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What are NBA power rankings?

The NBA is a very reactionary league. One team has a good game, and their praises will be sung, until the next game where they may play poorly, which then they are criticized. It’s a harsh cycle of overreactions, but it’s bound to happen; team performances are very often quite tumultuous in a 82-game season with multiple games a week. In truth, fans love the turbulence of the league, as it adds so much discussion to who really are the best teams in the league.

What are NBA power rankings? The NBA power rankings refer to lists that rank the best teams in the NBA. The rankings are released by various publications, usually on a weekly basis to account for the most recent run of games. Power rankings are subjective, and may be supported by statistics such as win/loss record, offensive and defensive rating, and other statistics. Power rankings have no impact on the actual NBA’s standings.

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How do the NBA power rankings work?

The power rankings for the NBA start off at what writers think will be the best and worst teams in the NBA, taking into consideration a few factors: previous season record and performance, offseason roster and staffing changes, preseason performance, and other factors. Then when the regular season actually starts, the power rankings see a big shakeup once their is something tangible to base an opinion on for the new season.

For example, NBA.com had the Utah Jazz at #28 in their power rankings before the regular season started. This was based on the major departures of their stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, as well as some unconvincing preseason play from their new personnel. However, just next week, the NBA.com power rankings had the Utah Jazz at #5 after a hot 3-0 start, an incredible jump of nearly 25 spots.

Just about every NBA ranking has at least these two components: the team’s power ranking and their win/loss record. Most power rankings will also have a “change” column or reference showing a team’s power ranking relative to the previous Beyond that, some power rankings may include stats like defensive rating, offensive rating, net rating (difference between offensive rating and defensive rating), pace, and other stats. Power rankings with descriptions (basically the ranker’s rationale) may feature more and different types of stats, as well as other reasons for justifying a team’s ranking as well as their change (if any) from the previous edition of the power rankings.

Speaking of change, power rankings are quite fluid. A team plays roughly 3-4 games a week, which means that a team’s performances can vary based on factors such as opponent, home vs. road games, fatigue, injuries, and even load management. Every week gives a new look at how all 30 teams play in different circumstances, which means that rankers’ opinions can potentially change with every game.

What are common statistics found in NBA power rankings?

The common statistics found in NBA power rankings were touched upon earlier: win/loss record, defensive rating, offensive rating, and net rating. But why exactly are these statistics used to support NBA power rankings? Win/loss record is pretty straightforward and also the most objective decider of which team is “best”: the team that wins the most has the most favorable position in the standings, and vice versa.

Offensive rating and defensive rating are also an often-used indicator of a team’s strength. At face value, one may determine a team’s offensive strength based on how many points they score, and a team’s defensive strength but how few points they allow. But these stats don’t account for a team’s efficiency: how does a team make the most of every possession? Pace of the game makes a difference: some teams play faster or slower and therefore have more or less possessions. This aspect of the game is something that offensive and defensive rating metrics take into consideration.

Calculating defensive rating is simple: divide the team’s points per game by the team’s possessions per game, then multiply that number by 100. This shows how many points a team would score per 100 possessions; this number can then be compared with other teams’ offensive rating, taking pace out of the equation and purely comparing offensive efficiency. The same calculation is used for defensive rating, but using points allowed per game instead.

Net rating is simply the difference between a team’s offensive rating and defensive rating. A team with a positive net rating scores more points than they allow, and a negative net rating means they allow more points than they score. Teams with strong positive net rating are considered the best teams, while teams with strong negative net rating are seen as the worst teams.

Are NBA power rankings recognized by the NBA?

No, power rankings have no sort of recognition from the NBA. These are all decided by and written up by sports writers and media outlets (any average Joe can come up with their own power rankings). Instead of power rankings, the NBA uses standings. By definition, the teams with the best records are the best teams, and the standings reflect that.

There are three types of standings: division standings, conference standings, and league standings. The most important of these are the conference standings, which have considerable playoff implications for deciding qualification, play-in games, and seeding. The standings are definitive and based on facts and statistics only. It is not uncommon to see NBA power rankings that deviate from the order of teams in the standings, as there is a level of subjectivity in these decisions.

As a fan, looking at NBA power rankings is a fun way to see what teams are considered the best teams in basketball. Many choose to look only at the facts; a team’s win/loss record is the only thing that definitively determines a team’s strength in the NBA. However, it’s not always true that the team with the best record is the team that wins the NBA championship. The championship-winning team is truly the “best” team, and the power rankings are just a series of educated guesses at who that best team will end up being.