Power Rankings: Dime Edition
Plus, of course, the ten best games of the week
Dime: Top Ten Squads
10) Denver Nuggets (6-4)
Two-game skid against Spurs and Hornets lands them in tenth, but I still love the Nugget’s depth. The offense really doesn’t seem to be missing a beat without Carmelo, as Denver’s 101.7 points per game is second to Miami, while their 22.8 assists ranks seventh in the League. The Blazers and Thunder definitely have more talent, but if you count Denver out of the division, you obviously haven’t been watching the post-‘Melo Nuggets, who are now 25-11 in the regular season since the trade.
9) San Antonio Spurs (6-4)
Hmm, not sure what to make of this latest loss to the Bucks. Major props to the Spurs on three straight home wins against Golden State, Dallas and Denver following the injury to Manu. Losing to the Thunder was understandable, but after this latest slip-up, San Antonio is now 0-4 on the road. The Milwaukee game is in fact their only close loss of the year, but probably leaves the most bitter taste in their mouth, seeing as how the Spurs were in control early and the Bucks needed 34 points from Stephen Jackson to come out victorious. Bad loss…but if there’s one team I can’t worry about regarding bad losses, it’s San Antonio.
8.) Los Angeles Clippers (4-3)
Stayed with Portland at the Rose Garden after beating them New Years day at home. The talent is obviously there, butt the question is, can the Clippers seriously contend with their La-La brothers for the division crown? As of right now, probably not; I’d like to see more quality wins and much better defense. Get this: Even with Blake and DeAndre, the Clips rank dead last in the League in rebounds (35.3). That’s just putrid and perplexing.
7) Los Angeles Lakers (7-4)
Kobe, Kobe, Kobe. At 33, still pouring in the second most points in the League (29.5). Still the best finisher, as illustrated by his deadly fourth quarter against the Suns, where he scored 15 of LA’s final 17 enroute to 48 points. By the way, it’s the only 40-point performance of this NBA season so far. By the way, Kobe’s recorded the only 39-point game as well. Since losing two straight to open the season, the Lakers have gone 7-2 with losses on the road against Denver and Portland. Not too shabby at all. What else can you say but Kobe, Kobe, Kobe? Oh ya… Bynum, Bynum, Bynum. 24 years old, 18.8 points, 15.7 boards. ‘Nuff said. The young fella has arrived.
6) Atlanta Hawks (7-3)
Weird team. Looking at Atlanta in a vacuum, I see seven wins, including two against Miami and Chicago. Two of their three losses came at the hands of those powerhouses, but in very close-fashion (two-point loss in Chicago after blowing a huge lead, and an overtime heartbreaker verse the Heat). Meanwhile, they’ve already beaten the Nets three times, as well as Washington and Charlotte. They rank seventh in both points per game (99.6) and points allowed (92.1). You could say they’re a few plays away from sitting at number one, but we all know better. Stay tuned to discover who the Hawks actually are in the coming weeks.
5) Oklahoma City Thunder (9-2)
I originally had OKC over Portland, but a closer look proved otherwise. First of all, the Blazers already won the first match-up 103-93 in Oklahoma City. Secondly, while the Thunder are 9-2, they’ve had trouble putting teams away and play in a bunch of close games. Only posting a scoring margin of +3.5, OKC needs to get better on the defensive side of the ball. Fatigue might factor in as well, as the Thunder have played 11 games in 17 days, but let’s not take away from the fact that 9-2 is really nothing to complain about, especially this early in the season. They’ll start blowing squads out of the water soon enough.
4) Portland Trailblazers (7-2)
Sights are now firmly on the Western crown. And they should be. Oklahoma City is probably the best team the conference has to offer, but that doesn’t mean they’re ticketed for the Finals by any stretch. The Blazers have one of the best power forwards in the game in LaMarcus Aldridge. They’ve got toughness, scoring and youth, and some savvy vets in Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace, Jamal Crawford and Kurt Thomas. They also have five quality wins, including their latest against the Clippers that avenged an earlier loss in Lob City. Aside from an anomaly blowout in Phoenix, Portland’s definitely been the most impressive Western team so far.
3) Philadelphia 76ers (7-2)
I can’t believe it either. For those of you who think I’m crazy for ranking the Sixers over teams like the Thunder and Blazers, hear me out. Yes, the Sixers haven’t beaten anyone great yet, with their two losses coming against Portland (a four point loss) and Utah, a game where they squandered a 17-point lead. So why are they No. 3? Because even though they haven’t beaten anyone great yet, it’s hard to ignore these numbers: Six straight wins. +16.0 scoring margin (insanity). First in points allowed (85.6). Third in points scored (101.6). Second in rebounds (46.1). Seventh in assists (22.8). Second in FG% (48.5). First in opponent’s FG% (39.1). Second in opponent’s 3P% (26.9). Second least turnovers (13.1) Tell me when I should stop…the point is, the Sixers are not only winning to surprise everyone, they are absolutely dismantling teams. And they’re doing it with no star. They might not have an MVP candidate, but as of now, Doug Collins is the easy frontrunner for Coach of the Year honors, Spencer Hawes could be the MIP, and Thaddeus Young is the Sixth man. Not to mention Philly is nine-deep with easily the best bench in the NBA in Young, Lou Williams, Evan Turner and Nikola Vucevic. So, I guess the question is: are you Sixered up? YES! Gigantic test against the Knicks Wednesday night in the Garden on the third night of a back-back-back.
2) Chicago Bulls (9-2)
The Bulls are the only team besides the Sixers that rank in the top ten in scoring, points allowed, rebounds and assists. In fact, the only statistical edge that Chicago has on Philly is assists, where it has recorded all of 0.2 more dimes per game. But Chicago is 9-2 and DRose is an MVP candidate surrounded by hard-nosed role players who can defend, shoot and close. Rose is especially dangerous in the fourth quarter and the Bulls have a handful of quality wins already against the Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies (40-point drubbing), Hawks and Magic. They have one team and one team alone in their sights…
1) Miami Heat (8-2)
So there is a chink in the armor. Fully healthy and the Heat blow a 17-point third-quarter lead to the Warriors to suffer their second loss of the season. It’s a small chink though. Honestly, the Heat are just silly. And it’s not only the ‘big three’. Udonis is the ultimate tough guy. Mario Chalmers is a solid PG. Battier and Anthony can both defend. But, yes, in the end, it comes down to Bron, Wade and Bosh. And no matter how much I hate them, they’re going to play amazing together, of course. Especially on offense, where Miami ranks first in scoring and assists, by a wide margin. However, there are definitely two causes for concern: the blown lead in Oakland, and the fact that the Heat rank 27th in points allowed (98.0). I know they’ve been blowing teams out, but isn’t Miami supposed to be the top defensive unit as well?
Ten best games of the week:
1) Sixers at Knicks: Weds, 1/11, 7:30 (ET)
2) Hawks at Pacers: Weds, 1/11, 7:00 (ET)
3) Magic at Blazers: Weds, 1/11, 10:00 (ET)
4) Heat at Clippers: Weds, 1/11, 10:30 (ET), National TV: ESPN
5) Bulls at Celtics: Fri, 1/13, 8:00 (ET), National TV: ESPN
6) Lakers at Clippers: Sat, 1/14, 10:30 (ET), National TV: NBA TV
7) Jazz at Nuggets: Sun, 1/15, 8:00 (ET)
8.) Thunder at Celtics: Mon, 1/16, 8:00 (ET), National TV: TNT
9) Mavericks at Lakers: Mon, 1/16, 10:30 (ET), National TV: TNT
10) Spurs at Heat: Tues, 1/17, 7:30 (ET)
Bulls – 5
Thunder – 5
Blazers – 5
Spurs – 5
Lakers – 5
Clippers – 5
Nuggets – 4
Hawks – 4
Heat – 4
Mavericks – 3
Sixers – 3
Knicks – 2
Jazz – 2
Pacers – 2
Celtics – 2
Grizzlies – 1
Any day now, Nets, Raptors, Pistons, Cavs, Bucks, Bobcats, Wizards, TWolves, Kings, Suns, Hornets and Warriors.