|NBA Power Rankings, 11/4||11.04.10 at 4:45 pm ET|
1. LA Lakers (5-0): No Andrew Bynum? No problem. All the Lakers have done to begin their road to a third consecutive NBA championships is start 5-0 and beat opponents by an average of 13 points. The only bad news on their front is that Rick Fox got tossed from “Dancing with the Stars.”
2. Boston (4-1): The Celtics’ 4-1 start — including victories against the playoff contending Heat, Knicks and Bucks — has proven that the Cleveland loss was only a fluke. Delonte West’s return from suspension in another five games will provide a much-needed boost.
3. Miami (4-1): The Heat are 4-0 since losing to the Celtics on opening night. It’s no surprise that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all scoring in the double digits for Miami, but James Jones’ 11.6 points per game has to be a welcome surprise for head coach Erik Spoelstra.
4. Atlanta (5-0): Too high? Sure, they’ve only beaten the Grizzlies, 76ers, Wizards, Cavaliers and Pistons. But other than the Lakers they’re the only 5-0 team in the league. And they’ll probably head into Orlando on Monday night with a 7-0 record. Now that’s a must-watch game.
5. New Orleans (4-0): I obviously don’t expect the Hornets to stay in the top five for too long, but it’s impossible to ignore what they’ve done so far: home victories against the Bucks and Nuggets, and road wins against the Spurs and Rockets. That’s four solid wins. A healthy Chris Paul David West once again give New Orleans a more-than-legit 1-2 punch.
6. Orlando (2-1): Who says the Eastern Conference isn’ t that good? Well, outside of the top five teams (including Chicago), the East is awful. But the top five are awfully good. As long as we’re on the subject of awful, how bad did the Magic look in their 26-point loss to the Heat? Still, I feel as if they’re more like the team that destroyed the Timberwolves by 42.
7. Portland (4-1): The Trail Blazers were 4-0 until the Bulls knocked them from the unbeatens (in Chicago). Still, Portland already has four solid wins under its belt with victories against the Suns, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks. Led by Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers have five guys averaging double-digit points, and another four players contributing solid numbers off the bench.
8. San Antonio (3-1): The Spurs’ only loss came at the hands of Chris Paul’s Hornets. They’ve got four guys average at least 16 points per game, led by the shockingly rejuvenated Richard Jefferson’s 20 points per game. If Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair can give San Antonio anything at the 5 spot, this could be a scary team moving forward.
9. Oklahoma City (2-2): The Thunder haven’t gotten off to the start they would’ve liked, losing to a pair of previously winless teams in the Jazz and Clippers. And Oklahoma City could fall to 2-4 because of another two must-see games this week — against the Blazers and Celtics. Still, I believe in Kevin Durant & Co. It’s only a matter of time before this team gets rolling.
10. Chicago (2-1): One of the Thunder’s two wins came against the Bulls, who have knocked off the Pistons (easy) and Blazers (not-so-easy) so far. Derrick Rose is looking like an MVP candidate, Luol Deng appears to have gotten his groove back and Joakim Noah is a double-double machine. This team will be a top-five squad when Carlos Boozer returns. Write it down.
11. Dallas (3-1): If not for a last-minute loss to the Grizzlies, the Mavericks would be 4-0 right now. Consecutive road wins against the Clippers and Nuggets were good signs. And Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 26.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. All signs point to another 50-win season for Dallas.
12. Utah (2-2): It was a rough start for the Jazz — although losses to the Nuggets and Suns aren’t terrible — but Utah has scored at least 120 points in its last two games. Paul Millsap (21.3 points, 10.8 rebounds) and Al Jefferson (19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds) have given Jazz fans plenty of reason to forget about Boozer. Not to mention they might have the best point guard in the league.
13. Golden State (3-1): The Warriors have only lost to the Lakers. They have victories over the Rockets, Clippers and Grizzlies. Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and (surprisingly) Dorell Wright are all averaging 20-plus points this season, and David Lee is doing his double-double thing. Playoffs, anyone?
14. Denver (2-2): The Nuggets have had a tough four-game stretch to start the season — against the Jazz, Hornets, Rockets and Mavericks — and they managed to emerge 2-2. Not bad. It’s nice to see George Karl back behind the bench, leading a team that still has Carmelo Anthony, for now. Al Harrington (16.3 points, 5.0 rebounds) has been a nice addition, too.
15. New York (1-2): Yes, the Knicks only have one victory, but they played the Celtics tough in Boston (a four-point loss) and the Blazers tough in Madison Square Garden (a five-point loss). Wilson Chandler’s 21.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game is a great sign for Knicks fans, as Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton are already doing what they were signed to do.
16. Memphis (2-3): Speaking of brutal schedules, we turn to the Grizzlies. Their lone easy game came against the Timberwolves — who they blasted by 20 — and their remaining scheduled included the Hawks (loss), Mavericks (win), Lakers (loss) and Warriors (loss). They’re scoring 104 points a game, so if they ever start playing defense they’ll put up plenty of wins.
17. Sacramento (3-2): Believe it or not, the Kings are the only team from here on out not named the Nets or Pacers with more than one win. Their wins are nothing special, defeating the T-Wolves, Cavs and Rators by a TOTAL of seven points. Showing no signs of the plantar fasciitis, Tyreke Evans leads a group of six Kings averaging double figures.
18. Houston (0-4): Talk about brutal slates: Lakers, Warriors, Nuggets and Hornets. Not to mention Saturday night’s game against the Spurs. The Kevin Martin-Luis Scola-Aaron Brooks trio looks very good. If the Rockets can get anything from Yao Ming, this is a playoff team.
19. LA Clippers (1-4): Yet another Western Conference team that hasn’t been able to find a groove because of a constant slate of tough opponents: Blazers, Warriors, Mavericks, Spurs, Thunder. The youthful combo of Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin will win games, like the 15-point victory over Oklahoma City.
20. Washington (1-2): The Wizards got roughed up in their opener and then fell to the unbeaten Hawks in Game 2, but losses by middle-of-the-road teams in Orlando and Atlanta can be taken with a grain of salt. They’ve still got John Wall, whose 23.7 points and 10.3 assists per game give Washington 40-plus points per game they didn’t have last season.
21. Indiana (2-2): The Pacers are a .500 team! Indiana fans should temper any enthusiasm, though, as wins over a pair of 0-fer teams is nothing to get excited about. Still, if the Pacers keep beating bad teams — and there’s plenty of those in the East — they could actually think playoffs.
22. Milwaukee (1-4): It’s tough to get a grasp on this Bucks team. They’ve had a pretty tough schedule (Hornets, Blazers, Celtics), but they also lost to the Timberwolves by 11. Still, they took the C’s to overtime in Boston. That’s a sign of a good team.
23. Phoenix (1-3): Can you imagine how bad this Suns team would’ve been had the whole “Steve Nash is quitting basketball to become a Canadian politician” wasn’t just a hoax? There’s a reason Nash is averaging fewer assist than he has in 11 years: He has nobody to assist.
24. New Jersey (2-2): Derrick Favors is averaging a near double-double, which would give the Nets three legitimate basketball players. It took New Jersey 21 games to reach two wins last season. This season? They won their first two. So, they’ve got that going for them.
25. Philadelphia (1-4): You can’t really call any of the Sixers’ losses a terrible one: Miami, Atlanta (by three), at Indiana and at Washington (by one). They also beat the Pacers by 26 at home. And Elton Brand actually looks as though he can still play basketball.
26. Minnesota (1-4): There are so many bad team that the Timberwolves can actually be ranked No. 25? Yes, it’s true. I think with a good coach this team could win games. It’s just too bad they don’t have a good coach. Have you heard about this whole “Free Kevin Love” movement?
29. Cleveland (1-3): I love how Cavaliers fans got so fired up that they were ranked as one of the worst teams in the league, even after they beat the Celtics. Then, they lost to the Raptors by 20. They have a relatively easy schedule over the next six games, so let’s see how they fare.
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