NBA Power Rankings
by Josh Nagel - 11/10/2008
It's early in the NBA season, but we've already seen a sampling of what's likely to come for the rest of the year. For instance, the defending-champion Celtics look poised to remain atop the Eastern Conference, reeling off an impressive string of three road wins in four tries to start the season. Their NBA Finals opponent from last season, the Los Angeles Lakers, have looked in mid-season form in winning their first four and welcoming the return of young 7-footer Andrew Bynum to the lineup. Together, they have given their backers the cash in eight of their past nine games.
Meanwhile, a few teams in rebuilding mode already have shown significant improvement, among them the Bobcats and the rookie-laden Grizzlies, who look to reverse their dismal fortunes of last season.
Here are the NBA Power Rankings through Nov. 9:
1. Boston Celtics (6-1) - No reason to drop the Celtics from their deserved perch here. Thus far they have picked up where they left off last season, and they have brought home the money in the three of their last four games.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (4-0) - With a healthy Andrew Bynum back in the lineup, the Lakers have looked impressive in winning their first four by an average of more than 20 points and easily giving their backers the cash in each contest.
3. Utah Jazz (5-1) - The Jazz are off to another fast start, but the natural question with this club is, will it last? If point guard Deron Williams is out an extended period, the likely answer is no.
4. New Orleans Hornets (4-2) - Last year's NBA darlings return with a year's experience under their belts and, most importantly, one of the league's best players in Chris Paul. He already looks determined to wrest the MVP title from Kobe Bryant, averaging 21.3 points and 11.7 assists in the early going.
5. Houston Rockets (4-2) - This historically enigmatic club looks awfully good with the addition of Ron Artest and a healthy Yao Ming. But the Rockets traditionally are felled by inconsistent play and injuries. It will be interesting to see how well they hold up this year.
6. Detroit Pistons (4-2) - It's difficult to say that any team got the short end of a trade when you receive Allen Iverson in return. But it's also hard to believe that Detroit parted with Chauncey Billups, who was the quarterback of their championship-caliber years and one of the NBA's top clutch players this side of Robert Horry. No doubt Joe Dumars' job is on the line with the outcome of this move.
7. Atlanta Hawks (5-0) - So far it looks like the decision to bring back coach Mike Woodson was a good one for Atlanta. It should be noted that he probably deserved at least another year after squeaking the Hawks into the playoffs last season. This rising young team has covered in four of its five wins.
8. Phoenix Suns (5-2) - Monstrous performances by Amare Stoudemire have practically rendered Shaq as an afterthought in Phoenix, although O'Neal did go for 29 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday's win. Curious to see what new coach Terry Porter does with this eclectic group of talented players.
9. Orlando Magic (4-2) - Dwight Howard is emerging as the preeminent center in the game, and Rashard Lewis gives them a proven superstar veteran. This team made strides last year and was reliable against the number; look for them to keep it up.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-2) - The Cavaliers shook up their lineup last season by trading a bunch of role players in exchange for … a bunch of role players. To some degree, it's new players, same old Cavs. Saturday's win over Chicago was proof: LeBron James had 41 points, and the next closest was Zydrunas Ilgauskas with 16 points.
11. Portland Trailblazers (3-3) - The good news is that Brandon Roy looks poised to continue his ascent to elite status and the Blazers look considerably improved. The bad news: Greg Oden already is drawing unfortunate comparisons to Sam Bowie for his injury-plagued ways.
12. Denver Nuggets (3-3) - The Nuggets got about as much as they could have hoped for in return for Allen Iverson, and the trade was necessary because The Answer could not co-exist with coach George Karl and fellow ball hound Carmelo Anthony. Goes without saying that defense is still a problem here.
13. Dallas Mavericks (2-4) - Too early to say what type of influence Rick Carlisle can have on this team, as he is a proven coach who is bound to maximize what this team has to offer. However, early performances suggest the club is still reeling form the trade to acquire Jason Kidd, which made this aging team a whole lot older. Gerald Green looks like a nice addition.
14. New York Knicks (4-2) - It's about time that Mike D'Antoni had the savvy to do what Isiah Thomas would not; send $20 million-per-year windbag Stephon Marbury to the bench, and all of his baggage with him. For all that Thomas did wrong, his long-term financial and playing time investment in Marbury is one of the less publicized but most damaging marks he made on the franchise.
15. Miami Heat (3-3) - It might sound odd to declare Michael Beasley a steal at No. 2 in the NBA Draft but, hey, it says here the Heat were fortunate to grab him. He was by far the top talent in the draft, and he immediately makes this club a lot better. If Shawn Marion and Dwyane Wade can stay healthy and the underrated Udonis Haslem keeps producing, this team can avoid a repeat of last season's disaster.
16. San Antonio Spurs (1-4) - Failure to upgrade at small forward (sorry, Roger Mason Jr. doesn't cut it) already had this team in trouble. With Tony Parker out injured indefinitely, the Spurs might struggle to make the playoffs.
17. Toronto Raptors (4-2) - Jermaine O'Neal gives this team a needed superstar to complement Chris Bosh, but the Raptors are still struggling in the backcourt and need to find more consistency.
18. Chicago Bulls (3-4) - The selection of Vinny Del Negro must make Bulls fans wish Jerry Reinsdorf had risked his friendship with Doug Collins by bringing him back to the bench. Derrick Rose jumps into an already crowded backcourt, and somehow lottery bust Tyrus Thomas still cracks the starting lineup.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (3-4) - Disciplinarian Scott Skiles was a good choice to try and milk some results from the underachieving Bucks, who with Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut and others, have way too much talent to be an also-ran again.
20. Charlotte Bobcats (2-4) - The Bobcats needed help in two major areas, point guard and head coach. They got both by drafting D.J. Augustin from Texas and bringing NBA vagabond Larry Brown to the bench. Expect both moves to pay immediate dividends.
21. Indiana Pacers (2-3) - The Pacers find themselves in rebuilding mode, but they are starting over with players who have been around as opposed to new ones. Danny Granger is emerging as a star, and if T. J. Ford can stay healthy, this club might be a pleasant surprise.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (2-4) - The signing of Elton Brand has yet to pay visible dividends, but it should soon enough. This team lacks depth but has a solid young core with Thaddeus Young and Samuel Dalembert down low to help Brand and veteran Andre Miller running the point.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (3-4) - The scores are down and so are the blowout losses thus far for the Grizzlies, who have wisely figured out that good defense and smart, balanced offense is their best chance this year. Draftees O.J. Mayo and Darrell Arthur already have stepped in and made an impact.
24. Golden State Warriors (2-4) - Similar to last season, the Warriors are starting slow, but they should rebound in short order. Once disgruntled forward Al Harrington gets traded and moped-impaired guard Monta Ellis returns from injury, coach Don Nelson should be able to work some of his magic with this team. Young forward Brandan Wright has been impressive in the early going.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-5) - The rebuilding process should take a step forward this year, but it's still one step at a time. Draft pick Kevin Love appears to be a solid cornerstone for this franchise as it climbs toward respectability.
26. Sacramento Kings (3-4) - And Reggie Theus thought New Mexico State was a challenge. The Kings lack any real notable names aside from budding star Kevin Martin and veteran Brad Miller. Even so, they have rebounded from an 0-4 start with three straight wins.
27. New Jersey Nets (2-3) - Vince Carter should have followed Jason Kidd out the door instead of Richard Jefferson. So long as Carter is still cashing mega-checks from the Nets and coach Lawrence Frank is doing the same, don't expect much from this team.
28. Los Angeles Clippers (1-6) - Back-to-back thrashings at the hands of the Lakers and Jazz were no way to start the season for the Clippers who, for better or worse, were awfully busy in the off-season. Questionable to throw a huge contract at an aging and injury-prone Baron Davis, but addition of Marcus Camby was a solid move. Losses of Corey Maggette and Elron Brand to free agency will hurt.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder (1-5) - The Thunder's performances thus far make you long for the days of the Super Sonics … even last year's Sonics. They ranked dead last in the league in scoring and field-goal percentage, which isn't helped by Sir Shootsalot Kevin Durant, who is by far their best player but definitely what they call a "volume" shooter.
30. Washington Wizards (0-5) - Have you seen Wizards coach Eddie Jordan lately? The man looks in need of a serious night's sleep. A good review of the Wizards' game tape ought to do the trick.