Week 5 NBA Power Rankings
Sorry Kobe, your scoring binge fizzled, and your team (lost 4 of 5) sank right out of the rankings. Lakers, Celtics, Mavericks are going nowhere without several moves for each team. If the lockout did nothing else, it ushered in new talent (Rubio, Kemba, Kyrie) and officially marked a significant power shift in the NBA. The Pacers answer the call, the Bulls show they are far from a 1-man show, the Knicks still stink, and Memphis has won 6 straight.
1.) Chicago Bulls (15-3) Although the level of opponents could be called into question, an argument could be made that their most impressive week of team basketball just ended (3-1). Success of that nature plus a favorable match-up with the Nets may offer a bit more rest for Derrick Rose (out past 4 games) and his ailing turf toe. Nice match-up with the visiting Pacers on Wednesday (vs. Bucks on Friday) before ending the week with a showdown in Miami (Sunday).
2.) OKC Thunder (13-3) Russell Westbrook got paid (5/yr $80m), and went onto the offensive, averaging nearly 28 ppg. during a 2-1 week for the Thunder. They’ve entered into that tough road-stretch (13 of next 18 games) of their schedule I alluded to last week. If I could believe in Steph Curry playing, I could be excited about that match-up, but will he ever be completely healthy? Road trip aside, I expect the Thunder to continue to roll. Even though I think analysts like Skip Bayless overplay the Westbrook/Durant relationship, I will keep an eye on Westbrook’s shot totals and selection, now that he received the big contract.
3.) Orlando Magic (11-4) Although he shouldn’t have to, Dwight Howard erased any consternation you may have had about calling him the clear-cut and outright “Best Big Man” in the game with his emphatic 21pt, 23 board performance in the head-to-head match-up with Andrew Bynum and the Los Angeles Lakers. In case you hadn’t been paying attention to the Howard-trade saga, the trendy/cute pick in the debate had recently been leading towards Bynum (seriously, Shaq/Skip?). Debate, over. If you’re an Orlando fan, I hope you like watching them play the Celtics and Pacers, since the NBA schedule-makers got lazy and have the Magic playing the Celts/Pacers 5 of the next 9 games.
4.) Denver Nuggets (12-5) Whatever Danilo Gallinari did in order to overcome his early-season slump, he needs to bottle it up and pass it around. Over the first couple weeks of the season, he could not hit a shot to save his life (about 34% fg, 13% 3pt through the first 5 games), and even missed potential game-tying/winning lay-ups against the Lakers and Blazers during that stretch. Well, the kid nearly doubled his scoring average during the month of January, and shot 50% from the field, while knocking down 36% from behind the arc as well. No surprise, Denver went 10-3 for the month, and find themselves (presently) in the 4th seed out West.
5.) Indiana Pacers (11-4) Since getting destroyed by Miami ( http://espn.go.com/nba/recap?id=320104014), the Pacers are 7-2 and actually find themselves ahead of those very same Heat players in the standings. They rolled into Los Angeles on Sunday night, and endured a few big runs by the Lakers en route to another impressive victory for this young team. They play hard-nosed defense, and when you combine their balanced attack (6 players in double figures, Sunday) with Roy Hibbert shaking off the effects of a broken nose to score 8 of his team-high 18 points in the 4th quarter, the Pacers head into what could be a murderous week (vs. Orl, @Chi, @Boston, @ Orl) in decent shape. I will be impressed if they come out 2-2, but could they possibly do even better?
6.) Utah Jazz (10-5) Coach Tyrone Corbin has his Jazz squad playing some serious basketball in Utah. In fact, the Jazz are 9-2 since the start of the year (1 loss in OT to the Lakers, and by 3 vs. Dallas). Paul Millsap doesn’t care if you don’t consider him one of the better power forwards, as much like Luis Scola, Millsap is the leader of the “Best Guy You May Not Think About…But Could REALLY Help Your Roster” team. With maturity being a concern for Derrick Favors (punting balls into the stands), Utah might want to think twice before shipping Millsap off.
7.) Miami Heat (11-5) In what has become a bit of a topsy-turvy early season for Miami, the Heat won 3 consecutive, lost the following 3, only to win the next 3…all before dropping a puzzling game against Brandon Jennings and the Bucks on Sunday. With Dwyane Wade still listed as day-to-day with a myriad of aches and pains, LeBron and Bosh continue to flourish individually, but haven’t quite been able to string it together long enough to sustain the success. LeBron clearly plays better and more comfortably without Wade on the floor, and that will be an issue the Heat will have to seriously consider addressing at some point soon. While LeBron may play better without Wade on the floor, the Heat are not better off without him.
8.) Philadelphia 76ers (11-5) Philly will undoubtedly be licking it’s wounds after the beating Miami put on them (Saturday night). Good news for them, the schedule makers must have seen it coming, as they have a homestand that includes the Wizards, Nets, Bobcats, and Pistons coming into town this week. I’m still left wondering if the Sixers ever end up shipping Iguodala off for more parts? How long do you hold onto a player that has clearly peaked, and could actually still garner a decent contributing piece or two?
9.) Atlanta Hawks (12-5) The Hawks have won 5 of 6, and responded to a tough loss in Philadelphia with 27-point blowout of Kyrie Irving‘s Cavs. Josh Smith continues to do what he does, and fill up the stat-sheet. In Al Horford’s absence (torn pectoral), he’s increased his scoring output, and lead this team to a 5-1 record over the time. Even though the next 5 games come on the road, the Milwaukee and San Antonio are should provide the toughest test. I questioned whether the Hawks could survive without Horford for the rest of the year, and this road trip should definitively provide that answer.
10.) Los Angeles Clippers (9-5) Narrowly beating out the Grizzlies, Lob City still deserves to make the top-10. Without Chris Paul (hamstring), the Clippers went 2-2 this week. Questioned about Blake Griffin’s actual impact on the outcome of the games and ability to be the go-to guy on a winning team have been called into question around the water-coolers out West. Incredible dunks and semi-corny commercials aside, Griffin’s ability to maintain his focus/energy during the tough times are going to be the difference between the Clippers being a good team and potentially being able to compete with the big guns (OKC/Denver) out West. Chris Paul is still listed as ‘day-to-day’, and the Clippers’ next 6 games are all against teams they will likely be battling it out with for a playoff spot out.
Source: Real Talk Sports