks 7-4 -1
Dallas is certainly off to a better start than last season, and obviously a mostly healthy Dirk Nowitzki helps that process. Nowitzki had a good week, shooting 56.4 percent in three games for 22 points per game.
13 Hawks 6-5 +2
It’s only 11 games, but it’s looking possible that Atlanta, by default, could be one of four East teams to claim home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Seriously, what team knocks them out of that spot? OK, fine, there’s a long way to go.
14 Suns 5-5 -2
It’s hard to tell just how real the Suns’ unexpected success has been. They could be fool’s gold, as they’re just 1-3 against teams with winning records. But they’re also 1-4 in games decided by three points or less, so more wins were well within reach.
15 Nuggets 4-6 +12
It’s funny, as bad as the Nuggets started, they have just as quickly moved back into the conversation of West teams that will battle for a bottom playoff spot. Brian Shaw may be a rookie head coach, but unlike Jason Kidd, he has plenty of coaching experience.
16 Pelicans 4-6 +3
Don’t write off the Pelicans just yet. Anthony Davis is great, but he needs help from the perimeter. Both Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday need to become more efficient scorers. The return of Ryan Anderson and the potential awakening of Tyreke Evans should help.
17 Lakers 5-7
Mike D’Antoni has succeeded as a coach when given fast cars. Of course, last year, that Ferrari turned out be a lemon. Now? He’s rolling around the L.A. hills trying to get into parties in a beat-up Saturn that, without Kobe, doesn’t even reach second gear.
18 76ers 5-7 -2
Michael Carter-Williams has quickly made his value known. Since last week’s rankings, the 76ers went 1-3 without their rookie, who has been sidelined for four games with a bruised foot. Meanwhile, Evan Turner is embarking on what looks to be a breakout season.
19 Bobcats 5-6 +6
The Bobcats have the worst "true shooting percentage" in the league. If you're not familiar with the advanced stat, it's a field-goal percentage that’s adjusted to include 3-pointers and free throws. If you’re not familiar with the Bobcats, they can’t shoot.
20 Cavaliers 4-7
If you're into interesting stats, this one might be of note: the Cavaliers are shooting a league-worst 51.3 percent inside five feet. They're also dead last in shooting from within five to nine feet (27.0 percent). The inability to score near the basket is a big deal in basketball.
21 Nets 3-7 -7
Opposing coaches are feasting on Jason Kidd. Ask any NBA coach how skilled he was in his rookie season, even after being an assistant, and he'll tell you about the learning curve. Kidd must be overwhelmed managing a roster built to win now. At least early on, it’s not working out.
22 Magic 4-6 +2
Arron Afflalo is crushing his audition. That is if the Magic want to eventually trade the effective veteran who is scoring a team-high 21.7 points and shooting 50 percent from 3-point range. Orlando is pushing the youth movement, but maybe that doesn't have to include pushing out the 28-year-old Afflalo.
23 Raptors 4-7
For a guy playing in the NBA's witness protection program, Rudy Gay sure is making a lot of noise up in Canada clanging basketballs against the rim. He’s taking 21.6 shots per game and shooting just 39.8 percent. Even Rob Ford is thinking, “slow it down, man.”
24 Pistons 4-6 -6
Hey, now there's the Rodney Stuckey Detroit has been waiting for. His 21 points off the bench on Tuesday highlights what has been a successful start to the season. Still, the Pistons didn't bring in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to watch Stuckey be the storyline. They need more production from their new guys.
25 Knicks 3-7 -3
Some of the Knicks pitched Spike Lee on starring in a potential sequel to He Got Game. Unfortunately, Spike turned them down because he didn't think the basketball scenes would be realistic enough.
26 Wizards 3-7
Bradley Beal has handled the offensive load for the Wizards, averaging 20.2 points per game thus far. His 25-point performance in Tuesday's win against the Timberwolves paired nicely with John Wall's 16-assist night. The offense must click to make up for Washington’s woeful defense.
27 Kings 3-7 +2
Think new owner Vivek Ranadive is having buyer’s remorse? He was last seen digging beneath his purple couch cushions yelling, “where is that freakin’ receipt!?” Just kidding, he knew they’d be bad. Cut him some slack, he’s rebuilding a whole city.
28 Celtics 4-8 -7
The Celtics mini rise in the standings was met with an abrupt, yet predictable, end. The Celtics have now lost four in a row, won four in a row and again lost four in a row. The pattern won’t continue back in Boston’s favor, however, as San Antonio and Indiana are on deck.
29 Bucks 2-7 -1
It’s definitely way too early to say mercy, but the Bucks are already teetering closer and closer to lottery destiny. Playing without Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders, arguably their two best players, hasn't helped.
30 Jazz 1-11
Let’s get this straight: Utah is starting Richard Jefferson over Marvin Williams? What happened to the youth movement? That’s like going on a no-carb diet but beginning each meal with a roll. He’s a roll-player, eh, eh?