By Britt Robson
November 16, 2010
NBA Power Rankings
11 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 19
How far can coach Scott Skiles take the Bucks before he wears out his welcome with uncompromising demands? Milwaukee's third straight win, a 79-72 stifling of Golden State on Saturday, was classic Skiles: The pace was slow, the Warriors shot 34.1 percent and center Andrew Bogut reigned with 17 rebounds and seven blocks. The Bucks lead the NBA in defensive efficiency, rank 29th in offensive efficiency and start boxing out during the national anthem.
12 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 13
Considering that their defense is allowing nearly eight more points per 100 possessions than it was last year, and that Kevin Durant leads the NBA in missed shots, it is remarkable, and encouraging, that the Thunder are 6-4. Durant and Russell Westbrook remain crowd-pleasers -- Westbrook is averaging a league-high 7.3 shots per game at the rim -- but the synergistic charm of last year's team is less apparent, especially on defense, where opponents continue to torch the Thunder from three-point range.
13 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 9
Joe Johnson is the marquee star with the max contract and Josh Smith fills the highlight reels, but the longer you watch the Hawks play, the more you realize that Al Horford is their stealth MVP. The undersized center is shooting a league-best 64.2 percent from the field and a career-high 82.5 percent from the line, and he has increased his assist rate while reducing his turnovers. The team-oriented statistics are equally impressive: According to, the Hawks are once again scoring about five points more per 100 possessions and allowing five points fewer per 100 possessions with Horford on the court compared to when he sits.
14 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 8
Brandon Roy's arthritic knees are hurting him -- and Portland -- the most in his ability to score and create off dribble penetration. According to Hoopdata, Roy is getting to the rim and finishing less accurately than ever before and only half as often as he did two years ago. And he's requiring more help from his teammates to even do that -- 76.9 percent of his at-the-rim buckets are assisted, compared with a previous high of 30.9 percent the previous four years. Without that capacity to draw defenders as he drives, Roy's assist total, already somewhat diminished by Andre Miller's ascendance at the point, has plummeted from his career mark of 4.9 to 2.5 this season, while his turnover average (1.8, versus a career 1.9) remains virtually the same.
15 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 11
A .500 record is bound to make the natives restless, as they experience the slow, ethereal sinking of a season that already feels like it's happening in an alternate reality. The Nuggets have already spanked the Jazz and the Mavs by double-digit margins and handed the Lakers their first loss. But they've also yielded 144 points to the Pacers and are in the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency, sorely missing injured big men Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen. That impending free agent Carmelo Anthony has become one of Denver's better defenders without a dip in his offense is a cause for confused celebration.
16 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 10
How legit is their start? Just three of their first 11 games were against consensus top-10 teams, and Golden State was destroyed in two of them -- losing by 24 at the Lakers and by 30 at the Bulls -- and triumphed in one, 85-78 against the Jazz at home. But credit coach Keith Smart with beating the bottom-feeders with a dose of defense (the Warriors are 10th in defensive efficiency). Now the Warriors are making do for about two weeks without injured power forward David Lee.
17 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 15
When O.J. Mayo was taken third behind Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley in the 2008 draft, scouts generally viewed him as probably the most "NBA-ready" player. But possessing a "finished game" is not a long term-benefit, and after a rookie year strong enough to convince many observers that Mayo would supplant Rudy Gay as the Grizzlies' leading man, his performance has plateaued into that of a solid rotation player, with few holes -- or exclamation points -- in his skill set. Meanwhile, Gay has been awarded a max contract, point guard Mike Conley just received $40 million and retaining center Marc Gasol will likely be the top priority in Memphis after the new collective bargaining agreement is implemented.
18 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 21
At this point in the season, almost every team has developed a five-man unit that has played together about 90 or 100 minutes. But the injury-ravaged Rockets haven't kept the same five guys together for any longer than 28.3 minutes. Amid the injuries, Rick Adelman's team was able to register road victories against the Knicks and Pacers that were spurred on by the play of backup center Brad Miller, the return of backup point guard Kyle Lowry and the ongoing heroics of power forward Luis Scola, who is posting All-Star numbers of 22.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 51.6 percent shooting.
19 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 24
Indiana's 20 straight baskets in the 54-point third quarter of their 144-113 rout of Denver last week was a freakish display for a team that otherwise hasn't cracked 100 points in five November games and ranks 15th in offensive efficiency even with that extraordinary boost. No, the Pacers are at .500 because of a defense that ranks ninth in efficiency, led by 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, who leads the NBA with three blocks per game and has cut down on his fouls. Hibbert also can stick a mid-range jumper. He will command a monster payday when his rookie contract expires in a couple of years.
20 New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 22
The signing of swingman Travis Outlaw seemed like a foolish, knee-jerk response after the Nets failed to land a big-name free agent. Outlaw still may not be worth the $35 million New Jersey will pony up over the next five years, but his sharpshooting from the corner-three spot (his overall long-range shooting is 56.8 percent) is opening up the floor for Devin Harris' dribble penetration and Brook Lopez's low-post game. And in five years, the lithe, 6-9 Outlaw will still be only 31.
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