Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-6)
Last week — Lost at Miami, lost at Orlando, lost to Atlanta, lost at Houston
Quickly established position as the League’s worst defensive team (114.4 ppg) and worst shooting team (38.7% FG). And they’re making a habit of not just getting beat, but getting beat up. Four of their losses have come by 20, 26, 32 and 42 points.
29. Charlotte Bobcats (1-6)
Last week — Won at New Jersey, lost at Detroit, lost to Orlando, lost to San Antonio
Michael Jordan is getting bacon neck just watching this team.
28. Toronto Raptors (1-6)
Last week — Lost at Utah, lost at L.A. Lakers, lost at Portland, lost to Golden State
The Marco Belinelli-for-Julian Wright trade is starting to look like grand theft for the Hornets. While Belinelli is starting on an undefeated N.O. team, Wright has four DNP-CDs and is only logging 10 mpg the nights he does get in.
27. Los Angeles Clippers (1-6)
Last week — Beat Oklahoma City, lost at Denver, lost at Utah
So John Wall is taking the NBA by storm, DeMarcus Cousins was the start of the summer league, and Eric Bledsoe has been good for 13 points and seven assists per game while taking over for an injured (ousted?) Baron Davis. And Patrick Patterson was a Lottery pick. Remind me again how John Calipari didn’t win a national championship last year?
26. Philadelphia 76ers (2-5)
Last week — Lost at Washington, beat Indiana, lost to Cleveland, won at New York
Coming off last week’s Eastern Conference Lottery tour, the Sixers hit to road to face the Thunder, Spurs and Mavs this week. What will Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan and Dirk do to perhaps the most thin front line in the NBA?
25. Washington Wizards (1-4)
Last week — Beat Philadelphia, lost at New York, lost to Cleveland
Gilbert Arenas is back, but Flip Saunders is bringing him along slowly. In two games as a reserve, Arenas is scoring 15.5 ppg on 38% shooting in 25 minutes a night.
24. Detroit Pistons (2-5)
Last week — Lost to Boston, lost at Atlanta, beat Charlotte, beat Golden State
The fact that 36-year-old Ben Wallace is still starting and is Detroit’s best rebounder (8.6 rpg) and post defender is as much a credit to Big Ben’s work ethic and tenacity as it is a knock on Detroit’s big man rotation.
23. New Jersey Nets (2-4)
Last week — Lost to Charlotte, lost at Orlando, lost at Miami
The ‘Melo ship has sailed. Now that the season has started, ‘Melo can turn to Jersey games on League Pass, hear the echoes in the arena, and remember why nobody else wants to play there.
22. New York Knicks (3-3)
Last week — Won at Chicago, beat Washington, lost to Philadelphia
As a scorer, Toney Douglas gives NY everything they got from Nate Robinson, plus he can rebound and isn’t targeted automatically as a defensive mismatch. Douglas dropped 30 on the Bulls on national TV, and gave the Wizards 19 points and 10 boards.
21. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-3)
Last week — Lost to Atlanta, won at Philadelphia, won at Washington
Road games against the Sixers and Wizards, a home-and-home with the Nets, home for the Pacers and Sixers. The Cavs will be outdrawn by some high school teams this year.
20. Indiana Pacers (2-3)
Last week — Lost at Philadelphia, lost to Milwaukee
Breaking News: Danny Granger has to play well for the Pacers to win. In the team’s two W’s, Senor Buckets averaged 27.5 points on 51 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent beyond the arc. In the three losses, he’s scored 17.3 ppg on 36% from the field and 28% from deep. And he’s doubled his turnover count in the losses.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (2-5)
Last week — Lost to Portland, lost at Boston, won at Indiana, lost to New Orleans
Maybe he is getting paid $9.6 million just to take and make free throws, but Corey Maggette is doing his job. He’s 40-for-45 on the season (88.9 percent) and helped keep the Bucks in the Boston game by getting himself to the line.
18. Houston Rockets (1-5)
Last week — Lost to New Orleans, lost at San Antonio, beat Minnesota
Aaron Brooks is out 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury, Kyle Lowry is working his way back into the mix following a back injury, but I’m not worried because Ish Smith might be my favorite random rookie in the League. I see big things for him.
17. Sacramento Kings (3-3)
Last week — Lost to L.A. Lakers, lost to Minnesota
After Luther Head was left on an island trying to guard Kobe Bryant for long stretches of last week’s loss, he is filing a grievance against Paul Westphal.
16. Utah Jazz (3-3)
Last week — Beat Toronto, lost at Golden State, beat L.A. Clippers
Big tests for Utah’s new-look front line this week: Chris Bosh on Tuesday, Dwight Howard on Wednesday, Al Horford and Josh Smith on Friday.
15. Phoenix Suns (3-4)
Last week — Lost to San Antonio, beat Memphis, won at Atlanta, lost at Memphis
The star power is down, but the entertainment value is still there. Steve Nash’s squad still find themselves in double-overtime, down-to-the-wire thrillers on the regular.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (4-4)
Last week — Lost at Golden State, lost at Phoenix, won at Sacramento, beat Phoenix
Are they legit? We’ll find out when Rudy Gay and Co. face the Mavs, Celtics, Magic and Blazers over their next four games, then get a break with the Wizards before coming back to play Miami.
13. Golden State Warriors (5-2)
Last week — Beat Memphis, beat Utah, lost at Detroit, won at Toronto
David Lee is quietly averaging 12.3 points and 11.4 boards, while Monta Ellis is loudly leading the League with 27.9 points and third in the League with 2.7 steals per night.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (5-3)
Last week — Won at Milwaukee, lost to Oklahoma City, beat Toronto, lost at L.A. Lakers
Everybody wants to get younger, but NBA championships are won with age and experience. The Blazers are at their best when Brandon Roy is carrying the offense, and Andre Miller and Marcus Camby are making savvy plays on both ends of the floor to win possessions.
11. Chicago Bulls (3-3)
Last week — Lost to New York, lost at Boston, beat Denver
Bruce Bowen referred to Joakim Noah (15.7 ppg, 15.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg) as an MVP candidate. I love Bowen, but his bow-tie must be cutting off his circulation.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3)
Last week — Lost at L.A. Clippers, won at Portland, lost to Boston
Serious question: Who is the best athlete on the team, Russell Westbrook or Serge Ibaka?
9. Denver Nuggets (4-3)
Last week — Lost to Dallas, beat L.A. Clippers, won at Dallas, lost at Chicago
Toughest team to place on this list. One night they look like serious championship contenders, the next they look like they’ve already checked out mentally. And even tougher to read is Carmelo Anthony.
8. Atlanta Hawks (6-2)
Last week — Won at Cleveland, beat Detroit, won at Minnesota, lost to Phoenix, lost at Orlando
Josh Smith is averaging 14.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. But I feel like he’s either at his peak right now or hit his peak last year. Can he get better?
7. Orlando Magic (5-1)
Last week — Beat Minnesota, beat New Jersey, won at Charlotte, beat Atlanta
Why isn’t Brandon Bass getting more minutes? He’s a double-double just waiting to happen, and he makes Dwight Howard’s life easier in the paint. Bass had a follow dunk at the end of the first quarter in Monday’s Magic/Hawks game that Dwight over-sold from the bench with a Duke Tango-ish reaction, but Dwight probably has to be Bass’ biggest advocate until Stan Van Gundy sees the light.
6. Boston Celtics (6-2)
Last week — Won at Detroit, beat Milwaukee, beat Chicago, won at Oklahoma City, lost at Dallas
Another day, another Rajon Rondo argument. I don’t see how you can argue against the idea that Rondo is one of the 3-5 best point guards in the world. I wouldn’t even be mad if you considered him No. 1 in the world. We know he can’t shoot, but he does everything else you want from your point guard and is doing a couple of them better than everybody else right now.
5. Dallas Mavericks (4-2)
Last week — Won at Denver, lost to Denver, beat Boston
After raining his barbershop clippings on KG’s head, Dirk continues a tough stretch with head-to-head matchups against Zach Randolph on Wednesday, a rejuvenated Elton Brand on Friday, a home-and-home against David West.
4. San Antonio Spurs (5-1)
Last week — Won at Phoenix, beat Houston, won at Charlotte
Manu Ginobili averaged 27 points and hit 9 threes combined in wins over the Rockets and Bobcats. On the surface he looks like he should be slowing down, but somehow he’s not.
3. Miami Heat (5-2)
Last week — Beat Minnesota, lost at New Orleans, beat New Jersey
If only they could play the Nets every night …
2. New Orleans Hornets (6-0)
Last week — Won at Houston, beat Miami, won at Milwaukee
You can’t front on their schedule, and you can’t say it’s just a one-man show with Chris Paul. Everybody from Emeka Okafor to David West to Trevor Ariza to Jason Smith is doing their jobs.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (7-0)
Last week — Beat Memphis, won at Sacramento, beat Toronto, beat Portland
Pau Gasol refuses to let that “Best Big Man in the NBA” argument die. Coming off a triple-double against the Blazers, Pau is averaging 24.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists. What do you got, Dwight?