As short-lived as it may have been, the Clippers will no longer occupy the top spot in the rankings. No, they won’t slide completely out of the rankings, but it could take some time to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve dug. Not only did they fall into 2nd in the Pacific Division behind the Golden State Warriors (enjoy it while it lasts, Klay), but they find themselves just one game ahead of their Staples Center co-tenants. A team that looks as though it may be on the rise, even without the services of their top point guards. Meanwhile, out East, Brooklyn managed to come away with an OT victory vs. their crosstown rival New York Knicks. I see you putting in work, Atlanta. No, not quite in the rankings just yet, but definitely worth keeping an eye on.
#1 Miami Heat 10-3 (Last week- 3): The defending champs had to wait a few weeks, but they are finally back atop the rankings. Partially, due to their own steady play, but partly in result of the faltering of those previously above…the point is, Miami has endured adversity of its own, even at such an early portion of the season, but looks strong. They still struggle to keep stronger or more athletic big men off the boards, which could come back to haunt them in the post season. San Antonio and Brooklyn (this week) should challenge their position.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder 11-4 (4): Doesn’t this look familiar? OKC out and running, absolutely blitzing the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday. This team can put points up with the best of them. Time for the showdown many of us have been waiting for, as they host James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. Does Harden return to Chesapeake Energy Arena guns a’ blazing, or do Thabo Sefolosha or even Westbrook keep him from erupting?
#3 San Antonio Spurs 12-3 (6): The Spurs always leave me with the “what more can I say?” feeling when analyzing them. Duncan continues to defy age with his incredible play. 15 year in, and the man is having one of his more efficient seasons to date. Tony Parker is back to playing to every bit as much of an MVP level as Carmelo Anthony has to this point. The Spurs wrap up their 6-game roadie with visits to Orlando and Miami. Should they complete the trip undefeated, expect another surge in these rankings.
#4 Memphis Grizzlies 10-2 (5): They may have started the week by dropping a tough one at home vs. Denver, but following that up with wins over the visiting Lakers and Cavs was still enough to warrant a step forward. They host Toronto and Detroit before heading to San Antonio for a big match-up on Saturday.
#5 Brooklyn Nets 9-4 (8): As I often say, it isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish. Even though the Nets lost tough road games at the hands of the Lakers and Warriors to start the week, they ended it with impressive wins over the Clippers, Blazers, and crosstown Knicks. This next stretch should tell us how real they are: @Boston, @Orlando, @Miami, vs. OKC.
#6 New York Knicks 9-4 (2): The next 7-10 days will certainly tell whether the Knicks’ most recent 1-3 stretch was more of a blip than a sign of things to come. Several winnable games, followed by tough road tests @Miami and @Chicago. Amar’e isn’t slated to return for over a month, but there has already been talk of him returning as a 6th-man type. As much as I want to see STAT succeed, I’m not certain the Ginobili role is one he would ultimately embrace.
#7 Los Angeles Clippers 8-6 (1): Back to life, back to reality. No, the Clippers certainly don’t deserve to be out of the rankings (entirely), but the sure did have a rapid fall from grace after a nice 6-game stretch. Their next six games are against teams they should be able to (more than) compete with. Those explosive games from DeAndre Jordan are becoming more and more scarce, and it is no coincidence the Clippers have run into trouble. LAC will need consistency from players like Jordan, Crawford, and Bledsoe.
#8 Los Angeles Lakers 7-7 (9): Speaking of consistency, all of Lakers Nation wants to know which team they should expect to see…the one that gets run off the court by the Kings and Grizzlies, or the one that resembles an absolute world-beater in a road destruction of the Dallas Mavericks? As crazy as it sounds, the Nash injury may end up being a blessing, as Darius Morris seems to be finding his way as a young point guard. Look out for Jamison and Meeks finding a groove.
#9 Boston Celtics 8-6 (N/A): After so much roster movement in the off-season, the up and down pace at the start should not have been a surprise. Rondo has been nothing short of spectacular. Even with improvements, you wonder how long Garnett and Pierce can stay healthy? Avery Bradley has returned to physical activity, but no updates have been given regarding his return to action. They host Brooklyn and Portland, before wrapping up the week with a trip to Milwaukee on Sat.
#10 Philadelphia 76ers 8-6 (10): Outside of a tough one against Westbrook and OKC, Jrue Holiday continues to show signs of significant improvement. Posting career numbers in nearly every significant statistical category, alongside a steadily improving Evan Turner, Holiday has given Philly fans a serious reason to eagerly await the return of newly-acquired Andrew Bynum to finally complete the inside-outside attack. Trouble is, with the recent set-back (#BowlingGate), Bynum may not be available until the New Year.
Jabari A. Davis