Welcome to the third installation of SB Nation Bay Area's NBA Power Rankings. We plan on including the Warriors in these rankings whenever possible, but given their current state of affairs, that may not be happening anytime soon. In the meantime, this week the top four remained unchanged, the Heat and Bulls surged, and the Magic are faltering a bit. This coming week's Game of the Week should be Monday 12/20, #3 Dallas @ #5 Miami. Here's a look at the NBA's Top 10 after seven weeks of games:
1. San Antonio Spurs (21-3 overall record, 8-2 last 10 games, 1st in West) - 16-point win over Eastern contender Atlanta. Ho-hum. 17-point cruise vacation against the Blazers. Piece 'a cake. Squeaker against the Bucks to extend winning streak to six games. Yawn. On paper, the Spurs (21-3) don't look that much better than the Celtics (20-4), but a closer look at cross-conference play tells a different story. The Spurs are 8-0 against Eastern Conference teams - perfect. The Celtics are 4-2 against the West - respectable, but not perfect. Right now the Spurs, who are also 8-1 on the road, are as close to perfect as it gets. Next up? @ Denver, vs. Memphis, vs. Phoenix, vs. Denver. Last Week: 1.
2. Boston Celtics (20-4, 10-0 last 10, 1st in East) - Six wins out of their current 11-game winning streak have come on the road. The Celtics are simply getting it done, thanks in large part to the further development of speed-talkin' Rajon Rondo, who is leading the league with 13.8 assists per game, more than three more per game than 2nd place Steve Nash (10.6). Next up? vs. Atlanta, vs. Indiana, vs. Philadelphia. Last Week: 2
3. Dallas Mavericks (20-5, 9-1 last 10, 2nd in West) - The Mavs saw their winning streak end at 12 games at the hands (paws?) of the Bucks, but got back on track with a five-point win over the Blazers on Wednesday. With an 8-1 mark on the road and a very solid 7-2 record against East opponents, the Mavs get the nod over the Lakers (9-5 on the road) and the Heat (7-5 on the road, 6-4 vs. the West). Next up? vs. Phoenix, @ Miami, @ Orlando. Last Week: 3
4. Los Angeles Lakers (19-7, 6-4 last 10, 3rd in West) - After juuuuuust squeaking by the Clippers last week, the Lakers resumed their actual "road trip" with a loss against the Bulls, but then rolled off three consecutive wins @ New Jersey, @ Washington, and @ Indiana. As a bonus, Andrew Bynum has returned to the court, and while he hasn't been that effective yet (10 total points in two games) I suspect he will prove quite useful once he gets his feet under him, giving the Lakers that third element of size that made them so dominant in the playoffs last year. While it hasn't always been pretty for the Lakeshow, they continue to get the job done. Next up? @ Philadelphia, @ Toronto, vs. Milwaukee Last Week: 4
5. Miami Heat (19-8, 10-0 last 10, 2nd in East) - With recent wins @ Utah and vs. New Orleans during their current 10-game winning streak, the Heat finally have some wins over quality Western Conference opponents. Dwyane Wade, in particular, has been heating up; after posting 21.6 ppg on .443 FG% through November, Wade has averaged 27.4 ppg on a scorching .602 FG% in December. Next up? @ New York, @ Washington, vs. Dallas. Last Week: 7
6. Utah Jazz (18-8, 7-3 last 10, 5th in West) - The Jazz have alternated wins and losses in their last seven games, but their last three losses have come vs. Dallas, vs. Miami, and @ Dallas - all quality opponents. I give them the nod over the Thunder because of a slight advantage in win margin (+4.0 vs. +1.7 for OKC) and a pretty solid 9-1 record against Eastern Conference opponents. Next up? @ New Orleans, @ Milwaukee, @ Cleveland, @ Minnesota. Last Week: 5
7. Oklahoma City Thunder (18-8, 7-3 last 10, 4th in West) - The Thunder continue to be just as effective on the road (9-4) as they are at home (9-4). Kevin Durant has missed games here and there, but if the team's performance in four games without him (3-1) is any indication, the Thunder are not as much a one-trick pony as many might think they are. Throw in a very respectable 8-3 mark against Eastern Conference opponents, and this team is looking very, very good. Next up? vs. Sacramento, vs. Phoenix, @ Charlotte, @ New York. Last Week: 8
8. Chicago Bulls (16-8, 8-2 last 10, 3rd in East) - This may be a temporarily inflated ranking, for even though the Bulls are surging with wins over the Lakers and the Thunder during their current seven-game winning streak, they just lost big man Joakim Noah for at least eight weeks. Unfortunately, just as Carlos Boozer was starting to click (28 ppg and 15 rpg in his last two games), Noah went down with a thumb injury that will require surgery and keep him out of action for up to 10 weeks. Remember how I was saying that with Boozer, Noah, and Taj Gibson, the Bulls could potentially have one of the deepest frontcourts in the league, health permitting? Sorry about that little jinx, Bulls fans. Next up? vs. LA Clippers, vs. Philadelphia, @ Washington. Last Week: 10
9. Orlando Magic (16-9, 5-5 last 10, 4th in East) - On the year, the Magic look pretty good at 16-9, but they have lost five of their last six, squeezing in a win against the Clippers amidst losses to otherwise quality opponents. The Magic can partially blame the flu for this current slump, but with losses of 12+ points with the team at full strength @ Utah and @ Denver, as well as a mediocre 4-5 overall record against Western Conference opponents, this team still has work to do if it wants to compete with the top dogs. Next up? vs. Philadelphia, @ Atlanta, vs. Dallas. Last Week: 6
10. Atlanta Hawks (16-10, 7-3 last 10, 5th in East) - Tuesday night's 23-point drubbing at the hands of the Detroit Pistons notwithstanding, the Hawks' losses in December have come against quality opponents (@ Miami & @ San Antonio). The Hawks get the nod over the Knicks because they're winning without arguably their best player in Joe Johnson. They get the nod over the Nuggets because unlike Denver (4-8 on the road), Atlanta is just as effective on the road (8-5) as they are at home (8-5). Next up? @ Boston, vs. Charlotte, @ New Jersey, vs. Orlando, vs. Cleveland. Last Week: 9
Dropped Out: None.
The next 10: New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Hornets, Phoenix Suns, Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers