NBA Power Rankings
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 12/10/2009
The third edition of NBA Power Rankings in the sixth week of the season and finally the rankings are starting to resemble a lot of people's NBA preseason rankings. There are few surprises at the top. Maybe the bad beats, injuries and good bounces finally evened out and the top teams taken their rightful places or maybe this is the calm before the midseason NBA storm.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The beat goes on for the Lakers. Ten straight wins for the defending champs, nine at home by the way (how does that scheduling work?), and the Lakers are putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the west.
2. Boston Celtics
Speaking of winning streaks, the Celtics' streak may be even more impressive. It was at eight games heading into Thursday and four of those wins were on the road. We should have expected that -- no one is better than Boston on the road as they have won nine of 10 so far this season.
3. Orlando Magic
What do the top three teams in the Power Rankings having in common? All are in the midst of winning streaks. In the marathon that is the NBA regular season, these streaks separate the top teams from the teams who will be battling for a playoff spot late in the season. The Magic have won six in a row and just wait until Jameer Nelson gets back.
4. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are not winning at the pace of the top teams in the NBA but they are doing just enough to stay in the upper echelon of the east. Atlanta scored a big road win at Dallas and thumped Toronto with a 146-point offensive explosion.
5. Denver Nuggets
Looks like the same old Nuggets, a four-game winning streak was halted by a curious loss at home against Minnesota, then another four-game winning streak was halted by a loss at Charlotte. With the Suns fading, it looks like this will be the best the west can do to challenge Los Angeles' supremacy.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
When talking about a team with Lebron James, you would not expect it to be second in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage, but the Cavs are just that. Road woes have continued for Cleveland with back-to-back losses at Memphis and at Houston. They are only 7-5 on the road this season and that is what holding them back from challenging Orlando and Boston.
7. Dallas Mavericks
This team somehow averages 101 points per game but in back-to-back losses to Memphis and Atlanta the Mavs could only get 80 and 82. Mark Cuban would rather go through another table on WWE Monday Night Raw than watch an offensive output like that. Lucky for Cuban his Mavs won a 102-101 shootout against Phoenix on Tuesday.
8. Phoenix Suns
The offense has stayed hot (109 points per game) but the defense is starting to cost Phoenix (106 points per game). That showed more than ever in four losses in five games this week.
9. Portland Trail Blazers
The loss of Greg Oden for the season means this will be the highest Portland will be in the Power Rankings the rest of the season.
10. Houston Rockets
The Trail Blazers could learn a thing about playing without their big man from the Rockets who continue their slow rise in the standings without Yao.
11. Utah Jazz
Winning on the road has been a chore for the Jazz but they continue to be one of the toughest outs in the league when they are home and nobody in the west shoots better from the field than the Jazz (49.7 percent).
12. Miami Heat
Surviving those four-game western road trips are key for teams like the Heat to stay in the hunt and a 2-2 split at Portland, Denver, the Lakers and Sacramento is not bad at all.
13. San Antonio Spurs
For everyone who keeps waiting for the Spurs to make a run and become a contender in the West, you may have to keep waiting until next season. A five-game winning streak against bottom feeders was quickly followed by a three-game losing streak to competitive teams.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant's 28 points per game are not hurting but it is the little things that are keeping the Thunder over .500. They are second in the league in free throw percentage, Russell Westbrook has cut down on his turnovers and James Harden has begun to emerge as a major rookie presence.
15. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are fading fast as is superstar rookie Brandon Jennings. Two losing streaks of four games in the span of two weeks is not the recipe for the playoffs. To their credit the losses were mostly on the road but they will have to find a way to win there eventually.
16. New Orleans Hornets
Just an awful, awful road team; the Hornets are 8-2 at home but the reason they remain under .500 is because of a 2-9 road mark. The return of Chris Paul will give New Orleans a big boost and a recent three-game winning streak including (gasp!) a road win at Minnesota, could be just what New Orleans needs to start its climb.
17. Memphis Grizzlies
Don't look now but the Grizzlies just won three in a row and Rudy Gay is stepping up as a legitimate NBA star. Even more remarkable, one was on the road at Minnesota and the others were at home against Dallas and in overtime against Cleveland. Impressive indeed.
18. Toronto Raptors
Much too often Chris Bosh has been a one-man show for the Raptors. On defense it has been a no-man show for Toronto. The Raptors have been atrocious in the United States (4-10) and are showing no signs of getting things turned around.
19. Charlotte Bobcats
Quick, who leads the NBA in rebounds? Through 20 games it has been Charlotte's Gerald Wallace with 12.3 rebounds per game. A seven-game losing streak turned into a four-game winning streak and even though Charlotte has won six of eight, the loss at New Jersey still puts Charlotte into the record books.
20. Sacramento Kings
The early-December meltdown has begun for the Kings but do not count out a team that has won four straight twice already this season. The Kings doing that just once this season seemed like a long, long shot in the preseason.
21. Detroit Pistons
Beating Philadelphia and Allen Iverson on the road had to mean a lot to the Pistons. Detroit has the league's fifth best defense but not much offense to speak of.
22. Los Angeles Clippers
When the Clippers allow 100 points, they win 12-percent of the time. Unfortunately for the Clippers, they have allowed 100-points eight times this season.
23. Golden State Warriors
When is the league's third best offense not a good thing? When it is paired with the league's worst defense. This ranking could be a lot worse but Golden State was able to snap out of a four-game losing funk by not being the next team to be embarrassed by New Jersey.
24. Chicago Bulls
The team is just falling apart. They do not win on the road (2-10) and have not won lately (1-9 in last 10) and cannot even beat the Nets at home!
25. New York Knicks
Dare we say respectable? Consider the Knicks last five games. A blowout win over Phoenix, a loss at Orlando, a win at Atlanta and home wins over the Nets and the Blazers. No longer will the Knicks be confused with their Jersey neighbors.
26. Washington Wizards
The definition of the on/off switch in the NBA is the Wiz Kids, who have blown out Cleveland but were crushed by Charlotte at home. Their longest winning streak is two games this year. They win on the road at underachieving Toronto but three days later lose them to them at home in overtime.
27. Indiana Pacers
Danny Granger has a torn right plantar fascia. I do not know what that means except there will be very little scoring with Indiana and even less winning for the next four to six weeks.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
Making a roster move to sell tickets is as low as a professional team can stoop. Did they not try more bobble head nights or beach towel giveaways?
29. Minnesota Timberwolves
Somebody tell the Timberwolves the Nets have started to win. No longer is 29th place safe.
30. New Jersey Nets
Only the Nets would consider winning two out of three a winning streak. Either way, the history breaking Nets have two wins to their credit now, one at Chicago.