1. Los Angeles Lakers
The defending champs are on fire to start the season. With Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol currently nursing injuries, we see no reason for the team to keep rolling when those two return.
2. Boston Celtics
The 2008 champs are all finally healthy. The very balanced squad plus the emergence of Rajon Rondo can only equal success for Boston.
3. Phoenix Suns
In his first full season, Coach Alvin Gentry is doing wonders with this team as it stands atop of the Western Conference. Steve Nash is back to posting MVP-type numbers, including a 21 point-20 assist performance against the 76ers Monday night.
4. Denver Nuggets
Who knew the Nuggets would be this strong out the gate? Chauncey Billups is proving he can elevate just about any team as the Nuggets round out the top three in the West. However, the team has lost its last two and could be taking a dip come next week.
5. Orlando Magic
The Magic, like the Lakers, are another team that is succeeding despite injuries/suspensions. With Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis missing time, the team is being carried by Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson, once considered an afterthought in the Vince Carter trade. Orlando holds a 5-2 record despite an embarrassing loss to the Thunder earlier this week.
6. Miami Heat
Can you say one man wrecking crew? D-Wade is carrying his team once again this season as it stands atop of the division. With a supporting cast that includes Jermaine O’Neal and Quentin Richardson, injuries are likely to occur and Wade will have to continue to be the man in Miami.
7. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have really turned it up a notch this season, on the heels of Miami by just half a game. Jamal Crawford has really elevated the play of this team—Sixth Man of the Year candidate, anyone?
8. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs are in the middle of the pack in the West, and given the emergence of teams like the Suns and Nuggets, it seems as though that’s where the team will stay.
9. Chicago Bulls
After starting the season below .500, The Bulls are riding a three game winning streak. The success is a pleasant surprise to the city of Chicago. However, look for the Bulls to drop down in the rankings if Shaquille O’Neal can get out of Lebron James’ way on offense.
10. Houston Rockets
Another pleasant surprise this season, the Rockets were being led by Trevor Ariza before he went down with an injury. Add him to a list that already includes Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, and you basically have the Rockets B-team playing out the rest of the week.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers
Considered a championship contender as the NBA opened the season, the Cavs are likely to climb up the standings if the Lebron/Shaq experiment can pan out. With the warm reception Lebron received in New York last week, the Cavs better figure it out or Lebron will be on his way out in 2010.
12. Portland Trailblazers
After years of high draft picks, the city of Portland is hoping everything will finally fall into place for the Trailblazers. Brandon Roy has been carrying the team thus far, but his team showed resiliency as it beat Minnesota Sunday night despite a 1-6 shooting night for Roy.
13. (tie) Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are riding a two game winning streak and are above .500 despite the usual injury to Michael Redd. Brandon Jennings showed Knicks GM Donnie Walsh what he missed in this year’s draft as Jennings and the Bucks soared past the Knicks on Saturday night.
13. (tie) Toronto Raptors
No one is going to catch up to Boston in the Atlantic division, but the Raptors are going toe-to toe with the 76ers. Coming off two straight losses, the Raptors will look to get back to winning ways, as the time to prove itself as a dedicated organization to Chris Bosh is running out.
15. Oklahoma City Thunder
Perhaps the biggest surprise this season, the Thunder stands at .500, good for the eighth seed in the West. Although too early to predict, it’s safe to say Kevin Durant and his team are impressing, especially after a 102-74 blowout win over the Magic on Sunday.
16. San Antonio Spurs
Injuries can make or break a team’s season. Just ask the Spurs, who have already been without Tim Duncan Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli for parts of this early season. The team is an atrocious 0-3 on the road, but an impressive 3-0 at home.
17. Philadelphia 76ers
Even with a healthy Elton Brand, the 76ers cannot find success. The Brand experiment is not panning out, and Philly is struggling to keep its head above the .500 mark.
18. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats currently hold the eighth seed in the East, and that is where the team needs to stay. The excuse of expansion is getting old, and the ‘Cats need to improve on the road quickly or it will be looking at another lottery selection next June.
19. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons are another team struggling to stay above .500. Not a whole lot was to be expected with a stronger than ever East and a new head coach in town, but Detroit does have the right pieces. The team’s place in these rankings may fluctuate this season.
20. LA Clippers
At 3-5, the Clippers are not as bad as everyone thought they would be. However, Baron Davis has not yet lived up to his all-star status once in LA, and this team is an injury away from another top five pick.
21. Utah Jazz
After struggling to just beat the Knicks Monday night, one would normally worry about the Jazz. However, Deron Williams is emerging as an MVP candidate. The key to success for this team is staying healthy. With a coach like Jerry Sloan though, any level of success is a possibility.
22. Indiana Pacers
After four days off, the Pacers will look to resume its winning ways against the Warriors. It may just happen, too, as the Pacers’ two wins this season have come from beating up on lowly teams like the Knicks and Wizards. The team has shown potential, but is riding the back of Danny Granger, once again, due to injuries to Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy.
23. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have an ok record at 3-4, but look to be going down as an injury to star Kevin Martin has him sidelined for eight more weeks.
24. New Orleans Hornets
With Chris Paul leading the way, more should be expected from the Hornets. This team needs to improve on its 1-4 road record. Look for them to improve upon that, and climb up the rankings past the Thunder next week.
25. Washington Wizards
The Wizards are still trying to gel with the return of Gilbert Arenas. With a new coach like Flip Saunders, look for the team to use this season as one to grow and develop in order to get used to the new system.
26. Golden State Warriors
At 2-4, the Warriors still have time to make noise in the West. With an 0-2 record on the road and the distraction of Stephen Jackson’s trade request though, we just do not see that happening here. The feud between coach Don Nelson and SJax carries on.
27. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have all the potential in the world, but it is not going to click this season. Its five game losing streak can be partially attributed to the Allen Iverson fiasco. Now that he is gone, it is all on the young guns.
28. New York Knicks
It is all about 2010 for New York. After letting a win slip away against the Jazz, the Knicks have a 1-81 record in their sights while preparing the city for the likes of Lebron, Wade, and Bosh.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves
Al Jefferson has not proved that he can be a successful leading man, but with all hope gone for this season, he will look to continue to prove that.
30. New Jersey Nets
New Jersey is the only lower team on our rankings with some inkling of hope, as the team will look to add some wins to that 0-7 record once Devin Harris returns from an injury.
The Bleacher Report NBA Power Rankings are done by averaging individual feature columnist's tallies. Weekly contributors are: Denton Ramsey (Houston Rockets), Keith Schlosser (NY Knicks), Curtis Finchum (Oklahoma City), Hotnuke (Miami Heat), Bryan Toporek (Philadelphia 76ers), Andrew Ungvari (LA Lakers), Shaun Ahmad (Washington Wizards) and DeMarco Williams (NBA Lead).