Nov 29, 2010, 1:24 PM EDT
Our weekly NBA Power Rankings. Right now the top four teams on this list are playing the best basketball, but if the playoffs started today I’d pick teams 5 and 6 to meet in the finals. However, this is November, so we’ll worry about the playoffs later.
1. Spurs (14-2). They were down 17 at half to the Hornets Sunday when Gregg Popovich went small — Richard Jefferson at the four, Duncan at the five — and the team just ran and pressured. It worked and the Spurs beat a very good team. I don’t think the Spurs or Popovich could have done this a year ago. Things are different on the Riverwalk.
2. Magic (12-4). They are playing as well as anyone in November, but apparently Orlando management is not convinced they can do the same thing in May.
3. Mavericks (12-4). Five wins in a row, plus they had the Heat bumping into each other and sent them into a team meeting. All that and they get Roddy Beaubois back in a month, instantly become much more dynamic.
4. Jazz (13-5). Also five wins in a row. And another big comeback, this one against the Lakers. Apparently LA forgot to read the scouting report.
5. Celtics (12-4). The loss of Delonte West will hurt this team as it means more of the streaky Nate Robinson. Meanwhile Shaq says this is the best team he has ever been on, and he would never say something just to needle and old team. Nope, not him. Never.
6. Lakers (13-4). Two losses this weeks sends them a few steps down. They really need Andrew Bynum back so they can win some games at the defensive end of the floor.
7. Hornets (12-4). A 1-3 week, but you knew they were coming back to earth eventually. Games this week against the Thunder and Spurs will start to give you a sense of exactly where this team stands.
8. Hawks (11-7). Three wins in a row, including looking good beating Toronto Sunday, and they creep up the standings a little. But if they don’t start beating teams with winning records (they have yet to do that) they will fall.
9. Thunder (11-6). They could have had a bigger week, but Kevin Durant missed a couple game winners. The moral of that story — this is why you want to blow teams out and not be in close games. There’s a reason the best teams win a lot of games big.
10. Nuggets (10-6). The Nuggets have won four in a row and they did it without Chauncey Billups in a couple and Carmelo Anthony in the last one. This team is pretty good.
11. Bulls (9-6). The Bulls went 4-3 on their annual circus trip, and they still have yet to get Boozer back in the fold.
12. Pacers (8-7). They beat the Lakers and Heat this week with defense. That may be sentence I least expected to type this season.
13. Heat (9-8). They have a better scoring differential than many of the teams above them, but when faced with good defense they become stagnant on offense. The questions this week about the return to Cleveland may be a welcome break from the questions about team friction with coach Erik Spoelstra.
14. Blazers (8-8). The Blazers offense is struggling with a hobbled Brandon Roy not able to create shots as well. This may become more Andre Miller’s team soon, if it hasn’t already.
15. Knicks (9-9). The record says they are average, but that feels like a big step forward. Soft schedule this week may see them climb farther up the rankings.
16. Suns (8-9). They have got to find a way to get more of a defensive presence in the paint and grab more boards.
17. Warriors (8-9). David Lee returned and the Warriors are 7-2 when he plays. They can’t keep up that pace, but with him they may be a playoff team.
18. Cavaliers (7-9). LeBron returns to Quicken Loan Arena this week, time to laugh?
19. Grizzlies (7-10). Xavier Henry starts, OJ Mayo comes off the bench and they win three in a row. We’re not sold that was the reason, but wins are wins.
20. Bucks (6-10). Look at their point differential and this looks like a .500 team, but when you have the worst offense in basketball (looking at points per possession) you lose a lot of games you should win.
21. Bobcats (6-11). What happened to the Bobcats dominating defense from last season? Did Tyson Chandler’s 51 games mean that much?
22. Raptors (6-11). Losing Reggie Evans is really going to hurt this team, it will be hard to stay up this high (which isn’t that high) in the rankings the coming weeks.
23. Pistons (6-11). Looking for a silver lining? The Pistons only turn the ball over on 14.4 percent of their possessions, fourth lowest rate in the league.
24. Nets (6-11). They beat the struggling Blazers. They beat the Hawks. Then they turn around and loose to the Sixers. Inconsistency, my old friend.
25. Rockets (5-11). They get a nice win against the Thunder, but now get the Mavericks and Lakers. Tough road without Yao or Aaron Brooks.
26. Wizards (5-10). The Wizards need to play a lot of John Wall to get him acclimated to the NBA game, but they looked a little better when he was out for five games.
27. Sixers (4-13). This team cannot win a close game to save their season.
28. Clippers (3-15). Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon make this team watchable, but until they are consistent on defense the will not win much. They need more D like they showed against the Hornets a week ago.
29. Kings (4-11). Tyreke Evans is shooting 38.5 percent overall and 10 percent from three in the last 10 games. Not a good sign for the Kings.
30. Timberwolves (4-13). Couple of long road trips ahead for a team that shows some flashes but can’t put a well rounded game together.