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NBA Power Rankings, Week 6: Spurs take over the top spot

The top two teams in the NBA squared off on Saturday night. The winner surged to the No. 1 spot in this week's NBA Power Rankings.


Hey, look at all these rankings! As usual, if you disagree with any of them, you're probably right:

Rank Team Record Prev. Rank Last Week
SB Nation Blog
1 San Antonio Spurs 14-4 2 W: @WAS, @ORL, MEM; L: @MIA Pounding the Rock
I guess Saturday's Spurs-Grizzles game was a ranking battle? Gregg Popovich's decision to rest his stars in the previous game looked -- among all the other things -- it looked pretty wise when that group was pulling off a double-digit fourth quarter comeback to push Memphis to overtime and take the win. And that group of leftovers that faced the Heat the previous night very nearly beat said Heat, so ...
2 Memphis Grizzlies 12-3 1 W: CLE, TOR, DET; L: @SAS Straight Outta Vancouver
The Grizzlies are still in great shape, and I certainly don't hold their weary collapse versus the Spurs against them (at least not as much as I do the reason for their weariness: offensive struggles the previous night that required them to work a bit too hard to beat the lowly Pistons). One hopes that Zach Randolph's poor play the last two games -- he was SO off against the Spurs -- and a bit of backsliding from jazzily-named role players like Wayne Ellington and Quincy Pondexter are just blips and not the beginnings of trends.
3 Oklahoma City Thunder 14-4 3 W: CHA, HOU, UTA, @NOH Welcome to Loud City
Oklahoma City's just been stylin' on inferior competition, and their defense -- bolstered by the increasingly vortical Russell Westbrook -- actually matched their sparkling offense at times over the last week.
4 Miami Heat 12-3 4 W: SAS, BRO Hot Hot Hoops
The Heat continue to play juuuust hard enough to cover opponents of any caliber. They're like NBA shrink wrap? Nah. In any event, Dwyane Wade looks very much alive since returning from injury and the defense might be gradually climbing out of the league's basement. Miami's still kinda just hangin' out. They might very well be the best team in the NBA, but they're just not in the mood right now.
5 Brooklyn Nets 11-5 7 W: NYK, @BOS, @ORL; L: @MIA Nets Daily
The lockdown D we saw in that impressive win over the Clippers last week may not have been an accident. The Nets built their five-game win streak out of shattering defense that buoyed them until right around halftime of the streak-ending loss in Miami. After that collapse, it'll be very interesting to see how they handle the Thunder offense on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Deron Williams hasn't been shooting well, but his ability to thread passes to open friends has ignited some genuinely impressive ball movement in Brooklyn's staunchly slow-paced offense that keeps flowing even when he's off the floor. This remarkable shooting by Jerry Stackhouse isn't purely his own doing. Please don't hit me for saying that, Jerry. OK, but be gentle.
6 New York Knicks 12-4 6 W: @MIL, WAS, PHO; L: @BRO Posting and Toasting
They're handling themselves well enough without the surprisingly massive influence of Jason Kidd, though a hand injury to Raymond Felton may test their backcourt depth (and/or accelerate the takeover of ¡Pablocura!) even further.
7 Los Angeles Clippers 10-6 5 W: MIN, SAC; L: NOH Clips Nation
After losing to the Hornets to drop their forth straight, the Clips launched a new win streak off some mediocre competition. L.A.'s win over the Kings marked the first game in a while in which they've defended anywhere near the level they did to open the year. That was also one of the few times this season that the Clippers really took care of a bad team without flinching. Meanwhile, it was encouraging to see Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford bounce back after they'd played a little spooked during Chauncey Billups's initial return. The presence of Billups only makes Vinny Del Negro's rotation management duties more exasperating. You try finding minutes for 11 qualified guys while keeping your hair that fresh. It's hard. The task, not the hair. The hair is so very soft.
8 Atlanta Hawks 9-5 8 W: CHA, L: CLE Peachtree Hoops
The Hawks had been humoring bad teams a bit too much during that win streak, and they finally paid for that tendency in a collapse against the Cavs, easily the worst performance of the year by a defense that's been terrific so far. Atlanta's one of several top defensive teams that gives away a lot of rebounds (perhaps because they defend so well), and that bit 'em against Cleveland.
9 Golden State Warriors 10-6 13 W: DEN, IND Golden State of Mind
I mean, they've won seven of their last nine, they're perhaps the best rebounders around, they're in the top half of the league defensively AND they tend to play fast and small without Andrew Bogut. The Warriors are ... kinda good? I guess we just keep doing what we we're doing? Act normal?
10 Chicago Bulls 8-7 14 W: DAL, PHI; L: MIL Blog a Bull
That collapse against the Bucks briefly interrupted what has otherwise been a bit of a defensive reawakening for Chicago. Tom Thibodeau's gotten some nice contributions off the bench, in part because he's enabling them with a slightly lengthier rotation over the last couple games.
11 Philadelphia 76ers 10-7 15 W: DAL, @CHA; L: @CHI Liberty Ballers
I don't get the feeling that anybody's thinking too hard about Philly's up-and-down play as a team (and it's mostly been up anyway). As long as Andrew Bynum's out, everyone kinda just shrugs at the Sixers' performance, particularly on offense (now, one hopes that isn't a perma-shrug. It remains to be seen). What's encouraging with or without Bynum is the individual excellence of Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young and, every other day or so, Evan Turner.
12 Milwaukee Bucks 8-7 11 W: @CHI, BOS; L: NYK, @MIN Brew Hoop
The Bucks are bizarre, man. They're average on paper, but with injured players returning and departing, rotations fluctuating (Ersan Ilyasova played his best game of the season, then played just 13 minutes, then didn't play at all, then played perhaps his second best game of the season) they're certainly not plain or predictable. I keep wondering if Milwaukee's about to fall off for real, then they rip a win out of the scrap heap like they did against Chicago and Boston.
13 Boston Celtics 9-8 10 W: POR; L: BRO, @MIL Celtics Blog
The Celtics as is have been consistently overpowered around the basket. The Celtics with Rajon Rondo out are just kinda yucky (and capable of blowing 17-0 leads, it seems), though they did defend well versus the Blazers and Jeff Green's mini-emergence has been encouraging. Avery Bradley should be back soon, which is great, but would be greater if he were a foot taller.
14 Houston Rockets 8-8 18 W: TOR, UTA; L: @OKC The Dream Shake
The Rocketfriends are having a pretty fun time winning games (four of their last five now) without playing much defense at all. Jeremy Lin's pulling himself together, too, learning to exploit the excessive defensive attention on James Harden each night.
15 Los Angeles Lakers 8-9 9 W: DEN; L: IND, ORL Silver Screen and Roll
Panic gave way to confidence and hope, which gave way back to panic. The Lakers probably don't feel like showing their faces around L.A. right now, so playing seven of their next eight on the road might be just the ticket. Then again, they're just 1-4 in away games thus far. A middle ranking represents my wrenching internal struggle between how horrid L.A. has looked and how new and uneasy their whole set-up is.
16 Denver Nuggets 12 8-9 L: @UTA, @GSW, @LAL Denver Stiffs
There's reason to believe the Nuggets will improve (a punishing schedule so far, for one). In the meantime, Denver's remarkable streakiness continues. There should be a three- or four-game win streak coming soon, I suppose.
17 Utah Jazz 9-9 17 W: DEN, @NOH; L: @OKC, @HOU SLC Dunk
The Jazz play four of their next five at home. If they stay undefeated at EnergySolutions Arena over that stretch -- which includes visits from the Clippers and Spurs -- it's time we start asking questions. Questions like "What ARE these energy solutions anyway?"
18 Minnesota Timberwolves 7-8 16 W: @SAC, MIL; L: @LAC Canis Hoopus
Kevin Love needs some time to work back into form. In the meantime, watching Alexey Shved embrace a bigger role has been so much fun. He has so very many balls. Still can't wait for Ricky Rubio's triumphant return, but the Wolves' appeal runs pretty deep. I don't really know how they ended up down here, but I don't expect it to last.
19 Indiana Pacers 8-9 22 W: @LAL, @SAC; L: @GSW Indy Cornrows
Paul George can't seem to string together productive games, but the Pacers are getting enough from David West, George Hill, and a top-notch team defense to look decidedly less depressing of late than they did a few weeks ago. Indiana's quietly won four of its last six. (A bit of transparency: A team doing something "quietly" is often code for "I haven't been watching them much, but ...")
20 Dallas Mavericks 8-9 19 W: DET; L: @PHI, @CHI Mavs Moneyball
The signing of Derek Fisher (and subsequent burial of Darren Collison, Dominique Jones and Rodrigue Beaubois) seems indicative of an identity crisis: What's the point? What is there to gain? Then again, the Mavs may still look in the mirror (a huge mirror) and see a solid enough team that eschewing the cultivation of youth for an outside shot at a few extra wins -- again, with the shaky assumption being that the presence of Derek Fisher moves the needle toward more wins, if at all -- makes sense. We can't really be sure of anything until Dirk's back, I suppose.
21 Charlotte Bobcats 7-8 21 L: @OKC, @ATL, PHI Rufus on Fire
Charlotte's utter squashing at the hands of the Thunder was either a violent reminder that the Bobcats are the Bobcats or a violent reminder that the Thunder themselves aren't mired in this "play down to the level of the opponent" business we've seen from some other top teams. Aside from that, the Cats have merely been starting to look as green as they really are. Errors and breakdowns in crucial moments against the Hawks and Sixers dropped Charlotte to close, disappointing losses and back below .500. :(
22 Portland Trail Blazers 7-10 20 W: @CLE; L: @DET, @WAS, @BOS Blazer's Edge
Portland's bench may or may not have woken up -- or at least rolled over, sniffled, and checked the clock -- during the weekend. That includes Joel Freeland, who had a nice couple of games after some disappointment and some DNP-CDs. They did come very close to losing to three of the league's worst teams in a single week, though.
23 Orlando Magic 6-10 24 W: @LAL; L: SAS, BRO Orlando Pinstriped Post
Oddly enough for a halfway decent defensive team, a decent portion of Orlando's few wins have come from simply blowing the opposition out of the water with streaking offense, like the Magic did with their 90-point (it was only 40? Are you sure?) fourth quarter in Los Angeles.That had to feel great. It's been nice, by the way, to get to know Kyle O'Quinn better these last few games. O'Quinn's younger than I am, but I find myself wanting to sit on his knee and have him tell me tales of dragons he's tamed.
24 Phoenix Suns 7-11 23 W: @CLE; L: @DET, @TOR, @NYK Bright Side of the Sun
The Suns find themselves clawing back from deficits too often. Anybody who's ever heard Walt Frazier call a basketball game knows how debilitating playing from behind can be and how it often runs you out of steam by the time the gap is nearly closed, and that's characteristic of many of the Suns' losses. (Oddly enough, I don't think I heard Clyde drop that particular line when the Suns' double-digit comeback fell short in New York.)
25 New Orleans Hornets 4-11 26 W: @LAC; L: UTA, OKC At the Hive
No shame in milking that island of a win over the Clippers for all the joy its worth, especially when Austin Rivers had himself a fine outing. It's been back to poop city since, but whatever. The Hornets are barely a team in their current condition.
26 Detroit Pistons 5-13 28 W: POR, PHO; L: @MEM, @DAL Detroit Bad Boys
While Lawrence Frank continues to stir his rotation, the Pistons are making it look like their early-season misery was partially the product of a tough schedule. They've been playing .500 ball over the last two weeks, and may eventually occupy a rung slightly above the league's dregs.
27 Cleveland Cavaliers 4-13 27 W: @ATL; @MEM, PHO, POR Fear the Sword
On the other hand, Anderson Varejao. That win over the Hawks was fun, too.
28 Toronto Raptors 4-13 29 W: PHO; L: @HOU, @MEM Raptors HQ
Toronto busted out of a slide by executing down the stretch (!) behind some great defensive work by Andrea Bargnani (!!!). One win doesn't undo all the close losses Raptors fans' have had to weather, nor the inconsistency of Bargnani and Kyle Lowry (since returning from injury), nor all the other ills. Definitely doesn't hurt, though. It'll be interesting to see how much Mickael Pietrus can contribute to a backcourt desperately in need of some productive manpower.
29 Sacramento Kings
25 4-12 L: MIN, IND, @LAC Sactown Royalty
After a semi-pleasant week, the Kings reverted to floundering and fearing their own ownership. These occasional glimmers of Jimmer have been neat, though, right? Right? Glimmers of Jimmer? Guys?
30 Washington Wizards 30 1-13 W: POR; L: SAS, @NYK Bullets Forever
Even Washington's lone win was a little sketchy, but it did happen. They are now appreciably better than the Juneau FrostDonkeys.
94 Juneau FrostDonkeys 31 0-0 -- None yet
What a joke. Such a fuss was made about Gregg Popovich and the Spurs alienating fans. Meanwhile, Donks management went so far as to let hundreds of famished marmots infest the Donkey Dome to even further delay the home opener while coach/coonhound Marv Biscuits and four of his star players took an off day to experiment with a Mountain Dew/ayahuasca concoction in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. I can't even rank the Donks even close to the league's other teams anymore. Not when the head coach is day-to-day with flu-like symptoms and a frostbitten tail.