NBA Power Rankings (Nov. 16) Atlanta Hawks Swoop Into Top Spot

Taylor SmithAnalyst INovember 16, 2009

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 28:  Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks reacts after an assist during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Philips Arena on October 28, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Two losses apiece for the Celtics and Lakers this past week have opened the door for other teams to seize the top spots in the rankings.

The team that overtook everyone was...the Atlanta Hawks?

Indeed, it was.

1. Atlanta Hawks (8-2, Last Week: 8)

We thought the Hawks might be better coming into the season, but this much better?

Atlanta has roared to the top of the Eastern Conference, already with wins over Portland, Denver, and Boston.

They certainly look like they're for real.

2. Phoenix Suns (9-2, Last Week: 2)

It seemed like none of the Suns played well in a blowout loss to the Lakers last Thursday night.

However, due to LA's struggles since that game, the Suns stay in the No. 2 spot.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-3, Last Week: 12)

Since their 0-2 start, the Cavs have won seven of eight, including impressive back-to-back road wins against Orlando and Miami last week.

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LeBron is the league's best player right now, and it isn't even really close.

The King is averaging 27.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 7.5 assists through the first 10 games.

4. Boston Celtics (8-3, Last Week: 1)

The "mighty Celtics" haven't looked mighty recently, with two consecutive losses to the Hawks and Pacers, respectively.

Against Indiana, Boston was outscored 27-6 on fastbreak points.

Could this be a sign of the Celtics' age?

5. Miami Heat (7-2, Last Week: 5)

D-Wade's last-second miracle game-winning three-pointer saved the Heat from an embarrassing loss at home to still-winless New Jersey Saturday night.

Behind Wade, who averages 29.7 points per game, the Heat's next few scoring leaders: Jermaine O'Neal (13.6), Michael Beasley (13.1), Udonis Haslem (12.4).

The Heat are going to need one of them to step up if they're going to keep the winning up.

6. Denver Nuggets (7-3, Last Week: 4)

In their first game with the Lakers since the Western Conference Finals last spring, Denver crushed LA 105-79, holding them to just 23 second-half points.

Denver's only three losses are to Atlanta, Miami, and Milwaukee, respectively.

Considering how each of those three teams is playing right now, that's nothing to be ashamed of.

7. Dallas Mavericks (7-3, Last Week: 6)

Dallas' three upcoming games: at Milwaukee, vs. San Antonio, vs. Sacramento.

Currently, it's looking as though San Antonio is the weakest of those three opponents...too bad the Spurs romped the Mavs last week in San Antonio.

8. Orlando Magic (7-3, Last Week: 7)

Dwight Howard's fouling problems (averaging four fouls per game) are keeping him off the floor.

In just over 31 minutes per game so far, Howard is averaging 19 points, 11 rebounds, and just under two blocks.

9. Los Angeles Lakers (7-3, Last Week: 3)

Pau Gasol hasn't played a minute so far, Andrew Bynum has already missed some time, and now Kobe Bryant apparently has a strained groin.

That's an awful lot of early-season injuries for the defending champs.

Hopefully, this doesn't become a season-long trend.

10. Portland Trail Blazers (8-3, Last Week: 13)

Now, with an 8-3 record and a six-game winning streak, why aren't the Blazers higher?

Well, they've been facing some of the worst teams in the league.

Portland has beaten a weakened San Antonio, Minnesota (twice), Memphis, New Orleans, and Charlotte.

Give them credit, though. They're beating the teams they should be beating. 

There's a good chance the young Blazers can use this streak as a springboard for the rest of the season.

11. Milwaukee Bucks (5-2, Last Week: 18)

How did rookie Brandon Jennings follow up Wednesday night's career-high 32 point effort in the Bucks' win over the Nuggets?

All he did was stunningly pour in 55 points on insane 21-of-34 shooting Saturday night against the Warriors.

Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that Jennings only shot eight free throws (making six of them).

If Blake Griffin doesn't come back soon, the Rookie of the Year race could be over before it even starts.

(Oh, and by the way, the Bucks are pretty good.)

12. Sacramento Kings (5-4, Last Week: 24)

Since Kevin Martin went down, the little Kings have reeled off a nice four-game winning streak.

Rookie Tyreke Evans has been great, averaging about 17 points, four assists, and four rebounds a night.

So, do the Kings really need Martin?

13. Houston Rockets (6-4, Last Week: 10)

Houston followed up its nine-point loss at Sacramento by strolling into Los Angeles and running the Lakers off the floor.

Aaron Brooks, who scored a career-high 33 against the Lakers Sunday night, is really developing into more of a true point guard.

He's averaging six assists per game so far this season, way up from his career average of 2.7.

14. Indiana Pacers (4-3, Last Week: 23)

Second-year center Roy Hibbert is quietly looking like a budding star at center for Indy.

Hibbert is averaging 12 points, nine rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game.

After dropping their first three games this season, the Pacers have won four in a row, including an impressive victory over the Celtics Saturday night.

15. Chicago Bulls (5-4, Last Week: 9)

Hardly anybody is talking about Joakim Noah, whose numbers are starting to look very similar to the way they were while he was at Florida.

Noah is going for 12 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks a night. 

He clearly worked hard on his offensive game over the summer, and he's shooting a stellar 56 percent from the field.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-5, Last Week: 14)

Kevin Durant's rebounding numbers during each of his first three seasons: 4.4, 6.5, 7.4 (so far). 

Pretty soon, this guy could be averaging double-doubles of 30+ points and 10+ rebounds.

Those are numbers that we'd expect from guys like Hakeem Olajuwon or Karl Malone in their respective primes.

Those were centers...Durant spends lots of his time playing shooting guard.

17. San Antonio Spurs (4-4, Last Week: 11)

The notoriously-slow-starting Spurs were able to weather the storm without Duncan and Parker in the lineup.

Now at full-strength, the Spurs will likely just ease into the new year.

Expect them to really turn it on after Jan. 1.

18. Toronto Raptors (5-5, Last Week: 16)

The Raptors were thisclose to stealing a win at Phoenix Sunday night, losing 101-100.

Their schedule has been interesting so far, having already played six games against Western Conference teams, compared to four from their own conference.

On a different note, Toronto's black uniforms are amongst the most-underrated in the league.

19. Detroit Pistons (5-5, Last Week: 20)

After a loss to Dallas at home Sunday, Detroit is heading off to the west coast for a murderer's row road trip: at Lakers, at Blazers, at Jazz, at Suns.

They probably can't wait until they finally get to play a home game again on Nov. 25...until they realize LeBron and Co. will be there waiting for them.


20. Utah Jazz (4-6, Last Week: 15)

I'd be terrified of the future if I was a Jazz fan.

Carlos Boozer, who seems to be almost certainly playing his final season in a Utah uniform, has been great lately, and is going for 18 points and 11 rebounds per game this season.

Paul Millsap, Boozer's replacement-in-waiting, is averaging nine points and six rebounds per game in about 23 minutes.

Millsap was phenomenal last season in Boozer's absence, so let's hope that is the player he really can be on a nightly basis.

21. Philadelphia 76ers (4-6, Last Week: 17)

Three of Philly's four wins this season have come against the Knicks and Nets (twice).

In the games against Orlando, Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, Utah, and Chicago, the Sixers have lost by an average of 14 points per game.

On the bright side, Andre Iguodala appears to have established himself as one of the best all-around players in the league.

Iggy is averaging 18 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game.

22. Los Angeles Clippers (4-7, Last Week: 25)

Interesting start for the Clippers.

They started the season by losing four in a row, then won three in a row, then lost three in a row, and now have won one with a home win over OKC Sunday night.

With their next two games against slumping New Orleans and Memphis, the Clips could have a nice little season of streaks going.

23. Charlotte Bobcats (3-6, Last Week: 21)

The Bobcats have already played in five games this season where they scored under 80 points (they even won one of them).

Trading Okafor away has left them with absolutely zero production in the post offensively.

Gerald Wallace, their leading scorer so far (13.7 ppg), is shooting a horrendous 35 percent from the floor. 

His rebounding numbers are superb, though, as he averages 12 per game.

Hopefully the brand new addition of Stephen Jackson helps bolster Charlotte's awful offense.

24. Golden State Warriors (3-6, Last Week: 26)

It's too bad the Warriors hadn't traded for defensive specialist Raja Bell before they faced the Bucks Saturday night.

After allowing Brandon Jennings to explode for 55 points, what in the world is Golden State going to do to stop LeBron James Tuesday night?

If that isn't enough, they get to travel to Boston to face the Celtics the very next night.

The biggest travesty of it all to this point in the season for the Warriors is that second-year man Anthony Randolph is only playing 20 minutes per game.

25. New Orleans Hornets (3-8, Last Week: 19)

The Hornets have plummeted to the bottom of the NBA since winning 58 games just two years ago.

Byron Scott is out, and Jeff Bower has fared no better, promptly losing two games in his first two days of taking over the job.

How long until Chris Paul asks out?

26. Washington Wizards (2-7, Last Week: 22)

The Wiz have been in absolute free-fall mode since starting the season off with a promising 2-1 start, having lost six straight.

It's not going to be getting much easier for them, as their next three games are against Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio.

One of the lone bright spots for Washington has been the comeback of Gilbert Arenas, who is averaging 23 points and six assists.

27. Memphis Grizzlies (2-8, Last Week: 28)

The Grizzlies have already appeared to have found their replacement for Allen Iverson with the signing of ex-good player Jamaal Tinsley.

What kind of shape can Tinsley possibly be in, considering he hasn't played since 1953?

At this point, they likely would've been better off making assistant coach Damon Stoudamire suit up as the backup PG.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-10, Last Week: 27)

The T-Wolves' only win of the season game was the first game, on a Damien Wilkins buzzer-beating layup over the still-winless Nets.

Since then, they've lost 10 straight games. 

Even Memphis beat them by double-digits, and their point differential for the season is an NBA-worst -13.8 points per game.

On the bright side, Jonny Flynn is one of a slew of rookie point guards playing pretty well so far, leading the Wolves in scoring (14.2 ppg) in 28 minutes per game.

29. New York Knicks (1-9, Last Week: 29)

STILL waiting for 2010.

By the way, how did this team beat the Hornets?

I know the Hornets are also horrible, but they still have to be way better than this team.

Are big-named free agents really going to want to go there?

30. New Jersey Nets (0-10, Last Week: 30)

They really can't be worse than the Knicks, can they?

Brook Lopez is playing well again, and Rafer Alston has stepped in for the injured Devin Harris and done a nice job.

The Nets have gotten blown out in their fair share of games, but have also lost several close games, including buzzer-beating losses to Minnesota and Miami, and a pair of three-point defeats at the hands of the Sixers.

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