Editor's note: We got you power rankings pretty late last week. Justin gets us back on schedule today.
We're almost at the quarter mark for the NBA season and things are beginning to take shape. The Toronto Raptors are still at the top of the conference, but could be in trouble with DeMar Derozan missing at least four weeks with a groin injury. The Central Division appears to be the strongest division in the East, with four teams in position to make the playoffs and Jimmy Butler lead Chicago Bulls are starting to pull away from the .500 line.
It's still too early to be certain about anything. The Cleveland Cavaliers started last week ranked 27th in defensive efficiency and now sit in the 16th spot after their game against the Pacers. If things can swing that dramatically in one week, it probably means that things haven't quite settled yet.
That being said, here's my opinion of where the East sits heading into the month of December:
1. Toronto Raptors (1)
Their lone loss last week came to the Dallas Mavericks at home. They lost by four after losing their all-star guard Derozan in the second half. While Derozan wasn't having the most efficient season, averaging 19.4 points per game on 39.4 percent shooting from the floor and 25 percent from three, he is the workhorse that allows everybody else on the team to settle into their natural roles. How the team will fare without Derozan is still to be determined... Until they start to lose, they remain in the top spot in the East.
EDIT: They lost to the Los Angles Lakers last night. I contemplated dropping them to 16th out of 15.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (6)
If you want to move up in my subjective rankings, three consecutive blowouts is a good way to go about it. As mentioned above, the Cavs are getting it done on both ends of the court and are starting to show some resilience in-game. With the Bucks, Knicks, Raptors and Nets all on the docket this week, the Cavs are well positioned to move up in the Eastern Conference standings.
3. Chicago Bulls (2)
The Bulls didn't have the best week, losing in Denver and scrambling to come back against the feisty Boston Celtics. But with the emergence of Jimmy Butler as one of the better two-way shooting guards in the league, the Bulls should be a handful when everybody is healthy. One thing to keep an eye on... their defense has been inconsistent to this point in the season. They are ranked 11th in defensive efficiency and allow just 1.9 points fewer per 100 possession than Cleveland. While the Bulls added offensive firepower in Gasol, Rose, Mirotic and McDermott, none of those players are known for their defensive prowess. And seeing as basketball doesn't have two separate units like football, they will need to find a way to balance their offense and defense, just like the Cavs.
4. Washington Wizards (3)
You come at the King. You best not miss.
5. Atlanta Hawks (4)
Jeff Teague is playing at a very high level and Al Horford is slowing progressing towards a level that we are accustomed to seeing from him. They can light you up on any given night, or completely lay an egg. Weird team.
6. Milwaukee Bucks (7)
KNUCK IF YOU BUCK. The Bucks look like a legitimate playoff team. Their defense is making up for their inconsistencies on the offensive side of the floor. They have plenty of depth and appear to be finally moving in the right direction as a franchise.
7. Miami HEAT (6)
Closer than necessary wins against the Hornets and Knicks will do you no favors in these rankings. They're a well coached team with a star player in Chris Bosh, so they'll continue to be successful in the East. But unless Wade can find a way to stay healthy and they get more out of McRoberts and their point guards, they'll struggle to get into the top four in the East.
8. Indiana Pacers (8)
Frank Vogel is very good at his job.
9. Brooklyn Nets (10)
1st in team payroll, 1st in old age pension checks, 9th in the East, #1 in your hearts.
10. Boston Celtics (11)
They can score, they're an annoying match-up. Kelly Olynyk is not as bad as I thought he would be.
11. Orlando Magic (9)
Nice pieces, bad team.
12. New York Knicks (12)
The good news for the Knicks is that they own their first round pick this season.
13. Detroit Pistons (13)
Have lost eight straight.
14. Charlotte Hornets (14)
Have lost nine straight. #BringBackTheBobcats
15. Philadelphia 76ers (15)
I'M IN TEARS pic.twitter.com/9PE2ylccJR— Robby Kalland (@RKalland) December 1, 2014