This is our homage to Marc Stein and John Hollinger at ESPN.com where they rank the teams in the NBA weekly and daily respectively. Marc uses his intuition and lisp. Hollinger uses his formula and shiny forehead. We are going to use our savvy and chest hair to make the right calls. Don’t question it.
1) San Antonio – The only argument against the Spurs as the best team in the NBA is that they lost a head to head against the Mavs. Still, they’ve got the better record, the better point differential, and they have two Finals MVP recipients to none.
2) Dallas – The Mavs are playing great ball. Jason Terry is back where he was in 2007, and Dirk is reminiscent of Karl Malone in his consistency and quiet unguardability. What? It’s a word. Check your Becktionary.
3) Boston – I wanted to put Boston on top, but they have too many injuries right now. Rondo isn’t right. Jermaine, Perk, and Delonte are all out for an extended period. Baby is sick. They are still winning, but they aren’t at full strength.
4) Los Angeles – After a stellar start the Lakers have had a rough patch, but we at Double Dribble still believe in the power of the hated Lakeshow. They have the best parts and the best coach and great continuity. Bynum is due back soon. I despise their raw power.
5) Miami – Everybody hates the Heat, but they’ve won 5 in a row now, including one over the Jazz who beat them early in the year in OT off of 17 last second three pointers by Carlos Boozer’s backup. Miami has the best SRS in the league and the most potential to improve over the course of the season. They still worry me.
6) Orlando – The Magic are still flying under the radar a little bit, but they are probably the deepest team in the league. They won a game last week with every starter except Vince Carter sitting out with the flu. I don’t care who you play, any NBA team should be able to beat a team full of second stringers, but Orlando is genuinely that deep.
7) Utah – I still feel like Jerry Sloan has been the best coach so far. Most of his team is playing in Chicago, and he has seamlessly transitioned. His guys are playing D, running the offense, and winning games. Also Deron is the most complete point guard in the league (but Paul is still better).
8 ) New Orleans – They’ve really fallen off their pace fro early in the season, but with the best point guard in the league and a very solid team D, I can’t put anyone else above them.
9) Atlanta – I know the East is supposed to be weak and Atlanta has fallen out of favor with the stampede of the Bulls, but the Hawks have been playing tough without their All-Star shooting guard, Joe Johnson. Al Horford should be the #2 center on the All-Star team this year.
10) Denver – Carmelo controversy? Yeah. Major injuries? Sure. Billups playing worse than Baron Davis this year? ‘Fraid so. But they keep winning the games they are supposed to win anyway, and George Karl is one win away from 1,000.
11) Chicago – I’m pulling for these Bulls. I love watching Rose and Noah play, and I’m a big fan of former Celtics coach Tom Thibodeau. They just can’t seem to get over the top against the league’s elite. So they are outside the top ten for now. We’ll see what happens when they’ve got Carlos “Stabs a blind man in the back” Boozer fully integrated.
12) Oklahoma City – They may be failing to live up to the hype but with the injury-induced deaths of Portland and Houston and the even greater failure to meet expectations in Memphis (plus the dismemberment of the Suns), they may still manage to be a top 4 or 5 team in the somewhat overrated western conference this season.
13) Indiana – We knew Nick Collison would help, and we expected Mike Dunleavy being healthy would give them a boost, but nobody expected such a huge jump in production from Roy Hibbert. Somebody check that kid’s Gatorade because his athleticism has taken a major jump and so has the potential of the Pacers.
14) Memphis – This team may be disappointing the projectionists at this point in the season, but Rudy Gay and Mike Conley are playing the best ball of their careers, and the team is really one streak of easy games away from righting the ship. I’m also seeing some smoke regarding moving OJ Mayo, and a deadeye shooter at that position could do a lot for their future.
15) New York – The Knicks have had the easiest schedule of any winning team so far this year, but you can only win the games you play. Until they hit a losing streak I can’t keep them out of the top 50% of the league with their record. Also Amare and Felton seem to have turned a corner with their team play of late, and this team looks like a legit top 6 seed in the East.
16) Phoenix – The Suns miss Amare tremendously, and Nash’s poor health has hurt them as well, but they continue to scrap and fight and shoot their way into enough wins to be in the playoff picture. Go small-ball!
17) Charlotte – It’s a testament to how much I don’t trust the health of Houston and Portland that the Bobcats are taking this spot, but them’s the breaks (mostly knee and ankle breaks) Rockets and Blazer fans. The Cats have had some trouble adjusting to life without Felton and Chandler, two of their best defenders, but they continue to beat bad teams, and that might be all they need to do to make the post-season.
18) Portland – The Trailblazers came into the season with high hopes, and the predictable injury setbacks to Greg Oden and Brandon Roy have predictably dashed those hopes most expertly. Bravo. If Seattle hadn’t lost its entire franchise to the greed of the league, the Blazers would be the most star-crossed fanbase in their geographic niche.
19) Houston – Rick’s a good coach, and he’s got some good talent to work with, but I think they need more on-court leadership, and they definitely need to get healthy. The plucky team that took the Lakers to 6 games despite major injuries in 2009 may be gone for good at this point.
20) Toronto – Surprisingly not that horrendous so far. It looks like Bargnani might not be a complete bust, and DeRozen is more than exciting on the wing. Like the last two teams they’ve got a great fanbase, so I hope they continue to compete. The post-season is not out of the question this year.
21) Milwaukee – The Bucks have to rank among the more disappointing teams of the early going. We had them slated to contend for the fifth seed and the Central Division, but that hasn’t happened at all. Bogut’s health has been an issue, but the drop off in the team defensive focus has been bigger. The offense has failed to make up the difference too as every bit of O brought in by Maggette has somehow been lost by Salmons (didn’t he disappear in Chicago and Phili over time as well?)
22) Golden State – David Lee, the mistaken All-Star from New York, is the key to the Warriors. Steph and Monta can keep them in the game on the offensive end, but this team cannot control its defensive backboard without a healthy Lee. He’s back now, and they need to put forth a concerted effort to try to steal the 8th seed from one of the injured perennials.
23) Los Angeles – The Clippers are the team of the future with Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, and Eric Bledsoe (not supposed to play at all with Davis and Foye in front of him). Griffin in particular looks like a future superstar. Unfortunately in the present they haven’t figured out how to close out games and continue to lose close ones.
24) Minnesota – Quick list of the best players on Timberwolf teams historically: Christian Laettner, Kevin Garnett, Al Jefferson, Kevin Love… nothing but power forwards. This season their two best players are power forwards with Beasley rediscovering his offensive game after escaping the shadow of DWade. As with most teams having your two best players at the same position has not led to a ton of wins.
25) Washington – The Wiz are still gawdoffal, but John Wall is crazy good. Blatche and McGee continue to show flashes of competence up front. If Josh Howard can get back to his best game, and Gil and Wall can find a way to complement each other, this group could be back in contention for the bottom of the playoff pool next year. With one more rebounder / defender.
26) Detroit – The Pistons are handicapped by their aging veterans. Prince and Hamilton, who used to be great contributors on contending teams, are salary cap albatrosses at this point, and their replacements are mini-me substitutions for their games. This team is stuck until those contracts expire or other teams are willing to deal for their expiring contracts.
27) Cleveland – After looking like the plucky defense that could early this season, the Cav’s basic flaw has come back to bite them. Their entire offensive philosophy has been, “Get the ball to LeBron and wait for him to get you open” for the last 7 years. They don’t have creators, and Scott has had to build an offense with spare parts this season. So far, no good.
28) New Jersey – The Nets have been bad all year, but the major disappointment has been Brook Lopez. Shaq compared Brook’s complete game to that of Tim Duncan earlier this season, but so far the only thing Duncanesque about Lopez has been the faces he’s made when officials whistle him for stupid fouls. Also everyone else on the team has been terrible too, which hasn’t helped new head coach Avery Johnson too much.
29) Philadelphia – The 76ers might not be as bad as some of the teams above them, but they are the one team that I can’t really see improving. Brand is what he is at this point. Igudala is being paid superstar money to be a complementary player on a team with no first option. Holiday and Turner are both looking to control the ball but neither really has the game of a full-fledged NBA lead guard. Doug Collins is a smart coach, but his controlling style doesn’t really fit this athletic squad. It’s a mismatched hodgepodge with little foreseeable hope.
30) Sacramento – Tyreke Evans had rookie numbers matched only by LeBron, Jordan, and Oscar. He’s got sophomore stats matched by a lot more people than that. Cousins has distinguished himself as a distraction. All-in-all nothing has worked. They have hope because there is talent and youth, but right now they are a disaster in white and purple.