After an up-and-down week for some of the NBA’s elites, how did the rankings shake out for Week 3? Did a 9-1 start help the Hornets or Spurs knock the Lakers off their seat at the top? And how surprising is the Heat’s ranking this week? Like last week, only the top 15 teams will be getting any love. Teams have to earn their comments in these rankings! And on to the rankings, let the debate begin!
30. Los Angeles Clippers (1-11)
29. Philadelphia 76ers (2-10)
28. Toronto Raptors (3-9)
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-9)
26. Washington Wizards (3-7)
25. Detroit Pistons (4-8)
24. Houston Rockets (3-8)
23. Sacramento Kings (3-7)
22. New York Knicks (4-8)
21. New Jersey Nets (4-7)
20. Charlotte Bobcats (4-7)
19. Memphis Grizzlies (4-8)
18. Indiana Pacers (4-5)
17. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-5)
16. Milwaukee Bucks (5-6)
15. Denver Nuggets (6-5) –
After an impressive home win over the Lakers, the Nuggets struggled in a road loss to the Suns, then allowed the Knicks to take them down to the last shot at home the next night. The fact of the matter is, the Carmelo Anthony saga is weighing this team down. While Melo can still score in bunches, some nights he’s just not all there mentally, and it causes Denver to struggle against lesser opponents. At 6-5, Denver is underachieving for coach George Karl, and it seems like they will need a change soon for them to get right mentally for a playoff run this season.
14. Golden State Warriors (7-4) –
Despite falling out of the top ten, the Warriors remain a team surprising people this season. For the first time in a long, long time, the Warriors have held three straight opponents to under 100 points. The Warriors! The downside to that is the fact that Golden State went 1-2 in those games, including a 79-72 stinker against the Bucks. A visit from the Lakers looms this weekend in a game that could knock the Warriors even further back down to earth after their surprising 6-2 start.
13. Portland Trailblazers (7-5) –
The Blazers received terrible news yesterday when word came down that Greg Oden would need microfracture surgery and miss the remainder of the season (again.), meaning that Oden has played a total of 82 games in his first four season. While some people use this as a reason to remind everyone the Blazers passed over Kevin Durant to select Oden, we should all have a little compassion for this kid. These knee injuries are not something to take lightly, and ultimately could affect him throughout his life. Here’s hoping that Oden can make a comeback from his injuries and have a successful NBA career. Add the news about Oden to the ongoing knee issues that Brandon Roy is having, and it looks like once again, the Blazers will struggle with key injuries all season long. The folks in the Rip City may be about to fall on some tough times with their squad.
12. Phoenix Suns (6-5) –
In the same week that the Suns set a team-record with 22 threes in an impressive road win against the Lakers, the Suns were destroyed by the Heat in Miami, allowing Chris Bosh to score 35 points in three quarters. While some media may be reacting like the Suns let Bosh score 75, the fact remains that while this is a great offensive team, once opponents slow the game down and go inside the Suns are toast. After what Bosh did last night, I’m scared to see the numbers Dwight Howard will put up tonight against Phoenix, and this will be a theme that troubles the Suns all season long unless they can pull the trigger on a trade to make them better inside.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (7-4) –
For all the hype (and rightfully so) that Kevin Durant receives, Russell Westbrook has quietly been putting together an All-Star season in Oklahoma City. The third-year guard is averaging 23 points and 8 assists a game, some of the best numbers you will find at the point guard position in the NBA today. Oh and he plays a little defense too, averaging 2.1 steals per game. In what has become the year of the point guard to this point in the NBA, Westbrook is making a name for himself. If he can continue this production, the Thunder will have one of the most potent 1-2 punches in all of the NBA, period.
10. Chicago Bulls (7-4) –
The Bulls embarked on their annual rodeo trip and may be playing the toughest stretch of basketball you will see in the NBA this season. After road games against all three Texas teams, Chicago heads to LA to face the Lakers before finishing off the trip with games at Phoenix/Denver and Sacramento. And it’s not like it gets easy after that as they return home for the Magic before heading onto the road for a date with the Celtics. Two week from now we will know if this team is ready to make the leap to elite in the East, or just another middle of the pack squad. The burden of these tough games will fall on Derrick Rose’s shoulders, and despite a 1-1 start to this road-trip, he has shown that he’s ready for it. At the very least, every Bulls game for the next two weeks will be fun to watch.
9. Miami Heat (7-4) –
Another day, another drama for the NBA’s closest thing to a soap opera down in Miami. After finally having a good game against the Suns last night, Chris Bosh goes on in an interview to give us this wonderful quote:
“He wants to work, we wanna chill. I hope he can meet us halfway, I play too many minutes I need to rest.“
My man Rob already broke down how dumb this quote was, so I won’t spend too much time on it. After Lebron saying something similar last week about minutes for him and D-Wade, one thing is clear: this team does not respect Coach Erik Spoelstra. They are undermining him and we are only 11 games into the season. Here’s an idea, instead of wanting to chill and hoping that everything is handed to you, go out and work to win games. It seems like the further the season goes, the more the Heat act like everything should be handed to them and they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Newsflash boys, that’s not gonna fly come playoff time. While the record may not be too bad, let’s remember the Heat are 5-0 against non-playoff teams and 2-4 against teams that were in the postseason last year. Until they prove they can beat good teams and not just bad ones, this underachieving team will remain low in these rankings.
8. Atlanta Hawks (8-4) –
After a 6-0 start, the Hawks are just 2-4 and three of those losses have come at home, including a 17 point beat-down at the hands of the Bucks. The fact of the matter is this team is not much better, if at all, then it was last season. And in a conference where teams only got better, this fact does not bode well for the Hawks. Complacency can become a problem, especially with guys like Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson receiving their fat contracts. Add that to the fact that Hawks are actively shopping reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford, and you’re looking at the recipe for an underachieving team in Atlanta.
7. Dallas Mavericks (7-3) –
A 2-1 week for the Mavs was highlighted by a home-and-away with the Hornets that saw Dallas become the first team to knock New Orleans off this season. You know exactly what you’re going to get from Dallas, and it’s the same formula they’ve used for the past ten or so years. Dirk Nowitzki is going to get a lot of shots, and Jason Terry is going to score a lot of points off the bench. However the Mavs know that they have to be a tough team inside if they are going to beat the Lakers out West, and so far this season they have gotten mixed results from Brendan Haywood and Co. inside, something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
6. Orlando Magic (7-3) –
The Magic have been an up and down team lately, and it has cost them in the standings. After dropping back-to-back games against the Jazz and Raptors, Orlando barely escaped in New Jersey before finally putting together a complete performance against Memphis. While this is a team that will almost certainly finish top three in the East, there have been some alarming warning signs for Magic fans so far this season. A couple bad losses (by 26 at Miami, home against the Raptors/Jazz) and some ugly wins may just be as simple as early season adjustments. However if this problem persists as the season progresses, the Magic could pick up some surprising losses, and as a result slip in the standings of a tightly contested Eastern conference race for home-court.
5. Utah Jazz (8-4) –
Fresh off one of the most impressive weeks we’ve seen in a long time, the Jazz drop a spot after coming back down to earth in a home loss to the Thunder. Prior to that, the Jazz added a two more comebacks from double digit deficits to make it five straight games, an unbelievable streak. Deron Williams has played at an MVP level for this Jazz squad, who went on their impressive streak while still incorporating plenty of new players on their roster. A showdown with the Spurs looms tomorrow night in a game that could set the tone for what should be a tight race for the second seed out West.
4. San Antonio Spurs (9-1) –
Tied for the best record in the NBA as of this morning, the only blemish on the Spurs record is a loss to the other 9-1 team, the Hornets. The Spurs suddenly look like the team we’re accustomed to seeing, blending the talents of their veterans with a youthful injection from their rookies, San Antonio is once again a contender. While some of their players may be going through some real drama off the court (see: Parker, Tony), on the court this team is in harmony, playing well together and showing that mentions of their demise may have been premature. Richard Jefferson finally looks comfortable in a Spurs uniform and it will be interesting to see what this team can do as the season progresses.
3. New Orleans Hornets (9-1) –
After the Lakers loss in Denver last week, the Hornets were the last remaining unbeaten before finally falling to the Mavs a couple of nights later. It didn’t take long for New Orleans to get back on track, knocking off Dallas in the rematch just a few nights later. While the Hornets may be tied with the Spurs for the best record in the NBA, make no mistake they are still a level below the next two teams on the list. That is not a knock on the Hornets at all however, because if you read that sentence before the season started you’d think I was crazy. Chris Paul has his team playing at a very high level, showing more focus defensively and seeing that translate to wins on the court. While they probably won’t play at this high of a level for the remainder of the season, this definitely looks like a playoff team in the loaded West, who saw that coming?
2. Boston Celtics (9-2) –
Simply put, the Celtics are the class of the Eastern Conference right now. I’ll even go as far as to say that at this moment, they are heads and shoulders above everyone else in the East. After another dominating win over the South Beach Circus, Boston knocked off Memphis and then blew out Washington. With MVP-candidate Rajon Rondo leading the way, the Celtics easily look like the team with the best chemistry on the court in the NBA today. Add that to an always stingy defense and you have the makings of a team on yet another Finals run.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (10-2) –
Even two consecutive losses during the week wasn’t enough to knock the Lakers off their perch at the top. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen an offense as complete as this Lakers team is, and that’s without big man Andrew Bynum having stepped on the court. This offense can be great, and I mean historically great if they continue to play at this pace. The main cause for concern right now for Laker fans is defense, which is surprising. Of all the worries L.A. had heading into the season (Kobe’s knee/age being the main concern, wrongly of course.), nobody expected the Lakers to struggle defensively like they did in giving up 118 and 120 in losses to Denver and Phoenix. Once the defense catches up with the offense, look out.