By Chris Mannix
November 16, 2009
NBA Power Rankings
11 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 13
We'll let general manager Daryl Morey, via his Twitter account, explain Houston's upset of the host Lakers on Sunday: "Good:AB [Aaron Brooks] taking (19) and setting up (14) great shots. Kyle [Lowry] w/3 and 17. DA [David Andersen] opening up the paint. Needs improvement:turnovers, personal fouls and the ability to enjoy Ws-I often feel like JVG [Jeff Van Gundy]."
12 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 10
Gregg Popovich's efforts to find a winning mix have benefited second-year guard George Hill. Tony Parker's primary backup, Hill, who has averaged 17 points over his last three games, was used extensively at shooting guard during the Spurs' loss to Oklahoma City. And Popovich plans to utilize him there a lot more. "We become a whole lot more athletic with another guy who can fill the lane and maybe get an easy bucket," Popovich told reporters. "Depending on who is on the court, George can take the tougher of the two defensively and have Tony take the other guy. It gives us a lot of flexibility."
13 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 14
Anyone else want to skip college to spend a year playing overseas? Three nights after torching Denver for 32 points, Brandon Jennings hung a franchise-rookie-record 55 on the Warriors, raising his scoring average to 25.6 points. "I know what it feels like to be in that zone," Bucks coach Scott Skiles told reporters. "I've been in that myself many times. In any NBA game, when you get a guy going like that, you're foolish if you don't continue to ride that."
14 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 12
The book is out on Derrick Rose: Trap him and you stand a good chance at containing him. Facing a steady diet of double teams, the second-year point guard is averaging just 13.8 points, three below his rookie mark. The Bulls will need better production: On Tuesday, Chicago begins its annual circus trip, a two-week, six-game grind while the circus takes over the United Center.
15 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 16
The Thunder were worried about how they would perform against the NBA's elite early in the season. They should have been worried about the league's lesser lights. OKC owns victories against San Antonio and Orlando but also has bad losses to the Clippers and Kings. "We need to play better defense, especially in the fourth quarter," center Nenad Krstic said. "We also need to rebound better with all five guys going for the rebound."
16 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 15
This week will challenge the Raptors, who face road games against Denver and Utah and home dates with Miami and Orlando. On the positive side, Hedo Turkoglu (14.5 points, 3.5 assists) seems to have successfully transitioned from one pick-and-roll-based offense to another. "It's really kind of similar to Orlando," Turkoglu told reporters. "It's a little different because [Chris] Bosh and Dwight [Howard] play different, and Andrea [Bargnani] is bigger than Rashard [Lewis], but we're getting the same kind of good offense."
17 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 17
Just what you want to see if you are a banged-up team still searching for an identity: a four-game, five-night West Coast trip through Los Angeles (for the Lakers), Portland, Utah and Phoenix. Neither Tayshaun Prince (back) nor Rip Hamilton (ankle) is expected to play during the trip.
18 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 21
Utah Jazz (4-6)
Productive rookie point guards just seem to keep coming out of the woodwork. With Deron Williams tending to a personal matter, Eric Maynor has stepped into the starting role. Maynor had 13 points and 11 assists in a win at Philadelphia and 24 points in a narrow loss at Cleveland. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan told reporters, "Eric now has gotten some more minutes and, from what he's shown, he gives us an option to make a change [in our rotation] if we need to down the road."
19 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 24
Their upset of Boston is all the more stunning considering they did it without Jeff Foster, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy, who all sat with injuries. Guard Dahntay Jones is looking like the biggest bargain of the offseason. The defensive grinder is averaging a career-high 16.4 points, more than three times his career average entering the season.
20 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 20
If ever Elton Brand was going to step up and seize control of the power forward position, it's now. The Sixers announced Monday that Marreese Speights will miss 6-8 weeks with a knee injury. That clears more playing time for Brand, who has had a regular seat on the bench in fourth quarters. "Elton is trying to find his way, no question about it," general manager Ed Stefanski told the Philadelphia Daily News. "Basically, he's had two years off from playing games. I think the more games he plays, the better he'll progress."
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