NBA Power Rankings – Friday, November 9

Nov 5, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) passes the ball over Phoenix Suns small forward Michael Beasley (0) in the first half at American Airlines Arena. The Heat defeated the Suns 124-99. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

Here it is: this season’s first edition of the Dunking with Wolves Power Rankings. JJ Glenn & Ben Beecken break down every NBA team with their insight for this young NBA season.

*Teams are ranked based on current play, not expected future play.*RankTeamNotes1MiamiJJAt the end of the day, they have the reigning league MVP who is now surrounded by the best shooting supporting cast he has ever had in his career. With all of the new faces the defense will get better which might be scary for the rest of the NBA.BenLebron James is really, really good. And so is the Heat defense.2San AntonioJJIt’s the same old story for these same old players. They will continue to play great in the regular season and will remain near the top all season long. The real test will come once the post season starts.BenCan Popovich continue to blend his young role players with his aging stars while giving Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan enough rest? The key is to not wear down before the stretch run.3New York KnicksJJAs my fingers hit the keys to write this, I feel like I am making a great mistake. I guess the moon and stars are lining up and stats don’t lie. They lead the league in Point Differential at + 19.34, 3rd in scoring average at 104.67 & (brace yourself) #1 in points allowed. Yep, that was not an error. They are allowing 85.33 points a game, tops in the association.BenSo far, so good. Count me as someone who thinks that eventually age (and the fact that they’re the New York Knickerbockers) will catch up to some extent. If Anthony has figured it out, however, they’re going to remain fantastic.4ChicagoJJI know I am probably on an island by putting the Bulls this high, but this team has looked really solid, and considering they don’t have their superstar it’s even more impressive. They are second highest in assists per game and 5th in point differential per game. They are moving the ball and holding teams to the 2nd lowest point total in the league.BenIf the Bulls continue moving the ball and playing stellar defense, they’ll be able to hold down the fort without Rose and get into the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference, especially with Granger’s injury hurting the Pacers.5MilwaukeeJJDoes it look strange to anyone else to see the Deer up this high in the rankings?  I just can’t argue the 2-0 start. The backcourt has been impressive and as expected Jennings and Ellis are scoring points (team is averaging 102 a game 7th best).  The surprising part is they are passing the ball and rank number 1 in assists per game. The team has made the assists possible by shooting 49% on the season, good for 4th best in the NBA.BenThe Bucks are not this good. They were crushed by Memphis on Wednesday night, and will probably barely squeeze into the playoffs at the end of the season.6DallasJJA 3-1 record and the 2nd best point differential per game (9.75) is why Dallas is this high. How are they doing it? Right now they are 2nd in FG% (51.1%) and #1 in 3 point percentage (51.2%).  Will these percentages remain the same? History will tell us most definitely not, so enjoy the fact that all of this is happening without Dirk.BenDallas has impressed thus far, but will need to (somehow) keep it up until Dirk’s return. The Western Conference is tough.7Oklahoma CityJJThey go from the finals a year ago to teammates arguing on the sideline. Was James Harden the glue that kept this thing together? Have no fear, the Thunder are just fine. There is bound to be some growing pains with the new pieces. Kevin Martin has been the leading scorer on every team he has played on (there were some bad ones). Now he can be a very capable third option. His past stats show he can get to the free throw line just as much as Harden did. Things will be fine for OKC.BenAs long as Martin expends some effort on the defensive end and Serge Ibaka shows growth towards a more complete and well-rounded game, the Thunder will likely be the top seed in the playoffs again in 2013.8AtlantaJJTwo very solid wins for this team and no one in Atlanta has been to a game to see it. Other than being the victim of James Harden’s coming out party, this team has quietly put together 2 straight wins vs. OKC and Indiana. We will see how this next week goes; Miami at home followed by a 4 game road trip should tell us a lot.BenDanny Ferry put together a solid, financially flexible team that has a real shot at a playoff spot in the East.9BostonJJCan you think of the last time the Celtics defense has allowed an average of over 100 points a game?  That is not a typical Doc Rivers team so far. With so many new faces it will take some time for the defense to come together.  This team’s saving grace is it can score. We should get a very clear picture of what this team is over their next 4 games against Phi, @Mil, @Chi and home against the Jazz.BenBoston will be just fine, and might just hover around the fringes of the top ten teams in the rankings all season long.10MemphisJJThis Memphis team is doing it again, putting one solid game after another together while no one seems to notice. There is no question this team is good, the real question will come in the post season. Will we see the team of 2 years ago, or the one from last year, that just looked flat?BenThe first couple months of the season will determine whether or not the Grizzlies sell off their veteran parts at the trade deadline.  They’ve been solid so far this year, but have a rough stretch upcoming that includes consecutive games against Miami, OKC, and the Knicks.11MinnesotaJJArgue with me all you want, but before you say anything think about this: this team is playing without its two superstars. In their absence this team has posted a 3-1 record, while putting it to Orlando and Sacramento. While that doesn’t exactly validate my point, they showed a resiliency that hasn’t been seen in almost a decade from the Wolves. There is a bench that not only won’t blow a lead, but is actually better than most benches in the league. Couple all of that with the fact they are positive in point differential, FG%, assists per game, rebounds per game and blocks per game, things are looking good for this squad.  How good can they be once Kevin and Ricky are back?BenThe Wolves will be a top six seed in the West, and will finish higher if they play like they did in the fourth quarter against Brooklyn on Monday and against the Magic on Wednesday. Anything over .500 before Kevin Love returns is gravy, and it looks good so far.12IndianaJJDanny Granger out for 3 months is a huge loss. The real question is who will step up in his absence?  If someone doesn’t step up, this may be a roster with some talent just waiting for a leader to guide them back to the playoffs.BenThe Pacers are in trouble. The team already had a poor off-season, and now with the news that Danny Granger will miss 3 months, the Pacers may struggle to make the playoffs.13L.A. ClippersJJThis season the Clippers are making outside shots at a higher rate and they are out scoring their opponents at a +2 average. So far it is early and a win is a win. This team has talent, there is no question, and the real questions remain: can Blake make a jump shot consistently to become a real, live well-rounded basketball player, or continue to just be a highlight on SportsCenter?BenThe Clippers are a good team, but Willie Green and Jamal Crawford will not play this well (or anywhere near this efficiently) for the whole season. If Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan fulfill their defensive potential, however, they could be a top four team in the West by the end of the season.14PortlandJJDamian Lillard has been outstanding, and the Rookie of the Year so far. His 18.4 PER is the second highest on the roster behind LaMarcus Aldridge. He is also averaging 8 assists per game and shooting 40%. He may very well be the answer to Portland’s point guard problems for years to come.BenOutside of Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and the thus-far streaky Nicolas Batum, Portland has a very thin roster. How far can the sensational rookie point guard take them?15PhiladelphiaJJThey are .500 with their 2 losses both coming against the Knicks. This team has yet to see Andrew Bynum on the floor, and it hasn’t mattered as they are getting trademark Doug Collins basketball from the rest of the team.  Unselfish play from everyone, great hustle and no stand out play from any one player. It’s complete team basketball.BenThe Sixers had a horrendous off-season, and will hover around .500 all season long. Any improvement above that mark is solely dependent on Andrew Bynum’s health.16DenverJJThe two opening season losses are a bit perplexing. Losses at Philadelphia without Andrew Bynum and then Orlando was not expected, although Miami was. Since the first 3 games they have won 2 straight. While it looks like they are finding their legs they should have a good test against the Jazz coming up.BenThe Nuggets will be just fine, and while the first three losses of the season were disconcerting, deep teams with Hall-of-Fame coaches will always find their way.17UtahJJAfter a really nice opening night the Jazz had a little struggle. While their point differential is only a half a point, it is the negatives differences in FG%, 3PT%, FT%, and assists per game that have really been their downfall. Once they tighten up the defensive end and get shots to start falling, the Jazz should push for a possible playoff appearance again this season.BenThe Jazz need to decide what they are going to do with all of their young talent, as much of it (Kanter, Burks, Favors) gets precious little playing time. In choosing to sign veteran guards Randy Foye and Mo Williams, the Jazz seem to be content as a fringe playoff team moving forward.18HoustonJJWho thinks James Harden is going to continue to shoot 53% from the field? I don’t, and that in turn means he won’t continue to average 35 points per game. Take out James Harden and his beard and the team is shooting 39%.BenHouston will go as far as James Harden takes them this season. Jeremy Lin is an average point guard, and they’ll need Chandler Parsons to play like a star to be a playoff team this season.19Golden StateJJThe Warriors have some real ballers, there is no doubt about it. The only real doubt is their health. Steph’s ankles, Andrew Bogut’s everything. Why does it always feel like something is in the water in Golden State? With only a couple of new faces, this team should be competitive night in and night out. Right now they have lost by an average of 6 points per game.BenIf Golden State stays healthy all season (they won’t), they will make the playoffs. When Bogut and/or Curry miss large chunks of games, the Warriors will challenge for one of the worst records in the West.20BrooklynJJSo many promises and so much money for this team. I don’t think anyone can argue there is some real talent on the roster. The question is can they get it together and play basketball effectively and start putting some “W’s” in the left hand column? In that fickle New York market, don’t be surprised that if things don’t turn around soon, there will be some serious cases of buyer’s remorse.BenBrooklyn should make the playoffs easily in the East, but their paper thin bench may have something to say about how high they are seeded at the end of the season. With an already-injured Gerald Wallace, the Nets need to be careful to not fall into an early hole in the standings.21New OrleansJJThey are young; they’ve been banged up and have had players miss some time. They are in a very tough Western Conference and if players are already banged up this early in the year, this season could get long. However, with youth comes the ability to heal quicker. If the Hornets can stay positive through the tough times that are sure to come there is some serious talent on this team.BenGreivis Vasquez has played well so far this year to compliment Anthony Davis. If Davis recovers quickly from his concussion and stays healthy, the Hornets should remain competitive and avoid falling all the way into the cellar in the West.22L.A. LakersJJBoy, this team really puts the fun in dysfunctional. I will stick with what I can prove and leave Mike Brown out of this.  With this much talent it really is mind boggling why they aren’t winning. Looking at statistical categories it is even a little more confusing. They are only negative in FT% (with Dwight on the team that is expected). I guess the only data I need is the eyeball test, and right now they are not passing.BenNash’s leg injury hurts. A lot. Yes, Nash is a fantastic player and vital to the Lakers success, but more importantly, it delays opportunities for the new-look Lakers to jell and learn how to play well together. Mike Brown does not appear to be the man for the job at this point, either.23ClevelandJJThe Cavs are young and they’ll have their struggles like any young squad will. They will also have some flashes of some good basketball. A healthy Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving is a good combination to start with. Throw in a decent start to Dion Waiters career and a nice core is forming.BenThe Cavs will be fun to watch all season with the fantastic Kyrie Irving and the intriguing Dion Waiters. They should finish around .500 in the weak Eastern Conference.24OrlandoJJOrlando is currently on a 2 game losing streak. I think it is safe to say we all expected that; it was the 2 straight wins before these losses that are the most surprising. Orlando is hitting almost 49% percent from beyond the arc. It is safe to say when the shots stop falling the losses will keeping rising.BenOrlando is not good. Arron Afflalo and JJ Redick are the only players on the roster that are above replacement-level. Glen Davis has struggled mightily in the first four games.25TorontoJJI had a reputable NBA person tell me they “think the Raptors could do some things this year” I responded to them with “think again”.  In their 4 losses on the season the Raptors have lost by 9.5 points per game. It also says a lot about your team when Kyle Lowery is leading in rebounds.BenI still believe in the Raptors. If Kyle Lowry can get past his ugly looking ankle sprain suffered Tuesday night at OKC, I think Toronto has a shot at surprising a lot of people. Lowry is really, really good, and Dwayne Casey is a fantastic coach.26PhoenixJJDid you know that the Suns have 2 wins on the season? This island of misfit toys wins has come against Charlotte and Detroit, so let’s not get too excited. Luis Scola has by far been the bright spot for the Suns and is the best move they made all off-season.BenThe Suns are bad, and will likely finish in last place in the conference. Scola has been very good thus far, and the Suns will need him to be fantastic if they are to stay out of the bottom spot.27CharlotteJJHey, remember when the Bobcats were undefeated? Remember that? Other than the opening night win for the ‘Cats there isn’t really much else going for Charlotte. They have the 2nd worst point differential per game and carry a negative average in assists, rebounds and blocks per game.BenThe Bobcats will again be the worst team in the NBA. There isn’t much else to say, unfortunately. Kemba Walker is a promising looking player, and Bismack Biyombo needs consistent minutes. There….that’s it.28WashingtonJJThey’re without 2 of their top performers (possibly 2 best performers). While they have shown some resilience in games, they have just shown they are young and the youth has shown. The greatly need Nene and John Wall back.BenMan, the Wizards are bad too. Like, really bad. As bad as Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor has been so far, the Wizards have a shot as being almost as bad as the Bobcats. That isn’t good.29SacramentoJJSo far for the season this team has a negative in point differential, FG%, FT%, assists per game, rebounds per game, and blocks per game. They would be #1 in banners falling from the ceiling during a game if that was a stat. I don’t think I really need to say much more as to why this team is here.BenIf DeMarcus Cousins develops rapidly this year and they give up on Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento have a good shot to finish ahead of the Phoenix Suns. That’s good news, right?30DetroitJJThe real question: can anyone do a worse job of running the Detroit Pistons than the Detroit Pistons? This team hasn’t been good at all. That’s me trying to put it nicely. They are last in point differential and rebound differential at -13. They are also running a negative average in blocks per game, steals per game and assists differential per game. Put all of that together and you get some pretty bad basketball.BenGreg Monroe is fantastic. Rodney Stucky is a disappointment. Tayshaun Prince is old. There isn’t much else there. Here’s hoping they understand that everyone should be on the trade block except Monroe, and start in on a real re-build. Oh, and make it one with as little Charlie Villaneuva as possible. Which is none. No Charlie Villaneuva = the best kind of Charlie Villaneuva.