NBA Power Rankings Week 2: How Far Have the Miami Heat Fallen

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2010

NBA Power Rankings Week 2: How Far Have the Miami Heat Fallen

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Week 2 of the NBA season came and went, leaving us with more questions than answers.

    Are the Hornets actually an elite NBA team?  Does anyone want to shoot the final shot for the Miami Heat?  Will somebody please, for the love of God, #freekevinlove?

    Well, this week Bleacher Report pow-wowed nine of its writers together once again to power-rank the teams and gave me editorial privileges for answering these questions.

    So, without further ado, here are the power rankings for Week 2.

    The Bleacher Report NBA Power Rankings are done by averaging individual feature columnists' tallies. This week's contributors were: Allen Kim (NBA), Tyler Conway (NBA), Ahaviah Bessemer (NBA), Bob Evans (Cavaliers), Brian Chappatta (Bulls), John Friel (Heat), Patrick Harrel (Rockets), Andrew Bailey (Mavericks) and Bryan Toporek (NBA Team Leader).

    Archives:

    Week One

    Preseason

30. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Record: 1-6

    Previous Rank: 27

    Last week I made the declaration that I was joining the #freekevinlove movement led by ESPN.com's Bill Simmons and one week later, I'm glad I hopped on the bandwagon while there were still aisle seats available.

    With limited minutes once again hampering the Timberwolves' best player, Love simply went about his business, averaging nearly 20-10 last week while maxing out at 31 minutes on the floor. 

    The Love situation is by far the biggest travesty of the 2010-11 season so far (Andrei Kirilenko's hair notwithstanding).  It is utterly ridiculous and speaks to the overall incompetence of the Timberwolves organization, beginning with owner Glen Taylor, continuing with point guard-obsessed GM David Kahn and ending with the league's worst coach, Kurt Rambis. 

    Normally, I would feel sorry for the fans here...but I can't.  They're the same brainwashed numskulls who thought giving Darko $20 million could work, or that acquiring five small forwards in the offseason was a good idea.  

    You cannot feel bad for people who have an inability to critically analyze their organization with any objectivity whatsoever. 

    Say what you will about Clippers fans, but at least they know they suck.

    Last Week: 

    L (129-97) - @ Miami Heat

    L (128-86) - @ Orlando Magic

    L (113-103) - vs. Atlanta Hawks

    L (120-94) - @ Houston Rockets


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - @ Los Angeles Lakers

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ Sacramento Kings

    Fri, Nov. 12 - vs. New York Knicks

    Sun, Nov. 14 - @ Atlanta Hawks

29. Toronto Raptors

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Record: 1-6

    Previous Rank: 23

    After a semi-insane (in my opinion) leap on our power rankings last week (Full disclosure, I had the Raptors No. 28, which differed five spots from the composite No. 23 ranking), sanity is restored this week as the Raptors fall to their rightful spot near the bottom of league.

    And, really, this can't shock anyone.  The team lost its only good NBA player, leaving the Raptors with Andrei Bargnani as its franchise player.  Um, yeah.  The Raptors are bad and it's about as shocking as finding out the biggest d-bags you know dressed up as The Situation for Halloween. 

    Last Week:

    L (111-108) - @ Sacramento Kings

    L (125-108) - @ Utah Jazz

    L (108-103) - @ Los Angeles Lakers

    L (97-84) - @ Portland Trailblazers


    This Week:

    L  (109-102) - vs. Golden State Warriors

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. Charlotte Bobcats

    Fri, Nov. 12 - @ Orlando Magic

    Sat, Nov. 13 - @ Miami Heat

28. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Record: 1-6

    Previous Rank: 25

    The fact that the Clippers have played an absolutely brutal schedule so far this season cannot go understated.  With road trips to Golden State, Denver and Utah as well as home tilts with Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio and Dallas, it is safe to say no team has had a tougher early-season schedule than the Clippers.

    It is also safe to say that, regardless of schedule, no good team starts out the season with a 1-6 record.  Baron Davis' albatross of a contract looms larger every single day while the brilliance of Blake Griffin is overshadowed by the complete incompetence of every other player on the team not named Eric (Gordon and Bledsoe have both looked great).

    While the schedule lightens considerably after Wednesday's game at San Antonio, the Clippers are going to have a tough time digging out of the hole they've placed themselves in so far this season.

    Last Week: 

    L (97-88) - vs San Antonio Spurs

    W (107-92) - vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

    L (111-104) - @ Denver Nuggets

    L (109-107, OT) - @ Utah Jazz


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - @ New Orleans Hornets

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ San Antonio Spurs

    Fri, Nov. 12 - vs. Detroit Pistons

27. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Record: 1-6

    Previous Rank: 28

    College basketball cannot start fast enough for those in North Carolina.  With the Panthers battling the Bills for the title of worst team in football and Michael Jordan's impeccable knack for personnel once again rearing its head for the Bobcats, 2010-11 looks to be a lost season for inhabitants of the Tar Heel state. 

    I mean, I cannot be the only one who isn't shocked that a team whose biggest offseason coup was ridding $15 million in salary is struggling, can I? 

    Incompetency breeds incompetency.  It's that simple. 

    Last Week:

    W (85-83) - @ New Jersey Nets

    L (97-90) - @ Detroit Pistons

    L (97-88) - vs. Orlando Magic


    This Week:


    L (95-91) - San Antonio Spurs

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ Toronto Raptors

    Fri, Nov. 12 - @ Washington Wizards

    Sat, Nov. 13 - vs. Utah Jazz

26. Washington Wizards

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Record: 1-4

    Previous Rank: 26

    So much for the triumphant return of Gilbert Arenas. 

    I realize it's entirely possible that I'm overreacting here, but Gilbert looks nothing like the changed player he promised to be in preseason camp. 

    Well, for that matter, he looks nothing like a solid NBA player at this point either. 

    Showing absolutely dismal shot selection, Gilbert looks like an out-of-shape rec league player trying to step on an NBA floor.  Arenas' only real contribution in his two games has been three-point shooting (Arenas is 7-14 so far, accounting for 70 percent of his made baskets).

    The Wizards are a bad team, but in the larger sense of things, that might not be such a bad thing.

    For fun:  Watch John Wall Dougie.

    Last Week: 

    W (116-115, OT) - vs. Philadelphia 76ers

    L (112-91) - @ New York Knicks

    L (107-102) - vs. Cleveland Cavaliers


    This Week:

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. Houston Rockets

    Fri, Nov. 12 - vs. Charlotte Bobcats

    Sat. Nov. 13 - @ Chicago Bulls

25. Detroit Pistons

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Record: 2-5

    Previous Rank: 30

    Allow me to use this space to give my opinion on the Charlie Villanueva-Kevin Garnett spat:

    Both men are wrong.  Villanueva should never have run to his Twitter like the class tattletale to tell the world about Garnett's "cancer" comment.  What is said on the court stays there.  And, really, is whatever Garnett said any worse than a mild moment of trash talk in the average football game?  Absolutely not. 

    If Villanueva has a problem with something Garnett says, knock him on his ass next time he goes up for a layup.  Or, better yet, stop playing turnstile defense.

    Garnett, on the other hand, acted liked a complete buffoon like he always does.  Regardless of what he said (we do know it's not "You are cancerous to your team and our league"), what can be gained from degrading a mediocre player on an awful team during a meaningless game? 

    Garnett is a 34-year-old man acting like the brash high school phenom he once was.  Kevin, you're a man now.  Act like it. 

    Last Week:

    L (109-86) - vs. Boston Celtics

    L (94-85) - @ Atlanta Hawks

    W (97-90) -  vs. Charlotte Bobcats

    W (102-97) -  vs. Golden State Warriors


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - @ Portland Trailblazers

    Fri, Nov. 12 - @ Los Angeles Clippers

    Sun, Nov. 14 - @ Sacramento Kings

24. Houston Rockets

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Record: 1-5

    Previous Rank:  21

    This ranking is the first where I strongly disagree with the composite ranking.  While Houston's slow start is alarming, it is far from surprising considering Houston's difficult early-season schedule.

    In fact, the five teams who have handed the Rockets losses this season are a combined 25-5 this season and Houston has been competitive in every single one of those games except a home loss against Denver. 

    In addition, this team is still gelling.  Remember that the team had to learn to compete without Yao Ming last season and now his sudden thrust back into the starting lineup has upset the team's equilibrium. 

    As the group gets re-acclimated to each other and the schedule eases up, Houston should roar back up the rankings.

    Even in their current state, I would still take the Rockets in a seven-game series over each of the next eight teams in our power rankings.

    Last Week:

    L (107-99) - vs. New Orleans Hornets

    L (124-121, OT) - @ San Antonio Spurs

    W (120-94) - vs. Minnesota Timberwolves


    This Week:

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ Washington Wizards

    Fri, Nov. 12 - @ Indiana Pacers

    Sun, Nov. 14 - @ New York Knicks

23. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    Record: 2-5

    Previous Rank: 29

    On the bright side, Elton Brand has been one of the most unsung pleasant surprises of the 2010-11 NBA season so far, averaging nearly 19 PPG and over eight RPG.  If he keeps up his stellar play, there may be some team gullible enough to take on Brand's all-time terrible contract.

    On the negative side, the Sixers are not a good team and their franchise savior Evan Turner does not look like the superstar-in-the-making Philadelphians had hoped for. In addition, Andre Iguodala's trade stock is falling as every misguided three-pointer doesn't.

    Last Week:

    L (116-115, OT) - @ Washington Wizards

    W (101-75) - vs. Indiana Pacers

    L (123-116) - vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

    W (106-96) - @ New York Knicks


    This Week:

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    Fri, Nov. 12 - @ Dallas Mavericks

    Sat, Nov. 13 - @ San Antonio Spurs


22. New Jersey Nets

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Record: 2-4 

    Previous Rank: 18-T

    So much for the sudden resurgence of the Nets. 

    After looking great in their first two games of the season, New Jersey has looked much more like the 12-win team of last season over their past four games, all of which have been losses.

    Although most did not expect playoff-caliber performances out of the team on a nightly basis, the struggles of center Brook Lopez are shocking.  No NBA team can survive with their star center shooting under 40 percent from the field and grabbing less than six boards a night.  Add in Dwight Howard's utter obliteration of Lopez on both ends of the floor Friday night, and I think there is cause for even more concern in New Jersey. 

    Last Week: 

    L (85-83) - vs. Charlotte Bobcats

    L (105-90) - @ Orlando Magic

    L (101-89) - @ Miami Heat


    This Week:

    Tues, Nov. 9 - vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ Cleveland Cavaliers

    Sat, Nov. 13 - vs. Orlando Magic

21. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Record: 2-5

    Previous Rank: T-18

    For over a year now, I've been hearing from friends and readers about how insane my "hatred" of Brandon Jennings is.  Friends pointed out that my fundamental inability to admit I'm wrong is clouding my judgment of one of the NBA's best point guards.  

    Well, they were right about one thing—I do have a fundamental inability to admit I'm wrong (as a couple drunken wanderings through Happy Valley can attest).  While my drunken wanderings may take me in the wrong direction every once in a while, I always end up home at the end of the night. 

    And I've finally found "home" on Brandon Jennings:  He's a volume shooter who will drive coaches and general managers crazy with his titillating talent (say that three times fast), but will never be a winning point guard in the NBA.  His career ceiling is Stephon Marbury.  

    Sound familiar?  It should, because it's exactly what I said two years ago. 

    Milwaukee will continue struggling as long as Jennings is jacking up bad shots on a nightly basis. 

    Last Week:

    L (90-76) - vs. Portland Trailblazers

    L (105-102, OT) - @ Boston Celtics

    W (94-90) - @ Indiana Pacers

    L (87-81) - vs. New Orleans Hornets


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - vs. New York Knicks

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ Atlanta Hawks

    Sat, Nov. 13 - vs. Golden State Warriors

20. Indiana Pacers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Record: 2-3

    Previous Rank: 16

    Perhaps we all were a little too quick in anointing Darren Collison as a future elite NBA point guard.  Although it's a small sample size, Collison has spent much of his first five games in a Pacers uniform looking more like Brandon Jennings (volume shots, poor decisions, missing open teammates) than the star-in-the-making we saw last season in New Orleans.

    For the Pacers to have any success this season, they need Collison to elevate his play much like third-year center Roy Hibbert has.  Having seen Hibbert play at Georgetown more than a few times, it seems that he has found a way to use the skills he honed as a Hoya and translate them to the NBA level. 

    This is by no stretch of the imagination a good basketball team, but the Pacers are certainly headed in the right direction. 

    Last Week:

    L (101-75) - @ Philadelphia 76ers

    L (94-90) - vs. Milwaukee Bucks


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - vs. Denver Nuggets

    Fri, Nov. 12 - vs. Houston Rockets

    Sat, Nov. 13 - @ Cleveland Cavaliers

19. Sacramento Kings

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Record: 3-3

    Previous Rank: T-18

    Captivating.  Talented.  Inconsistent.

    Those are the three words that perfectly describe the 2010-11 Sacramento Kings and their leader, Tyreke Evans.  There are stretches in games where the Kings (and Evans) look like a well-oiled machine ready to make an Oklahoma City-like jump.

    Then there are other times where the team looks utterly lost, can't run a consistent set play to save their lives, and have to resort to a desperate jumper at the end of the shot clock. 

    Inconsistency should be expected with such a young team.  It's the malaise of complacency that bothers me.  Young teams should have a hunger, a thirst for victory that seems like it's lacking in Sacramento.

    For the team to look like the well-oiled machine it has the potential to be, the hunger needs to come out. 

    Last Week:

    W (111-108) - vs. Toronto Raptors

    L (112-100) - vs. Los Angeles Lakers

    L (100-91) - vs. Memphis Grizzlies


    This Week:

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Fri, Nov. 12 - @ Phoenix Suns

    Sun, Nov. 14 - vs. Detroit Pistons

18. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Record: 3-3

    Previous Rank: 24

    Pros of the 2010-11 season for the Cavs

    1.  They don't suck. 

    2.  LeBron is turning balls over more than porn star Tori Black.

    3.  If the season ended today, Cleveland would play Miami in the first round of the playoffs (via Marc Stein via J.A. Adande).

    4.  They're leading the Central Division.

    5.  J.J. Hickson has All-Star potential .

    Cons of the 2010-11 season for the Cavs

    1.  They're not good enough to make a serious playoff run, but not bad enough to get a high lottery pick.

    2.  If the season ended today, Cleveland would play Miami in the first round of the playoffs. 

    3.  Mo Williams is taking crunch-time shots.

    4.  Antawn Jamison is not a good basketball player anymore.

    5.  Mo Williams is taking crunch-time shots.

    Well, at least the pros and cons are equal so far. 

    Last Week:

    L (100-88) -  vs. Atlanta Hawks

    W (123-116) - @ Philadelphia 76ers

    W (107-102) - @ Washington Wizards


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - @ New Jersey Nets

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. New Jersey Nets

    Sat, Nov. 13 - vs. Indiana Pacers

17. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record: 4-4

    Previous Rank: 13

    I know this is blasphemy, but could Rudy Gay actually have been worth his maximum contract? 

    In short, the answer is no.  Gay is, however, making it seem like a better deal each day as his torrid start to the season continues. 

    But don't worry, Grizzlies fans, just as Gay's contract started to look not so bad, Chris Wallace gave Mike Conley $45 million just to make sure you'll still have one of the worst contracts in the NBA on your books. 

    Somewhere, Kevin Pritchard is recovering from a concussion after banging his head against a wall.

    Last Week:

    L (124-105) - @ Los Angeles Lakers

    L (115-109) - @ Golden State Warriors

    L (123-118, OT) - @ Phoenix Suns

    W (100-91) - @ Sacramento Kings


    This Week:

    W (109-99) - vs. Phoenix Suns

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. Dallas Mavericks

    Sat, Nov. 13 - vs. Boston Celtics

16. New York Knicks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Record: 3-3

    Previous Rank: 22

    The Knicks are by far the most enigmatic team in the NBA this season.  It wouldn't be a shock to see them defeat any of the league's top teams on any given night, but it also wouldn't be a shock to see Minnesota throttle them on Friday night.

    Perhaps the answer to the Knicks inconsistency lies in their inconsistent forward Danilo Gallinari.  In wins, Gallinari has showed flashes of brilliance, averaging 17.3 PPG while shooting 56 percent from beyond the three-point arc.  However, in losses, Gallinari has struggled, scoring just seven PPG while shooting 23 percent from the field, including a paltry 17 percent from three. 

    Considering the Knicks have lost by an average of just 6.33 PPG, the Knicks' inconsistency problems could be solved when Gallinari solves his own. 

    Last Week:

    W (120-112) - @ Chicago Bulls

    W (112-91) - vs. Washington Wizards

    L (106-96) - vs. Philadelphia


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - @ Milwaukee Bucks

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. Golden State Warriors

    Fri, Nov. 12 - @ Minnesota Timberwolves

    Sun, Nov. 14 - vs. Houston Rockets

15. Chicago Bulls

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Record: 3-3

    Previous Rank: 10-T

    Despite the team's struggles, both Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose are playing in a different stratosphere right now. 

    Noah has emerged as both an efficient scorer, the second-best defensive center in basketball, and perhaps the league's best rebounder.

    Rose has harnessed his fantastic blend of scoring, assisting, crunch-time leadership and electricity into an emergence as the game's second-best point guard, in my eyes.

    If the team can find a stronger defensive identity outside of Noah and get better contributions out of role players, the return of Carlos Boozer should vault the Bulls into the elite status we were ready to grant at the beginning of the season. 

    Last Week:

    W (110-98) - vs. Portland Trailblazers

    L (120-112) - vs. New York Knicks

    L (110-105, OT) - @ Boston Celtics


    This Week:

    W (94-92) - vs. Denver Nuggets

    Thu, Nov. 11 - vs. Golden State Warriors

    Sat, Nov. 13 - vs. Washington Wizards

14. Phoenix Suns

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record: 3-4

    Previous Rank: 17

    I don't see the appeal of this Phoenix Suns team.  At best, they're a mishmash of semi-talented small forwards and shooting guards with a point guard who, while still elite offensively, looks decrepit defensively.

    And while that will make for some high-octane, fun basketball, it will also make for no playoff berth for Phoenix this season.

    Personally, I would rather bet on the talent-laden rosters in either Memphis or even Houston over the 2010-11 Suns.  It pains me because I love the team and especially Nash, but they've shown nothing that we didn't already know in the preseason. 

    Last Week:

    L (112-110) - vs. San Antonio Spurs

    W (123-118, OT) - vs. Memphis Grizzlies

    W (118-114) - @ Atlanta Hawks


    This Week:

    L (109-99) - @ Memphis Grizzlies

    Fri, Nov. 12 - vs. Sacramento Kings

    Sun, Nov. 14 - @ Los Angeles Lakers

13. Golden State Warriors

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record: 5-2

    Previous Rank: 14-T

    The Warriors look like the NBA equivalent to the NFL's St. Louis Rams:  They lack experience, miss talent in certain areas, play hard on a nightly basis and are a completely different team at home. 

    After watching the way the Warriors fed off the home crowd in last Wednesday's win over Memphis, I am wholly convinced that they end with one of the four best home records in the NBA.  I am also about 80 percent convinced that they're going to be a playoff team this season

    With a relatively easy schedule over their next five games, the Warriors have ample opportunity to expand on their hot start before a rough stretch of games at the end of November.

    Last Week:

    W (115-109) - vs. Memphis Grizzlies

    W (85-78) - vs. Utah Jazz

    L (102-97) - @ Milwaukee Bucks


    This Week:

    W (109-102) - @ Toronto Raptors

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ New York Knicks

    Thu, Nov. 11 - @ Chicago Bulls

    Sat, Nov. 13 - @ Milwaukee Bucks

12. Utah Jazz

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record: 3-3

    Previous Rank: 14-T

    Perhaps we all underestimated how much Utah would miss losing one of its most important players.

    And, no, I'm not talking about Carlos Boozer.  I'm talking about Mehmet Okur, who is out until either late December or January with a torn Achilles tendon suffered in last year's playoffs. 

    Floor spacing is one of the most integral parts of a pick-and-roll offense, and neither Paul Millsap nor Al Jefferson excels on the perimeter, leaving spacing cramped and passing lanes clogged for Deron Williams. 

    Until Okur returns, don't expect Utah to be an elite player in the Western Conference. 

    Last Week:

    W (125-108) - vs. Toronto Raptors

    L (85-78) - @ Golden State Warriors

    W (109-107, OT) - Los Angeles Lakers


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - @ Miami Heat

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ Orlando Magic

    Fri, Nov. 12 - @ Atlanta Hawks

    Sat, Nov. 13 - @ Charlotte Bobcats

11. Dallas Mavericks

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Record: 4-2

    Previous Rank: 9

    Is there really anything fun or interesting about this team whatsoever? 

    The Mavs are well on their way to another 50-plus win season followed by a first- or second-round ouster at the hands of one of the increasing number of teams better than them.  Along the way, Dirk will be Dirk, Kidd will continue defying the laws of physics, and Mark Cuban will piss off David Stern a few times here and there.  

    Been there, done that...for like 10 years now. 

    Although, if Mark Cuban really wanted to make a splash, I hear Wade Phillips is looking for work. 

    Last Week:

    W (102-101) - @ Denver Nuggets

    L (103-92) - vs. Denver Nuggets


    This Week:

    W (89-87) - vs. Boston Celtics

    Wed, Nov. 10 - @ Memphis Grizzlies

    Fri, Nov. 12 - vs. Philadelphia 76ers

10. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Record: 3-3

    Previous Rank: 7

    So much for those among us who hopped aboard the "Thunder for No. 1 Seed in the Western Conference" bandwagon.  I mean, I'm not pointing any fingers, but if I did, two would be pointing right back at myself.  And they'd be the middle ones, Stone Cold Steve Austin style.

    OKC looks like a team wilting under the pressure of increased expectations and a team not yet talented enough to compete on a top-tier level.  Outside of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have no real elite players, including a gaping hole in their frontcourt. 

    That plus the fact that James Harden is looking like an abject failure has the Thunder looking more vulnerable than ever.

    Last Week:

    L (107-92) - @ Los Angeles Clippers

    W (107-106, OT) - @ Portland Trailblazers

    L (92-83) - vs. Boston Celtics


    This Week:

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. Philadelphia 76ers

    Fri, Nov. 12 - vs. Portland Trailblazers

    Sun, Nov. 14 - vs. San Antonio Spurs

9. Denver Nuggets

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record: 4-3

    Previous Rank: 10-T

    Give kudos to Carmelo Anthony for being a professional and busting his ass every night for a team that he doesn't want to play for. 

    After spending all offseason pining for a trade out of Denver, some pundits were holding their breath, wondering aloud if Carmelo would simply mail in the season in an attempt to force his way out of town.

    Well, he hasn't and the Nuggets have benefited from their star's start with a good start of their own. 

    Perhaps winning can be the elixir for Carmelo's "I want to get the hell out of Denver" blues.  

    Last Week:

    L (102-101) - vs. Dallas Mavericks 

    W (111-104) - vs. Los Angeles Clippers 

    W (103-92) - @ Dallas Mavericks


    This Week:

    L (94-92) - @ Chicago Bulls 

    Tue, Nov. 9 - @ Indiana Pacers 

    Thu, Nov. 11 - vs. Los Angeles Lakers

8. Portland Trailblazers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Record: 5-3

    Previous Rank: 4

    The NBA scheduling gods frowned upon Portland last week, putting them on a five-games-in-seven-nights bender that ended on the road against the Lakers after already playing both Chicago and Oklahoma City earlier in the week. 

    Not exactly what you'd call a fair shake. 

    This week is lighter for Portland as they play a putrid Pistons team and the struggling Thunder, where the Blazers hope to improve on their rebounding, which ranks 25th in the league.  Couple that with the team's struggles in filling the bucket, and the Blazers are looking like one of the league's shakiest above-.500 teams. 

    Last Week:

    L (110-98) - @ Chicago Bulls

    W (90-76) - @ Milwaukee

    L (107-106, OT) - vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

    W (97-84) - vs. Toronto Raptors

    L (121-96) - @ Los Angeles Lakers


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - vs Detroit Pistons

    Fri, Nov. 12 - @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    Sat, Nov. 13 - @ New Orleans Hornets

7. San Antonio Spurs

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Record: 5-1

    Previous Rank: 12

    The Spurs organization has been notorious for frugality as well as savvy throughout the past decade, so when I heard that the team signed point guard Tony Parker to a four-year, $50 million extension, I was baffled. 

    Parker is a good point guard but he's not a great point guard.  He's also a player with a history of injuries and on a team where the window is quickly shutting.  Locking up a non-franchise player for $12.5 million a season in a questionable labor climate where contract overhaul is imminent seems like a completely irresponsible thing to do.

    I've learned to trust in the Spurs organization, but Parker's contract looks more like a reward for the past than a vision for the future.

    Last Week:

    W (97-88) - @ Los Angeles Clippers

    W (112-110) - @ Phoenix Suns

    W (124-121, OT) - vs. Houston Rockets


    This Week:

    W (95-91) - @ Charlotte Bobcats 

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. Los Angeles Clippers 

    Sat, Nov. 13 - vs. Philadelphia 76ers

    Sun, Nov. 14 - @ Oklahoma City Thunder

6. Atlanta Hawks

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Record: 6-2

    Previous Rank: 5

    When it comes down to facts, the Hawks are simply a beneficiary of an incredibly easy early-season schedule.

    In two matchups against playoff-caliber opponents, Atlanta has gone down.  In six matchups against horrible or below-average opponents, Atlanta has won.

    They are who we thought they were, a team that beats up on the little guy but can't hang with the big dogs. 

    Last Week: 

    W (100-88) - @ Cleveland Cavaliers

    W (94-85) - vs. Detroit Pistons

    W (113-103) - @ Minnesota Timberwolves

    L (118-114) - vs. Phoenix Suns


    This Week:

    L (93-89) - @ Orlando Magic 

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. Milwaukee Bucks 

    Fri, Nov. 12 - vs. Utah Jazz 

    Sun, Nov. 14 - vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

5. Orlando Magic

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Record: 5-1

    Previous Rank: 6

    Outside of a thrashing at the hands of the Heat in the second game of the season, Orlando has looked fantastic this season.  Dwight Howard has asserted himself more on the offensive end than at any point in his career, averaging 23.1 PPG, including a whopping 12 free throws per game

    The team has been absolutely destructive on the defensive end, allowing the second-fewest points in the league while still scoring nearly 100 points per game. 

    All of that said, they still don't feel like a championship contender.  The Magic still lack a reliable distributor and still have no one trustworthy in crunch-time.  Until those problems are alleviated, Orlando will be stuck in regular-season-greatness purgatory. 

    Last Week:

    W (128-86) - vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    W (105-90) - vs. New Jersey Nets

    W (91-88) - @ Charlotte Bobcats


    This Week:

    W (93-89) - vs. Atlanta Hawks 

    Wed, Nov. 10 - vs. Utah Jazz 

    Fri, Nov. 12 - vs. Toronto Raptors

    Sat, Nov. 13 - @ New Jersey Nets

4. Miami Heat

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Record: 5-2

    Previous Rank: 2

    Newsflash to everyone up in arms about Miami's final possession in their loss to New Orleans:  This last-second awkwardness should have been expected. 

    In Miami Thrice's only experience playing together (Team USA), Kobe Bryant was the team's crunch-time scorer, leaving no room for any doubt. Well, Kobe isn't walking through the doors anytime soon so it's going to take time for the Heat to figure out a crunch-time identity. 

    We really shouldn't be shocked at the massive overreaction as about 100 percent of sports websites have some sort of "Heat Index"-type system that is really just an excuse to stick a microphone up LeBron James' behind for eight months. 

    Teams build cohesiveness through reps, not overnight.  And despite their shakiness, the Heat are still one of the three best teams in basketball with massive potential. 

    Last Week:

    W (129-97) - vs. Minnesota Timberwolves 

    L (96-93) - @ New Orleans Hornets 

    W (101-89) - vs. New Jersey Nets


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - vs. Utah Jazz

    Thu, Nov. 11 - vs. Boston Celtics

    Sat, Nov. 13 - vs. Toronto Raptors

3. New Orleans Hornets

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Record: 6-0

    Previous Rank:  8

    This is the section where I deviate from my other rankers completely and will, at the risk of sounding critical, say without equivocation that the New Orleans Hornets are not the third best team in the NBA.  They just aren't. 

    When doing my power rankings each week, I look at teams in terms of "If Team A played Team B in a seven-game series right now, who would win?"

    And, out of the top 10 teams on our list, I can only comfortably say I think they would beat Denver, Portland, Oklahoma City and Atlanta.  And I'm not that certain about OKC or Denver. 

    Don't get me wrong, I am impressed with how quickly the return of CP3 has energized a team that most thought was DOA after an offseason of turmoil.  The Hornets have wins in San Antonio and Houston as well as home wins against Denver and Miami. 

    It's all very impressive and if the season ended today, Chris Paul wins the MVP going away. 

    But that's the problem.  The season does not end today.  And we cannot overreact to a quick start. 

    According to basketball-reference.com's SRS rating, the Hornets rank No. 4 so far this season, which only deviates one slot from our composite.  However, the SRS rating places them behind both Miami and Denver, both teams with two losses weighing down their score. 

    So while New Orleans' start is impressive, let's remember to not jump the gun here. 

    Last Week:

    W (107-99) - @ Houston Rockets

    W (96-93) - vs. Miami Heat

    W (87-81) - @ Milwaukee Bucks


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    Sat, Nov. 13 - vs. Portland Trailblazers

2. Boston Celtics

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Record: 6-2

    Previous Rank: 2

    In today's lesson on not always trusting advanced metrics, the aforementioned SRS rating places Boston as the seventh-best team in the NBA.  And, as someone who has seen most of four Celtics games this season, I can say they are the most playoff-ready team right now.

    As always with the Celtics, the prospect of injuries will weigh heavily on the team throughout the season, but if the team stays healthy and motivated, there will be seemingly nothing (no, not even the Heat) stopping a Celtics-Lakers rematch. 

    Before I go, I'd like to reiterate something I said in the Detroit portion regarding KG.  You're a 34-year-old man now—start acting like it.

    Last Week:

    W (109-86) - @ Detroit Pistons

    W (105-102, OT) - vs. Milwaukee Bucks

    W (110-105, OT) - vs. Chicago Bulls

    W (92-83) - @ Oklahoma City Thunder


    This Week:

    L (89-87) - @ Dallas Mavericks

    Thu, Nov. 11 - @ Miami Heat

    Sat, Nov. 13 - @ Memphis Grizzlies

1. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Record: 7-0

    Previous Rank: 1

    While much of this article has been spent gloating about correct predictions or criticizing others, allow me to use this time to criticize myself regarding the Lakers.  I was wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. 

    The Lakers are the best team in the NBA and look like the best team the NBA has seen since the 2000-01 Shaqobe Lakers. 

    The only monkey wrench I can see being thrown into another parade in Los Angeles this point is the return of Andrew Bynum, because he's the 280-pound elephant in the Lakers locker room right now. 

    Most analysts look at the Lakers' scorching start and say, "Just wait until Bynum comes back, they'll be even better."  I disagree.  The true catalyst of the team bursting out of the gate is Lamar Odom—you know, the guy whose minutes will diminish when Bynum gets back on the floor. 

    I know Lakers fans are going to excoriate me for saying this, but this team is better without Bynum hogging valuable minutes.  If I'm Mitch Kupchak, I'm on the horn trying to trade Bynum for a defensive stalwart point guard that can knock down threes and an expiring contract.  That's all I want. 

    Some analysts say, "Just wait until Bynum comes back"; well, that could just be what the opponents have been waiting for as well. 

    Last Week:

    W (124-105) - vs. Memphis Grizzlies

    W (112-100) - @ Sacramento Kings

    W (108-103) - vs. Toronto Raptors

    W (121-96) - vs. Portland Trailblazers


    This Week:

    Tue, Nov. 9 - vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Thu, Nov. 11 - @ Denver Nuggets

    Sun, Nov. 14 - vs. Phoenix Suns