By Britt Robson
November 09, 2010
NBA Power Rankings
21 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 22
Is Yao Ming actually hurting the Rockets? Houston has performed better without him than with him in all but one game. (Against New Orleans, Houston was minus-2 in 21:28 with Yao and minus-6 in 26:32 without him.) Overall, the Rockets are plus-21 with Yao on the sideline and minus-25 with him in the game. Yes, those numbers are distorted by their blowout victory against Minnesota (in which Yao played just 16 minutes), but consider that the Yao-less Rockets took a tough San Antonio team into overtime on the road, and that the other game Yao missed -- a 132-128 loss at up-tempo Golden State -- was not a suitable opponent for his skills. One possible adjustment: Save his potential 24 minutes for the second half only, and use as necessary.
22 New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 20
The Nets' back-to-back 15- and 12-point losses at Orlando and Miami, respectively, weren't too bad considering their best player, Brook Lopez, shot 8-of-33 (24.2 percent) from the field, including 2-for-7 at the rim. The way hard-driving coach Avery Johnson is developing youngsters like second-year swingman Terrence Williams and 19-year-old rookie Derrick Favors is a pleasant surprise that bodes well for the future. The Florida trip began a stretch in which New Jersey plays 10 of 14 games on the road. But look on the bright side: The Nets could go 0-for-November and still be two games ahead of last year's 0-17 pace.
23 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 28
Expensive and much-maligned power forward Elton Brand is leading the Sixers in every major category but assists, posting numbers just a half-notch down from his prime with the Clippers. But that gets back to the quandary of pace: Philadelphia should be most effective turning its wings (Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and even Andres Nocioni) loose on offense, but speed is not Brand's game. And without a quality center -- the current duo is Spencer Hawes and Tony Battie -- the Sixers can't go "big" with the 6-8 Brand. But at least give the guy credit for making the player/team mismatch more tolerable.
24 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 15
None of the Pacers' top four scorers -- Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison and Mike Dunleavy -- is shooting better than 42.7 percent, and the team ranks 27th in offensive efficiency. Although he uses his height to rank among the league leaders in blocks, 7-2 center Hibbert got only two shots at the rim (he was 4-of-11 overall) against the 6-8 Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (filling in with Andrew Bogut sidelined by a migraine) and Milwaukee in Indiana's loss Friday. Meanwhile, Hibbert has 21 assists (versus just six turnovers) in five games, just one behind point guard Collison for the team lead.
25 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 26
While the Pistons are going nowhere, coach John Kuester earned a much-needed measure of respect by benching Rodney Stuckey for a game and a half after the starting point guard blatantly ignored his instruction from the sideline. Detroit defeated Charlotte without Stuckey and then beat Golden State as Stuckey returned with a season-high-tying nine assists. Kuester is also giving more minutes to top pick Greg Monroe, who showed promise, especially on the offensive glass, but raised eyebrows by missing six of seven free throws Sunday against the Warriors. (Incredibly, his 35.7 percent shooting from the line is still better than Jason Maxiell's 33.3 percent or Ben Wallace's 30.8 percent.)
26 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 27
Few tears are being shed over the absence of point guard Baron Davis (out with what the team is calling a sore knee), which gives more burn to promising rookie Eric Bledsoe and accelerates the team's youth movement. The problem is with the two 28-year-old starters: Center Chris Kaman is putting up his typical numbers in every area but shooting accuracy -- his field-goal percentage is only 36.4. That's still better than the 30.9 percent from small forward Ryan Gomes, who has no business ranking second on the team in minutes right now.
27 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 29
A 1-6 team coached by Larry Brown, owned by Michael Jordan and emotionally led by Stephen Jackson is in the danger zone for disaster. After playing the Magic and Spurs tough in home losses, the Bobcats need road victories against the Raptors and Wizards this week to regain real equilibrium. The problems here are pretty fundamental: Teams that play gritty games with scores in the 80s need a quality point guard for the half-court offense down the stretch and a quality center to deter penetration. Point guard D.J. Augustin and center Nazr Mohammed have never consistently displayed that kind of prowess.
28 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 30
John Wall is likely to become a star, but the gushing over his monster near-triple-double against Philadelphia to secure the Wizards' lone win reminds me of the overly hyped response to Brandon Jennings' 55-point game about this time last season. Meanwhile, the backcourt tandem of Wall and Gilbert Arenas is off to a wretched beginning in two games together, losses to New York and Cleveland. According to the game-tracking Web site, the Wizards were plus-14 in the 42:37 Wall played without Arenas in those two games. They were minus-3 in the 16:19 that Arenas played without Wall. But they were minus-31 in the 35:12 Wall and Arenas played together.
29 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 24
A team that defends as poorly as Toronto needs to shoot better than 43.9 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from deep. The Raptors lack well-rounded players. Andrea Bargnani can shoot but not defend. Reggie Evans is a rebounding machine but can't score. And players who can do multiple things, like combo guard Jarrett Jack, don't do them well enough to really elevate their team. There is hope for second-year swingman DeMar DeRozan, who has shown flashes of improvement at both ends of the court.
30 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 25
The Wolves, who were to visit the Lakers on Tuesday, have lost their first four road games by an average of 30 points, the latest to then-winless Houston playing a guy named Ish Smith at point guard. They are dashing to the slaughterhouse: The Wolves rank last in offensive efficiency, last in defensive efficiency and first in pace of play. I'm a charter member of the Kevin Love bandwagon, but if Love played as nonchalantly for Mike Krzyzewski as he has for Kurt Rambis this season, he wouldn't have made the U.S.' FIBA World Championship team. On the flip side, Rambis has to concede that his foot-in-the-butt approach to Love has backfired.
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