By Matt Dollinger
November 06, 2012

What a difference a week -- and a trade -- can make.

Just seven days into the season the NBA landscape already looks drastically different than we anticipated. Much of that can be credited to the blockbuster trade involving James Harden just three days before the season. The rest can be chalked up to peculiar starts by a slew of would-be contenders, most notably a trio in the Western Conference.

There's already trouble in Tinseltown following the new-look Lakers' 1-3 start. The Thunder are still suffering from post-Harden stress disorder and dealing with the ongoing power struggle between their two remaining stars. And the Nuggets remain winless despite mile-high hype during the preseason and a mountain of talent.

But the first week also produced several positive storylines, highlighted by two outstanding starts separated by just 200 Texas miles. In Houston, Harden has wasted little time transitioning from Sixth Man to The Man, leading the league in scoring at 35.5 points per game and turning the Rockets into one of the most exciting teams in the league. And just when you think the league has lost its sense of normalcy, we're reminded that the annually overlooked Spurs are once again in position to make a title run.

What that in mind, it's time to give the Texas twosome their due and break down where all 30 NBA teams stand in's Power Rankings.

NBA Power Rankings
1 Miami <a href=Heat" title="Miami Heat">
Last Week: 1
Miami Heat (3-1)
Not only did former Celtic Ray Allen give Miami the boost it was hoping for on opening night, but he also lifted the team again four nights later with a game-winning shot against Denver. Those victories bookended a head-scratching 20-point road loss against the Knicks, but we'll write that off to an unconscious Carmelo Anthony and a fired-up Madison Square Garden crowd. The Heat could hit similar speed bumps throughout the regular season as they work Allen and Rashard Lewis into the rotation, but it'll take a lot more to dislodge LeBron James and Co. from atop these rankings.
2 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 5
No team is better at flying under the radar than the Spurs (just ask their fans). But once again San Antonio is poised to contend in the West and it has the same familiar faces to thank. It has been six years since Tim Duncan finished as a 20-and-10 guy, but he's close through four games (19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds, to be exact). Tony Parker is once again playing like an MVP candidate, and the team has yet to benefit from a completely healthy Manu Ginobili. Gregg Popovich's group might cool off in the weeks to come, but don't expect the Spurs to fall far from the top. With Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green on the wing, San Antonio has reinforcements to help shoulder the load when the veteran stars need a night off. And unlike other contenders in the West (see: Lakers, Thunder), you won't find any chemistry issues in San Antonio.
3 New York Knicks
Last Week: 12
It was easy to poke fun at the Knicks' geriatric roster this offseason, but the old men are having the last laugh after New York's first 3-0 start since 1999-2000. Jason Kidd's unselfish ways appear to be rubbing off as the Knicks (even Carmelo Anthony!) shared the ball and played team basketball in their first three wins. But most of the credit for New York's hot start goes to Melo, who not only is averaging 26 points but, more important, is also stepping up his all-around game. If this is the year Carmelo "gets it," the Knicks are going places. That is assuming Amar'e Stoudemire's return doesn't throw a wrench in the team's offensive flow.
4 Los Angeles <a href=Clippers" title="Los Angeles Clippers">
Last Week: 4
The Lakers' offseason moves got all the hype, but the Clippers' addition of Jamal Crawford is paying the biggest dividends through four games. The former Sixth Man Award winner struggled mightily in Portland last season, averaging his fewest minutes since '02-03 and shooting his worst percentage from the field since his rookie season. But Crawford appears to have rediscovered his game in L.A. He's leading the team in scoring at 24 points per game and might be the pure scorer Chris Paul and Blake Griffin needed. Back-to-back losses to Golden State and Cleveland are a cause for concern, but the Clips remain high in the rankings thanks to early wins over the Grizzlies and Lakers.
5 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 3
It has been a bad week for Oklahoma City fans. Not only did the Thunder break up a core that led them to the Finals last season, but they've also stumbled out of the gate and done as much bickering as winning. Maybe giving up one of the most unselfish -- and most talented -- players in the league wasn't a good idea. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have always had a power struggle, but they had to keep their complaints relatively muted considering ex-teammate Harden, one of the top shooting guards in the league, selflessly accepted a role coming off the bench. Now Durant and Westbrook find themselves trying to do more than they should, which has resulted in two disappointing losses. Durant is averaging 5.3 turnovers, while Westbrook is shooting 38.1 percent from the field. Meanwhile, the player the Thunder chose to keep over Harden, Serge Ibaka, is averaging just 8.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. The last few years Oklahoma City epitomized team basketball. Let's hope this small-market favorite doesn't turn into a big-ego disaster.
6 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 2
Well, we can throw 82-0 out the window. The start to the star-studded Lakers' season was as anticlimactic as they come. A head-scratching loss to the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks on opening night was compounded by a loss at Portland the next and a disappointing defeat to the crosstown Clippers two days later. Luckily for the Lakers, a visit from the woeful Pistons seemed to cure all woes. But it won't cure Steve Nash's left-leg injury, which could keep him out up to a month. The biggest issue surrounding the Lakers is their identity. Who do they want to be? The team's newly implemented Princeton offense took most of the flak during the first week, but some growing pains should be expected. No one is hitting the panic button in L.A., but maybe we were foolish to assume this group would turn into a dynasty overnight.
7 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 10
Credit Rick Carlisle for the Mavericks' surprising start. Dallas' coach is squeezing every ounce of talent out of his short-handed roster while Dirk Nowitzki is on the mend. The Mavs' three leading scorers are new to the team and the backcourt duo of O.J. Mayo (21.5 points) and Darren Collison (16.5) has been a revelation. Collison's ability to push the ball was one of the biggest reasons why the Mavs upset the Lakers, and Mayo has already produced two 30-point games thanks in part to dead-eye shooting from downtown (66.7 percent). The Mavericks will likely slow things down upon Nowitzki's return, but until then, expect Carlisle to keep pressing the pace.
8 Boston <a href=Celtics" title="Boston Celtics">
Last Week: 6
A loss at Miami in the opener is forgivable. A double-digit defeat at home against the Bucks? Not so much. The Celtics then needed Paul Pierce's best (27 points) to edge the Wizards and avoid an 0-3 start. So what gives? It starts with new sixth man Jason Terry, whom Boston is banking on to help replace Allen but is shooting just 38.1 percent. Courtney Lee, who is taking Allen's place in the starting lineup, has a Player Efficency Rating of only 7.5. And 36-year-old Kevin Garnett (13 points, 7.7 rebounds) is playing like, well, 36-year-old Kevin Garnett. Two home games and a rematch against the Bucks should help this week, but if they can't get back on track, no one should panic when it comes to Doc Rivers' bunch. Boston started 5-9 last season and still made the Eastern Conference finals.
9 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 13
No one in the NBA will look forward to playing the Grizzlies this year. The frontcourt duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph is averaging 36.3 points and 23 rebounds, and point guard Mike Conley is off to a good start with his shooting. As Grantland's Jonathan Abrams showed us in his behind-the-scenes look of Memphis, this team is as tough as they come. Time will tell if those 10-second sprints pay off.
10 Brooklyn <a href=Nets" title="Brooklyn Nets">
Last Week: 7
One bright spot has already emerged from the new Barclays Center -- Brook Lopez. After missing all but five games last season, the big man put up 27 points in the team's season opener and followed with 13 and nine rebounds the next time out. The Nets did blow a 22-point lead to the Timberwolves in that second game, but they were without Gerald Wallace. Let's give the Nets more time before we make a serious ruling.
11 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 27
The Rockets were on the brink of a lost season until they swung the blockbuster deal that netted Harden and transformed them into playoff contenders. Is rising 16 spots a little ridiculous? Sure. But at this point in the season, it's hard to tell who is for real and who just has a hot hand. Houston wasn't able to land the big man it wanted this offseason, but its consolation prize is one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league. Harden is leading the league in scoring (35.3 points) with a dynamite PER (26.02), while Jeremy Lin is averaging a Kidd-esque stat line of 15.3 points, 7.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds. If the first week is any indication, general manager Daryl Morey's topsy-turvy summer and preseason could turn out to be a smashing success.
12 Indiana <a href=Pacers" title="Indiana Pacers">
Last Week: 9
Things haven't been easy for the Pacers. They needed a George Hill buzzer-beater to sink the Raptors and then double overtime at home to outlast the Kings. Then there's the one-point loss at Charlotte that snapped the Bobcats' 23-game losing streak. The team is obviously feeling the loss of Danny Granger, who is still out indefinitely, but David West has done an admirable job providing scoring and leadership in his absence. Paul George is averaging a double-double, but, as a 22-point loss to the Spurs on Monday showed, Indiana needs more from its new-look bench to survive without Granger.
13 Chicago <a href=Bulls" title="Chicago Bulls">
Last Week: 14
The Bulls are off to a solid start despite Kirk Hinrich's struggles. Derrick Rose's replacement is averaging just 4.7 points on 26.3 percent shooting. But Chicago has gotten a nice boost from its other point-guard addition, Nate Robinson, who has contributed 12.7 points off the bench and had 16 points and 12 assists against the Cavs. The Bulls need Robinson's scoring in the second unit, but they also need Hinrich to keep opponents honest and space the floor when he's on the court.
14 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 21
After upsetting Boston, Milwaukee downed Cleveland with a buzzer-beater from Brandon Jennings. Jennings played hero, but Mike Dunleavy put up 29 points on 10-of-12 shooting with 12 rebounds and six assists. Dunleavy has made up for Ersan Ilyasova's slow start and backup Beno Udrih has done the same for Monta Ellis, who is shooting just 35 percent. The Bucks get three days off before facing the Grizzlies at home on Wednesday.
15 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 15
With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio sidelined, the Wolves are still playing at a high level behind Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko, highlighted by an impressive rally at Brooklyn. Coach Rick Adelman is playing 10 guys more than 14 minutes per game. Brandon Roy's comeback effort hasn't gotten off to the start he hoped (6.7 points on 29.2 percent shooting), but he'll have plenty of chances to find his stroke in the offense.
16 Atlanta <a href=Hawks" title="Atlanta Hawks">
Last Week: 16
The Hawks ran into a red-hot Harden, who scored 45 points, in their opening loss, but then notched an impressive win at Oklahoma City -- without Josh Smith, no less. You have to like what GM Danny Ferry has done with the roster. New sixth man Louis Williams is averaging 20.5 points and filling the void left by Joe Johnson. A healthy Al Horford is anchoring the middle, and new additions DeShawn Stevenson, Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow are playing their roles admirably. If the Hawks continue to spread the floor with their horde of shooters, they could be one of this year's biggest surprises.
17 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 8
A sexy preseason pick, Denver faced the unenviable task of opening with a three-game road trip, but that doesn't excuse a 13-point loss to the Magic. As expected, George Karl has unleashed a balanced scoring attack that features five double-digit scorers, but something feels off. JaVale McGee is outplaying Kosta Koufos, but the latter is starting. Danilo Gallinari is leading the team at 18 points per game, but shooting just 25.8 percent. And the defense is off to a slow start. All of it adds up to a first-week disappointment.
18 Portland <a href=Trail Blazers" title="Portland Trail Blazers">
Last Week: 18
Lee Jenkins and I were the only ones at brave enough to tab Damian Lillard as our pick for Rookie of the Year, but the bandwagon is filling up quickly after four games, even if people aren't sure yet how to pronounce his name. They'll learn fast. The point guard is showing poise beyond his years, becoming just the third player in history to tally at least 20 points and 10 assists in his debut, against the Lakers. He then turned in an equally impressive performance (20 points, nine assists, six rebounds) in an OT win against the Rockets three nights later. If Lillard keeps this up, he'll take home the rookie hardware and keep Portland relevant all season.
19 Golden State <a href=Warriors" title="Golden State Warriors">
Last Week: 19
The already injury-prone Warriors suffered a painful blow when they lost Brandon Rush for the season to a torn ACL in just the second game. The silver lining will be the increased role for rookie Harrison Barnes, who has been starting alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson but playing just 21.8 minutes per game. Mark Jackson would also be wise to continue relying heavily on supersub Jarrett Jack, who has played well. But he hasn't been Golden State's best newcomer. That distinction goes to Carl Landry, who is averaging 16.5 points and 7.0 rebounds off the bench.
20 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 20
A mild concussion has temporarily sidelined Anthony Davis, but his 21-point, seven-rebound debut against Duncan and the Spurs showed that he belongs in the league. Unfortunately for the Hornets, their injury woes don't end there. While Eric Gordon will avoid knee surgery, he'll still miss 4-6 weeks. Not exactly the start you want from the player you signed to a max deal. And Austin Rivers has already suffered two scary ankle sprains, although he's been able to shake off both. Give credit for their 2-1 start to the effective play of offseason additions Robin Lopez and Ryan Anderson, along with the wherewithal of coach Monty Williams.
21 Cleveland <a href=Cavaliers" title="Cleveland Cavaliers">
Last Week: 23
As expected, Kyrie Irving has been excellent, averaging 23.8 points and 6.0 assists. Not as expected has been the immediate emergence of rookie Dion Waiters, who is second on the team in scoring (16.3 points) and putting a forgettable preseason behind him. Cleveland has also gotten a huge lift from Anderson Varejao (14.0 points, 15.0 rebounds). There's no doubt the Cavs are in the middle of a youth movement, but if their young core continues to play well, they can still have a positive season. And maybe even a winning one.
22 76ers/">Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 12
Andrew Bynum has yet to take the floor, but he's been providing plenty of amusement off it. As for his teammates who are playing, they suffered back-to-back losses to the torrid Knicks after defeating the former face of their franchise, Andre Iguodala, and the Nuggets in the opener. Philadelphia is hoping to have Bynum back soon, but the team also needs more from former No. 2 pick Evan Turner (9.0 points on 28 percent shooting). The 76ers have plenty of talent, but finding the right combinations could be tricky.
23 Utah <a href=Jazz" title="Utah Jazz">
Last Week: 17
Utah Jazz (1-3)
Utah opened by beating the Mavericks, but then proceeded to lose every game on its three-game road trip. Mo Williams has been the Jazz's best player, which isn't a good sign if the team hopes to make the playoffs. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson will need to dominate the paint in order for Utah to win. That won't be easy Wednesday when Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol come to town. To make matters worse, the Jazz then turn around and travel to Denver to face the Nuggets, who will be itching to rebound from their 0-3 start.
24 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 28
The rebuilding Magic got off to a nice start with wins over Denver and Phoenix -- but is this what they want? When the Magic were forced to part with Howard, they didn't embrace rebuilding wholeheartedly, and it could cost them. With veterans like Glen Davis, Arron Afflalo, J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson leading the way, the Magic will be competitive on a nightly basis and could finish in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. Ultimately, that would mean fewer Ping-Pong balls in next spring's lottery and less chance of landing the type of franchise player they need to turn things around. The loss of Hedo Turkoglu sets them back, but Orlando needs to make a conscious decision if it wants to rebuild or compete for a playoff spot. Anything in between is no-man's land.
25 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 25
The Raptors can credit Kyle Lowry for their respectable start, which has included narrow losses to the Pacers and Nets and a victory against the Timberwolves. The former Rocket has led them in scoring in each of their first three games and has given them the leader they've sorely lacked. Andrea Bargnani remains allergic to rebounding (2.3 per game), but Toronto's other building block, DeMar DeRozan, has played well after signing his $40 million extension. Make no mistake, the Raptors are rebuilding this year, but at least they have a blueprint now.
26 Phoenix <a href=Suns" title="Phoenix Suns">
Last Week: 26
The Suns' three-headed attack of Luis Scola, Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat has played well in its first week together, as has ex-Sun-turned-current-Sun Goran Dragic. But Phoenix has a glaring whole and seemingly no answer at shooting guard. Alvin Gentry has started Jared Dudley at the position in the team's first four games, a well-intentioned effort that is producing miserable results. Dudley isn't athletic enough to defend even the slowest 2-guards, and his six-point scoring average really makes "shooting guard" a misnomer. Wesley Johnson, Shannon Brown and rookie P.J. Tucker are the only other options on the roster. Gentry might be wise to plug one in the starting lineup to see if he can generate some more offense from the wing.
27 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 29
The Kings could be in for a long year. They came close to winning in Indiana, but managed to score just seven points total in two overtime periods. It's hard to single out a bright spot so far. DeMarcus Cousins is averaging a respectable 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds, but Tyreke Evans (11.0 points) continues to confound. Jimmer Fredette has barely gotten off the bench and his days appear numbered as Aaron Brooks and Isaiah Thomas continue to garner minutes in Keith Smart's rotation. Sacramento has plenty of intriguing talent, but do any of the parts fit? A midseason shakeup is likely if this group continues to perform like this.
28 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 30
The Bobcats mercifully snapped their 23-game losing streak with a season-opening win. Kemba Walker scored a career-high 30 points and first-year coach Mike Dunlap's defense frustrated the Pacers all night. But alas, it would not last. The next night Charlotte suffered a 27-point blowout against Dallas in a game where Brendan Haywood (14 points, 11 rebounds) was its best player. Offseason additions will make the Bobcats better than last season, but another season in or near the NBA cellar is all but unavoidable.
29 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 22
Life without John Wall isn't going to be easy for the Wizards. Filling in for the former No. 1 pick is A.J. Price, a third-string point guard last season and now the unlikeliest of starters. When your point guard is shooting 21.7 percent, you're in trouble. And when your starting shooting guard, lottery pick Bradley Beal, is shooting 15.4 percent, you're doomed. The Wizards don't have too many options other than to wait for Wall's return and hope their young backcourt finds the bottom of the net a little more often.
30 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 24
The Pistons had the unfortunate task of shutting down Harden in his first game as a Rocket. That didn't go well. Neither did facing the 0-3 Lakers on their home floor four nights later. To make matters worse, Detroit faces a brutal four-game road stretch this week to complete a six-game trip. If the Pistons can't beat the Kings in Sacramento on Wednesday, an 0-7 start is more than likely. One reason for Detroit's early struggles is the poor play of Rodney Stuckey, who is averaging 3.3 points on a mind-boggling 1-of-23 shooting. He was once viewed as a player Detroit could build around, but now he's being outplayed by rookies Kim English and Kyle Singler.

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