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2015-16 NBA Power Rankings Watch — Week 5: Pulling Out of a Nosedive

Some thought all seemed lost, but maybe their worries will be all for naught?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Rankings Roundup

Outlet Ranker Ranking Change Comment
ESPN Marc Stein 14 It's a good thing almost no one looks at division standings anymore, because the Clips would certainly find it unsettling to be fielding regular questions about how they're already 8 1/2 games behind the Warriors when we haven't even reached December. Maybe all is not lost, though: L.A. is still No. 4 in offensive efficiency despite its bench woes.
CBS Sports Matt Moore 12 +7 The pattern is getting boring at this point. The Clippers lose a bunch of games they should win, everyone laments why they aren't better, ask if they need to shake things up, then they quietly go on a little run and slip under the radar until we start to say "Watch out for the Clippers" again. Then they slip on a banana peel again. There's just little to suggest this season will be any different for the Clippers at this point. David Aldridge 13 -4 Lance Stephenson finally out of mothballs. John Schuhmann 15 +2 Doc Rivers' desperation reached the point where Luc Mbah a Moute went from garbage-time specialist on Friday to starter on Sunday. But the Clippers have won three of their last four games, holding their opponents under a point per possession, to get back on the right side of .500. Paul Pierce has played just 32 minutes over the last three games, but his four baskets on Sunday were the most he's made since opening night.
Sports Illustrated Jeremy Woo 12 +2 Give the Clippers credit for reversing course, putting away three opponents they needed to beat, and backing up their talk of urgency. The roster remains flawed, with too many ball-needy guards and not enough perimeter shooting, but for now, the positive results will do.
NBC Sports Kurt Helin 15 +2 The last couple games this team has looked more like its old self, like it’s breaking out of its doldrums, like Sunday beating Minnesota. When Pacers coach Frank Vogel was asked about so many teams hanging around .500 in the NBA and who would break out, he quickly pointed to the Clippers.
Average 13.5 +1.5

Last time we checked in, the Clippers were firmly entrenched as a top-5 team. A lot can happen in two weeks' time.

The team went 3-1 last week, hopefully putting an end to a 2-7 slide. This has resulted in mild gains in most rankings, where they rest in the 10-15. Interestingly enough, David Aldridge chose to drop the team four spots (and even more interestingly, he had them at #9 last week!), but every other ranker either kept the team steady or bumped them up a few spots.

With a three-game homestand this week, they have a pretty good chance of continuing their recent run of success, although two of those games are against teams with winning records.

National Top Ten

Rank Team ESPN CBS NBA SI NBC Average
1 Golden State Warriors 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
2 San Antonio Spurs 2 2 2 2 2 2.0
3 Cleveland Cavaliers 3 4 3 3 3 3.2
4 Indiana Pacers 5 3 4 5 5 4.4
5 Oklahoma City Thunder 4 8 5 4 4 5.0
6 Miami Heat 7 5 6 6 6 6.0
7 Toronto Raptors 6 6 7 7 7 6.6
8 Chicago Bulls 8 7 8 8 9 8.0
9 Atlanta Hawks 11 10 9 10 10 10.0
10 Dallas Mavericks 13 11 10 9 8 10.2

A lot of us wrote Indiana off after an 0-3 start, but they've been on a torrid pace since then. Surprisingly, they've managed to keep a top-5 defense despite their thin frontcourt. Most of the credit for their success goes to Paul George, who is just kicking ass this season. The 2nd best player so far this season (after Steph Curry) is probably a toss-up between him and Blake Griffin right now (the two are posting nearly identical statlines). They won't be an easy game for the Clippers Wednesday, even though the Lakers just took them to the buzzer.

The surprising rise of the East continues, with six of the top nine spots in the consensus power rankings. I'm still not sold entirely, although it's nearly impossible at this point to deny that the conference is noticeably better than in years past. I still believe that a lot of the West teams underachieving so far will return to form eventually (*cough* Pelicans *cough*). Miami and Toronto look like the most convincing competition to Cleveland's dominance in the East, although Indiana might join them if they continue to shoot the lights out of everything.

Metrics Watch

Metric Number Ranking
Win Percentage .529 T-14th
Margin of Victory +0.9 15th
Net Efficiency +2.2 11th
Strength of Schedule .517 8th
Expected Winning Percentage .535 15th
Simple Rating System +1.68 13th
Relative Percent Index .520 11th

Although they've been a statistical heavyweight in years past (second in MOV/net efficiency for two years running), the Clippers haven't quite maintained that profile so far this year. A difficult schedule only explains some of their poor play thus far. Last week gave us some good signs, though. They blew out opponents for the first time this year (including a wire-to-wire lambasting of the Pelicans), and all their victories were games that weren't in doubt in the final minutes. If we see more of this going forward, it shouldn't be long till they re-enter at least the top five in most metrics.