Houston Rockets Power Ranking: Rockets Climb in Week 11


Houston Rockets Power Ranking –  Week 11 Lists

As per usual we find the Houston Rockets experiencing a shift in their position as they dropped in week 10 on all the lists and this week find themselves reversing their direction back up the ladder.  A key to their ascent is the team has been facing sub-.500 teams and simultaneously is beginning to gel as a unit.

I take a look at each of the national media analyst lists and offer my own two cents:

NBA: John Schuhmann’s week 11 list finds the Rockets climbing two rungs from 10th to 8th.

The USA Today panel moved Houston down 3 spots last week and this week moves them right back up the ladder into fourth place.

ESPN’s Marc Stein joins his counterparts moving the Rockets back up the ladder after dropping them last week and like my earlier post highlights Harden’s brilliance this season.

The daily rank of John Hollinger continues to show the Rockets love as they keep climbing (sat in fourth today) up his list. I tend to agree with Hollinger’s rankings for the most part, but I’m in serious contradiction of his third place ranking of the Clippers.

Finally Matt Moore of CBS rounds out the national lists and like his counterparts he moves the Rockets back up the ladder, albeit by his explanation appears to do so grudgingly.

Tamberlyn’s Top-10

Last week my list experienced some pretty major shifts, but this week many of my top picks stayed the same with a few shifts based on some power houses (Chicago) not performing up to expectations. Like all the national lists my list finds our Houston Rockets climbing up the ladder and deservedly so.

1.  Golden State: Seriously is there a team who has as much depth, excitement or versatility? Though the West will be anyone’s to win once they reach the playoffs,  for now the Warriors are certainly looking like the team to beat.  (remain first)

2. Portland:  The Blazers have been playing without their starting center Robin Lopez, then they lost the back-up Joel Freeland and were forced to utilize Chris Kaman and Meyers Leonard. The result was a 4-0 week. Granted they faced the Lakers twice, Miami and Orlando, but the manner in which they won has me wondering if the Blazers might actually be the most under rated squad in the Association.   (remain second)

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3. Atlanta: I’m starting to get annoyed watching Hawk games as I continue to see some questionable refereeing in their games at pivotal moments that has me continuing to ask the simple question: Doesn’t it behoove the league for the Hawks to win because it makes them more attractive to sell?

I’m not saying they aren’t a top Eastern squad (they are), but I still believe the two teams they’ll face this week back to back (Toronto and Chicago) will pass them by the end of the regular season. The Raptors won the first two outings while Chicago got smoked by them last time out.

Suffice to say I’ll be watching these two games with extreme interest and I’ll be paying close attention to whether the zebra’s have an impact on the final score.   (remain third)

Jan 10, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) talks to forward Trevor Ariza (1) on the sidelines during a timeout against the Utah Jazz in the first half at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

4. Houston: Sure they played some sub-.500 teams this past week, but there’s no denying the Rockets are beginning to gel and are starting to regain their defensive prowess. In their 4-games last week they averaged 106.75 points and in their 3-wins they held their opponents to 95.3 points. The move by coach Kevin McHale to bring Josh Smith off the bench is not only paying dividends it’s proving he has Smith’s ear given he’s playing his best ball since joining the Rockets. (last week 8)

5. San Antonio: They continue to keep within reach of the big boys while dealing with ongoing injuries. Let’s just think about any of the teams ahead of them playing the entire season without one of their top players being available for the majority of the season.

Would Golden State for example have been able to achieve their record without Stephen Curry for most of the season and also without ever having Curry, Thompson, Bogut, Iguodala and Green ever playing at the same time. That’s what San Antonio has been dealing with all season and the fact Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard have missed most of the season is a testament to how deep this team truly is.

Sure they aren’t the youngest and don’t boast MVP candidates, but they embody what a team truly means and I still think before the regular season ends they’ll be the ones most teams don’t want to face in the first round.   (last week 7)

Dec 12, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) talks with Toronto Raptors Assistant Coach Bill Bayno during the warm-up before in a game against the Indiana Pacers at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

6. Toronto   DeMar DeRozan should return this week either against Philadelphia or Atlanta which is welcome news for Kyle Lowry who looks really tired having carried so much of a load in the All Star’s absence.  I’m not sure there is a team who the zebra’s constantly treat like a visiting team on their home court as much as Toronto, but the return of DeRozan should help alleviate the lack of free throws the Raptors have been dealing with.

Something Toronto has in common with Houston is DeRozan like Harden is much improved defensively and does effect the Raptors’ defensive schemes. The Raptors should see an upward swing in their defense with his return though it may take a few games for him to shake off the rust. This week’s big game will find the Hawks coming into Toronto (Raptors have beat the Hawks twice this season) where no doubt they’ll be inspired to show them how improved they are. A win by the Raptors could showcase why they sat atop the Eastern Conference for 60 days a fact most pundits seem to have forgotten.   (last week 9)

7. Dallas: The Mavericks tend to take the biggest jumps up and down my list based on the margin of their losses and their wins. They’ll have a great win and then follow it up by getting blown out like their 20-point loss to the Clippers last week and a 13-point loss to Detroit. Regardless, this team (as long as Tyson Chandler remains healthy) looks to have the diversity I look for offensively offset by all the components necessary on defense as well as the heir apparent to Greg Popovich as the NBA’s best coach in Rick Carlisle behind the helm. I still think they need to make another move to add some depth up front off the bench, but they’ve got plenty of time until the trade deadline to do so.  (last week 4)

8. Memphis: Memphis survived without Zach Randolph in the line-up though they did drop off the top of the ladder. Now he’s back and though they lost to New Orleans upon his return it’s fair to say that game was a result of ZBo shaking off the rust. With the addition of Jeff Green we’ll see how adding a capable defender who can run with Mike Conley changes the Grizzlies dynamic and specifically if it makes them more versatile offensively.  (last week 6)

9. Washington: Is there a team that demonstrates their inconsistency better than the Wizards? One night they’ll showcase how much they’ve grown (blowing out Chicago easily) and then follow it up by showing their inconsistency (getting blown out badly by the Hawks). What we don’t know is whether this is just a matter of focus or if this is who the Wizards are.

They’ll have a chance this week to demonstrate they are the real deal when they face the Bulls in Chicago who’ll want to destroy them after last Friday. Then they’ll get a lucky schedule favor facing the reeling Brooklyn Nets who’ve lost 6 in a row in a home and home series.   (last week 10)

10. Chicago: Jimmy Butler should find himself on the All Star team once the coaches make their picks as he continues to produce on both ends of the court. Most pundits talk about the health of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol but in my opinion they better hope Butler doesn’t get hurt because his absence would hurt them more than any other player.

Most concerning is a habit I’ve noticed this season where they get up for a big game like they did facing Houston but followed it up with two big losses to Utah (-20) and Washington (-16). This week they’ll get an opportunity to avenge two recent losses to inter conference rivals Washington and Atlanta.

The Wizards have the same tendency as they played solidly versus the Bulls Friday and then followed it up with a stinker losing to the Hawks by 31 points Sunday. Odds are Chicago will want to make a statement tonight, so Washington better be prepared for the Bulls’ best.    (last week 5)

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Dec 16, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) looks past forward Kevin Durant (35) against the Sacramento Kings during the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Honorable Mentions:

Phoenix Suns: If you’ve read my previous power ranking posts you know I’m not a fan of this team and their antics but adding Brandan Wright to their team may have accomplished everything they need to secure their spot in the post season.

Oklahoma City: If the team I picked (preseason) to win it all has any chance of making the playoffs they’ll need to start making their move soon. The schedule hurt them in that they faced a number of Eastern squads while both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were out injured. Now they’ll need to climb the standings facing primarily tough Western teams.

I wouldn’t count them out, as like the Spurs I suspect  they’ll put together a run. The problem is the Suns shored up their depth and New Orleans is currently locked in a tie with them with an 18-19 record. This week will be telling as they really need to get a split at minimum winning one of their games versus the Rockets or Warriors. Early February they play a home and home set versus New Orleans that will also be a key point in them achieving their objective.

Other Tidbits:

Clippers: I’ll reiterate my stance: while the pundits continue to praise this squad as being a contender, I’m not sold. While many of their Western counterparts made moves to improve their depth, hearing Doc Rivers is looking to add his son to the team doesn’t have me feeling like that will do anything other than make them less competitive. Their bench is really old, so I won’t be surprised if this is the team who falls off the ladder in order for OKC to make the playoffs. They currently rank 6th in the West with San Antonio and Phoenix directly behind them.

My guess is San Antonio will move ahead of them when Kawhi Leonard returns and possibly Phoenix as well if they remain healthy. At that point I think OKC will also pass them and everyone who had them winning the title will be asking how this team fell out of the playoffs. It could simply be my abject dislike for the Clippers and Blake Griffin, but I honestly don’t see them as a contender let alone a playoff squad.

Plus, I still believe this team will end up being dismantled in the off season either because they don’t make the playoffs or because once again they get bounced in the first round. And, I’ll also re-iterate I think one of Blake Griffin or Chris Paul ends up in New York playing alongside Carmelo Anthony.

Given Blake Griffin’s new love of shooting outside field goals instead of mixing it up inside he makes the most sense, but I suspect CP3 will be the guy who asks to be moved. We’ll see how accurate I am once the season and playoffs are completed.

That’s it for week 11. As we prepare for week 12, the Rockets play 4-games: two versus sub-.500 Eastern teams (Brooklyn and Orlando) followed by two Western power houses in Oklahoma City and the West’s best: Golden State Warriors. Can the Rockets finally break their trend of moving up and down the ladder next week?

As always, I invite your comments and would love to see your top-10 picks.