Nine of the greatest (aka most available) minds from around SB Nation's basketball network came together to create this season's weekly NBA Power Rankings. The rankings themselves are based on a complicated mathematical formula that makes the BCS Computer Rankings look like second grade chicken-scratch. In other words, we all cast ballots and then count the votes.
We will be bringing you NBA Power Rankings each week and have decided to present them by conference instead of all together. While fans of a few top teams want to know how they rank up with the best of the best, we feel that more people will be served if we talk about how teams are ranked within their conferences. Each week a different author will present the power rankings but the list itself is a collaborative effort. That way, you have no one to yell at.
Records and voting do not include action from Monday night.
Things have settled down in both the Eastern and Western conferences as only six teams made moves in this week's rankings, none moving up or down by more than one spot. In the East, the Miami Heat gained some ground after a 4-0 week. In the West, the ever-resilient Portland Trail Blazers edged past the Phoenix Suns to climb into the conference's eighth spot.
The Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs hold the top spots in their respective conferences again this week, and with games against clubs like New York, Indiana, Milwaukee and Memphis over the next six days, it doesn't look like either club will be vacating the throne any time soon.
Ho hum. Another perfect week (4-0) and a 10-game winning streak means the C's get top spot again in the eyes of our panel of experts. The scary thing? The club's one glaring weakness, rebounding, (25th in the league in rebounds per game) is an area that will inevitably be addressed once Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal heal and Kendrick Perkins returns.
The good news? The Magic snapped their four game losing streak on Sunday.
The bad news? The win was against the Clippers. The Magic suddenly have the Heat breathing down their collective necks and flu aside, need to start getting better performances from some of their key players. And yes I'm looking right at you Mr. "lowest scoring average since Year 2 in the league" Rashard Lewis.
The Heat move up a spot at the Bulls' expense thanks to a nice little nine-game winning streak. This included solid performances last week against the Hornets and Jazz, the type of clubs NBA fans had been wanting to see Miami tested against for a while.
This week it's back to dining on teams like the Cavs and Wizards before the true test the following week; matches against the Mavericks and Lakers.
Boozer's back in the mix and the Bulls are really hitting their stride. Six straight wins including a statement game by Derrick Rose and Co. over the Lakers has Chicago poised to make a run for the top of the conference ... especially when you look at their remaining contests this month.
Don't get me wrong. Thirteen wins in their last 14 games is a nice feat. And Amar'e is playing out of his mind and getting some great help from the likes of Felton and Chandler. But I'd still like to see this team play some of the more elite clubs in the league. (No, the Raptors don't count.)
So let's just say I'm slightly looking forward to tomorrow night's tilt versus the Boston Celtics.
I'm not gonna lie, this stretch without Joe Johnson may get real ugly, especially with an already thin bench. But the Hawks are tough up front with Smith, Horford and Williams. They are not as great as their early start painted them to be, but they should be in the hunt all season, especially when JJ returns.
Indy stumbled down the stretch of a WC road trip with losses against the Jazz and the Suns, in which they committed 25 turnovers and blew a game seemingly in hand in the first half. Still, Hibbert is a beast, Granger can gun with the best of them, and the Pacers have some pieces to compete with Chicago in a fairly weak Central Division.
After some dismal performances last week on the road versus the Jazz and Nuggets, the Bucks took advantage of a Dwight-less squad to edge out the Magic. Well, that's not all that impressive now is it? Jennings is hitting for 18 and 5 a game. But he's only shooting 39 percent from the field and 34% from behind the arc while averaging 16 FG attempts per game, which is only less among PG's Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose, who are both shooting at least 43 percent. Has Scott Skiles pulled out his remaining hairs on his head?
Last Week's Ranking: 12, SB Nation Blog: Raptors HQ
One thing is for certain about the Raptors -- they're fast. They just got faster with Jerryd Bayless added to the mix. Nevertheless, you cannot outrun all of your problems such as rebounding and defense. Wins against OKC and Washington were impressive, but slowing bigs like STAT are a different story.
Stephen Jackson thinks the Bobcats "are playing like an AAU team," and perhaps he is right. Losing to the Bucks and 76ers could understandably destroy a team's confidence. The Bobcats are near the bottom of the league in points scored and near the top of the league in turnovers. Poor Larry Brown. Wait, take that back, poor MJ. Ah, nevermind.
So Iguodola is on the block, huh? That's really not a surprise to me. Someone named Jodie Meeks scored 20 points in the first quarter vs. the Bobcats. I hear the Flyers are looking good, and how about that Michael Vick? Awesome fantasy league acquisition.
The Cavs tumbled big time after LeBron torched them on national TV. Are the Cavs really this much worse since that game, or are people realizing they weren't worthy of a top 8 seed to begin with? Strange how the media influences our minds. Nevertheless, the Cavs are on an awful slide in their last four, being annihilated by an average of 25 points while failing to score 100.
Ted Leonsis, the Wizards new owner. has put together a list of 101 things his fans want to change, including, among other things, returning the squad's name back to the Bullets. He's officially said this is "under consideration," but has strongly rejected such a move publicly. I like the idea. Of course it won't happen until Gilbert Arenas is long gone, right?
It's hard to argue with 17-3. The Spurs capped a nice 3-1 week by destroying the New Orleans Hornets.
Strangely, the Spurs didn't exactly reload in the offseason, unless you want to call Gary Neal reloading. Statistically, the Spurs aren't doing anything particularly great, but they aren't exactly doing anything real awful either. They're taking care of business on the road at 8-1 and they're handling their WC opponents, 11-3.
The Mavs are on a nine-game winning streak which was certainly aided by matchups last week against the T-Wolves, Rockets and Kings, who are a combined 13-37. Of course they also dispatched the Jazz with relative ease. Dirk is being Dirk, Tyson Chandler is healthy for a change, and the Mavs should have no problem cruising through the regular season as usual. Let's see what happens come Spring time though.
A 1-2 week featuring losses to Memphis and Houston. Kobe said the Lakes were looking as though they were "running in quicksand." Is that like a conditioning issue? No matter, the Lakers have some defensive issues and all, but they'll be there come crunch time. Bynum is gearing up to give it another shot, and if that doesn't work out, this team will make a deal that works out perfectly like most they make.
The Jazz nearly finished off an undefeated week before hitting the Dallas Mavericks buzz saw. D Will is now averaging a double-double while Milsap is performing at an All-Star level. The Jazz have beaten virtually every quality squad in the league despite the obvious handicap that is Andrei Kirilenko's hair.
Both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have endured injuries of late, but the Thunder finished off a 3-1 week, withstanding a late Golden State rally on Sunday. Still, the Thunder are struggling with their shot, offering up a -2.5 FG percent differential and an even zero (0) point differential. The Thunder will be fine though, there's too much talent on this team for OKC to surrender to mediocrity.
Denver has reeled off seven in a row including beat downs on the Grizzlies, Bucks, and Clips this past week. Of course, Nuggets fans must be having a difficult time with the lack of focus the team sometimes exhibits. The Nuggets squandered double-digit leads to the Suns and Grizzlies before hanging on to win both games last week.
Are the Hornets cursed or what? First they get moved from Charlotte to New Orleans, then Katrina moves them to Oklahoma City, and now the NBA has taken over the franchise from George Shinn and there is no guarantee they are staying in The Big Easy. On the court, the Hornets are attempting to recover from a 25 point annihilation at the hands of the Spurs. After starting the season 11-1, the Hornets have plummeted, going 2-6. I don't see this season ending well for the boys in pinstripes.
Oden's injured again, Roy is gimpy, Nate McMillan says his players are tuning him out, and Sean Marks was just signed. Signs of the apocalypse in PTL? Maybe. The East Coast trip was abysmal, although the Blazers managed to return home and drop the Clippers (but doesn't everyone do that?). It will be interesting to see how the Blazers perform from here on out.
The rotation tinkering persists for the Suns, but they managed a good week, gritting out victories over the Pacers and Warriors and nearly beating the Nuggets after a furious comeback on Denver's home floor. The Suns are not a finished product, and no, they can't defend or rebound, but on most nights they compete with the best of the NBA, and that's all anyone can ask for.
The Rockets are capable of beating anyone in the conference on any given night as evidenced by victories over the Lakers, Thunder and Grizzlies last week, but without Yao and Brooks back at full strength, they're outside the fun playoff party looking in. Scola is a beast and Kevin Martin can flat ball, but how many basketballs will be needed on the court at once when Aaron Brooks returns? Already 10 games back of San Antonio, it's going to be difficult to dig out of the cellar of the Southwest Division.
O.J. Mayo got benched and the Grizz struggled after a victory against the Lakers, losing to the Hawks, Rockets and Nuggets by one point after a furious comeback. With any luck from the basketball gods, this team could hang around and grab an 8 spot. The front line of Zebo, Gasol, and Gay is tight. The bench needs a couple pieces, and the team needs to believe it can and should win, but the Grizz are a tough squad.
In 3 losses to the Spurs, Suns, and Thunder, the Warriors gave up an average of 113 ppg. That is not good. Monta Ellis is an All Star offensive player and Stephen Curry is a future All-Star. But the combination of Lee, Biedrins, and Wright does little for me, and the bench featuring Jeremy Lin and Dan Gadzuric does even less for me. Gonna be a long season in the Bay Area.
Beasley and Love are two good pieces (hey that sounds like some prime time cop show on network TV), but the rest... Hell if Telfair was going to get it, wouldn't it have happened by now? As much as we love Kevin, he can't have our coats because we need them to protect us from his cool.
Paul Westphal is a good man but the natives are getting restless. Jason Thompson's on the block, and Tyreke is battling injuries. This team has too much talent to be playing so crappy. Something has to give.