By Britt Robson
November 02, 2010
NBA Power Rankings
11 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 5
With a healthy Tyson Chandler splitting time almost evenly at center with another 7-footer, Brendan Haywood, the Mavs are second only to the Heat in defensive efficiency. Jason Kidd had 18 assists and one turnover in the opening victory against Charlotte, and he has 35 assists and nine turnovers overall. A nice start for the NBA's active leader in regular-season minutes.
12 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 10
In a way, the distraction over Carmelo Anthony's future removes the pressure of high expectations. But everyone knows that as long as the franchise player isn't committed to the franchise, the promise of a successful season is fool's good. On the bright side, 27-year-old forward Shelden Williams, playing with his fifth team in five years, is finding a niche as a rebounding specialist, and swingman Arron Afflalo is becoming increasingly indispensable at both ends of the court.
13 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 9
Utah Jazz (1-2)
The offense will be fine: Al Jefferson isn't going to shoot 42.1 percent for the season and Deron Williams won't continue at 35.3 percent, especially because he is just 29.6 percent from inside the three-point line. In the victory at Oklahoma City, Paul Millsap showed he can be a matchup nightmare on the move -- too quick for centers and power forwards, too burly for small forwards -- and deserves more two-man interplay slashing off the pick-and-roll with Williams. But the jury is still out on the defense; the Jazz no longer have enough depth to risk being as foul-prone as usual.
14 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 18
The feel-good, rare win at Dallas was enriched by the job 22-year-old Darrel Arthur did in helping the Grizzlies hold their own on the boards against the Mavs' huge front line despite Zach Randolph's absence. A night later, point guard Mike Conley had seven steals in a rout of the Timberwolves. Memphis' hopes of breaking a four-year playoff drought would get a big boost if Arthur is ready to provide frontcourt depth and Conley, who received a five-year extension worth at least $40 million on Monday, can shed his deserved reputation as the weak link in the starting lineup.
15 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 20
Their key players are off to good starts. Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert have been outstanding, and point guard Darren Collison has cut down on his turnovers since the preseason. Even the underwhelming power forward tandem of Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough is delivering, especially Hansbrough, who has made several key hustle plays in crunchtime (now if he can only stop shooting from the hip -- literally). Of course, the good feelings won't last unless the Pacers prove that they're a better rebounding and defensive team than they've been in the recent past.
16 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 24
DeMarcus Cousins will need a lot more seasoning to improve his decision-making, but the 20-year-old rookie's footwork, court awareness (he has nine assists in four games) and demeanor all look better than advertised. Sacramento's best current lineup includes Cousins, 22-year-old Omri Casspi and of course 21-year-old Tyreke Evans, who is second behind LeBron among players you'd least like to step in front of to draw a charge. The Kings rank only 28th in defensive efficiency but have taken advantage of a schedule lacking in quality opponents.
17 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 15
Hakim Warrick is the latest NBA forward to have his offensive game gussied up by feeds from Steve Nash (at least until he encountered the Lakers' front line). The slow-starting Channing Frye misses the perimeter space generated by opponents doubling down on Amar'e Stoudemire, and Nash has committed a bundle of careless, even unforced, turnovers. But give coach Alvin Gentry credit: The Suns remain a scrappy crew that can't be taken lightly.
18 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 18
After an 0-2 start, coach Scott Skiles hearkened back to last year's chemistry, playing newcomers Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden fewer than 20 minutes each in a win over Charlotte. With center Andrew Bogut obviously not all the way back, it's up to point guard Brandon Jennings to sharpen his shot selection and foster good ball movement. After missing several ill-timed jumpers the first two games, Jennings made 6-of-8 shots and registered a triple-double against the Bobcats. Forward Ersan Ilyasova, a valuable glue guy last season, has yet to find his form.
19 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 27
With point guard Stephon Curry (ankle) sidelined Sunday against the Lakers, coach Keith Smart put 6-6 Reggie Williams on Derek Fisher -- the same Reggie Williams who teamed with Maggette as dreadfully undersized power forwards under Don Nelson last season. Translation: Golden State can still score, but now that Nelson's mad science has left the building, its notion of "defense" is no longer roving swingmen conceding rebounds and gambling for steals in transition. After getting waxed on the glass last year, the Warriors have just one fewer rebound than their opponents in three games, thanks to a healthier (and, without Nelson around, happier) Andris Biedrins and new additions David Lee and Dorell Wright.
20 New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 28
Two quick victories helped banish the memories of last year's 12-win campaign, as coach Avery Johnson has New Jersey playing with newfound vigor. Rookie forward Derrick Favors already seems like a nice fit alongside center Brook Lopez, crashing the glass for 16 offensive rebounds in three games and allowing Lopez the freedom to roam more to exploit his near-mid-range offense. Anthony Morrow isn't going to keep shooting 34.8 percent, nor will forward Travis Outlaw stay below 30 percent.
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