By Chris Mannix
November 09, 2009
NBA Power Rankings
11 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 15
They have resolved the Steve Blake/Andre Miller point-guard debate by ... starting them both. Utilizing a three-guard lineup with Blake, Miller and Brandon Roy, the Blazers claimed double-digit wins over San Antonio and Minnesota. "It's new for me to not be bringing the ball up and just to run the floor," Blake told The Oregonian. "It was fun. I enjoy playing with Andre in that capacity. And it's nice to have a lot of guys that can handle [the ball] and make reads."
12 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 22
With Tyrus Thomas expected to miss 4-6 weeks after breaking his forearm, the power-forward duties will fall to rookies Taj Gibson and James Johnson. "[Gibson has] been great," coach Vinny Del Negro told reporters. "Taj keeps working, he's out there after practice working; he's constant effort. He's still making some mistakes, but you can live with those because he's always working and his energy and his effort -- especially defensively -- is good."
13 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 13
Is Houston home to the new Bench Mob? Led by Kyle Lowry, Carl Landry and Chase Budinger, the Rockets' second unit has been running teams off the floor. In three games last week, the reserves outscored their counterparts by an average of 20.3 points. Budinger, a rookie second-round pick, is averaging 10.6 points in only 17 minutes.
14 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 18
Having a franchise center helps, doesn't it? With Michael Redd sidelined by a knee injury, Andrew Bogut has kept the Bucks afloat. Bogut scored in double figures in each of the last three games, including a 22-point effort against the Knicks. "I feel like he's really being aggressive now," coach Scott Skiles said after last Friday's victory against Minnesota. "He looks much more like himself. He's moving around well; he's facing up people. He's got a quick first step and is making some nice reads and some nice passes."
15 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 21
See Chris Bosh score. See Chris Bosh rebound. The Raptors' forward has been a one-man show, leading the team in scoring for five consecutive games and in rebounding for three of them. Forget an All-Star nod. This start has Bosh thinking MVP. "I came into this season saying I'm going to give it a shot," Bosh told reporters. "I think I can get it and we need more wins, of course, but when I think of MVPs in the past, I think of consistency. Every night they put it out there on the floor and, when need be, they put their teams on their backs."
16 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 12
Kevin Durant may have lost a duel with Kobe in an OT loss to the Lakers last week, but the third-year forward continues to impress opponents around the league. "The shot quality is much better at this point," Rockets forward Shane Battier told the Houston Chronicle. "That's what's going to make him an elite, elite player, to be able to score without the volume of shots. I think he can do it. When you see his progression, it's scary." We'll have to take his word for it; Durant has connected on only 19.2 percent of his three-point attempts and 42.1 percent overall. But after hammering Orlando by 28 on Sunday, who's complaining?
17 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 19
Ben Wallace thought he was coming back to Detroit as a role player. Instead, he's been asked to be the same Big Ben who helped the Pistons to two NBA Finals and one championship. In seven games (all starts), Wallace is averaging 10.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, both of which help explain how a team without injured Tayshaun Prince ranks second in defensive field-goal percentage.
18 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 23
Raja Bell has never been the answer to anyone's shooting problems, but he has given the Bobcats' offense a much-needed boost. After putting off wrist surgery, Bell pumped in 24 points in Charlotte's pasting of Atlanta. With Gerald Wallace (32.1 percent shooting), Flip Murray (33.3) and D.J. Augustin (37.8) struggling, the Bobcats will take any help they can get.
19 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 10
Ouch. A four-loss week, including a 16-point drubbing at Indiana? That beating led to an expletive-laced, fruit-tray-throwing tirade from injured forward Antawn Jamison. The Wizards desperately need someone to step forward and claim the shooting-guard spot. Mike Miller remains sidelined with a shoulder injury and neither Nick Young (3.0 points per game) nor Randy Foye (a team minus-16 in Sunday's loss to Phoenix) has emerged.
20 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 14
Eddie Jordan sounds like a man prepared to post a classified ad looking for a guard to come off the bench. With Marreese Speights playing the role of the first reserve big man and Jason Kapono backing up at small forward, Jordan is looking for Willie Green, Royal Ivey, Rodney Carney or Jrue Holiday to claim the top backup guard spot. "I [still] need to find who is going to make some headway, someone that's going to tell me he's the eighth guy," Jordan told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "If you distinguish yourself as 'The Guy,' then that's going to be the rotation."
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