NBA Power Rankings, Nov. 26-Dec. 10
by Josh Nagel - 12/11/2007
The Celtics and the Magic finally have given the Eastern Conference some long-needed credibility. All it took was some major superstars heading east through trades and free-agency signings. Rashard Lewis made Orlando an instant contender, and the big three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have brought Celtics fans the winning club they have longed for since the Larry Bird days of long ago. However, the Western Conference is still thriving, although the Spurs are without Tim Duncan because of injury and the Mavericks have slumped a bit. Here are the NBA power rankings through Dec. 10:
1. Boston -- 17-2. The Celtics have shown no signs of slowing down so far, covering lines of12 at home against the Raptors and six on the road against Chicago over the weekend, running their ATS record to an astounding 14-5.
2. San Antonio -- 17-3. Most sports teams don't let players lose their jobs because of injury, so we won't drop the Spurs in the rankings because of one, either. In fact, they had huge wins against Dallas and Utah last week with Tim Duncan out of the lineup. Not that they can't use his help, but with a determined Manu Ginobli and solid contributions across the board, the Spurs are still a tough out.
3. Orlando -- 16-6. A stunning 17-5 ATS, the Magic have taken care of opponents they are supposed to beat and have been surprisingly strong on the road. The one blip last week was a home loss to Indiana that snapped a seven-game win streak straight up and ATS, and another to Atlanta on Monday night.
4. Phoenix -- 16-5. The Suns have split their last six ATS and are 10-11 overall ATS. A big upcoming road trip against top teams in the West will help determine where they stand. They have been inconsistent thus far.
5. Utah -- 13-8. The surging Jazz continue to impress behind budding superstar Deron Williams. However, they missed a chance to put the West on notice by losing to the Duncan-less Spurs in San Antonio last week.
6. Detroit -- 14-6. The Pistons are 7-1 ATS and straight up and appear to have found their stride. When Rasheed Wallace decides to do something other than shoot three-pointers, his low-post presence helps out Chaucey Billups, Richard Hamilton and friends.
7. Dallas -- 15-8. The Mavericks sure seem to be in a funk for a team that has won two-thirds of its games thus far. A home loss to the Nuggets last week was out of character, and there are rumors of player discontent under Avery Johnson. But it's no time to panic.
8. Denver -- 13-8. The surging Nuggets are starting to show signs of how explosive their lineup can be when it's clicking. Allen Iverson looked like he was in his prime in the past few games, Carmelo Anthony has been dominant and the rest of the players are filling roles nicely.
9. New Orleans -- 14-7. The Hornets have lost three straight ATS but have won four of five straight up. Their surprising start can be attributed to rising superstar Chris Paul reaching a new level of play and solid role players who fit cohesively.
10. L.A. Lakers -- 11-8. They notched an impressive road win at Denver last week, and a home win over Golden State. The Lakers just need to show a little more consistency.
11. Golden State -- 11-9. One of the hottest teams in the league right now, the Warriors have won eight of their last 10. Included in the streak were impressive home blowouts of the Suns and Rockets.
12. Houston - 11-10. Trying to get a read on this team is about as easy as trying to make sense out the plot of the movie "Mulholland Drive." It might not be possible, and even giving it a go becomes frustrating after a while. And even if you could, would it matter?
13. Toronto - 11-10. The Raptors are 7-3 ATS in their last 10. Like most NBA teams, they struggle on the road. But they need to start defeating inferior opponents in order to command much respect.
14. Milwaukee -- 8-11. The Bucks have lost consecutive road games to Western Conference bottom feeders Seattle, Portland and Sacramento to spoil an otherwise positive start.
15. Washington - 10-10. The Wizards are 4-1 ATS in their last five. Caron Butler has taken on the scoring load and leadership since Gilbert Arenas went down with an injury, which might have been a blessing in disguise for this team.
16. Indiana -- 10-10. The Pacers had a good week with road wins at Orlando and the Clippers, but must now deal with the Jamaal Tinsley shooting incident. Just when they thought they had traded away all their troubled players, trouble found them again.
17. Cleveland -- 9-12. The Cavaliers were marginal enough with LeBron James in the lineup. Now that his mysterious finger "injury" has lingered, they are dreadful.
18. Charlotte -- 7-12. The Bobcats have lost eight of their last nine straight up and six consecutive ATS to spoil an auspicious start.
19. Atlanta -- 9-10. The young Hawks are an upstart team that is fun to watch; at least they look that way from the highlights we see on ESPN. This perennial doormat looks like it's on the way to turning things around.
20. New Jersey -- 9-12. Jason Kidd claims his day gone MIA was a "sick day" and that all is fine with the Nets, who have lost four of five straight up and ATS. Don't believe him.
21. L.A. Clippers -- 7-12. The Clippers have lost nine of 10 overall and ATS; they sometimes look promising but the injuries to Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston appear to have caught up with them.
22. Miami -- 5-15. Two straight road wins over the Clippers and Suns have given the Heat a little cause for hope. Just a little, though.
23. Chicago -- 6-12. Their road win over the Pistons last week showed what the Bulls are capable of when on top of their game. However, TV analyst Jeff Van Gundy was correct when he observed that they play "three-on-five" offensively with Ben Wallace and Tyrus Thomas in the starting lineup.
24. Portland -- 8-12. The Blazers have won three straight to counteract a four-game losing streak but that's been the story of their season: inconsistency. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge provide a nice one-two punch.
25. Sacramento 7-12. The Kings have been more competitive than most observers expected.
26. Memphis -- 6-14. The Grizzlies have lost five of their last six and seem to lack the depth to compete with most teams. They need more scoring punch to help out Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol.
27. Philadelphia 7-13. The 76ers have won three straight, but it helps when you have the Knicks on the schedule back-to-back. Even so, it's a much-needed dose of accomplishment.
28. Seattle 5-16. Home wins over the Bucks and Clippers last week were a nice change for the young Sonics, who seem to get agonizingly close in most of their games but lack the experience needed to get over the top.
29. New York 6-14. The situation with the Knicks will never improve so long as Isaiah Thomas remains an employee. However, recent sentiment from the ownership suggests his head coaching job is not in immediate jeopardy. Evidently, no one at Madison Square Garden gets it.
30. Minnesota 3-15. Al Jefferson has really blossomed into a superstar and, considering he'll spend the next several years in Minnesota after recently signing a long-term deal, he's probably kicking himself for not holding out for a maximum contract.