NBA Power Rankings
by Josh Nagel - 11/24/2008
Just a couple of weeks into this NBA season, and already there is a group of people who deserve some recognition for doing a great job.
The professionals who set the notoriously difficult lines for the notoriously fickle NBA have been so accurate thus far, that it seems almost every team is right at .500 or within a game or two either way. Theoretically, it should play out this way over the course of a long season, but there are usually a couple of exceptions.
For instance, Boston's resurgence last year seemed to catch the oddsmakers off-guard, and they handsomely rewarded their backers all season. However, this year the surprise element is gone, and Boston is just 8-7 ATS. The Lakers at 8-3, and the Cavs at 9-4 have been the biggest money winners thus far. But as far as value hunting goes, it looks to be a day-to-day proposition thus far given the parity of the ATS records league-wide.
Here are the NBA Power Rankings through Nov. 23:
1. Boston Celtics (13-2) - Speaking of the Celtics, it's not as if all is lost with betting potential for this team. They have won five straight and covered in four in a row. All five starter's scored in double figures in Sunday's 118-103 win over the Raptors;a any NBA team that shares the ball this well is going to give you value in the long haul.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (10-1) - The Lakers boast so much depth that forward Luke Walton, who went from starter to important role player last year, can't find the court this season. The Lakers valued him enough to sign him to a lucrative deal last season, but depth is a good problem to have. The Lakers have covered in six of their last eight wins.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-3) - Call me a pessimist, but I don't have a lot of hope for the Cavaliers keeping up this pace, although Mo Williams has been an a valuable addition as a scorer and playmaker. But there's no ignoring Cleveland's nine wins in their last 10, taking home the money in seven of those.
4. Houston Rockets (9-5) - When a major injury derails Houston's season, as it always does, this will be another case of what might have been for the Rockets. Yao Ming already has missed a few games and Tracy McGrady has been complaining about something hurting. Won't be long until one of them is down for the season.
5. Utah Jazz (10-3) - The Jazz have been a pleasant surprise this year but, then again, they burst out of the gates last year as well before fading. Still a second-tier team in the Western Conference, but definitely a solid team to back when they are at home and on their game.
6. Detroit Pistons (8-4) - Still adjusting to Allen Iverson, the Pistons have failed to break 80 points in a pair of back-to-back losses to Boston and Minnesota. Even so, they had won three out of four road games before the skid.
7. Orlando Magic (9-4) - The Magic have shaken off a bad first few games to rebound by winning eight of their last 10. Few teams in the East can match up with the Dwight Howard-led front line.
8. Phoenix Suns (9-5) - Early in the Terry Porter era, the Suns have looked awful on a couple of occasions in double-digit home losses to the Rockets and Lakers. They often look like they can't decide if they want to run the way they did under Mike D'Antoni or slow it down, and going in-between isn't working.
9. New Orleans Hornets (7-5) - Probably a little bit of a hangover from last year's deep playoff run was to be expected. The Hornets should be all right once they realize they can't just show up and expect to- win.
10. Portland Trailblazers (8-6) - The more I watch the Blazers, the more I realize … wow, this team really is loaded. I guess picking in the top three every year for about a decade will do that for you. If Greg Oden can find a way to stay on the court, this team could be a real threat.
11. Atlanta Hawks (8-5) - The Hawks have cooled since their 5-0 start by losing five of their last seven.
12. Denver Nuggets (8-5) - The Allen Iverson trade seems to have worked out for the Nuggets who, with Chauncey Billups running the point, seem to be sharing the ball. Imagine that. They have won seven of nine and are 8-4-1 ATS thus far.
13. Milwaukee Bucks (7-8) - A 10-4-1 record ATS despite their 7-8 record straight up speaks to the Bucks' marked improvement and their ability to stay in most games. This is definitely a team on the rise.
14. New York Knicks (7-6) - The salary dumps of Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph might put the Knicks in position to be a suitor for LeBron James in a couple of years, but it will be interesting to see what they do in the interim.
15. Miami Heat (7-6) - Wow, the Heat have seven wins already … isn't that more than they had all of last year? It's only a slight exaggeration (they had 15 wins last season). But hey, thanks to a good draft (Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers), and a healthy DwyaneWade and Shawn Marion, the Heat appear to be resurgent.
16. Philadelphia 76ers (7-6) - The Sixers have won five of six to counter a three-game losing streak. Elton Brand is starting to play like the high-priced free agent the Sixers were counting on when they signed him.
17. Dallas Mavericks (6-7) - A wait-and-see approach might be the best course of action with this team, which has shown flashes of its potential with a four-game winning streak following a five-game skid, but often looks as if it still has a ways to go.
18. San Antonio Spurs (6-6) - The Spurs are like the Evander Holyfield of the NBA; they are old and past their prime but you can't help root for them. They're also never out of it until the ref steps in to wave it off though, metaphorically speaking, they are staggering against the ropes right now.
19. Toronto Raptors (6-7) - Win or lose, the Raptors have been scoring in bunches of late. They have played over in six straight and eight of their last 10.
20. New Jersey Nets (7-6) - The Nets lead the NBA in drafting 7-footers from Stanford who have little future in the NBA, and who have identical twins with even less of an NBA future. After spending a decade and untold millions on Jason Collins, they turned their affection to Brook Lopez who, to his credit, had 14 points and 10 rebounds int heir last game, a 112-95 win over the Clippers.
21. Chicago Bulls (6-7) - It's been a rocky and often ugly start for the Bulls, who suffered an embarrassing 42-point loss to Portland on national television last week. By choosing Derrick Rose instead of Michael Beasley, the Bulls failed to address their front line issues and already it shows.
22. Indiana Pacers (5-7) - The Pacers are sort of a rag-tag group of cast-offs from other teams and journeymen but, as such clubs go, they aren't too bad most of the time. Marquis Daniels and Danny Granger give them a couple of versatile threats.
23. Golden State Warriors (5-7) - Great trade to dump disgruntled journeyman Al Harrington in exchange for Jamal Crawford, a player who perfectly suits Golden State's style. He's quick and a capable scorer, and this team seems to get more potent on an almost daily basis.
24. Memphis Grizzlies (4-9) - The good news is that youngsters O.J. Mayo, Darrell Arthur and Mike Conley don't have to wait around and pay their dues before seeing the court. Forced into action whether they are ready or not, in a few years they likely will be better off for the experience.
25. Sacramento Kings (5-9) - The Kings have the worst field-goal percentage defense and second-worst scoring defense in the league. Over the course of a long season, they are bound to get even less competitive than they have been thus far.
26. Charlotte Bobcats (3-9) - This team seems to have some potential, and would definitely benefit from signing Antonio McDyess if they can land him, but Larry Brown might have to stay another year to see a real turnaround.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-9) - The aforementioned Jason Collins somehow landed a job in Minnesota, where he pitched in with zero points, one rebound and one assist in 16 minutes in a starting role in their last game. The fact that he is starting in Minnesota says something about the "talent" pool for this club.
28. Los Angeles Clippers (2-11) - Another beneficiary of New York's fire sale, the Clippers can certainly use the help of high-scoring forward Zach Randolph to pick up their lifeless offense.
29. Washington Wizards (1-10) - No Agent Zero, and just about zero chance for the listless Wizards, who have dropped five straight by an average of 10 points.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (1-13) - It was just a matter of time until P.J. Carlesimo's old-school style wore thin on this young team, and that time has come. But while he was predictably shown the door, it's a telling stat that Kevin Durant's line in his last game included zero assists and just four rebounds to go with his 30 points.