By Matt Dollinger
December 07, 2012

Five weeks into the regular season, it's nearly impossible to determine which Western Conference team is the best.

Among the titans vying for the top seed are the Thunder, an offensive juggernut currently clicking like no other; the Grizzlies, who own the most relentless defense; and the Clippers and Spurs, who both feature offenses and defenses that rank among the elite. The Thunder this week are the third West team to lead the Power Rankings.

Meanwhile, in the East, we have a new team atop the standings and rankings (at No. 4) after the Knicks ripped off five consecutive victories. The biggest riser is the Pacers (No. 12), who passed a group of middling teams not doing themselves any favors. The biggest stumble goes to the Bobcats (No. 23), who might be coming back to reality after a dreamy start.

Let's jump in to see where all 30 teams stand:

NBA Power Rankings
1 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 4
Since: 3-0
Winners of six games in a row, the Thunder are absolutely torching teams with a league-best scoring average of 105.7 points. Oklahoma City is also dominating in every shooting category, ranking first in free-throw percentage (83.7), three-point percentage (42.1) and field-goal percentage (49.2). Four of the team's five starters are making better than 50 percent from the field and the fifth, Russell Westbrook is averaging 20.9 points and a career-high 8.7 assists. The offense has found a way to improve despite the departure of James Harden. During the six-game run, Kevin Durant and Co. are crushing opponents by an average of 18.9 points.
2 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 1
Since: 2-1
The Grizzlies continue to own the NBA's top winning percentage, despite playing the fourth-hardest schedule. Memphis hasn't allowed an opponent to score 100 points since opening night and leads the NBA in defensive efficiency at 96.4 points per 100 possessions. The offense is also producing, particularly when Zach Randolph (17.7 points, 13.3 rebounds) imposes his will down low. Z-Bo's 38 points and 22 rebounds against the Suns on Tuesday were both season highs. But Randolph has given Memphis a dependable presence almost every night, scoring in double digits in every game but one. The Grizzlies have plenty of capable scorers, but they are at their best when Randolph is leading the way, which he's done the first five weeks of the season.
3 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 3
Since: 2-0
The Spurs might not be the deepest team in the league, but they are the NBA's most resourceful. Gregg Popovich has already used a league-high 12 starters, and San Antonio has five players averaging double digits in scoring, tied for the second most. The aging Big Three will always get the attention, but San Antonio's other players deserve credit for almost (infamously) beating Miami while four of its best players sat at home. The unsung contributors have included Matt Bonner, who leads the league in three-point percentage (51.6), and Gary Neal, who dropped 27 off the bench in a game in November and fueled San Antonio's near-upset of Miami. Best of all, the veteran Spurs realize their depth is one of their biggest advantages, sharing the ball to produce a league-high 24.5 assists per game.
4 New York Knicks
Last Week: 6
Since: 4-0
Are the Knicks really this good? Their 6-0 start just seemed like a well-timed hot streak to open the season. But the shots have continued to fall and their prolonged production can no longer be overlooked. Not only has New York beaten Miami twice this season -- once by 20 points at home, the other also by 20 points on the road without Carmelo Anthony -- it has also won at San Antonio and gone 7-0 at home. With a seemingly unlimited amount of shooters and a bench as talented as it is grizzled, the Knicks have shot their way to the top of the East. Raymond Felton is playing at an elite level, J.R. Smith is shooting like 25-footers are layups and offseason additions Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer and Rasheed Wallace are all panning out. With Amar'e Stoudemire still a few weeks away from returning, suspense remains about how the Knicks' second-highest-paid player will fit in with a team that looks like it doesn't need him. But until then, New York should enjoy the ride and keep shooting like there is no tomorrow (Smith does this anyway).
5 Miami <a href=Heat" title="Miami Heat">
Last Week: 2
Since: 1-2
Miami Heat (12-5)
Pat Riley coined the phrase "disease of more" in his book Showtime to describe the 1980 Lakers, whom he explained wanted more playing time, more money and more praise after winning the title. But Riley's 2012-13 Heat don't suffer from the same type of selfishness after winning last year's championship. In fact, they might suffer from the "disease of less." Less defense, less effort and less hunger. Maybe Miami will turn it on in the playoffs and coast to a repeat, but for now it looks content to play down to its competition. Our own Rob Mahoney highlighted Miami's defensive woes this week after a loss at Washington, and that was before it got blown out at home by the Carmelo-less Knicks. The Big Three won their first title last season by stepping up their effort on defense, where Miami ranked fourth in points allowed per possession. This year, the reigning champs rank 23rd, a telltale sign of complacency.
6 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 7
Since: 3-0
The Clippers followed their four-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak, moving them back atop the Pacific. Veteran guard Chauncey Billups is once again out indefinitely, but as mentioned before, the last thing the Clippers need is backcourt help. L.A. far and away boasts the most efficient backcourt in the league, one that also ranks second in points, assists, steals and field-goal percentage. When Billups does return, the Clippers will have a difficult decision to make regarding supersub Eric Bledsoe, who owns the second-highest PER (22.5) on the team but averages the eighth-most minutes. Until then, Bledsoe will continue to see the light of day and continue to do things like this. And this. And this.
7 Atlanta <a href=Hawks" title="Atlanta Hawks">
Last Week: 8
Since: 1-1
I examined the Hawks' hot start this week, as did Grantland's Zach Lowe, who analyzed their surprising defensive success. Larry Drew and Atlanta have a lot to feel good about, but an inability to get to the line continues to be a concern. The Hawks have attempted the fewest free throws in the league and, according to Lowe's piece, are actually historically inept at drawing fouls when sixth man Lou Williams is on the bench. Said Lowe: "With Williams in the lineup, they get to the line at an above-average rate; when he sits, the Hawks get there less often, per shot attempt, than any team in NBA history, per and" That's a ringing endorsement for Williams to get more minutes if I've ever seen one.
8 Brooklyn <a href=Nets" title="Brooklyn Nets">
Last Week: 5
Since: 1-2
Brooklyn went 1-2 this week without center Brook Lopez, but gets a slight pass because the losses came to the Heat and Thunder. The Nets will need Lopez to stop their slide down these rankings, but, in the meantime, they'll try to get by with the 6-foot-11 enigma that is Andray Blatche manning the middle. With Lopez sidelined, Blatche averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds in three starts, an impressive output for a guy signed to a minimum contract after being amnestied by the league-worst Wizards. Blatche has always had talent, but he hasn't always shown the ability to use it. With a 23 PER this season, it looks like he's starting to put it together. It's amazing what a contract year can do for a player.
9 Golden State <a href=Warriors" title="Golden State Warriors">
Last Week: 11
Since: 2-1
The Warriors are off to their best start since 2005-06 and might be the biggest surprise in the West (other than the Lakers, for other reasons). Mark Jackson has turned Golden State into a respectable defensive team, bringing it from 26th to 13th in points allowed per possession despite Andrew Bogut's absence. Now it's time for him to emphasize rebounding to his team of sharpshooters, as Golden State is 10-1 when it wins the battle on the glass. It also helps that Stephen Curry is finding his stroke, shooting 19-of-34 from behind the arc over the last five games, four of which the Warriors won.
10 Boston <a href=Celtics" title="Boston Celtics">
Last Week: 10
Since: 2-1
At 35, Paul Pierce is nearing the end of his career, but he's still finding ways to produce at a high level. Problem is, Boston hasn't shown it can score with him on the bench. The Celtics average 106.8 points per 100 possessions with Pierce on the floor and just 98.5 with him off it, a difference of 8.3 points, the largest margin by far on the team. Effective as he may be, Pierce is showing some signs of age, averaging the fewest minutes of his career (33.2 per game) and shooting his lowest percentage from the field (41.7) in nine years. Boston does have reserve guards capable of scoring in Courtney Lee (45.4 percent) and Leandro Barbosa (44 percent), and Doc Rivers needs to find ways to better integrate them while giving Pierce a breather.
11 76ers/">Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 9
Since: 1-2
Thaddeus Young physically transformed last summer, adding nearly 20 pounds in anticipation of a move to power forward, but he also transformed his game. The former tweener forward is embracing his life as a big man, averaging more rebounds this season (7.4 from 5.2) and upping his shooting percentage (52.8 from 50.7), both products of more time spent in the paint. Young attempted 164 three-pointers during his second season, in 2008-09. In a testament to his transformation, he has attempted none in 2012-13.
12 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 19
Since: 3-1
A 6-2 run has put the Pacers above .500 for the first time in more than a month. Indiana continues to rely heavily on its defense, which is giving up the second-fewest points, while its offense continues to sputter. With Roy Hibbert struggling in his first year of a max contract and Danny Granger sidelined indefinitely, Paul George and David West have been asked to carry the load. Indiana is 5-1 when George scores at least 16 points, and the third-year swingman is starting to show he can fill some of the void left by Granger. George exploded for 34 points to carry Indiana over Chicago on Tuesday and followed it up with 22 points in a win over Portland. Without Granger, Indiana needs George to continue to thrive on offense and assume the attitude of a go-to-scorer.
13 Chicago <a href=Bulls" title="Chicago Bulls">
Last Week: 17
Since: 2-1
Derrick Rose might be just a few weeks away from returning, giving Bulls fans reason to believe Chicago can be a legit contender in 2013. Tom Thibodeau has used his typical stingy defense (league-low 90.9 points per game) to keep the Bulls around .500, but with a healthy Rose, Chicago is as good of a threat as any to challenge Miami in the playoffs. Rose's ability as a playmaker makes the Bulls a dynamic team on both ends. Without him, the Bulls are elite on only one side of the ball, but even that is still enough to keep them in the top half of the league.
14 Houston <a href=Rockets" title="Houston Rockets">
Last Week: 18
Since: 2-0
The Rockets have averaged 111.6 points in their last six games, leading to five wins. Houston's horde of shooters continue to bomb away, lofting 26.4 triples per game, second in the league. When they fall, Houston is as good as anyone. The Rockets are averaging a staggering 109.1 points in victories; in losses, just 97.6. Houston is shooting below the league average (17th) from behind the arc, but has reason to believe it'll get better, as James Harden (32.6) and Jeremy Lin (25.6) are both shooting below their career averages.
15 Utah <a href=Jazz" title="Utah Jazz">
Last Week: 12
Since: 1-3
Utah Jazz (10-10)
The Jazz continue their quest to be the most dominant frontcourt team in all of the land, but at what point do they give up and trade for a little balance? Utah boasts four quality players up front in Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but the cupboard remains close to bare in the backcourt. The front-office duo of Dennis Lindsey and Kevin O'Connor should be scouring every option.
16 Denver <a href=Nuggets" title="Denver Nuggets">
Last Week: 13
Since: 1-2
The Nuggets have scored at least 100 points in eight straight games, but have also allowed opponents to surpass the century mark in their last five, four of which have been losses. Defense will always be the linchpin to Denver's success. Denver is allowing just 93.3 points in victories and a mile-high 108 in losses. The Nuggets expected improvement when they added Andre Iguodala and better utilized shot-blocking/goal-tending big man JaVale McGee. Instead, their defense has actually gotten worse, falling from 19th in points allowed per possession in 2011-12 to 24th this season.
17 Milwaukee <a href=Bucks" title="Milwaukee Bucks">
Last Week: 14
Since: 1-3
No one in the league has taken a bigger step back than Ersan Ilyasova, who has struggled after receiving a five-year, $40 million deal last summer. He is shooting just 34.8 percent on all jump shots and a horrendous 22.9 from three-point range (after 45.5 last season). His production per 36 minutes has gone from 17 points and 11.5 rebounds last season to 11.7 and 7.4 this season. Milwaukee's second-highest-paid player has lost his starting job in coach Scott Skiles' ever-changing rotation.
18 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 15
Since: 2-2
It's never boring with these guys, but part of the pain is self-inflicted. Let's get some facts out of the way: Dwight Howard is well on his way to leading the league in free-throw attempts for the fifth time in six years. This season, he's also shooting a career-low 46.9 percent from the stripe. In fact, only five other players have attempted as many free throws as he has missed. So it's with great restraint that I don't use all capital letters when I ask, Why is Mike D'Antoni keeping Howard in at the end of games? The coach is obviously worried about Howard's confidence. D'Antoni defended his decision not to yank Howard when he's being intentionally fouled by saying, "You've got a player who's going to be your franchise player, you don't do that to him." But you know what you also don't do to your franchise player? Leave him in the game to be humiliated and cost you the game. Howard's performance (9-of-21 from the free-throw line) against the Magic was a painfully embarrassing way to lose to his former team. If D'Antoni is genuinely worried about Howard's psyche, he'll shield him in the future from similar scenarios. Hack-A-Howard might be bad for the NBA, but it's even worse for Dwight.
19 Dallas <a href=Mavericks" title="Dallas Mavericks">
Last Week: 20
Since: 2-1
Is this deja vu all over again for Darren Collison? After starting the first 135 games of his tenure as a Pacer, Collison lost the job to George Hill with four games left in the regular season last year. Collison struggled with his demotion to the bench, and the Pacers traded him to Dallas in the offseason. But Collison looked rejuvenated by the fresh start in Dallas, averaging 16.2 points and 7.2 assists in the Mavs' 4-1 start. Since then, Collison has been on a steady decline once again, leading to his stunning benching four games ago and the left-field signing of Derek Fisher, who has started every game since. Will Collison be able to avoid repeating last season's plight? After two quiet performances, Collison scored 16 points and went 10-of-12 at the line to spark Dallas over Phoenix on Thursday. We'll find out in the coming games whether Collison's benching was a demotion or a wake-up call.
20 Minnesota <a href=Timberwolves" title="Minnesota Timberwolves">
Last Week: 21
Since: 2-1
The Wolves' offense is starting to show some signs of life with Kevin Love firmly entrenched in the middle. Minnesota averaged 98 points in its three games last week, a significant jump from its 93.3 season average. Things should be even better once Love fully recovers from his broken right hand, which appears to be severely hindering his shooting:
Season Games Points FG% 3P% FT% eFG% (effective)
2011-12 55 26.0 44.8 37.2 82.4 49.7
2012-13 8 19.0 36.1 19.6 64.9 39.5

After shooting 1-of-5 from three-point range and 6-of-12 from the free-throw line in Wednesday's loss at Boston, Love admitted that his "touch" is off. Once Love regains his form and Ricky Rubio returns, Minnesota will be dangerous.
21 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 24
Since: 2-2
The Magic were ribbed for their lackluster bounty in the Dwight Howard trade, but it's starting to look like they made the right move by passing on Andrew Bynum, as USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt notes. Orlando might not have gotten a franchise player in return, but Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic and a bunch of draft picks and cap space is a lot more attractive right now than the injured Bynum, who is out indefinitely and may never actually suit up for the 76ers. Somewhere, Rob Hennigan is smiling. Actually, the entire franchise is probably still beaming after its Hollywood upset of Howard and the Lakers this week.
22 Portland <a href=Trail Blazers" title="Portland Trail Blazers">
Last Week: 23
Since: 2-2
The vultures are out for LaMarcus Aldridge, who recently responded to criticism about his shot selection. Aldridge said skeptics will always find something to "nitpick," but it's not nitpicking to notice the big man is averaging a carer high in attempts (18.3) and a career low in field-goal percentage (45.5). Aldridge is still putting up solid numbers at 20.7 points and eight rebounds per game, but with little depth surrounding him, he needs to be even better for the Trail Blazers to sniff respectability.
23 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 16
Since: 0-3
The Bobcats' five-game skid has featured a little bit of everything, beginning with a 45-point throttling in Oklahoma City and ending with a buzzer-beating loss at home to the Knicks. The one constant? Poor defense. Opponents are averaging 106 points during that stretch and hitting 11.6 threes per game. For the most part this season, Charlotte's struggles have been on offense, but Mike Dunlap needs to address the defensive deficiencies to stop the bleeding.
24 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 22
Since: 0-4
Phoenix Suns (7-13)
No team has stuck out its neck more than the Suns this season. First they gave $30 million to a player (Goran Dragic) they traded just 18 months before for a guy no longer on the team (Aaron Brooks). Then they took a flier on Michael Beasley, a known enigma and a suspected bust, who couldn't catch on in Minnesota. Then finally, in the gutsiest move of all: Satisfaction Guaranteed Night. For a team well under .500, one that owns the league's worst defense, it was a pretty bold move to offer a money-back guarantee to fans not satisfied by Thursday night's game against Dallas. The Suns lost, almost guaranteeing an unsatisfactory experience. Now the Suns have to open up the coffers after their bold proclamation blew up in their face.
25 Detroit <a href=Pistons" title="Detroit Pistons">
Last Week: 25
Since: 1-3
The Pistons are holding opponents to just 42.9 percent shooting, good for fourth in the league, but it's their own inability to put the ball in the basket that's negating that success. Detroit ranks 24th in offensive efficiency and averages the sixth-fewest points. Its two leading scorers, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, are doing their best, but they also might be trying to do too much. Both players rank in the top five in the league in turnovers, accounting for nearly half of the team's 15.8 turnovers per game.
26 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 26
Since: 1-2
Ryan Anderson's transition to volume shooter for the Hornets has been a success story. The big man has attempted and made more three-pointers than anyone in the NBA, but he's also one of the league's most efficient shooters. He's shooting 43.5 percent from downtown and his effective field-goal percentage of 59.6 ranks sixth. That's led Anderson (18.3 ppg) to crack the top 20 in scoring despite coming off the bench for most of November. His attempts will go down once Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon return, but Anderson is proving to be a more than respectable No. 1 option in the interim. Unfortunately for New Orleans, the rest of the options are the problem.
27 Sacramento <a href=Kings" title="Sacramento Kings">
Last Week: 27
Since: 1-2
The Kings own the second longest playoff drought in the league and have little hope of ending it anytime soon. With such dire circumstances in Sacramento, SB Nation's Tom Ziller is calling for GM Geoff Petrie's job and begging for the Kings to be run "like an actual basketball team," not one with a foot out the door. Outside of DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings have little to hang their hat on. Whether the Kings move or not, it might be time for a change at the top for a team that's been on the bottom for way too long.
28 Cleveland <a href=Cavaliers" title="Cleveland Cavaliers">
Last Week: 28
Since: 1-3
Despite being an occasional visitor to Byron Scott's doghouse, Dion Waiters is exceeding expectations for a 20-year-old rookie. This year's No. 4 pick is being asked to carry a heavy load with Kyrie Irving sidelined. He's second among rookies in points, minutes and steals and also ranks third in assists. He's also proving to be a threat from three-point range (35.5 percent), which was one of his biggest question marks coming out of Syracuse. He's had nine multi-trey games and became the third player in history with a made three-pointer in his first 10 games in the NBA.
29 Toronto <a href=Raptors" title="Toronto Raptors">
Last Week: 29
Since: 1-2
DeMar DeRozan has stepped up his game in nearly every statistical category this season, but the numbers don't tell the full story of his evolution. Luckily, CBS Sports' Matt Moore does just that in his fantastic profile of Toronto's fourth-year guard. Moore explains that DeRozan is finally realizing the importance of the game played between his ears and might be mentally ready to make the leap on the hardwood. It can't come soon enough. The Raptors have lost eight of nine.
30 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 30
Since: 1-1
The Wizards pulled off the biggest upset of the year with their 105-101 win over the Heat. And yes, Miami played all of its starters. (Oddly enough, Washington has actually now beaten Miami three times in a row.) It might be time for Randy Wittman to mix up his rotation. In Washington's two wins, the bench has outscored the starters. And against the Heat, the gap was drastic, with the reserves putting up 64 to the starters' 41. Giving in to shot-happy Jordan Crawford is dangerous, but it might be necessary while John Wall continues to rehab.

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