(Originally published November 19)
Two weeks into the season, I did my first regular-season Power Rankings rating the NBA teams.
Two weeks later, I am publishing my next edition, which shows surprisingly little change within the top few spots. The Lakers are still at the top of the list, and pre-season favorites still rank among the top tier.
However, after an average of twelve or so games, I think we’re starting to get a better idea of who might be a contender throughout the season, and who may not be all that they hoped to be.
1. Lakers (10-2): Their two losses both came in the final minute, and they look like they want to destroy everyone this year worse than last year.
2. Celtics (9-2): Same goes for the Celtics – aside from the last-minute loss to Dallas, this team has not let up since their Cleveland letdown. Whether this elder group can keep it up for 82 games will be fun to see.
3. Hornets (9-1): 6-0 at home and 2nd in the NBA in points allowed. I don’t think Chris Paul will be going anywhere this season now.
4. Spurs (9-1): They have made the most of an easy schedule to this point – in their eight-game winning streak, five of the wins have been against opponents under .400.
5. Jazz (8-4): In a four-game East Coast trip to Miami, Atlanta, Orlando, and Charlotte, the Jazz won all four games. Did anyone expect Paul Millsap to break out? Me neither.
6. Heat (7-4): Feel free to turn it on anytime, guys. The Celtics have been playing with the fire we expected to see from Miami.
7. Magic (8-3): Elite teams should not lose to teams like Toronto at home, as the Magic did last Friday, or give up double-digit leads at home as they did to the Jazz last Wednesday.
8. Hawks (8-4): Against teams .500 or below: 8-0. Against teams above .500: 0-4. Even worse, in most of their wins they have been up by double-digits and let their opponents get back in the game. They have a big test against Dallas tomorrow night to see if they can break the pattern.
9. Mavericks (7-3): Winning with…defense? The Mavs have held five straight opponents under 100 points.
10. Warriors (7-4): A tough 2-3 road trip and potential rumblings from Monta Ellis (2nd in scoring) could make a good story this season go south in a hurry.
11. Bulls (6-4): Their current seven-game road trip keeps them away from home for the rest of the month. Hopefully they can avoid meltdowns like they had in San Antonio Wednesday.
12. Thunder (7-4): Recovered well from a loss to San Antonio with a win at Utah the following night.
13. Blazers (8-5): For their sake, I hope Brandon Roy’s knees aren’t going to keep him out for an extended period of time.
14. Suns (6-6): After an awful 1-4 start, they’ve pulled off some tough road wins, including winning a shootout over the Lakers Sunday,
15. Bucks (5-6): They whooped the Knicks by 27, beat up on Atlanta on the road and throttled a Warriors team, holding them to just 72 points. Not bad after a disappointing 2-5 start.
16. Pacers (5-5): That 144-point game against Denver still stinks.
17. Cavaliers (5-5): Some folks are probably surprised they got three wins in a month, let alone three in a row – even if they were over the Sixers, Wizards, and Nets.
18. Nuggets (6-6): I’m half surprised they didn’t tell Carmelo Anthony to stay in New York after the Nuggets’ win there Tuesday…the longer they wait, the less they will probably receive in a trade, if they end up doing anything at all.
19. Knicks (4-8): A six game losing streak that is as ugly as it sounds pales in comparison to the rumor that Isiah Thomas, who helped destroy this franchise, might return.
20. Grizzlies (4-8): Four straight losses, including a tough loss to Portland by one point Tuesday. They need a win tonight in Washington to avoid getting mentally blown out tomorrow night by Miami.
21. Pistons (4-8): I didn’t think their 0-5 start was reflective of their effort. They have played hard in winning five of their last eight as they get something close to a full roster back to active status.
22. Bobcats (4-7): They played the Jazz tough last week, but an upset over Miami tonight would do wonders for their confidence going forward, though I doubt their anemic offense (28th) will be able to keep up.
23. Timberwolves (4-9): Kevin Love’s 30/30 game against the Knicks was sick. He’s averaging 19 points and 14 rebounds a game. Too bad they have no other scores aside from him and Michael Beasley.
24. Kings (3-7): Started out well, but have now lost six in a row – five of them at home. Ouch.
25. Nets (4-7): Can’t pass (26th in assists) and can’t score (30th in scoring). However, they have won every game where they have made it to 95 points.
26. Wizards (3-7): On the bright side, Gilbert Arenas has not pulled a gun on anyone yet, and they are no longer 30th in rebounding – they are now 29th.
27. Raptors (3-9): Their win in Orlando last Friday may be the highlight of their season.
28. Rockets (3-8): They have shown more heart with wins over the Pacers and Knicks. Unfortunately, their team defense is still abysmal, allowing 107.3 points per game.
29. Sixers (2-10): They have had no energy on the floor and no cohesion in playing together. No wonder they have dropped their last five.
30. Clippers (1-12): All is right with the world again, as the Clippers have assumed their usual and customary position. Since the last Power Rankings two weeks ago, the Clippers have lost eight straight, including a pitiful 27-point loss to Indiana last night.