NBA Power Rankings Update: Memphis Rising

The 10-1 Grizzlies have the best record in the NBA. Where do they fall in our power rankings?

Each week, I'll be translating numberFire's NBA power rankings, which can be found here, into words. The rankings are driven by our nERD metric, which is a predictive statistic to help define what the team's winning percentage ultimately will be.

Without further ado, let's take a look at this week's rankings.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 8.1, Record: 0-10)
29. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 17.8, Record: 1-9)
28. New York Knicks (nERD: 28.4, Record: 3-8)
27. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 30.1, Record: 3-8)
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 33.2, Record: 2-7)
25. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 34.5, Record: 3-7)

The Nuggets have the Sixers, Lakers, and a surprising win over the Cavaliers to thank for distracting us from that awful stench coming from the Mile High City. Prior to the win in Cleveland, Denver was already five games under .500, and they had just lost by 16 to the lowly Knicks! In their recent six-game losing streak, they were down by an average of 16.7 points per game - by halftime!

OpponentHalftime ScoreDef. Rating
at Thunder33-55106.7
at Kings54-68131.7
at Blazers56-64118.5

Defensive rating measures the amount of points a team gives up for every 100 opponent possessions. It works like golf - lower is better. They posted a defensive rating over 130 twice in eight days! Not good.

The Nuggets lead the league with 13 players averaging over 11 minutes per game. That can mean one of two things: either they have a deep and talented roster with players that need playing time, or they're hardly ever in the game by the start of the fourth quarter and guys like Jusuf Nurkic and Erick Green are getting extended run. I'm leaning toward the latter. Just a hunch.

The craziest part about this Nuggets season is that they thought they were going to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. Their recipe? Zero defense (110.9 Defensive Rating - 26th in the league,) subpar offense (103.5 Offensive Rating - 21st,) and pace (third fastest in the league.) Maybe if they slowed down to a league average pace they'd at least lose close. Unless the Nuggets have pulled a 180 overnight, wins over teams like Cleveland won't be coming very often.

24. Orlando Magic (nERD: 35.3, Record: 5-7)
23. Utah Jazz (nERD: 36.5, Record: 4-7)

The Utah Jazz may not make any noise in the western conference this season, but boy are they involved in a lot of fun games. They've already had four games come down to the final possession. They're 3-1 in those games, including this buzzer beater from Gordon Hayward, and this one from Trey Burke.

They've developed into one of the league's better offensive teams (offensive rating of 108.1, 11th in the league) on the back of their 'big 2' of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors.

PlayerPPGRPGAPGnERDOffensive Rating
Gordon Hayward19.25.54.810.3123
Derrick Favors16.

With Hayward and Favors having career years, the Utah offense is humming. Their defense, however, is a little suspect. Rudy Gobert famously shut down Pau Gasol in France's upset over Spain in this Summer's FIBA World Cup, but he's not quite having the same impact yet in the Beehive State. Gobert's defensive rating of 109 leads the team but won't earn him a spot on the All-Defensive team. If the Jazz want to compete, they know it'll have to start with more effort and intensity on the defensive end.

22. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 39.2, Record: 3-8)
21. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 39.7, Record: 4-7)
20. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 42.9, Record: 4-7)
19. Boston Celtics (nERD: 43.4, Record: 3-6)
18. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 43.8, Record: 5-5)

The Bucks quietly had the worst record in the league last season. They went 15-67, winning four fewer games than the 76ers. They're already a third of the way to their win total from last season.

How'd they get there? Certainly not on the back of their number two overall draft pick Jabari Parker. Through ten games, he's struggled to do almost everything. He's averaging 10.6 points, 5.6 boards, and 1.5 assists in 29 minutes on the court each game. His -5.8 nERD is the 10th-worst in the league for any player logging at least 29 minutes per game.

The two biggest reasons for the improvement are point guard Brandon Knight's improvement during his second year in Milwaukee and an active, healthy and engaged Larry Sanders. Knight is posting a 6.4 nERD by averaging 18.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game. He's just about the only thing working to keep the league's 29th best offense afloat.

Larry Sanders' improvement is dramatic. He's transformed this Bucks defense this season.

SeasonPPGRPGDefensive RatingnERD

With Sanders leading the league in defensive rating, the Bucks' guards are able to gamble on steals and close out harder on jump shots. They have the number-two ranked defense and should make a playoff push in the East.

17. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 47.8, Record: 6-4)
16. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 49.4, Record: 6-4)
15. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 49.7, Record: 5-4)
14. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 50.6, Record: 6-5)
13. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 52.4, Record: 5-4)
12. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 54.2, Record: 4-6)
11. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 55.3, Record: 6-4)
10. Miami Heat (nERD: 55.6, Record: 6-5)
9. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 61.7, Record: 5-4)
8. Washington Wizards (nERD: 62.7, Record: 7-2
7. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 67.2, Record: 8-3)
6. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 67.4, Record: 10-1)

The Grizzlies are a force to be reckoned with. They're off to the best start in the franchise's 20 year history, and they just beat the Houston Rockets (our number one team according to nERD) by 26 points. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph continue to give opponents fits down low, but a new star has emerged. Courtney Lee is making an early season case for an all star bid.

SeasonPPGRPGAPGOffensive RatingDefensive RatingnERD

Lee actually leads the league in offensive rating, something a Grizzlies player wouldn't have dreamed of in years past. He's created an ideal scenario as a perfect compliment to Memphis' high/low game. He's stretching out the defense with his 62% accuracy from deep, and he's contributing on the defensive end with near career highs in steals and defensive rebounds. If Lee keeps up this pace, expect Memphis to stick around for the Conference Finals.

5. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 70.6, Record: 8-2)
4. Portland Trailblazers (nERD: 72.3, Record: 8-3)
3. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 73.8, Record: 8-2)
2. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 75.6, Record: 8-3)
1. Houston Rockets (nERD: 80.9, Record: 9-2)