NBA Power Rankings Update: The Spurs Make Their Move

The NBA Champions are rising up the power rankings. How far did they get this week?

Each week, I'll be translating numberFire's NBA power rankings 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: 4.4, Record: 0-17, last week: 30)
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 20.5, Record: 4-12, last week: 28)

On August 23rd, the Timberwolves famously flipped Kevin Love to the Cavs for the most recent number-one overall draft picks: Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. Exactly 100 days later, let's look at how both sides have fared.

CavaliersTeam RecordPPGRPGAPGnERDO RatingD Rating
Kevin Love8-717.

TimberwolvesTeam RecordPPGRPGAPGnERDO RatingD Rating
Andrew Wiggins4-1111.63.71.0-11.990114
Anthony Bennett4-

Sheesh. Not looking great for Minny. Wiggins and Bennett don't look ready for major minutes yet. Meanwhile, despite constant scrutiny, Kevin Love is putting together another solid statistical year and helping keep the spotlit Cavaliers above .500.

The T-Wolves have also been without enigmatic point guard R-r-r-r-icky Rubio and offensive minded big Nikola Pekovic for the majority of the season. They were a respectable 2-3 with Rubio running the offense and providing deceptive length on the first line of defense. Opponents are averaging 114.7 points per game against Minnesota since he went down.

Losing Pekovic hasn't actually hurt, though. His backup, Gorgui Dieng, is actually a significant upgrade at center over the big Montenegrin.

Nikola Pekovic26.711.98.10.2-1.7108113
Gorgui Dieng25.

Make no mistake: this team is a work in progress. They have young pieces with talent and upside at four positions. If they can steadily improve their shooting, passing, and team defense, they'll be a contender in the next few years. Now if only the conferences would re-align and we could get them out of the West...

28. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 26.2, Record: 4-13, last week: 29)
27. New York Knicks (nERD: 29.3, Record: 4-14, last week: 26)
26. Orlando Magic (nERD: 31.0, Record: 7-12, last week: 25)
25. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 32.1, Record: 3-14, last week: 24)
24. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 32.5, Record: 4-14, last week: 23)

Charlotte's expectations were extremely high coming into this season. Fresh off an impressive 2013 playoff appearance that featured the emergence of Big Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker and a summer that netted them Lance Stephenson, some experts picked them to finish as a top-four seed in the East.

Expectations have been tempered. By Thanksgiving, the only thing Charlotte fans had to be thankful for was a much needed name change. The Bobcats - sorry - the Hornets begin December ten games under .500 and in the midst of a nine game losing streak. But beside the noticeable drop off in overall team defense, there aren't many major differences in the way this team is performing.

SeasonRecordO Rating (rank)D Rating (rank)Strength of Schedule
2013-1443-39103.6 (24th)103.8 (5th)27th
2014-154-14100.3 (27th)108.3 (24th)5th

Charlotte has exhibited slight drop-offs in offensive and defensive efficiency and played the fifth-toughest slate in the league. The results are not good. Sadly, it doesn't get easier for a little while. They host the Bulls (9-3 road record) and travel to Memphis and Cleveland in the next ten days.

23. Utah Jazz (nERD: 35.1, Record: 5-13, last week: 21)
22. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 36.5, Record: 5-12, last week: 27)
21. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 38.3, Record: 7-10, last week: 22)
20. Boston Celtics (nERD: 42.0, Record: 4-10, last week: 18)
19. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 42.6, Record: 10-8, last week: 20)
18. Miami Heat (nERD: 46.0, Record: 9-8, last week: 15)

The Heat are 17 games into the Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh era. Hmm - just Chris Bosh era? Can we really give D-Wade half of the marquee at this point? He’s played in under 70% of his team's regular season games in the past three years and has already missed seven games this season. Fortunately for basketball fans in South Florida, some role players have stepped up this season.

Mario Chalmers30.713.
Shawne Williams28.

Mario Chalmers was great in Wade's absence, averaging over 19 points and nearly 7 assists per game without his backcourt mate. Super Mario had not shown any consistency through six seasons, and his efficient offense every night as the primary backcourt option must be comforting for coach Eric Spoelstra.

Shawne Williams was drafted in 2007 out of the University of Memphis. In six seasons prior to coming to Miami, he played for five teams and never averaged more than 21 minutes per game. This year, he's on pace to record career highs in points, rebounds, assists, and three pointers. He's leading the Heat in nERD and currently ranks 19th in our league-wide player power rankings!

Bosh is averaging 21 points and 9 boards (both highs since landing in Miami) and shooting the three ball with enough efficiency (37%) to pull opposing bigs away from the rim. If Luol Deng gives the Heat 50% of what LeBron gave them, they can win a first round series in the playoffs.

17. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 46.2, Record: 6-9, last week: 16)
16. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 50.3, Record: 9-8, last week: 19)
15. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 51.5, Record: 9-6, last week: 17)
14. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 52.0, Record: 10-8, last week: 13)
13. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 52.8, Record: 9-8, last week: 12)
12. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 57.9, Record: 8-7, last week: 14)
11. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 58.2, Record: 7-8, last week: 8)
10. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 59.1, Record: 11-6, last week: 10)
9. Washington Wizards (nERD: 59.3, Record: 11-5 , last week: 7)
8. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 65.1, Record: 12-5, last week: 11)
7. Houston Rockets (nERD: 66.0, Record: 13-4, last week: 6)
6. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 67.6, Record: 13-4, last week: 9)

Big surprise: the Spurs are doing it again. This is their fifth-straight season with a winning streak of at least eight games, but this Spurs team is more like the vintage 2004-05 Spurs than last season's Spurs. Check out the offensive and defensive ratings of their last five Finals teams.

SeasonO Rating (rank)D Rating (rank)
2014-15106.1 (17th)98.7 (2nd)
2013-14110.5 (7th)102.4 (3rd)
2012-13108.3 (7th)101.6 (3rd)
2006-07109.2 (5th)99.9 (2nd)
2004-05107.5 (8th)98.8 (1st)

Eerily similar to their 04-05 title team. No?

So how is San Antonio playing their best defense in years? Consistency. No player on the Spurs has a defensive rating over 104. The league average is 106. Leading the way? Old reliable, Timmy Duncan. He's posting a stellar 93 defensive rating to go along with another (ho-hum) 14-point, 10-rebound, 2-block campaign (his 12th such season with that foundation.)

Tony Parker just went down with a broken rib and will likely miss a few games, but judging by this team's unparalleled resilience, they'll surely take it in stride and continue to win with former D-Leaguer Cory Joseph running the offense.

It's a similar story every year: the Spurs have a hitch early in the season, people forget about them as title favorites, then they casually crush every team in the league. This season, San Antonio is even scarier because their defense is comparable to some of the best defenses of the past ten years, and their offense hasn't fully clicked yet. When it does, the league better watch out.

5. Portland Trailblazers (nERD: 70.4, Record: 13-4, last week: 4)
4. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 74.1, Record: 15-2, last week: 5)
3. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 76.3, Record: 13-4, last week: 2)
2. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 79.3, Record: 14-2, last week: 3)
1. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 82.6, Record: 13-5, last week: 1)