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Power Rankings, Week 6: Balance of Power

Is Kyrie all the Cavs are lacking? Will GSW ever lose? Is the East catching up to the West in quality teams?

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Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the post-Jordan era, the Western Conference has had the NBA in a stranglehold, only loosening it for the Heat thrice and the Celts and Pistons once apiece. That's 12-5 in championships, advantage West. More impressive, though, has been the overall quality of the conference, top to bottom. Western teams with winning records regularly missed the playoffs, while the bottom 2-3 seeds in the East generally always were bad teams with sub-.500 records.

We may be seeing a shift. The aforementioned rule held true through last season, and granted, we're still relatively early in the season, but the Eastern Conference not only looks good this year, they ARE good. The top 11 teams in the East sport a 51-34 record against the West this season. 10 Eastern teams sit above .500, while the West has only 6. 11 Eastern teams are allowing fewer than 100 ppg, while the West has 3. It's true that the West scores more, but the disparity isn't that great, as 10 Western teams score above 100 ppg, while the East has 8. In fact, the East boasts 7 teams who score more than 100 ppg while holding opponents under 100 ppg. The West can't claim one.

This seeming shift in the balance of power is reflected in this week's assortment of NBA power rankings, linked below. However, the Spurs are holding steady after a 3-1 week and having won 8 of their last 10. They're unanimously seen as the 2nd best team in the land.

Marc Stein, from ESPN (Spurs rank: 2 Last week's rank: 2)

If Paul George is struggling to get attention, thanks to the spotlight-hogging Warriors and Steph Curry, what can we say about poor Kawhi Leonard? The Spurs, meanwhile, have actually held a lead for a greater percentage of their fourth-quarter minutes than the Warriors have. Which is, well, something.

USA Today (Spurs rank: 2 Last week's rank: 2)

How can a team be this good ... quietly?

John Schuhmann, (Spurs rank: 2 Last week's rank: 2)

After Monday's loss in Chicago, Gregg Popovich said his team might not be good offensively "until March." Three days later, Kawhi Leonard hit seven threes in Memphis. Two days after that, the Spurs shot 52 percent against a top-five defensive team (Boston). The San Antonio defense has been fantastic (best DefRtg vs. the league average since the '08 Celtics), but you don't win 17 of 21 without a pretty good offense.

Matt Moore, CBS Sports (Spurs rank: 2 Last week's rank: 2)

LaMarcus Aldridge sticks out like a sore thumb, Kawhi Leonard still has some problems taking over late in games, they have no 3-point shooters, and in spite of that, the Spurs are a machine of unstoppable precision and smothering defense. Nothing stops the machine.

Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated (Spurs rank: 2 Last week's rank: 2)

These guys remain unbeaten at home and have only allowed more than 90 points once in the past 10 games. As Ben Golliver points out, Gregg Popovich is leaning heavily on his starting five early on, so as usual, major minutes for aging legs will eventually become a topic. For now, guys like Manu Ginobili look just fine.

In Closing:

Perhaps the West should take to heart these lyrics from British band Balance of Power's "Chemical Imbalance:"

Rise above the chemical imbalance
If you're strong, and if you're brave
Rise above the chemical imbalance
Are you master, are you slave?