At Trending Hoops, we don’t rank teams by power, skill, or ability to win a championship. We rank teams by buzz they generate, relative to the market they are in (otherwise L.A. would always be #1). With no further ado:
1. OKC Thunder (Previously 2)
Sunday night, it was the Thunder who came to play. Undefeated at home, they punished the road weary Pacers, who were playing the second night of a back to back. Paul George brought it with 32 points, but Durant + Westbrook was way too much. They scored a combined 62, and dominated the game. The sneaky key to that win was Reggie Jackson’s 15 points off the bench, as well as the whole team shooting 60% from the field. The Thunder smoked the Pacers leading league “points allowed” by nearly 30. KD with 36/10/5. MVP!
Now OKC has won 10/11, and is inching ever closer to the top of the West.
2. Portland Trailblazers (previously 4)
Speaking of the top of the West. If Lebron and Wade were putting up Lemarcus and Lillard numbers / team record, they would be voted in All-Stars. As it is, fans don’t know or trust the new guys. They’re going to collapse at some point, right? As of today the Blazers are 6-4 against the 13 Western Conference “playoff contenders.” To be fair, let’s look at how the Spurs and OKC fared against those 13 teams. The Spurs are 6-3, and the Thunder are 7-4 against the same. I’m taking the Trailblazers as “for real” at the 1/4 mark of the season.
NBA nerd note: Love that Portland’s surprising dominance is putting marque match-ups on non-planned days, like football Sundays and whatnot.
After Saturday’s last second loss to the Mavs:
3. Indiana Pacers (previously 1)
Loss to OKC aside, the Pacers finished a 5 game road trip 3-2. Their reward? A tuesday game against Miami. At least it’s at home, where the Pacers are a perfect 9-0. The Pacers still sport the league’s best record of 18-3. They have gone 4-2 against the 13 Western Conference playoff contenders. Fun fact: along with their great defense, the Pacers can score. They average 98.1 points per game, good for 8th highest in the East. The more impressive part? Their +8.6 margin of victory is second to only San Antonio.
4. L.A. Lakers (previously unranked)
Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. The Mamba is back. Kobe stepped foot on a basketball court Sunday, spurring the Lakers forward into everyone’s awareness. They were also sent zooming up our rankings. It may have been good for Kobe to see his team mildly succeed without him (.500 record). He opened the game with 2 assists, and finished with 9/8/4/2(steals) plus a scary 8 turnovers. Somehow I feel like the Lakers would have pounded the Rudy Gay-less, streak of 5 losses Raptors without him.
Here’s a radical notion: Kobe should come off the bench. Young, Henry, and Meeks combined for 50 points of the bench. Starters Kobe and Wesley Johnson? 11.
5. Boston Celtics (previously unranked)
What are the Celtics to do? Trying to tank, they are leading their division, and just crushed the desperate Knicks by 40. That’s right, 40. They are only 1-6 against the top 13 of the West. But still, they could win their division and finish 4th in their conference. With home court advantage. Their biggest threat, Toronto, just traded Rudy Gay (and promptly beat the Lakers). Philly is also trying to tank. New York is supposed to come roaring back and duel it out with Brooklyn for the division…and just LOST BY 40 to these Celtics.
The Celtics may win the Atlantic by default. Their record will probably still be a Western lottery team, but in the East, bad teams don’t get the help–they make the playoffs. Short term illusion of success, long term struggles.
Celtics stat: Though they are in the mid 20’s in rankings for most statistics, the C’s are 5th in points allowed. That’s right, a top 5 defense here folks. Like I was saying:
6. New York Knicks (previously 6)
They’re surging? Falling? Something. Either way, they’re constantly in the news. The scary part about that loss the the C’s: Carmelo’s +/- of -40. Gross. From our vantage point, the keys to the Knicks decent week last week was Amare and Metta World Peace playing well, as well as the 3’s finally falling for the Knicks. They led the league in 3’s last year. Against the C’s, 6-16, nearly 40%. But they gave up 14-25, or 56%! The Knicks let the C’s shoot better from distance than Andre Drummond does at the free throw line.
7. Detroit Pistons (previously unranked)
Pistons fans gotta love that the Heat “got revenge” on the Pistons. The Pistons are just glad to be in conversation. This ranking is really due to the play of Andre Drummond–which has got to be linked to the terrible shooting of Josh Smith (Right?). Imagine this in a Pistons timeout:
Mo Cheeks: Alright, we’re going to run our bread and butter. Jennings, pass to Josh on the wing. Josh, you are to ignore an obvious open post-up that the very skilled Greg Monroe is dominating this year, and jack up a 3. Andre, get the rebound, dunk it.
Greg Monroe: Sigh… *grumbling* I’m better than this.
Andre Drummond and Josh Smith (in unison): I love this play!
Hey look, a Jerry Stackhouse shout out:
8. Dallas Mavericks (previously unranked)
Are these Mavs for real? 5-6 against the decent West teams tells the story. Yes, they’re good enough to make the playoffs, even steal a game or two. No, they’re not making it past round one. It’s the “We’re committing to be good enough to make the playoffs but have no idea how to win another championship with the German Larry Bird” 2013-2014 Mavs!
Monta is a gamer though. We’ll put him 6th in our hero ball rankings (coming soon):
9. L.A. Clippers (previously 10)
Called out by Doc for pouting here. Trending for the wrong reasons: losers of 3/4, and falling to 3-5 against the East. 3-5! They’ve only beaten the Knicks, Nets, and Rose-less Bulls. Their schedule gets…tougher?….with a 4 game road trip out East.
10. Sacramento Kings / Toronto Raptors (previously unranked)
Kings get Rudy Gay, and the Raptors get…the chance to play without Rudy Gay, along with John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, and Chuck Hayes. To put it another way, Rudy Gay for two actual NBA starters. Toronto had lost 5 straight. They pulled Gay in anticipation of the trade. Without Gay (repeat, they did not have any of the players they traded for yet), the Raps trounce the Lakers to end their losing skid.
So either the Raptors are going all in for tanking…or going all in for winning…it’s hard to tell.
The Raps have now jettisoned two overpaid players (Gay and Bargnelli) since firing their GM. Draft picks, cheap players, cap space? The future is bright for the Toronto Drakes.
The Kings will now have two selfish, me first basketball stars on the same team, while losing their assist leader / point guard. Hero Ball ranked #3 (Irving, Nat Robinson…) Isaiah Thomas will get the chance to start, and score more. Who cracks first? Does Boogie scream for more touches? Does Gay pout? Will Thomas become pass-first? It should be fun.
Tyler Dykstra is a contributing writer for Trending Hoops.
Cover photo compiled with pics from wikimedia commons, copyright CC.
Stats from ESPN.com