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Monday, November 24, 2008

NBA Power Rankings

By Rob

Last Updated: November 24, 2008

I don’t want to put too much weight on how teams have played the first 12 or so games of the season, so know I’m not taking the statistics I cite too seriously. Power Rankings generally lack consistency. As I’ll say again, Power Rankings aren’t about the W-L column. Teams lose games by 5 or less points, and that L isn’t the same as one suffered in a 20-point blowout.

TOP TIER

  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers

I feel almost as uncomfortable putting the Cavs in my Top 3 as I do leaving San Antonio out of my Top 10. The NBA is, from top-to-bottom, the strongest it has been in years, making the #3 spot a really tough call; especially following two no-brainers like the Celtics and Lakers. But after an impressive 8-game win streak, I'm feeling a little bit more confident about my decision. Let's get one thing straight: I don’t think they could beat the Celtics in a 7-game series. I do, however, think there’s a chance of Cleveland landing the #2 seed in the East, and that they are good enough to secure the 50+ wins necessary to do so.

  1. Phoenix Suns

Eight Suns' players are averaging 20+ minutes per game; all of whom are providing excellent contributions. They'll need their aging stars to be kept around 30 minutes per game if the team wants to be in good shape for a long playoff run. Steve Nash and Shaq are providing tremendously given their respective ages and Grant Hill is doing OK to start, but I think Matt Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw are going to win them a lot of games. Plus they have this kid, Amare, who is probably the most impressive offensive player west of Ohio.

  1. Detroit Pistons
  2. Utah Jazz

It pains me to put Utah at #6 and I’m sure they’ll make me regret it. They are the best passing team thus far into the season (24.1 assists per game; 6.8 assist differential) despite being without Deron Williams for 10 of their 12 games. Aside from Carlos Boozer (who, by the way, is opening up the season in MVP-form) the Jazz haven’t been a very good scoring team. I’m excited to see how their scoring improves when D-Williams returns.

SECOND TIER

  1. Houston Rockets

Don’t fool yourself: the only Big Three in the NBA is in Boston. But if there is another (and it’s far too early to tell) then it lives in Houston. Ron Artest has shown flashes of brilliance, Yao has been Yao, and Tracy has shown flashes of... well, Tracy. It's tough to overlook the injuries - albeit minor, in some cases - already sustained by Houston's Big Three, and they can't be an elite team until they have a stretch of healthy performances from all 3 players.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

When they play at their highest level… I cry a little bit. LaMarcus Aldridge showed last year that he’s very capable of scoring big in the paint. Brandon Roy is playing on a level with Danny Granger and Joe Johnson that can only be looked down on by Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. Greg Oden is the tenacious defender. So what if he can’t shoot? He’ll average 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks on 55% FG and 65% FT. Mayo,

  1. New Orleans Hornets
THIRD TIER

  1. Denver Nuggets

The Billups-Iverson trade is still rocking my world. Who won in that deal? It’s too early to tell. It’s clear that Denver has looked like one of top 5 most dangerous teams since. It’s making me wonder if Allen Iverson is a good fit for any team looking to contend.

  1. Orlando Magic
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Dallas Mavericks
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. San Antonio Spurs

If the season ended today, the Spurs would be the #8 seed in the Western Conference. They were 1-4 with Tony Parker, and have been 5-2 without. Was Tony Parkers’ 27.4 points-per-game weighing them down? Of course not! My point is that the Spurs are getting it done without Parker and Ginoboli. Manu has said that he expects to play tonight against Memphis. As of November 7th, Tony Parker’s recuperation time is estimated to last 4 weeks. Say Parker returns for December 9th at Dallas… the Spurs will have played 18 games. If they have a winning record when Parker returns, you could be looking at a Spurs team capable of winning the Southwest division and landing a #3 seed in the playoffs.

My guess is you’re thinking, “So what? The Spurs are 12 games in and at 6-6 are only back 2 games in the division.” I generally can’t find any report on the Spurs that shows my same optimistic outlook, so I feel somewhat compelled to give some reason. The fact is this: when Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are all playing, and are as healthy as possible… the Spurs are the only other team in the same stratosphere as the Celtics and Lakers. They may even be better than that.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers
  2. Miami Heat
FOURTH TIER

  1. Sacramento Kings
  2. Chicago Bulls
  3. Indiana Pacers
  4. New York Knicks
  5. Golden State Warriors

FIFTH TIER

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

Unlike most Power Rankings, I’m not giving up on Chris Kaman, Al Thornton, Baron Davis, and Marcus Camby just yet.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Remember: these are Power Rankings, not Win Projections. A team that’s 0-10 can be better than a team that’s 4-6. It’s too early in the season for a team’s poor start to be so strongly indicative of a team’s final record.

Some people just don't understand Power Rankings...

Fox Sports (#28) said: “Yes, they're playing everyone close, but an eight-game losing streak is an eight-game losing streak. That matches Minny's longest skid last year.” Dumb

ESPN.com (#30) said: “Don't want to alarm a fan base still coping with KG winning a title in his first season away from 'Sota . . . but the previous team to lose eight straight after starting 1-0 was the 2003-04 Magic, who went from 1-0 to (gulp) 1-19.” I bet the Suns should be worried too. One time in NBA history, a team opened up 8-3, lost two straight games, and finished the season under .500! No one likes 'Sota, ESPN -- use one of the many good reasons not to.

The only one who seems to get it is NBA.com (#28): “The Wolves had three tough losses this week. They were right there in the fourth quarter of each, but lost at Golden State in overtime, to the Blazers by five and at Denver by six. Seven of their eight losses have come by six points or less. That's how you move up from No. 30 without winning.”

SIXTH TIER

  1. Charlotte Bobcats
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Washington Wizards

Two All-Star players (Butler and Jamison), one win... What a shame.

  1. Memphis Grizzles

Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are strong scorers. No team with Marc Gasol as their big man can be taken seriously, though.

ROCK BOTTOM

  1. New Jersey Nets
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder

Talk about an exciting season… Sure, Oklahoma will likely finish with the worst record in the NBA. I’d still pay $35 (plus service charge) to see Kevin Durant play from the balcony. There's a reason to see almost every team.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Plus they have this kid, Amare, who is probably the most impressive offensive player west of Ohio."

DId you mean west of Ohio and east of LA?

-Luke