The worst part about preseason polls is that voters adopt a loyalty to those pre-determined spots even after the season shows us some of those picks were just wrong. College football gets it the worst, but the same often applies for the NBA; the only saving grace is that, at the end of the day, voter opinion doesn’t matter because the NBA has a playoff.
That said, we ignored making a preseason NBA Hit List power ranking, so as not to influence this first week’s edition. Counting down from worst to first…
30. Charlotte Bobcats (1-2) — At least the new uniforms aren’t too ugly, right? Right?
29. Sacramento Kings (0-3) — Pound for pound, they’ve got the worst starting frontcourt around: Jason Thompson, Sean May and Desmond Mason. Nobody would be surprised if Shareef Abdur-Rahim decided to come out of retirement right now.
28. New York Knicks (0-3) — It’s kind of funny when Chris Duhon has to be the guy to step up and chastise his teammates for their lack of pre-game preparation and focus. His pep talk was reportedly written on a bar napkin from Gallagher’s 2000.
27. New Jersey Nets (0-3) — Yi Jianlian was a popular preseason pick, but Chris Douglas-Roberts is the one making a strong early bid for Most Improved Player, averaging 13 points per and dropping 25 on the Wizards on Halloween.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-2) — Damien Wilkins’ game-winner on Opening Night bailed Kurt Rambis out of having to answer a good question: Why run a clear-out for rookie Jonny Flynn on the last possession when you have Al Jefferson on the block?
25. Indiana Pacers (0-2) — You say the Pacers have depth. We say the starters just aren’t that much better than the backups.
24. Golden State Warriors (0-2) — Stephen Jackson is getting booed at home, so at least we know the GS fans haven’t stopped caring.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (1-2) — In three games they’ve given up 96, 107, and 133 points. If you believe in trends, bet on the Kings dropping 148 in Monday’s tilt. Oh, and that Iverson guy finally makes his debut tonight.
22. Detroit Pistons (1-2) — Rip Hamilton served notice on Opening Night that he isn’t going to quietly fade into the background, dropping 25 points. Then he hurt his ankle and missed the next two games.
21. Milwaukee Bucks (1-1) — Forgive the Bucks fans if they’re not getting too excited about Brandon Jennings (20.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 6.0 apg) just yet; the last time they had a rookie PG this good, it turned out to be T.J. Ford.
20. Los Angeles Clippers (0-4) — Far and away the best winless team in the League. Seriously, the Clips aren’t that bad. They’ve just had a murderous schedule.
19. New Orleans Hornets (1-2) — Last year it was assists and steals. Is Chris Paul gunning for the scoring title this year? Three games in, he’s averaging 26.3 points on 65 percent shooting from the field.
18. Philadelphia 76ers (2-1) — On the second highest-scoring team in the League, Elton Brand is still averaging just 13 points and six boards. Are his 20-10 days done?
17. Oklahoma City Thunder (2-1) — James Harden is off to a real slow start in his Rookie of the Year campaign: 4.3 points on 29 percent shooting in just 15 minutes a night.
16. Toronto Raptors (1-2) — Not like he has anything to prove in his contract year, but Chris Bosh is tearing it up, averaging 31 points and 14.7 rebounds per game.
15. Utah Jazz (1-1) –It’s gonna be real tough to keep Deron Williams off the All-Star team in 2010 if he keeps slapping up 24 points and 11 assists every night.
14. Houston Rockets (2-1) — Wednesday, Nov. 4, Trevor Ariza gets his first chance to show the Lakers what they gave up.
13. Portland Trail Blazers (2-2) — It’s been lost in the neck-and-neck battle between Andre Miller and Steve Blake for minutes at point guard, but Jerryd Bayless has yet to see the court.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2) — Once again LeBron has to do almost everything here, but at least you don’t have to worry about him getting in foul trouble. In 155 minutes, he’s had just seven whistled on him.
11. Chicago Bulls (1-2) — Yes, they beat the Spurs, but then got smashed by Boston and lost to Miami. Athletic and deep, the Bulls are also turning into one of the League’s most inconsistent and unpredictable teams.
10. Miami Heat (3-0) — Three games, three wins, and Jermaine O’Neal is putting up 17 and 10 a night. How long can Miami stay skeptical?
9. Washington Wizards (2-1) — More pleasantly surprising than Gilbert Arenas’ 28 points per game on 50 percent shooting, Andray Blatche is going for 21 points a night. If he plays even close to his potential, the Wizards are more dangerous than an angry ex-girlfriend.
8. Phoenix Suns (3-0) — Just like the good ol’ days, the Suns lead the NBA with 117 points per game. And that’s with zero overtimes so far. Add Channing Frye to the list of guys who will owe Steve Nash money someday.
7. Atlanta Hawks (2-1) — For all their talent, they still kill themselves with sloppy play and bad decision making. But if Joe Johnson can bottle whatever he had in the first quarter against the Lakers (18 pts), he’ll carry Atlanta beyond expectations.
6. Los Angeles Lakers (2-1) — Before you judge too strongly one way or the other, remember that Pau Gasol is still out with a bad hamstring.
5. San Antonio Spurs (2-1) — Richard Jefferson looked lost in his first two games before scoring 21 against the Kings on Saturday.
4. Dallas Mavericks (2-1) — Thanks to Jason Kidd for confirming what a lot of people have been saying for a long time: Shawn Marion is only as good as the point guard who’s passing him the ball.
3. Denver Nuggets (3-0) — Carmelo Anthony takes the pole position for MVP, leading the League with 37 points per game.
2. Orlando Magic (3-0) — It’s like the NBA season hasn’t officially started until you see Vince Carter limping off the court on a hurt ankle. Even without VC and the suspended Rashard Lewis, the Magic didn’t miss a beat at Toronto on Sunday, dropping 125 points behind J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson’s shooting.
1. Boston Celtics (4-0) — Garnett is healthy, Pierce is focused, Rondo is paid, Rasheed is motivated … even Shelden looks like an NBA player for once. The defense is giving up a League-low 81 points a night, and the field-goal percentage D (39.1%) ranks second.