With the exception of a brief cameo at No. 31 last season, the Sixers have been No. 30 in my rankings for as long as I can remember. They're my surest placement every week. No debate, no second-guesses -- just ironclad certainty. I expect the 76ers to be last like I expect to inhale oxygen when I breathe.
Picking No. 1 is an entirely different matter. Every week I fret over who should lead the rankings, especially this early in the season when a single win or a loss could shift your placement by several slots.
Golden State has made that exercise relatively easy this season -- up until now. The Warriors are on top for the fourth consecutive week, but the hard-charging Grizzlies should probably be No. 1A at a minimum. Memphis has an NBA-best 15 wins and is tied with Golden State for the fewest losses (two) in the league. It has a top-five defense in terms of efficiency and a top-10 offense to boot. It has a perfect record against Western Conference foes and the highest RPI (Relative Percentage Index) of any team in the league. If it weren't for the Warriors, the Grizzlies would be the talk of the league.
Instead, much like Memphis is used to, its overshadowed by its glitzier rival in Golden State, which has won nine straight and remains on top. Let's take a look at where the rest of the 30 teams stand in this week's NBA Power Rankings.
(All stats and records through Nov. 30)
1. Golden State Warriors
RECORD: 14-2 (4-0)
Steve Kerr's winning percentage as a head coach (87.5) through 16 games is higher than his percentage from the free throw line (86.4) as a player in 16 seasons.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
RECORD: 15-2 (3-0)
Goodness, Grizzlies. Memphis is now 11-0 against fellow Western Conference teams. Its two losses have come by a combined five points. The defense has allowed opponents to top the century mark in just four games and the offense has room for improvement even though it now ranks among the league's best.
3. Portland Trail Blazers
RECORD: 13-4 (3-1)
Wes Matthews is off to a career-best start, averaging 17.3 points per game and hitting at least five three-pointers in his last three. The goggled guard and Damian Lillard make up arguably the league's sweetest shooting backcourt outside of Golden State, combining to average 37.2 points and hit almost six three-pointers per game.
4. Dallas Mavericks
RECORD: 13-5 (3-1)
How deep are the Mavs? Monta Ellis is leading the team in scoring (19.6 ppg), but Dallas is actually scoring more points per 100 possessions when he's off the floor (119.3) than when he's on it (114.5), per basketball-reference.
5. San Antonio Spurs
RECORD: 12-4 (3-0)
The Spurs notched their seventh straight win in part thanks to Aron Baynes, who scored a season-high 13 points off the bench. With Tiago Splitter sidelined and Tim Duncan on minutes-watch, Baynes has emerged as an unlikely contributor for San Antonio and has hit double-digits in five of his last seven games. Said the always quotable Gregg Popovich: "Baynsie is saving us."
6. Houston Rockets
RECORD: 13-4 (3-1)
Houston's defense is hanging tight with Dwight Howard sidelined, allowing just 99.7 points per 100 possessions over its last six games,the fifth-fewest in the league.
7. Toronto Raptors
RECORD: 13-4 (2-2)
After a franchise-best 13-2 start, the Raptors dropped two games in a row, including a particularly ugly loss to the Lakers in which they allowed 129 points in an OT loss. Losing DeMar DeRozan, the team's leading scorer, hurts the Raptors on both ends. With DeRozan sidelined, Kobe Bryant and Monta Ellis each hung 30 on Toronto last week.
8. Chicago Bulls
RECORD: 11-6 (3-1)
Jimmy Butler has emerged as the Bulls' unlikely go-to-scorer. Chicago's starting shooting guard -- who is in a contract year -- has topped 20 points in 11 of his 15 games this season after hitting the mark in just five games in 67 last year.
9. Los Angeles Clippers
RECORD: 11-5 (4-0)
Who needs the Staples Center? The Clippers outscored opponents by an average of 12.1 points over their recent seven-game road trip (6-1), the largest average margin of victory for such a trip in NBA history.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers
RECORD: 8-7 (3-0)
The Cavaliers' plummet in the Power Rankings was short-lived. Cleveland took out its frustration from a four-game losing streak by beating its opponents by an average of 23.6 points last week.
11. Washington Wizards
RECORD: 10-5 (1-2)
For a team led by John Wall, you'd think the Wizards would thrive more in transition, yet they rank No. 20 in transition points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. That's led Washington's offense to drag at times, like Saturday's season-low output (83 points) in a win against the Pelicans.
12. Phoenix Suns
RECORD: 10-8 (1-3)
Jeff Hornacek isn't content with being just a feel-good story for a second straight year. The Suns coach drew a rare technical foul Sunday and lamented after Phoenix's third loss in four games: "We played hard for about 12 minutes."
13. Milwaukee Bucks
RECORD: 10-8 (3-1)
The Bucks were 3-15 at this point last season, making Jason Kidd an early candidate for Coach of the Year. Milwaukee is playing with so much confidence that the usually mild-mannered Giannis Antetokounmpo talked trash to James Harden during a blowout…loss!
14. Sacramento Kings
RECORD: 9-8 (1-3)
A virus has shelved DeMarcus Cousins for the last two games, leading to two of the Kings' last three losses. Sacramento didn't have much of a chance against the frontcourts of San Antonio and Memphis without Boogie in the middle.
15. Atlanta Hawks
RECORD: 9-6 (3-1)
Dennis Schröder's Player Efficiency Rating has jumped from 5.8 last season to 19.8 this year but he's seeing just three more minutes per game. With Jeff Teague also having a career year, it might be time for the Hawks to take a page out of the Suns' playbook and play its two talented point guards together.
16. Denver Nuggets
RECORD: 8-8 (2-1)
Rarely do teams get the opportunity to seize revenge so swiftly, but two nights after losing in Phoenix the Nuggets beat the Suns at home by 25. More importantly, Denver is now 6-0 when holding opponents under 100, an important note for a defense still finding its way.
17. Miami Heat
RECORD: 9-7 (1-1)
Dwyane Wade's return netted a win for the Heat. That or a date with the Knicks. Either way, Wade's 27 points were a good sign for a player that had missed seven straight games.
18. New Orleans PELICANS
RECORD: 7-8 (0-3)
Eric Gordon's injury is looming larger than you would think for a player that was averaging 9.5 points per game. New Orleans has averaged just 86.6 ppg since Gordon was sidelined indefinitely with a torn labrum.
19. Indiana Pacers
RECORD: 7-10 (2-2)
The Pacers are bringing David West back slowly from an ankle injury, but the 34-year-old has looked sharp in his first two games back, averaging 16 points and six rebounds. Indiana will be an even peskier opponent with its veteran bruiser back on the floor.
20. Oklahoma City Thunder
RECORD: 5-12 (2-0)
Russell Westbrook's triumphant return marked the beginning of the Thunder's comeback campaign. With Kevin Durant progressing, Oklahoma City could be at full strength by week's end.
21. Orlando Magic
RECORD: 7-12 (1-3)
The Magic weren't interested in hanging on to Arron Afflalo in a contract year, but they replaced him perfectly with Evan Fournier. Let's compare the two for a second:Afflalo, Nuggets: 14.6 ppg, 45.3 FG%, 40.3 3P%, 14.6 PERFournier, Magic: 15.4 ppg, 45.4 FG%, 43.6 3P%, 13.1 PER
22. BROOKLYN Nets
RECORD: 6-9 (1-1)
Joe Johnson has "no idea" how to turn around the Nets and neither do I. Johnson scored just three points on 1-of-7 shooting in Brooklyn's latest lopsided loss.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves
RECORD: 4-11 (1-2)
After a month filled with disappointments, Shabazz Muhammad's 28-point showing against the Blazers gave Minnesota a silver lining to cling to as November closed.
24. Utah Jazz
RECORD: 5-12 (0-3)
Utah's pair of Australian rookies are eight years apart, but they're experiencing similar struggles. Dante Exum (19) is shooting just 37.7 percent and Joe Ingles (27) is shooting 37.5.
25. Boston Celtics
RECORD: 4-10 (0-2)
The Celtics are sitting pretty at 4-3 against Eastern Conference teams. Unfortunately, they're 0-7 against the West.
26. Los Angeles Lakers
RECORD: 4-13 (1-2)
When the shots are falling, the Lakers are a fairly respectable team (3-3 when shooting above 49 percent from the field). Problem is, rarely are the rims so favorable.
27. New York Knicks
RECORD: 4-14 (0-4)
Just 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. Just 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. Just 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. Just 3.5 games out of playoff spot. Just 3.5 games out of a pla----
28. Charlotte HORNETS
RECORD: 4-14 (0-4)
Steve Clifford after the Hornets' ninth straight loss, in which they trailed by as many as 44: "That was not a professional effort."
29. Detroit Pistons
RECORD: 3-14 (0-4)
Stan Van Gundy might be wishing he stayed in Florida. The Pistons have lost eight straight, tying the longest losing streak of Van Gundy's career.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
RECORD: 0-16 (0-3)
The Spurs, Wolves and Thunder stand in the 76ers' way of making history. If Philadelphia can lose to all three it will become the first team in NBA history to start a season 0-19.