NBA Power Rankings: Most Surprising Teams After the Season's First Month

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2012

After the first month of the NBA season, it is time to take stock of where every team stands.

Too few games have been played to eliminate anyone from the postseason, but teams are starting to show whether they will be contenders—or pretenders.

Some teams, like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, are right where you would expect them to be after great seasons a year ago.

However, a few organizations have been quite a surprise to start the year. Here are the full power rankings, with some extra emphasis on those surprising teams.  


1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Thanks to Kevin Martin and his great shooting, the Thunder does not miss James Harden. In fact, the team could be even better this year as Serge Ibaka has become a bigger offensive threat.


2. Miami Heat

After going 4-2 in a very difficult November road trip, the Miami Heat returned home—where they are still undefeated this season.

It is scary to think about how good this team can get when they start trying in the playoffs. 


3. San Antonio Spurs 

When the backup squad can put together a better showing than many other teams in the league (start fining everyone, Mr. Commissioner), you know you have a good team on your hands.

The Spurs know exactly what it takes to get to the playoffs and be successful once they get there, so no one should question their methods until then. 


4. Memphis Grizzlies

With balanced scoring and great defense, Memphis will beat a lot of teams. The only question here is, can Rudy Gay become a leader and take over games when he needs to?


5. Brooklyn Nets

The entire offseason was spent trying to get Dwight Howard. In that time, everyone forgot that Brook Lopez is actually very good when healthy. 

Even Andray Blatche is producing, which could spell trouble for other teams around the league. 


6. Los Angeles Clippers

Jamal Crawford looks like he is gunning for his second Sixth Man of the Year award. He is the perfect representative of a very deep and experienced team that should be in contention all year long. 


7. New York Knicks

With Amar'e Stoudemire not in the lineup and Jeremy Lin out of town, many thought that the New York Knicks would struggle. 

Carmelo Anthony is playing extremely well as the only superstar on the team. He moved to the power forward position, but is still averaging an impressive 26.6 points per game.

The team's three-point shooting has been lights out. The Knicks have made 41.6 percent of their shots from deep, good for third in the NBA.

If New York continues to have the same chemistry when Stoudemire returns, this squad can be dangerous in the playoffs.


8. Philadelphia 76ers

Even without Andre Iguodala, the 76ers have one of the best defenses in the NBA. 

In addition, Jrue Holiday is playing as well as anyone in the league at the point guard position and has the ability to take over late in games. This is a big difference from last season, where no one took control.


9. Atlanta Hawks

It is tough to get a read on the Hawks to this point, as they have not played too many quality opponents. 

However, a healthy Al Horford makes this team much better than people realize. 


10. Golden State Warriors

The defense still is not great, but it is better with Klay Thompson in the starting lineup than Monta Ellis. Defense should be the focus going forward because scoring is not a problem. 


11. Milwaukee Bucks

Speaking of Ellis, he needs some help in the frontcourt because he and Brandon Jennings cannot do everything. The Bucks are surviving for now, but they need to make a move to acquire a big man before long. 


12. Chicago Bulls

There is a lot of talent on this roster, but no one is Derrick Rose. Until he comes back, the Bulls will just have to continue to tread water.


13. Denver Nuggets

Through 18 games, the Denver Nuggets have won nine games and have lost nine games. They average 100.7 points scored and 100.7 points allowed per game.

In order to get better, this team will have to start shaking off losses and avoid losing streaks that can take them out of contention. 


14. Los Angeles Lakers

So far this year, the Los Angeles Lakers have caused more negative headlines than the New York Jets.

The team fired Mike Brown just five games into the year. Now, they're having problems meshing with new coach Mike D'Antoni.

Pau Gasol, specifically, dislikes his new role in the fast-paced offense.

However, there is still good news behind the 8-9 start. There is plenty of time to get better and plenty of talent on the roster to win games.

In addition, Steve Nash has been out for most of the year. When he returns, this team should be as good as advertised (or close to it). 


15. Boston Celtics

There is a lot of experience on Boston's roster. The bad thing is, that also means there is a lot of age.

The question is, can players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry survive the season?


16. Indiana Pacers

The Pacers have realized how important Danny Granger is to the offense. Now, they need to find a way to score until veteran is able to return.


17. Houston Rockets

The team has been completely rebuilt from last year, and so far the results are mostly positive. 

James Harden and Omer Asik have been great, and the younger players have stepped up in bigger roles. If Jeremy Lin can play up to expectations, this team can be very good. 


18. Utah Jazz

It is difficult to win without a marquee perimeter player to take pressure off the talent in the middle.

Utah needs more production out of its guards in order to get back over .500 for the year.  


19. Dallas Mavericks

O.J. Mayo has been a perfect fit for the Dallas Mavericks so far this year. He brings youth to the team, and is having the best year of his career with an average of 20.2 points per game. 

Unfortunately, the rest of the team has been disappointing.

Without Dirk Nowitzki, the frontcourt has had trouble scoring and rebounding. The Mavericks are currently dead last in the NBA in rebounding differential, and this has hurt them in every game.

For the first time in years, Dallas is in danger of missing the playoffs.


20. Minnesota Timberwolves

The team is not much without Ricky Rubio or Kevin Love, but they are once again competitive now that the big man is back in uniform. 


21. Portland Trail Blazers

Although the starting five has been great this year, including rookie Damian Lillard, it is almost impossible to win in this league without depth. Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers do not have it. 


22. Charlotte Bobcats

After the worst season in the history of the NBA, the Bobcats have already matched their win total from last year. 

The team still cannot play defense, but it will take baby steps to go from last year to being competitive. 


23. Orlando Magic

Things certainly could be worse than a 7-10 start after losing Dwight Howard this offseason, but it is unlikely that things will get better.

The Magic are likely to be exposed over the next month and fall towards the bottom of the standings. 


24. Phoenix Suns

Goran Dragic is no Steve Nash, but he is certainly capable of running an NBA team. The problem is that the rest of the squad is full of players who should not be starting anywhere. 


25. Detroit Pistons

It is nice to win at home, but a decent NBA team can win at least some of the time on the road. Detroit has started the year 1-10 away from home, and that will not get it done at this level. 


26. New Orleans Hornets

Anthony Davis has been hurt most of this season, and Eric Gordon still has not played a minute. 

When everyone is healthy, this is a team that could at least be competitive with an eye towards contending in the future. 


27. Cleveland Cavaliers

Anderson Varejao has been simply outstanding this year. He is averaging 15.4 rebounds per game has at least 15 in each of the last nine games. 

However, a 4-14 team might make the decision to trade a player of this caliber at the top of his value. 


28. Sacramento Kings

While the Sacramento Kings were near the bottom of the NBA standings last season, there was plenty of reason to expect better this time around.

DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans were all young stars on the rise, Isaiah Thomas was becoming a solid starter at point guard and Thomas Robinson was a solid incoming forward from Kansas.

However, it seems that everyone on the team is playing worse than in the past. The players are struggling to work together on offense, and as a result are struggling to score. 

The Kings have now lost nine of their last 11 games, and look worse each game. Do not hold out hope for a turnaround this season.


29. Toronto Raptors

Only three teams allow more than the Raptors at 101.9 points per game. However, all of those teams can at least score more than Toronto. 

The team has drafted poorly and simply does not have enough overall talent to win consistently. 


30. Washington Wizards

Things will be better when John Wall comes back, right? After a 2-13 start, the Wizards can only hope that will be the case. 



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