NBA Power Rankings: Battle emerges for No. 1 among three Western foes
We interrupt Kobe Bryant's latest ill-advised shooting display to bring you NBA Power Rankings.
For the first time this season, there's a healthy debate about which team should be No. 1. The Rockets own the league's best defense and inside-outside duo. The Grizzlies have won nine of 10 games, with their only defeat coming by a single point. And the Warriors, who have held down the top spot for the last two weeks, still lead the NBA in net rating.
So who gets to wear the crown this week? The Warriors, once again.
No contender has faced a tougher schedule than Golden State, which has toppled the Kings, Blazers, Clippers and Rockets already. Houston, in contrast, is coming off a one-point win over the 76ers (a game it should have lost) and a heinous victory over the Thunder in which it scored just 69 points. Memphis' slate has been much more legitimate, but it still hasn't been as challenging as Golden State's.
While No. 1 remains the same for the third straight week, there was plenty of movement. The Blazers rise 10 spots to crack the top five, while the Heat tumble nine slots to No. 17.
Let's take a look at the rest of this week's NBA Power Rankings.
(All stats and records are through Nov. 16.)
So what if Memphis' offense ranks in the bottom half of the league? When you're giving up just 91.3 points per game, you don't have to score much to pile up victories.
With Dwight Howard looking like his old dominant self, Patrick Beverley hounding opponents and Trevor Ariza manning the wing, the Rockets are holding opponents to a league-low 91.5 points per 100 possessions. On Sunday, they beat the Thunder 69-65, winning despite shooting just 28.8 percent, the lowest mark for a victor since 2000. James Harden is shooting only 38.3 percent, but that will continue to be an afterthought as long as the Rockets play defense like this.
Chicago's offense has implemented a new weapon this season: scoring. The Bulls have raised their offensive efficiency from 99.7 in 2013-14 to 106.0. Chicago has even surpassed the century mark in seven games, a feat that didn't occur until Jan. 15 last season.
Six of the Mavericks' 10 minutes leaders weren't on the roster last season, yet the offense looks like the most cohesive unit in the league, averaging an NBA-best 115 points per 100 possessions. Even more impressive: Dallas is doing all of this while Dirk Nowitzki is playing his fewest minutes (27.7) since his rookie season in 1998-99.
What do you do for an encore after blowing a 24-point lead? Squander a 26-point lead two nights later! As good as the Kings' start has been, last week's losses to Dallas and Memphis show this team is still not quite ready for the limelight. The talent is there, the experience is not.
The Wizards get Bradley Beal back this week after playing admirably in his absence. If Washington has had one weakness this season, it's been three-point shooting, which just so happens to be Beal's specialty. Washington isn't as high as other two-loss teams because it has yet to beat a Western Conference team -- or even play one, for that matter. That changes this week, with a game against Dallas on Wednesday.
Think the Spurs miss Tiago Splitter? DeMarcus Cousins (25 points, 10 rebounds), Anthony Davis (27 points, 11 rebounds) and Dwight Howard (32 points, 16 rebounds) manhandled San Antonio's frontline in three of its four losses. Heck, Alex Len had a double-double in their other defeat, which might be even more damaging.
The ball movement in Atlanta is a sight to behold. The Hawks are registering assists on a league-best 67.1 percent of their baskets. The Hawks might not have a traditional star, but their balanced offense makes up for their lack of a volume scorer.
With two of the Suns' five wins coming against the Lakers, Phoenix's middling start might be worse than it looks. Making things more complicated: Guard Isaiah Thomas is outplaying his starting counterparts.
Lance Stephenson's struggles continue to hamper the Hornets, but the newcomer needs to remain aggressive in order for Charlotte's offense to thrive. The Hornets are 4-1 when he attempts at least 12 shots and 0-5 when he doesn't.
After going 0-3 on a West Coast road swing, Lionel Hollins was quoted as saying, "Why shouldn't we be positive? That's the question I would ask you." Well, you shot 1-of-19 from deep against Portland, allowed 66 first-half points to Golden State, blew a 19-point lead against Phoenix and ... oh, should I stop there? That's probably enough.
Roy Hibbert is doing his best Joakim Noah impression, keeping the depleted Pacers afloat much like the Bulls' center did for his ailing team last year. Hibbert, who is averaging 13.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks, helped Indy upset Miami and Chicago last week. If only he could have played like that down the stretch last season ...
Kevin Durant took some shots during pregame warmups Sunday and is getting to the point where he can shoot off his toes … which is good, because the Thunder are a couple of more losses away from starting his air cast at shooting guard.
Andre Drummond was expected to have a breakout season coming off his Team USA stint and being under the tutelage of Stan Van Gundy. Instead, the third-year center is averaging five fewer points (8.4) than last season and shooting 41.4 percent (down from 62.3). Adding insult to injury, the Pistons misspelled his last name on his jersey last week.
There's bad defense and then there's giving up 130-plus points in back-to-back games. Ricky Rubio (sprained left ankle) is missed, but he isn't exactly Gary Payton on D, either. Minnesota has lost five straight after winning two of its first four.
Remember when Steve Kerr almost took this job instead of the one in Golden State? Ha! The Knicks had lost seven straight before Sunday's victory over the Nuggets, one of the few teams in more disarray.
Burn it. Burn it to the ground. It's time for a much-needed fire sale in Denver. The Nuggets' mishmash of talent hasn't shown any signs of improvement after missing the playoffs last year for the first time in a decade.
The Lakers might be last in the West and off to their worst start in franchise history, but Kobe Bryant is leading the league in field-goal attempts and dollars per season. Advantage, Black Mamba.