NBA: Week Four Power Ranking

    
November 25th, 2008
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11/24/08 - The Cleveland Cavaliers can't spend their time worrying about the future of LeBron James, even with the New York Knicks opening up significant cap room in 2010.  They're too busy trying to win today in a far more competitive Eastern Conference.  The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Cavaliers are the only teams with double-digit wins and three or fewer losses.  In the West, the Dallas Mavericks are the starting to put some wins together.  So far they're the only team in the conference outside of the top eight who made the playoffs last year.  The Portland Trail Blazers are trying to make that jump.  The NBA four weeks in . . .  by: Eric Pincus

 

RANK(LAST WK) TEAM REC. COMMENT
Los Angeles Lakers Logo 1 (1) Los Angeles Lakers 11 - 1 The Lakers are still perfect on the road in five tries. Their next three are at home where they're 6-1. Some positive shooting numbers - the big-men tandem of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom are shooting a combined 52.2% from the field. Conversely, the four Laker guards (Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar) are hitting just 41.8%.
Boston Celtics Logo 2 (2) Boston Celtics 13 - 2 The Celtics have 10 of their next 14 at home. Although some of their opponents will be tough (Orlando, Portland, New Orleans, Utah, etc), Boston should be able to keep their position atop the East - and possibly catch the Lakers.
Cleveland Cavaliers Logo 3 (5) Cleveland Cavaliers 10 - 3 New York anxiety aside, the Cavaliers are fielding a strong team in the present day to support their star forward LeBron James. Perfect at home, the Cavs three road losses were against the Celtics, Hornets and Pistons. Looking ahead, the schedule is very favorable over the next couple of weeks.
Orlando Magic Logo 4 (6) Orlando Magic 9 - 4 The loss at home to the Houston Rockets was disappointing but the Magic have been very solid so far this season. At 4-1 on the road, Orlando has eight away games in their next 12 contests.
Denver Nuggets Logo 5 (11) Denver Nuggets 9 - 5 Point guard Chauncey Billups continues to steady the Nuggets. Other than the letdown in LA against the Lakers, Denver has been rock solid. Between the Jazz, Blazers and Nuggets - the run for the Northwest Division Title should be competitive all season.
Utah Jazz Logo 6 (7) Utah Jazz 9 - 5 The Jazz are expecting to get point guard Deron Williams back - so they can start their season in earnest. They've done well without him at home (6-0). Williams struggled through two road games, coming back too early from the sprained ankle. Overall Utah is just 3-5 away from home.
Houston Rockets Logo 7 (10) Houston Rockets 9 - 5 Houston is expecting to get forward Shane Battier back soon (foot) but guard/forward Tracy McGrady's status continues to fluctuate (knee). The Rockets are winning games but as always health hangs over the head of what is a very promising team.
Phoenix Suns Logo 8 (3) Phoenix Suns 9 - 5 Phoenix has actually won at a higher percentage on the road (71.4%, 5-2) than at home (57.1%, 4-3). Some of that has to do with the schedule as the Suns have already hosted teams like the Hornets, Blazers, Rockets, Pistons and Lakers. Their road schedule has been far more forgiving.
Detroit Pistons Logo 9 (4) Detroit Pistons 8 - 5 After beating the Lakers a week ago, the Pistons looked like they were poised to challenge the Celtics. Instead they've taken a step back including an embarrassing showing against the Timberwolves in Detroit.
Atlanta Hawks Logo 10 (9) Atlanta Hawks 8 - 5 Forward Josh Smith appears to be a week away from returning (sprained ankle). The team has struggled as of late, winning just two of their last seven games. While Smith averages just 12 points a night, he's an integral part of their defensive attack (2.5 blocks a game).
New Orleans Hornets Logo 11 (8) New Orleans Hornets 7 - 5 The perfect remedy for the struggling Hornets was the home and home against the Thunder. Armed with a two-game win streak, they visit the evolving Clippers before facing the Nuggets and Blazers on back-to-back nights on the road. This is a key stretch for New Orleans to recapture some of last year's dominance.
Portland Trail Blazers Logo 12 (12) Portland Trail Blazers 8 - 6 No team in the league as played as often as the Blazers have on the road. Although they have a losing record (4-6) through that stretch, they are perfect at the Rose Garden (4-0). After three in row in Portland, the Blazers continue with six of seven games away before a good straight month mostly at home.
San Antonio Spurs Logo 13 (15) San Antonio Spurs 6 - 6 Playing .500 ball is about all Coach Gregg Popovich can ask considering the team is without two of their three best players (guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili). In the meantime, guard Roger Mason is proving to be an excellent addition to the roster. Ginobili is getting closer to a return and Parker is expected back mid-December.
Philadelphia 76ers Logo 14 (16) Philadelphia 76ers 7 - 6 The Sixers have finally climbed above .500. Forward Elton Brand has overtaken teammate, forward Thaddeus Young as the team's leading scorer (at 16.5 points a night). Where Philadelphia needs to improve immensely is on the road (just 2-4).
Miami Heat Logo 15 (17) Miami Heat 7 - 6 The HEAT are another team that plays well only at home. That's certainly a concern as Miami hits the road after hosting the Rockets Monday - five straight including visits to Portland, Phoenix and Utah.
Toronto Raptors Logo 16 (13) Toronto Raptors 6 - 7 Toronto is getting a career year from forward Chris Bosh but guard play (outside of Jose Calderon) has been disappointing. Also in question is center Jermaine O'Neal's status (knee). That's an expensive problem if he's out for any significant length of time.
New York Knicks Logo 17 (14) New York Knicks 7 - 6 The Knicks were actually pretty good and finally fun to watch under Coach Mike D'Antoni. After dumping guard Jamal Crawford and forward Zach Randolph for future considerations (read LeBron James), can the newcomers (guard Cuttino Mobley and forwards Tim Thomas and Al Harrington) keep New York competitive.
New Jersey Nets Logo 18 (24) New Jersey Nets 6 - 6 The Nets were supposed to be a bottom feeder this year but 12 games in and they're at .500. Defying convention, New Jersey is an early winner on the road (3-2) but just 3-4 at home. Will that hold up this week as they visit the Lakers, Kings, Jazz and Suns in two sets of back-to-backs?
Dallas Mavericks Logo 19 (22) Dallas Mavericks 6 - 7 The Mavericks are climbing. After winning just one of their first five at American Airlines Center, Dallas will have a chance to improve significantly with eight of their next at home. Riding a four game win streak, the Mavericks should be able to crack the top eight in the West before long.
Milwaukee Bucks Logo 20 (20) Milwaukee Bucks 7 - 8 With their win on Saturday over the Bobcats, the Bucks have already won more than half the total number of road games they won all of last season (seven). Even with guard Michael Redd (ankle), the Bucks have remained somewhat competitive winning 3-3 at home and 4-5 on the road. The next three will be tough visits to Orland, Atlanta and Detroit.
Chicago Bulls Logo 21 (18) Chicago Bulls 6 - 8 Chicago has a great home record (5-2) but the road has not been kind (1-6). They've lost three of their first four on their annual circus trip. Their next three are in Utah, San Antonio and Philadelphia. Rookie guard Derrick Rose who admitted surprise recently at how natural the transition to the pros as been, is the early favorite for Rookie of the Year.
Indiana Pacers Logo 22 (19) Indiana Pacers 5 - 7 The Pacers are going to need a better home record (4-3) if they're going to be terrible on the road (1-4). Indiana remains the only team in the East outside of the top eight with a positive point differential (2.0 points a game). The Pacers are scoring 99.7 a night while yielding 97.7.
Golden State Warriors Logo 23 (21) Golden State Warriors 5 - 8 Coach Don Nelson had already taken forward Al Harrington out of the rotation - so in essence the team doesn't give up much on the court to acquire guard Jamal Crawford. The former Knick should help the Warriors offensively (already scoring 103.5 points a night) but he's not known to be much of a defender - and Golden State gives up 104.8.
Sacramento Kings Logo 24 (23) Sacramento Kings 5 - 10 The Kings continue to be one of the more exciting "bad" teams in the league. They have a lot of young prospects and compete - but they don't win a lot of games. They should improve when guard Kevin Martin returns (ankle).
Memphis Grizzlies Logo 25 (25) Memphis Grizzlies 4 - 9 After a relatively strong start, the Grizzlies have lost six of seven. Memphis could use a win but may have to wait until Saturday when they host the Thunder. Leading up to Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies play the Spurs (twice) and Jazz.
Minnesota Timberwolves Logo 26 (29) Minnesota Timberwolves 3 - 9 After a desolate stretch of eight straight losses, the Wolves beat the Sixers and then destroy the Pistons in Detroit (by 26 points). At just 3-9, have they finally figured something out?
Charlotte Bobcats Logo 27 (26) Charlotte Bobcats 3 - 9 The Bobcats are 3-9 after a home-heavy stretch. They've played fewer road games than any team in the league (0-3) which does not bode well for their future this season.
Los Angeles Clippers Logo 28 (28) Los Angeles Clippers 2 - 11 The Clippers were running in place. Now they'll either run in place with incoming forward Zach Randolph or they'll figure out a way to recover from a disastrous start. With guard Ricky Davis struggling and rookie Eric Gordon still learning - do the Clippers have enough at two-guard?
Washington Wizards Logo 29 (27) Washington Wizards 1 - 10 Coach Eddie Jordan is the casualty, which is really too bad considering he's never been dealt a healthy squad. At just 1-10, it's disappointing but understandable.
Oklahoma City Thunder Logo 30 (30) Oklahoma City Thunder 1 - 13 Coach PJ Carlesimo gets the axe as the Thunder regress (just 1-13). Can interim Coach Scott Brooks find a way to get a few respectable wins out of his young club?