NBA Power Rankings
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 1/19/2011
This was supposed to the year of the “superteam” with everyone expecting a showdown between the Big Three in Miami from the Eastern Conference and the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers from the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. Instead we have two aging wonders, the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs, atop their respect conferences. All of a sudden – even though the Heat may not be dead yet -- there is a dead heat to land the top seeds in each conference. Here are our first NBA power rankings for 2010-11, and we will be updating these every other week during the regular season.
- San Antonio Spurs
To put San Antonio’s season into perspective, after winning six in a row this week the Spurs are now off to the fifth-best start in NBA history since the merger in 1976 at 35-6. Other teams who won 35 games by this point in the season include three editions of the 1990s Chicago Bulls, the 1977-78 Portland Trailblazers and the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers. If anybody thought we would be putting a team into that exclusive company this year you would have guessed the played in South Beach, not South Texas.
2. Boston Celtics
Veteran teams are opportunistic and the Celtics are in more ways than one. With the Miami Heat dealing with injuries, Boston won three consecutive games to vault itself into first place in the Eastern Conference, a conference it has owned this year. The Celtics are 24-5 against Eastern Conference competition compared to 7-4 against the West.
3. L.A. Lakers
The team showed how resilient they were by putting an embarrassing loss to the Clippers behind them to hold off a surging Oklahoma City team the very next night. The Lakers will need to find a way to win against teams from the West, where they are only 16-8 compared to 15-4 outside of the conference.
4. Miami Heat
LeBron James return to the lineup Tuesday night against Atlanta coincided with Chris Bosh (ankle) leaving the lineup. And all of a sudden the Heat have lost four in a row, including a four-point home loss to Atlanta on Tuesday that dropped the Heat to 1-7 in games decided by five points or less. Even without Bosh or James, shouldn’t the Heat be finding ways to win these games?
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
If the Thunder start playing to their strengths, they could be the best team in the NBA. Their talent is that overwhelming when they get in the fast break. But perimeter shooting has killed Oklahoma City and can someone please tell why the Thunder chucked up 22 three-pointers (they made two) in a 101-94 loss to the Lakers on Monday?
6. Chicago Bulls
With the Boston and Miami garnering plenty of attention, the Bulls are in the perfect spot, floating under the radar at 28-14. Chicago owns the best defensive field-goal percentage in the NBA. They are holding teams to 42.6-percent shooting.
7. Utah Jazz
The Jazz thought they had a winning formula figured out. When Utah scored 100 points, which is pretty often considering they average 101 points per game, they had been nearly unbeatable (20-1). But then Utah appeared to be sleepwalking in a 108-101 win on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the afternoon against the lowly Wizards. Aside from that loss, it looks like Utah is a legitimate Western Conference contender.
8. New Orleans Hornets
By playing in the NBA’s smallest market the Hornets by default do a lot of things under the radar. But recently the Hornets have still managed to stay off the radar despite owning the best defense in the league (91.9 points per game) and owning a five-game winning streak, including wins at Denver, Houston and at home against Orlando.
9. Atlanta Hawks
The most balanced scoring attack in the NBA is in Atlanta, where six players average in double figures including Joe Johnson (19.7), Al Horford (16.5), Jamal Crawford (16.1) and Josh Smith (16.1). Never was that balanced scoring more evident than in a 93-89 overtime win at Miami on Tuesday when five players reached double figures.
10. Dallas Mavericks
Decimated may be an understatement to describe what has happened to Dallas recently. The Mavs were the best story in the NBA through 29 games sitting at 24-5. However, after a season-ending injury to Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitzki missing time, Dallas lost 9 of 11 and is in danger of slipping out of relevancy in the Western Conference. There was good news in Dallas’ last loss, a 103-89 setback at Detroit. Nowitzki looked to be back to form with a 32-point performance.
11. Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard has a double-double in eight of Orlando’s last nine games. When the big man is dominating like this, Howard and the Magic are a force to be reckoned with.
12. Denver Nuggets
Imagine how good this team could be without the distractions. Carmelo Anthony says he is routinely booed at home, but it hasn’t been hurting his play or his team’s; the Nuggets are 18-4 in the Pepsi Center, that is the second best road record in the West. Too bad they are only 5-13 away from Denver.
13. Portland Trailblazers
Portland is certainly a sleeper in the Northwest Division behind Oklahoma City, Utah and Denver. The Trailblazers are only 5.5 games out of first place, and if they can stay in striking distance until Brandon Roy returns in four to eight weeks, this division will be a four-team race.
14. New York Knicks
They remain the most exciting team in the NBA for both casual fans and for bettors. They lead the league in scoring (107.5 points per game) and are the best team against the spread at 25-14-1 despite only being four games above .500.
15. Phoenix Suns
When Amare Stoudemire and Mike D’Antoni headed to New York, the Knicks became the Phoenix Suns of the East. Even without Stoudemire and D’Antoni, the Suns are still the same old team we have come to know and love. They have plenty of offense (106.8 points per game), and absolutely no defense. They allow 109.3 points allowed per game, which is last in the league.
16. Memphis Grizzlies
After an altercation between Tony Allen and OJ Mayo on a team flight, gambling has been outlawed on team flights. That hasn’t helped Memphis win on the road, where they have lost six of their last nine.
17. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers can beat anybody in the league, as evidenced by wins over the Lakers, Heat, Nuggets, Spurs and Bulls. They can also lose to anybody, as evidenced by their losses to Warriors 76ers, Pacers and Timberwolves. Inconsistency aside, the Clippers sure have come a long way since their 1-13 start.
18. Houston Rockets
The Rockets are masters of finding ways to lose. They are 0-4 in overtime and they blew four late-game leads during a recent four-game losing streak. But hey, Yao Ming is going to be an All-Star this year.
19. Philadelphia 76ers
With dismal season after dismal season, you cannot really blame Philadelphia fans if they bailed on the team after a 3-13 start. But after a 14-10 surge in their last 24 games, the 76ers are making obvious steps in the right direction.
20. Golden State Warriors
Nobody shoots three-pointers like Golden State. Their 40.6 shooting percentage from beyond the arc is the best in the league, but after acquiring David Lee in the offseason this was supposed to be a more diversified offense. It’s not. Lee is only fourth on the team in scoring and he is not making much of a difference on defense, where Golden State ranks 27th in the league.
21. Indiana Pacers
Indiana’s next three-game winning streak will be its first. That stat only sounds worse considering Indiana has four three-game losing streaks already this year.
22. Milwaukee Bucks
Leading scorer Brandon Jennings has been out of the lineup since Dec. 18 with a left foot injury. That is the bad news. The good news is that he is no longer wearing a protective boot and he is ready to return to the Bucks soon. The worse news is that without him Milwaukee went 4-11 and plummeted to 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
23. Detroit Pistons
With wins over Toronto, Sacramento and Dallas this week the Pistons have their first three-game winning streak of the season. Coincidence or not, the three-game winning streak coincided with Rip Hamilton watching the games from the bench as an expensive cheerleader. Hamilton has been a healthy scratch lately because of ongoing multi-team trade talks that all seem to involve him.
24. Charlotte Bobcats
Since taking over for Larry Brown, Interim \Coach Paul Silas won six of his first eight games. Then any hope that Silas was a miracle worker went away when Charlotte lost three straight games. But then on Tuesday the team bounced back to stun the Bulls on the road. Will the real Bobcats please stand up?
25. Washington Wizards
Quick, who is Washington’s leading scorer? The answer is Nick Young. Quick, who is Washington’s second-leading scorer? The answer is Andray Blatche. Quick, how many games have Washington won on the road? The answer is none. And I have a feeling the fact that a team relies on scoring from Young and Blatche is also a reason why they are 0-19 on the road and 12-27 overall.
26. Toronto Raptors
The stop-gap measures continue north of the border. Instead of a full-out rebuilding project with the departure of Chris Bosh, the Raptors continue to try and claw their way to an eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with expensive veterans like Sonny Weems, Linas Kleiza, Leandro Barbosa and Peja Stojakovic. You know what those four players have in common? They are all currently injured. The Raptors continue to be doomed by curious personnel moves.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves
The all-collegiate team in Minnesota has shown consistency only in losing. The T’wolves are 10-32 overall despite having more lottery picks than a degenerate gambler. The team of Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer and Wesley Johnson looks good on paper, but not on the court.
28. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have only been favored twice since November. When you’re 9-32 and in last place in the Western Conference you really cannot cite a lack of respect from the oddsmakers.
29. New Jersey Nets
The Nets average 13,221 fans per game. That is the lowest average in the league, but it still seems about 12,000 fans too much per game to watch that product.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have lost 13 in a row and 23 of 24. The low water mark for this team came in a 112-57 loss at Los Angeles. If they have not hit rock bottom yet, they are pretty darn close.
Doc’s Sports NBA has been hot, with profit in 16 of the last 25 nights. We have hit seven straight NBA Game of the Week winners and we have a 5-Unit NBA Totals Game of the Week going on Saturday as we look to stay hot for NBA picks.