NBA Power Rankings
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 11/11/2009
We are more than two weeks into the season and about seven games in the books for most teams, the 2009-10 NBA season is underway and we have some expected front runners and some unexpected front runners. There have been some early-season surprises (Cavaliers losing twice at home and the Suns 5-1 on the road) and some things everyone expected (the Knicks and Nets combined to start 1-14).
Here is the first batch of NBA Power Rankings with the current odds to win the NBA Finals in parentheses. The odds are from Bodog.
1. Boston Celtics (3/1) The Suns beat the Celtics at home, but looking at the body of work Boston has been the most consistent team in the NBA. Allowing 84.4 points per game gives Boston the best defense in The Association and at 7-1 through eight games they are also tied for the best record.
2. Phoenix Suns (40/1) Starting 7-1 through eight games is impressive. Starting 7-1 while playing five games on the road including a trip to Boston, well that is almost unheard of. The 110-point performance against the Celtics could be an early-season defining moment. If Jason Richardson can keep up his production and Amare Stoudemire can keep his head together, the Suns could have the top spot next week.
3. Los Angeles Lakers (12/5) With the injury bug hitting the defending champions early, Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest are a two-man show that is winning at a rapid pace. The Artest-for-Trevor Ariza swap is looking better right now. A 2-5 ATS mark is an obvious sign that the Lakers are not putting teams away as bettors have grown accustomed to.
4. Orlando Magic (8/1) Injuries, suspensions and, of course, free agency have created an almost listless starting lineup but the defending Eastern Conference champions have been getting it done. Stan Van Gundy may be the best coach around.
5. Miami Heat (40/1) Miami is atop the Southeast and it has not been all Dwayne Wade although his 30 points per game are not hurting. Jermaine O'Neal (13.4), Michael Beasley (12.4) and Udonis Haslem (10.7) are all in double figures and Quentin Richardson, nine points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game, seems to have found his team and his role.
6. Atlanta Hawks (45/1) I do not trust this Atlanta team but a 5-2 start (6-1 ATS) has people believing. There is no logical explanation for what happened the first weekend of November. After a pair of back-to-back road wins at Portland and at Sacramento on consecutive days, the Hawks were shellacked by the Bobcats on the road by 20 points. It gets weirder. The next day at home they were on the other end of a 20-plus point beat down, crushing the Nuggets 125-100.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (18/1) The 2-3 start is a distant memory after a recent three-game winning streak. Las Vegas still believes in Portland, as evidence by the 18/1 odds and the fact that Portland has been favored in every one of its games this season.
8. Denver Nuggets (15/1) The Nuggets managed to squeak out a win at Chicago to close a brutal five-game East Coast road swing. After only playing two home games through eight games Denver still finds itself 6-2. Carmelo Anthony looks more and more like a player who can carry a team throughout an entire season. At 30 points per game he will challenge for the scoring crown.
9. Dallas Mavericks (25/1) Josh Howard is back, and just in time. Don't look now but Shawn Marion appears to be returning back to form and Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are doing what they always do. The Mavericks have been a little bit of Jekyll and Hyde with losses against the lowly Wizards and New Orleans but also resounding wins at Los Angeles (both the Lakers and Clippers) and double-digit victories against Houston and Toronto.
10. Houston Rockets (50/1) There will come a point this season when Houston goes through a long losing streak and probably drops out of playoff contention but right now they are a dangerous team playing with nothing to lose. There are no all stars on this team but it is still an above-average team at this point, something you do not often see in the superstar-dominated NBA.
11. Chicago Bulls (50/1) The seven-game classic between Chicago and Boston in last year's playoffs seems like a distant memory. The Bulls have looked just average for most of the season. Missing Ben Gordon is hurting but Joakim Noah looks poised to have a breakout season.
12. San Antonio Spurs (7/1) The record (3-3) is not what it needs to be but the talent is. DeJuan Blair falling to the second round of the NBA Draft did not seem too shocking last season considering his lack of height for the position and his knees. Turns out it was the Spurs gain and, once again, San Antonio looks like a team nobody wants to play.
13. Cleveland Cavaliers (4/1) The Cavaliers may not be ranked this low again during the season but based on what we have seen so far they are not a Top 10 NBA team. Home losses to Boston and Chicago have already matched the total from last season and there are no quality wins to speak of. Shaq and Lebron are not on different pages, they are reading different books.
14. Toronto Raptors (60/1) The offense is lights out with Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani but the defense has faltered to say the least. With new starters DeMar DeRozan and Hedo Turkoglu this team will take some more time to gel but when it does the Raptors have shown that they have a shooter's chance against any team in the NBA.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (70/1) The odds are drastic and the record is under .500 but the 76ers have the ability to compete as evidence by their quality losses. Their losses have come to Phoenix, Detroit, Boston and Orlando, three of those teams are in the Top 5 in the power rankings. Once Elton Brand gets started it might be tough to stop this team.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (100/1) A recent loss to the Kings was a head scratcher but this Thunder team strikes me as having the ability to stay above .500 for a considerable time. Wins at Detroit and over Orlando are solid resume builders.
17. Utah Jazz (30/1) Of all the teams who have taken a step back from a year ago, the Jazz has been the most surprising and disappointing. The schedule gets tougher but one thing you learn is not to count out Jerry Sloan teams.
18. Milwaukee Bucks (150/1) Through five games the Bucks were actually leading the Central. Do not expect that to last too long but with Brandon Jennings now in the mix, Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd have that third piece that Milwaukee fans have been looking for.
19. Detroit Pistons (60/1) Detroit constantly looks like an aging team and injuries to Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton have continued to slow the Pistons. The franchise has made some curious moves over the years but it does not appear that signing Ben Gordon is one of them.
20. Los Angeles Clippers (100/1) After the loss of Blake Griffin and four straight losses to open the season there were talks of 0-82. Three straight wins against Minnesota, Golden State and Memphis had some thinking playoffs again. But then in typical Los Angeles fashion they lost at home to the lowly Hornets 112-84.
21. Indiana Pacers (125/1) The answer to Indiana's three-game losing streak to start the season ended up being games against New York and Washington. Hibbert and Hansbrough look like a formidable future tandem but in the present they are handling their own.
22. Charlotte Bobcats (100/1) The Bobcats would be a decent team if their offense can find its way to the arena every night. A 59-point showing at Boston, 79 points at Cleveland and New Jersey, and 81 against Orlando just will not cut it (although it actually did score a 79-68 win against New Jersey).
23. Sacramento Kings (150/1) Tyreke Evans appears to be the real deal. In even better news the Kings have turned a 0-3 start into a 4-4 start. That is by far the biggest surprise of the young NBA season. The oddsmakers are not believers though. The Kings have been underdogs in all but one game this season including 16-point underdogs in the improbable win at Utah.
24. Golden State Warriors (125/1) A 2-4 start from Golden State does not mean the season is over. The fact that it came against the light part of the schedule does mean it is nearing its end.
25. Washington Wizards (60/1) Overhyped to start the season, Washington is mired in another early-season mess. Not sure how many teams in the league can rebound from a five-game (and counting) losing streak, but it does not look like the Wiz Kids are one of them.
26. New Orleans Hornets (60/1) Not even Chris Paul can get this train wreck turned around. The Saints of the NFL may win more games through December than the Hornets. No one wants to play defense and the last few years appear to be an aberration and hanging under .500 is something basketball fans in New Orleans will have to get used to.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (150/1) The Minnesota/New Jersey season-opening showdown was one of for the books. Since the 95-93 barnburner, neither team has won a game. Minnesota is young but even grading this team considering their age, you still have to dish out an "F". Golden State poured on 149, Portland scored 116, Phoenix 120 and Cleveland 104. The bleeding is showing no signs of stopping.
28. Memphis Grizzlies (125/1) The Allen Iverson drama is just an unfortunate side note of this train wreck of a season. Hopefully Memphis saved the game tapes of its 115-107 win over Toronto because there will not be many of them.
29. New York Knicks (100/1) The Knicks are abysmal and they would have it no other way. This team was setup to fail miserably and for once something has gone as expected in New York. It is bad but not as bad as across the state border....
30. New Jersey Nets (150/1) The sad thing is the Nets were not hoping to go winless. It just looks like they will. While the Knicks basically threw the season, New Jersey was hoping to win. Injuries, youth and a lack of talent have made for awful basketball for Nets' fans.