By and large, preseason rankings are dumb. Not only because they’re completely based on speculation, but because that speculation then becomes taken as gospel, and then sets the tone for the rest of the season in polls that are supposed to be based on performance.
Look at it this way: If you predicted based on hearsay that N.E.R.D.‘s album Nothing (which drops today) will be a five-mic classic, then got a copy and find out it’s a one-mic stinker, would you still give it 3.5 mics because you don’t want to sink it too far in the rankings? Of course not. What you thought of the album before actually hearing the product doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.
For this first version of the NBA Hit List Power Ranking, we avoided making any preseason rankings and tried to base this strictly off who played how well through the first week of the season:
30. Los Angeles Clippers (0-4)
Last week — Lost to Portland, lost at Golden State, lost to Dallas, lost to San Antonio.
Somebody in the NBA schedule-makers office either hates Blake Griffin, or they’re a bitter Knicks fans trying to ensure the Clips remain the League’s biggest joke of a franchise. Check out L.A.’s opening slate: Blazers, at Warriors, Mavs, Spurs, Thunder, at Nuggets, at Jazz, at Hornets, at Spurs. The Clips may not win a game until mid-November payday.
29. Charlotte Bobcats (0-3)
Last week — Lost at Dallas, lost to Indiana, lost at Milwaukee
D.J. Augustin is on the same page with Homer Simpson: “De” and “fault” are the two greatest words in the English language. Augustin may have won the starting PG job by default, but he’s making the most of it, dropping 17 points and 5.3 assists per game while hitting 61 percent of his threes.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (0-3)
Last week — Lost to Miami, lost to Atlanta, lost at Indiana
New coach, same problems. Every night the Sixers play like they first met in the hotel before getting on the team bus; some of their crunch-time plays are only “plays” in the academic sense.
27. Toronto Raptors (1-2)
Last week — Lost to New York, beat Cleveland, lost at Sacramento
When did Reggie Evans turn into Dennis Rodman? The League’s leading rebounder is pulling down 16.3 boards per night, including a ridiculous 6.3 offensive rebounds. He’s also averaging more fouls than points, but the Raps don’t need him to score.
26. Washington Wizards (0-2)
Last week — Lost at Orlando, lost at Atlanta
See why you can’t determine a Rookie of the Year race after one game? John Wall’s approval rating plummeted after a rough opener against Orlando, then he bounced back with 28 points and 9 dimes against Atlanta. It’s a long season, people…
25. New York Knicks (1-2)
Last week — Won at Toronto, lost at Boston, lost to Portland
And in the name of rushing to judgment, NYC has already crowned Wilson Chandler the greatest Knick since Walt Frazier. He put up 21 points, 10 boards and 3 blocks per game in his first three, but now knowing he’s not getting that contract extension, will he keep it up?
24. Milwaukee Bucks (1-2)
Last week — Lost at New Orleans, lost at Minnesota, beat Charlotte
With his 20-10-10 triple-double against the Bobcats, Brandon Jennings became the second player to ever record a trip-dub and a 50-point game within his first 100 NBA games. The only other guy to do that was Elgin Baylor.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-2)
Last week — Lost to Sacramento, beat Milwaukee, lost at Memphis
Michael Beasley declared his squad the worst in the League in a moment of frustration following the Grizzlies blowout, but he’s overreacting. The Wolves looked good when they ran against the Bucks, but the situation with Kevin Love’s up-and-down playing time threatens to become the first chemistry issue on a young team that can’t afford many chemistry issues.
22. Detroit Pistons (0-3)
Last week — Lost at New Jersey, lost to Oklahoma City, lost at Chicago
Rodney Stuckey (18.7 ppg, 7.7 apg) and Ben Gordon (21.7 ppg, 65% FG) are the most explosive backcourt in the League right now. BG is shooting better than Bob Cousy in Blue Chips.
21. New Jersey Nets (2-1)
Last week — Beat Detroit, beat Sacramento, lost to Miami
Less surprising than Jersey’s 2-0 start was them getting flogged by Miami at home. Still a work in progress.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers (1-2)
Last week — Beat Boston, lost at Toronto, lost to Sacramento
If you were making a documentary on the city of Cleveland’s inspirational rebound from losing LeBron James, you definitely stop shooting after the Celtics win and call it a wrap, right?
19. Houston Rockets (0-3)
Last week — Lost at L.A. Lakers, lost at Golden State, lost to Denver
Guess who’s third in the NBA in scoring and rebounding right now? Luis Scola (27.3 ppg, 14.0 rpg) always looks like he’s about to fall on his face, yet he’s unstoppable.
18. Utah Jazz (1-2)
Last week — Lost at Denver, lost to Phoenix, won at Oklahoma City
So much was made about replacing Carlos Boozer, but Paul Millsap (21.3 ppg, 12.3 rpg) has been killing it. Al Jefferson also recorded his first 20-10 of the season against OKC.
17. Indiana Pacers (2-1)
Last week — Lost at San Antonio, won at Charlotte, beat Philadelphia
Don’t look now, but T.J. Ford is, like, making good decisions and stuff. He helped win the Charlotte game down the stretch by controlling the pace, penetrating the lane and either scoring or setting up Roy Hibbert for inside buckets.
16. Sacramento Kings (3-1)
Last week — Won at Minnesota, lost at New Jersey, won at Cleveland, beat Toronto
Their schedule has been softer than Christina Hendricks’ bosom, but 3-1 is still 3-1.
15. Phoenix Suns (1-2)
Last week — Lost at Portland, won at Utah, lost to L.A. Lakers
Remind me, what was the justification behind not trying harder to re-sign Amar’e Stoudemire?
14. Golden State Warriors (2-1)
Last week — Beat Houston, beat L.A. Clippers, lost at L.A. Lakers
If you’re watching the Warriors and thinking they could really use another athletic big man, remember that’s where Lottery pick Ekpe Udoh was supposed to fill in. But he’s on the bench with a broken wrist.
13. Orlando Magic (1-1)
Last week — Beat Washington, lost at Miami
We were loving grizzled, sneering Vince Carter. Then he went down against Miami and acted like The Rock trying to over-sell Mick Foley’s offense.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (3-1)
Last week — Beat Phoenix, won at L.A. Clippers, won at New York, lost at Chicago
Why is Rudy Fernandez even in the rotation? He pouted all summer and made it very clear he has no interest in playing for Portland, and his reward is 20 minutes a night and a green light even though he’s hitting 30 percent from the field? Unless the Blazers are trying to showcase Rudy for a trade (FYI, he looked very happy and comfortable in New York over the weekend), acting like noting happened this summer sets a bad example.
11. Chicago Bulls (2-1)
Last week — Lost at Oklahoma City, beat Detroit, beat Portland
We know Derrick Rose can get buckets (27.7 ppg), but Chicago is at its best when he’s mixing scoring and playmaking and doesn’t have to be the next Allen Iverson. Against the Blazers, Rose dropped 16 points and 13 dimes in Chicago’s best all-around performance of the season.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (2-1)
Last week — Beat Chicago, won at Detroit, lost to Utah
The difference between last year’s 30 points a night and this year’s 30 a night for Kevin Durant? It’s not coming as easy for him this time around. KD is shooting just 38 percent from the floor so far.
9. Dallas Mavericks (2-1)
Last week — Beat Charlotte, lost to Memphis, won at L.A. Clippers
Tough stretch ahead with Denver on Wednesday, the Nuggets again on Saturday, the Celtics next Monday, and the Grizzlies two days later. Or for Caron Butler, that’s defensive matchups against Carmelo twice, Paul Pierce, and Rudy Gay.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (2-1)
Last week — Lost to Atlanta, won at Dallas, beat Minnesota
Solid on the court, shaky in the luxury box. When you have Zach Randolph in the last year of his deal, and O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol coming up on their extension years, why give Mike Conley a $45 million extension? Not that Conley (15 ppg, 8.3 apg, 3.7 apg) isn’t talented, but the Grizzlies have been reportedly trying to replace him ever since his rookie year.
7. Atlanta Hawks (3-0)
Last week — Won at Memphis, won at Philadelphia, beat Washington
The last two wins haven’t been pretty, but they’ve gotten the job done. A few more chances to be sloppy coming up, with Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota on the slate this week.
6. San Antonio Spurs (2-1)
Last week — Beat Indiana, lost to New Orleans, won at L.A. Clippers
Tiago Splitter’s NBA debut wasn’t glamorous (2 pts, 2 rebs, 10 mins), but at least it happened. We just wanted proof that Splitter was real person and not some character the Spurs invented years ago.
5. Denver Nuggets (2-1)
Last week — Beat Utah, lost at New Orleans, won at Houston
Sometimes it seems like Carmelo isn’t totally locked in, like when he was called for a charge on a crucial possession in the loss to New Orleans and was just laughing about it. That said, who else in the world can drop 23.7 points per game on cruise control?
4. New Orleans Hornets (3-0)
Last week — Beat Milwaukee, beat Denver, won at San Antonio
You know Jerryd Bayless saw he got traded to N.O., remembered Darren Collison’s rookie year, and finally saw his big break coming. Then he gets to town and Chris Paul (20 ppg, 9.3 apg) is playing like Tiny Archibald with modern technology. Sorry, JB.
3. Boston Celtics (2-1)
Last week — Beat Miami, lost at Cleveland, beat New York
If they don’t start getting up for the games that aren’t “big” games, the C’s might find themselves in the unenviable No. 4 seed in the East. But that won’t happen if Rajon Rondo has anything to say about it.
2. Miami Heat (3-1)
Last week — Lost at Boston, won at Philadelphia, beat Orlando, won at New Jersey
Since halftime of the opener against Boston, the Heat have outscored their opponents 344-278, which would translate to … a handful of ass-kickings.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (3-0)
Last week — Beat Houston, won at Phoenix, beat Golden State
Kobe is on chill-mode while he rounds into form, Lamar Odom looks like the dude from The Air Up There, and Andrew Bynum is in street clothes. Yep, typical early season Lakers.