Rockets Climb Week 9 Power Rank Ladder
By Tamberlyn Richardson
The Week 9 Power Rank lists experienced major shifts especially in the upper echelon which has been relatively similar through to this point in the season. Moving forward, shifts should be less dramatic given teams have played 30-games which tends to provide an accurate idea of where an individual team will rank, give or take a few spots. Obviously teams who suffer injuries can be adversely effected as will teams with returning players like Oklahoma City. Trades can also factor in placement as Houston and Dallas may experience over the next few weeks while they adjust to playing with new line-ups.
Week 9 Lists:
John Schuhmann of nba.com moved the Rockets up two spots from the previous week ahead of their inter-division rivals Memphis Grizzlies:
USA Today: The panel moved Houston up two spots and believe the addition of Josh Smith will work if he accepts his role.
ESPN Marc Stein continues to drop the Rockets each week with them falling from 5th last week to 6th this week. He does offer an interesting stat: in games won by 3-points or less the Rockets are 7-0 and 4-0 in games that go into overtime. For daily ranks visit John Hollinger daily to see how he ranks the Rockets. Last week he dropped them to 11th and this week despite their losses he has them moving back up to 9.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports seems the most confused about the Rockets as he routinely moves them up and down the ladder. This week he raises them up 5 rungs so I guess he’s back on the Rocket Train.
My list sees some major shifts at the top and much of the same at the bottom. Notably though the big moves centered around trades by Houston and Dallas I suspect we wont see much movement from either team for a couple weeks until they develop chemistry.
1. Portland: They lost their center Robin Lopez and only looked bad in the loss to the Rockets. This team (especially the starters) are scary good. The bench is improved, but not enough to maintain this top-seed for long given teams will start game planing to attack the paint for the month Lopez will be sidelined.
GM Neil Oshley did a great job adding Steve Blake and Chris Kaman in free agency and developing their youngsters, but he’ll need to add another piece before the trade deadline if they have championship aspirations. Yes, Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge are all young, but over playing them will eventually catch up when they become easily fatigued versus a fresher team in the post season. (last week 3)
2. Toronto : They beat the teams they had to behind the leadership of Kyle Lowry and I’m not downgrading them for a loss to the Bulls that saw them coming to Chicago on the second game of a back to back while Chicago sat waiting, not to mention the curious whistle the zebras enlisted.
They were ahead in Portland in one of the best games Ive seen all season only to have the zebras completely ruin the game by biased calls that favored the Blazers allowing them to come back and subsequently win in overtime.
To that end (and a separate issue) if Adam Silver is serious about making sports betting legal he better address his current officiating situation because between these two games and the calls the Rockets faced in the Hawks game it just highlights 3 of many games around the Association where the zebras are determining winners.
They’ve won without All-Star DeMar DeRozan and humiliated the Clippers in L.A. followed by a gritty win in Denver the next night something rarely accomplished by opponents in Denver. The trip out west will test them, but the fact is they look even better against top competition than they do versus low end opponents. These Raptors are for real and with DeRozan due back soon it will be interesting to see exactly just how good they are. (last week 6)
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3. Golden State : Although they remain the top team record wise recent losses to the Clippers and Lakers followed by an unnecessarily close game versus Minnesota has me wondering if this is just a phase or if the loss of Andrew Bogut will result in long term issues. Certainly they’ll need him to compete for all the marbles come playoffs, the question is will his absence result in them falling off the top of the mountain after leading most of the season. (last week 1)
4. Atlanta: Weeks ago I said the top 3 teams in the East were Toronto, Atlanta and Chicago. the Hawks have been proving my point the past 10-games. Now with the Raptors facing Golden State on the road, a win by the Hawks over the Jazz in combination with a loss by the Raptors to the Warriors could see them usurping the Raptors hold on 1st in the East; a position they’ve held for 55-days.
If they do in fact take over the top spot in the East it might not be a long stay as after the Raptors complete their Western swing versus GSW and the Suns they return home for 6-games with DeRozan likely back in the line-up while simultaneously the Hawks’ schedule will see them facing teams above-.500. (last week 2)
5. Chicago: Jimmy Butler has been spectacular so far and the Bulls look to be priming themselves to make a move up the ladder. Charles Barkley says they aren’t just the best team in the East but the best team period. The thing is I saw the game where Derrick Rose got hurt in Toronto and it happened without anyone touching him.
So, as much I understand Sir Charles enthusiasm the fact remains Chicago doesn’t win it all without a healthy Rose. Also, like Portland using Butler, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah for extended minutes could catch up with them sometime in April, May or June. (remains 5)
6. Memphis: While Memphis had started the season on fire with the loss of Zach Randolph they became beatable. He’ll likely return soon but it does showcase the fact the Grizzlies strength lies in the health of their front court. (last week 4)
7. Houston: Following a brilliant debut, reality settled in and Josh Smith found himself learning on the fly. Personally I believe it’s just a matter of getting in some practice time and discovering the cohesion that comes from repetition. Through his first 3-games while there have been mistakes it’s obvious even to the casual fan that his passing, athleticism and length will be huge attributes once he becomes familiar with the schemes and develops a cohesion with his teammates.
The bigger surprise has been Corey Brewer who is recognizing a new birth in Houston and is demonstrating the characteristics that land players on the 6th man of the year short list. Expect some more growing pains as the team will likely go through a period similar to starting the year all over while they integrate the new pieces. Once they get a rhythm though the sky is the limit for this restructured team. (remain 7)
8. San Antonio: Just when everyone starts to say the Spurs are slipping and no longer dominant they pull off some key victories, including the win over the Rockets. They’ve played with 20-different starting line-ups and have only had their Championship starting five and Ginobili play together once all season.
While there is reason for concern regarding Kawhi Leonard‘s hand injury (Popovich said the team Dr informed him in 40-years he has never seen an injury like this) other players are returning from injury like Patty Mills. The moral of the story is just when you count out the Spurs be prepared for them to sling together a win streak of 20-games (remain 8)
9. Dallas: Like Houston they are integrating a new player into the starting line-up and while Rajon Rondo is definitely an upgrade defensively, the question remains how his presence will effect the output of Monta Ellis. If it were any other coach than Rick Carlisle I’d be more worried. The real concern lies in the loss of Brandan Wright from the bench and who will replace his production. (remain 9)
10. OKC: Though they’ve had some tough losses to Portland and New Orleans news Kevin Durant is about to return (for a second time) to join the ever exciting Russell Westbrook has me believing these Thunder are about to start climbing the ladder. Perhaps I’m giving them too much credit, but in my opinion this team is the one I bet any of the top teams will purposely lose games at the end of the season to avoid facing in the first round of the playoffs.
And, unlike teams who have played their stars too many minutes Westbrook and Durant will ener the post season with something they haven’t had in 5-years: rested legs. (remain 10)
Notes: Though Washington beat Houston, their wins this week were over low East teams but losses to teams over -.500 continue to occur. I’ll give John Wall his due (he is definitely improved) and Bradley Beal shot the lights out in Houston, but the very next game he wasn’t even mediocre which proves my point regarding their consistency. Just feels like they are one injury away from going on a losing streak especially against upper seeds. Well see, I expect them to be a home playoff seed I just don’t rank them in the top 10 YET.
Like Washington I’m not buying the hype on the Clippers or more specifically Blake Griffin. This team looks out of sorts both on and off the court. In all the years I’ve seen Doc Rivers coach I cant remember ever seeing him looking so concerned on the sidelines. Chris Paul also seems out of sorts and if you watch the interaction of the team both on and off the court they don’t look like a happy family.
I wonder if Doc will pull a trade to try to fix the situation. I personally think the problem is Griffin which pretty much ties Doc’s hands unless the Clippers miss the post season and trade Blake to New York for Melo afterward. Hey stranger things have happened.
So that’s the power ranking lists for week-9. Tell us what you think of the picks and share your own.