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Rockets Soar Up NBA Power Rank Lists

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Week 7-power rank lists showcase a common theme as the Rockets soar up into an almost unanimous 3rd place rating.

If you’re like me you start your week checking what the pundits think and Monday’s are synonymous with team ratings. Obviously these lists reflect one writer’s opinion and ultimately won’t define where the teams finish, but it does give us an idea of how our team is viewed universally.

Recalling past seasons these lists tended to look almost identical simply because there weren’t that many surprises. Last season Miami, Indiana and Chicago were expected to be the top  East squads while San Antonio, Oklahoma and the Clippers were projected to be the top West teams.

Sep 29, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) poses for a photo during media day at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This season the lists have showcased a lot of differing opinions due to so many uncertainties:

  • How long would it take for Cleveland to gel?
  • Would the World Champion Spurs take time to round into form given complacency or key player injuries to start the season?
  • How would injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook affect the Thunder’s chances?
  • Could Derrick Rose remain on the court in Chicago?
  • How would Miami fare without LeBron James?
  • Which young teams would benefit from playoff experience and translate that into growth: Raptors, Blazers and Wizards have improved while Hornets have plummeted
  • Which off season additions would improve their teams’ success? Memphis, Cleveland, Toronto, Houston and Dallas have benefited while Charlotte and Phoenix haven’t and some could say the Bulls have yet to recognize a benefit as they have a similar record to last year at this point.

Each week here at Space City Scoop we’ll look at what the experts are saying, where they rank our Rockets and throw in our own opinions.

Week 7 Lists:

NBA:   John Schuhmann of nba.com provides the list most people hold as gospel. He ranks Houston third moving them up four spots from the previous week.

USA Today: Unlike the other power lists USA Today puts their power ranking out on Sundays and has a panel vote. They rank Houston third, having already seen the light by placing them that high last week.

ESPN has a couple of power rank lists, one is a weekly list by Marc Stein and the other is a daily list. For the purpose of comparison the one I’m including here is Marc Stein’s rating. And that’s not because John Hollinger‘s opinion is not in concert with the other writers, but because his list changes daily.  Like Schuhmann, Stein moves Houston up from 7th from his previous week-6 rank.


Finally Matt Moore of CBS Sports provides his take on where each team ranks and oddly in a week where everyone else moved the Rockets up he pushed them down one spot to third.

SCS Writers Ranking: We decided to provide our own takes on the best this past week, so here’s how we at Space City Scoop rank the top 10:

Tamberlyn’s Top-10:

1.  Golden State : The combination of the Association’s best defense, clutch performances and number 5-offense make Golden State the best team through the first quarter of the season. Crazy thing is a 16-game win streak and just 2-losses in 23 outings only gave them a 2-game cushion over their nearest rival (3 over Houston). Though some are saying an early strength of schedule has worked to their benefit I called for these same Warriors to finish top-3 so I’m not surprised. What rookie coach Steve Kerr has done to improve an already solid defense and more importantly a high octane offense has been impressive, yet in my opinion his best move was interchanging Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala. Kerr’s next test will no doubt arise once David Lee returns from injury- will he use the same sound judgement and have Lee join Iggy to keep upstart Draymond Green in the starting line-up?

2. Houston: Okay so there is a little homerism involved here, but seriously the fact Houston went 8-3 without the services of Dwight Howard among other key contributors (Beverley, Papanikolaou) warrants some inspection. It’s no surprise to see star James Harden producing, rather it’s his improved defense that has people talking MVP.  Trevor Ariza not only replaced Chandler Parsons, but has fit into Houston’s new defensive focus and McHale’s schemes better. Yet, the true star of the past 11-games has been Donatas Motiejunas whose emergence has been a revelation. He’s doubled all his key stats (points, rebounds, assists) from a year ago and in Howard’s return showed he won’t disappear as he garnered a career high 25-points in Howard’s return.

Houston warrant the second position in my opinion because of their #2 defense which is better than Memphis and is their bread and butter and yet it ranks 7th. With OKC on the rise and SAS only needing a few more healthy bodies the Rockets may drop out of the top-3 in the coming weeks, but for now they’ve performed just under the Warriors given their injuries and elite defense. What might keep them in this spot will be if they maintain their defense and get their offense into the top 10 (which is very achievable).

3. Memphis: The grind house benefits from a cohesive unit whose core remained virtually untouched. Some key additions are helping them win tough games. More importantly they are designed for the post season with their half court style, but the question remains can they compete against high octane offenses who have no problem scoring over a 7-game series.

4. Toronto: As for homerism Toronto is my home, so I get to see Raptor games and know (unlike my fellow Canadian Satbir Singh who doesn’t believe) how good the We The North team is. The loss of DeRozan hurt them initially as they run so much offense through him, but they’ve adjusted well. They’ve lost just twice to sub-500 teams and even those losses were influenced by a Kobe friendly whistle and uncharacteristic bad free throwing versus Miami. From my perspective you can’t rank the league’s number-2 offense and top Eastern team lower than 4th. Moving ahead the Raptors have an easy 4-games on tap until they face Chicago and a hellish 5-game western stretch featuring GSW, LAC and Portland which should coincide with DeRozan ‘s return to the line-up. Over the past week Toronto has ratcheted up their defense and I fully anticipate they’ll return to the top-10 during the next 20-games.

5. Portland: They still have one of the best starting five, but off season pick-ups Chris Kaman and Steve Blake have made this team stronger. The loss of Robin Lopez Monday will require Kaman to step in especially if they want to win the division. They enter this week with a 7.5-game cushion over OKC, but could be in trouble especially in 2-weeks when they’ll face Houston and OKC back to back.

6. Atlanta: There’s no way the Hawks don’t deserve to be in the top-10 and since I’ve seen enough of both the Hawks and Wizards games I can confidently say they’ve been the 2nd best Eastern team thus deserving this position. They are the closest thing to San Antonio in their offensive schemes with Al Horford just starting to return to pre-injury form. They’ll vie for a top 4-seed in the East before it’s over and could upset one of the early favorites in doing so.

7. San Antonio: Only the Spurs could enter the season as World Champions to such a dull roar. Their playing without the services of key contributors and as per the norm have core members in and out of the line-up due to injury of Popovich’s typical rest assignments. They have their sights set on repeating for the first time in the Duncan era. Although I wouldn’t bet against them finishing first or second I’m still curious how they manage to arrive at season’s end every year with all their core players healthy.

8. Dallas: One of my preseason picks to finish with home court have been absolutely scorching offensively but failed to deliver (so far) on the defensive end. Rick Carlisle for my money is the second best coach in the Association and has done a great job of getting players like Monta Ellis to raise their performance level.

9. Chicago: End up higher than the Wizards as per my notes on strength of schedule. Obviously they’ve had their fair share of injuries this season, however the disconcerting fact for Chicago is what the heck happened to their defense?

10. Washington: On paper they have everything it takes to win the East and they’ve had a few big wins over the Clippers and Cavaliers. But and this is a big but, they’ve only played 8-games versus teams with a winning record and two of those were against the Bucks who are one game above .500 after Monday’s win. They have a 2-4 record in the other 6-games losing badly to Toronto and once to Cleveland. We’ll know more about this squad by the end of the January after they face stiffer competition starting with the Rockets December 29th.

*Notes:

  • The Clippers and Cavaliers are fools gold in my opinion who both benefit from zebra fan-dome (i.e the refs help them win a lot of games) and neither has impressed me on the defensive end hence their exclusion from my top-10.
  • I quibbled with myself over including Oklahoma as I’m probably one of the few who believe it’s still possible they could finish with a top seed. They’ve won 6 in a row and are within a game of the 8th seed.  This week OKC has very winnable games against the Kings, Lakers and Pelicans and a huge game versus Golden State on Thursday. With Robin Lopez breaking his hand could that injury lead to OKC surpassing the Blazers to take the division and subsequently a top -4 seed?

More from Space City Scoop

So that’s the power ranking lists for the week-7. Tell us what you think of the picks and share your own.

Check back tomorrow for Satbir Singh’s pregame analysis of Houston in Denver.

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