By Britt Robson
November 02, 2010
NBA Power Rankings
21 New York Knicks
Last Week: 21
It's no surprise that Stoudemire's shooting is down and his turnovers are up with his new, Nash-less team. But it was a rude comeuppance for fans and player alike when Portland's defense denied the Knicks' go-to star a decent look at the hoop in crunchtime Saturday. While the fans pine for another superstar, New York's brain trust keeps stockpiling value-added role players, with rookie starter Landry Fields joining top reserves Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas. The other rookie starter, center Timofey Mozgov, has more upside but longer odds on a solid NBA career.
22 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 13
Erick Dampier was a smart signing to help Yao Ming (who is on a 24-minute limit and won't play back-to-back games) and current backup Brad Miller. If defense does indeed win championships, the Rockets have no shot with two sieves, Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks, starting in the backcourt. Many big men were overpaid in the offseason, but 30-year-old Luis Scola (27.3 points, 14 rebounds, 56.9 percent shooting) has a good chance of earning the $36 million he's guaranteed over the next four years.
23 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 25
Mo Williams' imminent return from a groin injury will boost the firepower, but the Cavs lack anyone who can dish off the dribble -- that was LeBron's job, and Cleveland surrounded him with players who can catch and shoot. J.J. Hickson is active away from the ball and Ramon Sessions can get to the basket, but the Cavs will struggle to score against quality defenses (and got only 81 against the porous Raptors). A tip of the cap to Cleveland fans, who were a raucous force in the first two home games.
24 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 30
Forward Reggie Evans has been a rebounding fiend, keeping $34 million man Amir Johnson on the bench and complementing jump-shooting center Andrea Bargnani. I had the Raptors as the NBA's worst team in my preseason Power Rankings, but they stifled Cleveland 101-81 and led by double digits in Sacramento before wilting. Even so, it is nearly impossible to win many games without at least one reliable low-post scorer on your roster.
25 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 29
Former D-Leaguer Anthony Tolliver has played significantly better defense and hustled more consistently than fellow power forward Kevin Love, but by dramatizing that fact via his ongoing, mutually destructive playing-time war with Love, coach Kurt Rambis is once again making dysfunction the story in Minnesota. Whatever his failings, Love is an absolute beast on the boards. Given the historically questionable attitudes and energy levels of some other Wolves starters -- Darko Milicic, Michael Beasley -- he's a curious scapegoat for Rambis' message.
26 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 26
They've played well in spurts, but they blew a seven-point lead in the final two minutes at New Jersey, allowed a game-winning layup to the visiting Thunder and squandered a 21-point third-quarter lead at Chicago. The best news is the play of point guard Rodney Stuckey, who has 23 assists and only four turnovers. Lottery pick Greg Monroe has two DNP-CDs and one seven-minute appearance in three games.
27 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 17
Monday's home loss to San Antonio typified the Clippers' seemingly chronic inability to maximize their talent. Blake Griffin showed why he is the Rookie of the Year favorite, Eric Gordon scored a game-high 23 points and Chris Kaman had a solid all-around game, but the Clippers lapsed just often enough to allow the Spurs to steadily pull away beginning in the second quarter. The defeat, the Clippers' third at home already, left L.A. as the only 0-4 team.
28 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 19
It suddenly feels like new coach Doug Collins has just two or three weeks to stave off a lost season. Rumors are rampant that the Sixers' best player, Andre Iguodala, will want out unless Philadelphia starts winning. Meanwhile, promising second-year point guard Jrue Holiday is shooting 32.4 percent with nearly as many turnovers as assists, and center Spencer Hawes predictably isn't providing a presence at the rim. Top pick Evan Turner has shown flashes of talent, especially slashing to the basket, and Lou Williams is a worthy alternative to Holiday, but the tantalizing notion of Collins blending his talented wing players (Iguodala, Turner, Thaddeus Young, Williams) with Holiday's panache is a far cry from reality.
29 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 23
Playing at the NBA's slowest pace has obscured their inability to get stops (they rank second to last in defensive efficiency), but you can bet coach Larry Brown is keeping track. Their big free-agent signing, Tyrus Thomas, has been a relative bright spot on defense, but he has the team's highest usage rate (the percentage of offensive plays in which he is directly involved) and lowest assist percentage while shooting 38.7 percent. That can't make Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson happy, nor can having shoot-first point guard D.J. Augustin averaging more than 40 minutes per game.
30 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 22
Two games isn't much of a sample, especially with Gilbert Arenas on the shelf with an ankle injury. But after getting pounded at Orlando and methodically beaten at Atlanta, one quandary is already evident: The development of John Wall will be hastened if he learns how to better involve his teammates. Aside from Kirk Hinrich, the No. 1 pick in the June draft is surrounded by players who make too many questionable decisions.
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