The NBA has now kicked into second gear and it’s time to update the monthly SCIC Power Rankings. Please note that the prior month’s rank is in parenthesis. Away we go…
1) Boston Celtics (1) – Only injuries can keep the Celtics from a division crown and top three seed.
2) Orlando Magic (3) – Rashard Lewis will be back shortly and the Magic are absolutely loaded. Without question, this is the deepest team in the league.
3) Cleveland Cavaliers (2) – It’s too early to grade the Shaq Experiment, however, the big fella has definitely been in the spotlight (mostly for off the court antics). Wives, fiances and girlfriends apparently aren’t off limits…just ask Agent Zero.
4) Toronto Raptors (4) – After I referred to Chris Bosh as RuPaul in the last SCIC rankings, a few Raptors fans went ballistic. This time I will not make any disparaging remarks about Bosh’s appearance. I promise. As far as the team is concerned, there is still a lot of work to be done. Losing at home to a short-handed Spurs team on Monday night was simply brutal.
5) Atlanta Hawks (7) – Jamal Crawford has been a real spark off the bench and the Hawks are as athletic as anyone. However, a lack of size will likley prevent Atlanta from advancing in the playoffs unless a big man can be acquired.
6) Chicago Bulls (6) - Joakim Noah really looks like he is coming into his own as an NBA center. The injury to Tyrus Thomas and ineffectiveness of Brad Miller have enabled Noah to get off to a sensational start this season. If he can continue to produce then the Bulls may be able to move up to a 4th or 5th seed.
7) Washington Wizards (5) – Although there is a lot of firepower and athleticism on the roster, an injury to Antawn Jamison has contributed to the Wizards stumbling out of the gate. Brendan Haywood has been solid in the middle though and he needs to continue playing 35 minutes a game.
8) Miami Heat (11) – One of the big surprises of the season to date. Dwyane Wade picked up where he left off last year, but he’ll need some help pretty soon or the Heat will cool off faster than you can say “Eric Spoelstra looks like he should be coaching a high school junior varsity team.”
9) Philadelphia 76ers (8) – Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert have been big disappointments and the Sixers look like they are going to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
10) Detroit Pistons (10) – Ben Wallace has discovered the fountain of youth and the Pistons are playing semi-decent ball even though Richard Hamilton hasn’t even suited up yet. The playoffs are still a pipe dream, but there are some positive signs that point to a successful season.
11) Indiana Pacers (8) – Injuries to Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Troy Murphy have caused the Pacers to struggle. Roy Hibbert has continued to play well though and the Pacers could be a factor during the second half of the season.
12) Charlotte Bobcats (12) – This team just can’t score enough points to be a consistent winner. It will be an up hill battle for Larry Brown to lead the Bobcats to a .500 record.
13) Milwaukee Bucks (15) – Yet another Michael Redd knee injury may prove to be a positive for a young Bucks roster as several players will earn valuable minutes. Brandon Jennings looks like a left-handed version of Allen Iverson and is the early favorite for ROY (along with Tyreke Evans).
14) New York Knicks (13) – It might be an exciting brand of basketball in the Big Apple, but there aren’t going to be too many victories. Mike D’Antoni ‘s Knicks will be lucky to win 30 games.
15) New Jersey Nets (14) – It will be a miracle if Lawrence Frank lasts the entire year. After a winless start to the season, reaching the 20 win plateau is optimistic at this point.
1) Los Angeles Lakers (1) - Pau Gasol has been MIA, but the Lakers just keep on winning. Predictions of a 70+ win season aren’t realistic, but there is no reason why this team can’t win 65…with or without the bearded Spaniard.
2) San Antonio Spurs (2) – Despite the typical early season woes, the Spurs will definitely be a title contender come April. Greg Popovich isn’t worried at all about another slow start.
3) Dallas Mavericks (3) – Erick Dampier has been playing like a man possessed lately and the Mavericks have enough depth to do some real damage in the West.
4) Denver Nuggets (4) – Melo has been playing like a legitimate MVP candidate and the return of Earl /J.R. Smith will help the Nuggets be a top four team all season.
5) Portland Trailblazers (5) – It’s about damn time head coach Nate McMillan inserted Andre Miller into the starting lineup. Unfortunately for Trailblazer fans, McMillan is the only one in the world who thinks Jeff Blake is anything more than an 15-18 minute per game back-up point guard.
6) Utah Jazz (6) – AK-47 and Deron Williams look good, but the rest of the Jazz roster has been mediocre at best. Once C.J. Miles and Kyle Korver return from injuries, the Jazz should be firing on all cylinders again.
7) New Orleans Hornets (7) - Chis Paul has been a virtual one man show and he’ll need some help from David West & Emeka Okafor or the Hornets won’t make it back to the playoffs.
8) Phoenix Suns (10) – Channing Frye gives the Suns a new dimension and Steve Nash has returned to MVP form. The Suns have been the surprise team of the Western Conference so far minus the Big Cactus.
9) Houston Rockets (9) – Daryl Morey and Rick Adelman have been pushing all the right buttons, but there is a long way to go this season. Will the impending return of Tracy McGrady help or hurt the Rockets?
10) Los Angeles Clippers (8) – Injuries to Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon certainly haven’t helped, but the Clippers are underachieving once again under the direction of Mike Dunleavy. Although I was optimistic that the other team in Los Angeles would make the playoffs, it’s probably 50/50 at best right now.
11) Oklahoma City Thunder (12) – There is a lot to like in Oklahoma City, but playoff talk is premature at this juncture. Kevin Durant seems to be rounding into form and the Thunder will be a formidable foe for even the strongest teams in the league.
12) Sacramento Kings (14) – Incredibly, without Kevin Martin the Kings are on a three game winning streak. Tyreke Evans is the real deal and there is now reason for optimism for the Maloof brothers.
13) Memphis Grizzlies (13) – Allen Iverson didn’t work out…simply shocking. A solid starting five should make the Grizzlies competitive, despite a lackuster first two weeks of the season.
14) Golden State Warriors (11) – Mikki Moore is going to be the starting center for the next two weeks. Really, is there anything left to say?
15) Minnesota Timberwolves (15) – In their last game, the Timberwolves gave up 141 points and GM David Kahn threatened to crack skulls and “shake things up.” Perhaps he should start the shaking by tendering his resignation so that Glen Taylor can bring in a competent general manager. Just a thought.
In additon to being a weekly contributor to SCIC, Drew is the lead blogger of Pacman Jonesin’.