Favorites Struggle in First Power Rankings

Been awhile since some updates, but the first week of games are done. There’s been some surprises, and it will be interesting to see if week one was an anomaly or the start of a trend.

1. Philadelphia (4-0) Tendex: .695

The 76ers have the best starting lineup, and it shows with their 12 ppg win differential. Moses Malone’s ejection against Golden St. made things interesting, but Charles Barkley and Andrew Toney combined for 69 points to help the 76ers squeak out a two point victory. Otherwise, Philadelphia has yet to be challenged, though their opponents are only a combined 4-9.

2. Atlanta Hawks (3-0) Tendex: .656

Easy wins over Dallas and Buffalo didn’t turn heads, but a 16-point win at the Lakers certainly did. Sure, the Lakers lost Magic Johnson early in the game, but the Lakers are loaded with talent. The Hawks absolutely abused the Laker vaunted front court. The Hawks have long had good but not great teams. This combined unit looks deep and ready for title contention.

3. Spirits of St. Louis (3-1) Tendex: .672

The Spirits are certainly an early season surprise. Everyone knew the trifecta of Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard, and Marvin Barnes would be a force, but the front court has gotten great support from its perimeter players who are averaging 43 percent from beyond the arc. After getting trounced by Kansas City, the Spirits responded with wins over powerhouses San Antonio and Boston.

4. San Diego Conquistadors (3-1) Tendex: .659

This team may not be full of the sexy stars of other teams. Other than Moses Malone, the likes of Chuck Williams and Willie Wise are not household names. Yet, six different Conquistadors average over 10 points early in the season, and only the 76ers have a more productive starting five. Sure, their opponents are a lowly 4-9 combined, but the Conquistadors have been playing solid team ball.

5. Indiana Pacers (3-0) Tendex: .598

Once upon a time, the Pacers were the toast of the ABA, dominating the league with 3 titles in a five year span. Two of those stars, Mel Daniels and George McGinnis, have helped the Pacers get off to a strong start. 35 pts and 19 rebs between them have helped them dominate opponent front courts, and area that has been a problem for the modern Pacers. This has freed up Reggie Miller and Paul George to run the offense.

6. San Antonio Spurs (2-1) Tendex: .642

Before being shocked by St. Louis, San Antonio had laid its claim to being a force in the west with wins over both the Lakers and Suns. The Spurs have a deep, talented lineup. Tim Duncan and David Robinson are as good a duo as anyone in the league. Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobli provide the best bench support in the league. Unlike most teams, the Spurs are loaded enough to withstand possible injuries and are likely to remain high in the power rankings throughout the season.

7. Houston Rockets (3-1) Tendex: .615

Other than an inexplicable collapse at New Orleans, the Rockets have been playing near perfect basketball. Houston knew its front court could handle anyone. Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, and Charles Barkley give the Rockets unprecedented depth, something they needed when Olajuwon got into foul trouble in route to Houston’s win at Seattle. The question for the Rockets was whether their backcourt could keep up. Only Clyde Drexler averages double digits, but the Rockets are shooting 40% from three and near the top in assists. The backcourt is providing just enough to make the Rockets a top team.

8. Phoenix Suns (3-1) Tendex: .620

The top six scorers for the high-flying Suns are all shooting at least 54%. Offense was never going to be an issue with this team, but the defense has been better than expected. Only the 153 gash against San Antonio would be considered a poor effort. The Suns may struggle against the top West teams, but a fast start definitely gives the Suns hope.

9. Milwaukee Bucks (2-1) Tendex: .646

Two points is all that separates the Bucks from a 3-0 start. Still, there are some questions. The stout Buck defense has only shown up once. The offense has had stretches of ineffectiveness. Still, a team that has the scoring of Ray Allen, the defense of Paul Pressey, and the all-around games of Sidney Moncrief and Lew Alcindor are bound to be productive over time.

10. Denver Nuggets (2-1) Tendex: .653

The biggest problem facing the Nuggets is finding time for its two biggest scorers, Alex English and Calvin Natt. The two swingman share a position and have so far combined for an amazing 41 ppg. Denver is also one of the few teams to have not allowed over 130 points at least once.

11. New York Knicks (2-1) Tendex: .607

A close loss to the Bucks, and it could be argued the Knicks might spend the season coming up short against good teams. Since then, the Knicks beat the Bulls handily and edged Kentucky in overtime. Patrick Ewing has struggled to compete against opposing centers, but John Starks and Allan Houston have made up the slack with their outside shooting. The Knicks are a stunning 58% from three. Surely, the Knicks can’t keep that up and will need more production from their front court.

12. Detroit Pistons (2-1) Tendex: .507

On paper, the Pistons look horrible. Their Tendex rating is the second worst in the league. They are one of just a handful of teams shooting less than .500. Yet, this is exactly the style of basketball the Bad Boys want. The Piston defense has kept teams under 110 twice already, even holding Boston team to 108 that had just scored 150 the game before. Winning ugly is a good formula for Detroit as they won’t win many games that get above 130.

13. Boston Celtics (2-2) Tendex: .592

After a 2-0 start, the Celtics could be forgiven in losing to the rival Pistons by 2 in Detroit, but the 20 point loss at St. Louis was more worrying. It’s true that Larry Bird got in foul trouble in both contests, but Boston’s core simply hasn’t been as productive as expected in the two losses. This team is too talented to stay down, but the questions are out there now.

14. LA Lakers (2-2) Tendex: .587

Much like the Celtics, the Lakers started off 2-0 and seemed like the team they were expected to be. A narrow loss to the Spurs followed by a shellacking by the Hawks, both at the Forum, suddenly put cracks in the Laker championship dream. Worse still, Magic Johnson is hurt and will miss the next two games. The Lakers are deep, but Magic is the key to getting it all working together. Till he returns, the slack is going to have to be made up in the underachieving front court.

15. Kentucky Colonels (2-2) Tendex: .607

The early league MVP leader may be Artis Gilmore. 35 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks per game set him apart from the league. His tendex rating of 1.18 is tops among the league’s starters. Yet, only Kevin Love has provided any real help for Gilmore, which explains the up and down nature of the Colonels first four games.

16. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2) Tendex: .630

Like Atlanta, Cleveland’s history is full of good but not great teams. Cleveland has certainly been good so far, only dropping games to the undefeated Pacers and talented Colonels, but Cleveland needs to find a way to beat an upper team if they want to be labeled anything more than a good team.

17. Miami Heat (2-2) Tendex: .628

Most teams had 40 years of basketball to draw from to create their team. The Heat didn’t have that luxury. Still, the Heat’s modern talent has held its own. LeBron James out dueled Michael Jordan in a big win over Chicago, but a 20 point loss to the 76ers exposed the Heat’s lack of an inside presence. This weakness will keep Miami from competing against the league’s top big men.

18. Seattle Supersonics (1-3) Tendex: .619

Seattle has only won once yet has a +1.5 point differential. Why? The Sonics have played tough in what arguably may have been the hardest four games anyone played in the league. Losses to the Lakers, Rockets, and Conquistadors were for a combined nine points. Seattle has yet to settle on a starting rotation, but an easier schedule should help Seattle find a groove.

19. Kansas City Kings (1-1) Tendex: .565

Being the only team without at least three games under their belt, it’s hard to judge the Kings so far. They’ve played two tough teams, getting blown out by San Diego while also handing St. Louis its only loss. The Kings can certainly score, Birdsong, Cousins, and Rhys average a combined 60 points, and their big men can bang with anyone. Defense is the biggest concern moving forward.

20. Portland Trailblazers (1-2) Tendex: .620

Portland has been wildly inconsistent already. They were listless in a blowout loss to Phoenix. Showed mettle in coming back to St. Louis only to lose in overtime. Then they unleashed their frustrations in a 29 point thrashing of New Orleans. We need more games to see where Portland is actually heading.

21. Golden St. Warriors (1-3) Tendex: .608

close losses to the Lakers and 76ers and a 15 point win over previously undefeated San Diego show the Warriors can compete. Yet, they also gave up 149 in an ugly loss to Seattle. Klay Thompson’s injury puts more pressure on an offense that must score in bunches to win. Golden St. hopes to stay competitive till the 2015-16 cards provide a much needed boost.

22. Virginia Squires (2-2) Tendex: .571

If the season were only four games, the Squires would be in the playoffs. Sadly, the season has another 78 to go. Kyle Lowry has willed the Squires to two surprising wins over Kentucky and New Jersey, and he’s had some support in the likes of Chris Bosh and Vince Carter. For a team that looked on paper to be the worst in the league, a 2-2 start is encouraging.

23. Washington Bullets (1-2) Tendex: .584

Two losses and the Bullets looked doomed for a rather long season. But the Bullets pulled Gilbert Arenas off the bench and his resurgence led to a upset road win over the Heat. The Bullets are a difficult team to judge as the chemistry hasn’t appeared yet, but they are in one of the league’s weaker division which may help them stay competitive longer than they should.

24. New Jersey (0-3) Tendex: .716

Unlucky or just bad? It’s hard to tell. The Tendex rating suggests a team loaded with talent. Dr. J’s Nets version is certainly as good as anyone else in the league. Michael Ray Richardson could end up being the league’s best point guard. Billy Paultz and Buck Williams are an underrated front court tandem. All their losses are by single digits. So what’s the deal?  Giving up no less than 139 points in a game is certainly bad as is the fact the Nets have gotten little in the way of scoring from Richardson and Vince Carter.

25. Chicago Bulls (0-3) Tendex: .515

What? The Bulls 0-3 and 25th? Yep. People forget that outside the Michael Jordan years, the Bulls have many forgettable seasons. Still, why is a team that starts Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Derrick Rose playing so poorly? Well, It’s not on Jordan. He’s averaging a league best 39 ppg. Pippen and Rose might be averaging 37 between them, but they have a combined tendex of .470 and have scored much of their points late in garbage time. Still, the real reason the Bulls are bad is the supporting cast. Only Horace Grant has provided useful minutes beyond the top three.

26. New Orleans Jazz (1-2) Tendex: .565

Karl Malone has yet to finish a game, and the Jazz will go about as far as Malone can take them. John Stockton has certainly done what he can to keep others involved (10 apg) with Matt Harpring (16ppg) being the greatest beneficiary. But the Jazz aren’t scaring people with their center options and their bench has been horribly disappointing.

27. Memphis Tams (1-2) Tendex: .444

They beat New Orleans head to head but are ranked lower thanks to their performance since that opening day win. They’ve been beaten by a total of 57 since that win. They are shooting a woeful .420 from the field and are barely averaging 15 assists per game.

28. Buffalo Braves (0-3) Tendex: .563

The Braves have yet to put together a winning performance. Their offense was brilliant in scoring 164 against Atlanta only to see its defense surrender a league season high 172. Then, their defense held Milwaukee to 120, but the offense managed a pitiful 102. Without consistency, wins will be hard to come by, especially in a division that features Philadelphia, Boston, and New York.

29. Charlotte Hornets (0-3) Tendex: .549

Charlotte started the year off with fight, losing to Houston in overtime and by two to Cleveland. Then, things fell apart and Charlotte looked overmatched in a 32 point loss at Denver. The silver lining has been the play of Alonzo Mourning who’s averaging 24 points and 8 rebounds per game.

30. Dallas Mavericks (0-3) Tendex: .527

Someone had to be last. Rolando Blackmon and Mark Aguirre have certainly been fantastic, but Dallas front court has struggled to keep the Mavericks competitive. Roy Tarpley can’t stay out of foul trouble, and Dirk Nowitzki has struggled against other fours Dallas has faced. With the rest of the division off to a 10-4 start, the outlook is bleak for Dallas.