By Spike

Let’s see, the Heat look like they can be as good as we thought. The Lakers are already as good as we thought. The Pistons might be worse than we imagined, and I’m betting Larry Brown won’t last through the year in Charlotte. The Blazers might be a contender in the West, and Derrick Rose is trying to take the next step in Chicago.

Rank Record Team
30. (0-3) Detroit Pistons – Tracy McGrady is averaging about 12 minutes a game, and just under one point per game. Their week highlighted by blowing a 15 point, fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. If they can find some takers, it’s probably time to start dismantling this group and starting over.

29. (1-2) Minnesota Timberwolves – There are a lot of people making a case for more playing time for Kevin Love. It’s hard to support it while he’s shooting 34%. A team that turned the ball over 30 times on Saturday against the Grizzlies are hoping to really benefit from the return of Jonny Flynn.

28. (1-1) Toronto Raptors – Impressive is the Raptors defense, third in the league. Reggie Evans has come in and done exactly what they’ve asked, get 15 rebounds per game. They’ll continue to have trouble scoring points though, which should continue to make this season challenging.

27. (1-2) Cleveland Cavaliers – An emotional win against the Celtics in their first game without Lebron James was followed up by losses to two of the league’s worst teams in Sacramento and Toronto. Antawn Jamison, who lost his starting job to JJ Hickson, is scoring six points a game.

26. (0-3) Philadelphia Sixers – Their frontcourt can’t defend or rebound, and is putting way too much pressure on Elton Brand, who at this point in his career can’t carry them. The team works hard, but its problems are very real. Andres Nocioni has provided a spark.

25. (0-3) Charlotte Bobcats – Their was no question that the Bobcats were talent challenged going into this season, but their defense has failed them as well, giving up over 100 points per game.

24. (2-1) New Jersey Nets – Sure, it was just the Pistons and the Kings, but starting a season off 2-0 must seem like winning the championship after starting last season with 18 straight losses. Miami brought them back to earth, but the Nets are surely improved.

23. (0-3) Los Angeles Clippers – Blake Griffin has been impressive, but that’s been about the only positive for the Clippers so far this year. They’ve had trouble scoring points, and shooting 37% isn’t helping. I’m not quite ready to give up, even though they might be.

22. (2-1) Sacramento Kings – They’re still miles away from competing for a playoff spot, but these Kings are fun to watch. Omri Casspi is shooting 46% from three, including hitting six of them in a win against the Cavs. Their defense has been as unimpressive as the offense has been impressive though.

21. (0-2) Washington Wizards – John Wall is fast, very fast, but he’s probably got to slow his game down a bit so the rest of the team can catch up. Wall leads the team in points and assists, but the team has looked out of sync the first two games. They’re hoping Gilbert Arenas’ return from an ankle injury will help settle the backcourt. They also need more out of Andray Blatche, who played very well after the Jamison trade last year.

20. (1-2) New York Knicks – Knicks fans got excited after an opening night win against the Raptors, but the Knicks just don’t have enough talent to be anything more than a borderline playoff team right now. If Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul aren’t on the horizon, I’m not sure what they’re building in New York. Amare Stoudemire, never a particularly good rebounder is living up to his reputation, at under eight boards a game in 35+ minutes.

19. (2-1) Golden State Warriors – The Warriors loss to the Lakers on Sunday night proved beyond all doubt how important Stephen Curry is to the team. One of the top scoring teams in the league, also leading in assists became Monta Ellis and not much else. One of the worst games for David Lee in years, finishing with no points and just three rebounds, and looked uninterested for most of the game.

18. (2-1) Indiana Pacers – Danny Granger has looked great this year, and has gotten a lot of help from Roy Hibbert, who’s averaging a double-double. They’re hoping Paul George can settle into the sharp shooter role.

17. (1-2) Phoenix Suns – They don’t rebound well, they don’t play defense. They’re finding out why Toronto wanted no parts of Hedo Turkoglu. Steve Nash and a bunch of small forwards might get hot from deep and score a bunch of points, but they’ve got work to do if they want to be a serious playoff contender.

16. (0-3) Houston Rockets – The Rockets are dead last in points allowed in the NBA so far this season. Everyone thinks someone will get traded, but no one is sure who. Kevin Martin is scoring 25 a game, but needs to take fewer three point shots, shooting just 29% but shooting six per game.

15. (1-2) Milwaukee Bucks – It’s only three games, but it’d be hard to not say that the Bucks have been disappointing. Heading the list is John Salmons, important down the stretch for them last year, shooting a miserable 33% from the field.

14. (2-1) Denver Nuggets – If there was any doubt that Carmelo Anthony wanted out of Denver, he erased that with his comments this week. That being said, they’re still giving a good effort every night, and getting great contributions from Shelden Williams (12.3 RPG).

13. (2-1) Memphis Grizzlies – They’re hurting up front with injuries to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and still managed a 2-1 week. Rudy Gay has been great, and the play of Mike Conley has been a welcome addition.

12. (3-0) New Orleans Hornets – Well, one way of keeping Chris Paul would be this way, winning. David West is scoring 19 PPG in under 30 MPG. Trevor Ariza has been a stopper on the defensive end.

11. (1-1) Chicago Bulls – When they didn’t get Dwyane Wade or Lebron James, it was clear that Derrick Rose was going to have to step up and become “the guy.” He sure acted like it against the Pistons, scoring 39 points and bringing the Bulls back from 15 down in the fourth quarter to chants of “MVP.” Joakim Noah has been sick on the boards (18 RPG).

10. (1-2) Utah Jazz – The Jazz finally put it all together against the Thunder. Paul Millsap with 30 points and 16 rebounds, and Deron Williams with 16 points and 15 assists.

9. (3-0) Atlanta Hawks – The big question here is whether Al Horford is going to sign an extension with the team. They overpaid to keep Joe Johnson and this core together, it’s hard to imagine they’d risk losing Horford.

8. (1-1) San Antonio Spurs – Once thought to be on his way out less than a year ago, the Spurs signed Tony Parker to a multi-year deal. Whether anyone else believes they still have a championship is unsure, but the Spurs clearly do.

7. (3-0) Portland Trail Blazers – Did I say that this season would hinge on Greg Oden’s health? Well the Blazers are 3-0 without him. Andre Miller is still kicking, and playing great with Brandon Roy. Rumors of a Rudy Fernandez trade are still out there though.

6. (2-1) Oklahoma City Thunder – Shooting under 40% from the floor and about 20% from three, the Thunder should feel grateful to be 2-1 right now. Getting one of the top four seeds will be important, as they’ve got one of the best home court advantages in the game.

5. (2-1) Dallas Mavericks – If the window is closing, no one told Dirk and Jason Kidd.

4. (2-1) Boston Celtics – The Celtics followed up an impressive defensive effort against the Heat with a “we’re a little old to be playing back to back nights” effort against the Cavs. How is anyone going to score on the Celtics once Kendrick Perkins comes back? Can Rajon Rondo make a run at MVP?

3. (1-1) Orlando Magic – Dwight Howard clearly made great strides in his offensive game in the offseason. The thing is, if he can’t stay on the floor, it won’t matter. He got his fourth foul early in the third quarter against the Heat, as the game quickly got out of control. If the Magic are going to win a championship, they’ll need 30-20 games from Dwight Howard against teams with thin frontcourts like Miami, not the 19-6 he gave them.

2. (3-1) Miami Heat – If you’d like to think about how good the Miami Heat can be, think of the difference between game one against the Celtics and how they took apart the Orlando Magic in game three. Everyone knew how good they could be offensively, but they’re proving to be even better defensively.

1. (3-0) Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe Bryant said his knee is 100%, which probably has more to do with not wanting to answer any more questions about his knee, than it actually being 100%. Either way, the Lakers look like a well oiled machine, who are still getting Andrew Bynum back at some point.

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