1) Los Angeles Lakers (1) - Even though the Lakers lost their first game this season Friday night at home to Detroit, they looked impressive in a back to back at Dallas and New Orleans and still field the team's best record at 7-1 and it's best player in Kobe Bryant. It's tempting to drop them with that loss to Detroit fresh in our memories but honestly, who deserves to be above them?
2) Boston Celtics (2) - This is another team I'm encouraged to drop but a slip up at home to Denver (a real testament to how better Denver is with Chauncey Billups in the lineup) but the team rebounded in a hostile game at Milwaukee and still is playing with that hunger, determination and intensity that made last season's team so fun to watch. Ray Allen has found his groove and Paul Pierce has played tremendous ball this season.
3) Cleveland Cavaliers (7) - The Cavaliers are the hottest team at the moment and LeBron James is playing the best ball of his career at this point. Mo Williams has settled into his role as the team's second option and Ben Wallace is showing some command on the boards again. With options like Daniel Gibson, Anderson Varejao and Wally Szczerbiak performing well off the bench this season the team looks prime to be Boston's best opposition for the Eastern Confrence crown.
4) Phoenix Suns (6) - It's fun to watch Shaquille O'Neal playing the best ball I've seen him play since his first season in Miami. With Steve Nash struggling and with Amare Stoudemire being unable to do it all by himself, O'Neal has been asked to do a lot and has answered the challenge. It's doubtful he'll play at this level the rest of the season but Phoenix fans have to be encouraged.
5) Orlando Magic (8) - Orlando has yet to look very vulnerable after their slow start, and the victory at Charlotte is impressive with the team playing without Dwight Howard for a majority of the game. Rashard Lewis had a big week and when Hedo Turkoglu regains last year's form this team will continue to be a fixture atop the Eastern Confrence.
6) Detroit Pistons (9) - OK so maybe the team wouldn't go winless without Allen Iverson, and I still don't think they're a championship team with him in the lineup, but they had a very impressive game at Los Angeles Friday night. Rodney Stuckey came back tonight after being absent a couple of games but the play of Aaron Afflalo gives this team more options off of an already solid bench and continues to add to the promise for the future of this team. Overall it has be an encouraging week in Motown after the flack they've received since the Iverson trade.
7) Denver Nuggets (15) - This may seem a bit high or premature but this team has gone 5-1 with Chauncey Billups in the lineup and they are playing an all around better style of ball with a true point guard in the lineup. Nene has looked great this year with the demanding role he's been given and Carmelo Anthony is spending more time around the rim and has improved his rebounding considerably. Mix that in with an impressive win at Boston and this team deserves the jump in the rankings.
8) Houston Rockets (10) - Something still doesn't seem quite right about this team. A dominating performance against New Orleans on Saturday is overshadowed by the dreadful performance in San Antonio the previous night and this team, after a fantastic first week, looks a little stagnant in its development. Overall, though, their defense has been superb and will only improve when Shane Battier returns.
9) Utah Jazz (5) - After starting the season 5-1 without Deron Williams in the lineup, the team surprisingly looked sluggish in his three games back (post a 1-2 record) before he sat out the loss at Cleveland. Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur are hurting as well and Utah has to weather the storm though the play of Kosta Koufos has been fine in relief of Okur and Carlos Boozer is playing like an MVP candidate.
10) Atlanta Hawks (3) - Josh Smith's injury hurt this team and after an impressive 6-0 start, they've lost their last three games. They've all been by close distances, though, and Joe Johnson continues to play all star-caliber ball. All this team needs is a little consistency but they've played like a team that should be in the playoff race at the end of the season.
11) New Orleans Hornets (4) - The Hornets, similar to Utah, have played sluggish ball this week and although they still boast a 5-4 record, they don't intimidate teams like they did at the end of last season. Consistency off the bench and in the execution of their offense will need to be addressed this week if they want to regain the form that they showed the first week of the season.
12) Portland Trail Blazers (14) - After again looking sluggish in his first game back, Greg Oden has averaged 12 points and 9.5 rebounds in relief in his last two appearances. If he can put up about those same numbers, he can help Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge drive this team to its first postseason appearance since 2004.
13) New York Knicks (12) - The Knicks came back down to Earth this week but Zach Randolph sure hasn't. Mike D'Antoni continues to amaze me with how much he's getting out of this squad. Wilson Chandler is putting up great numbers as well and this team is able to stay in the top half of the NBA this week.
14) Toronto Raptors (11) - This team is so hard to read but it's plain to see how thin they are at point guard. Past Jose Calderon this team has nothing and even though Chris Bosh is playing amazing basketball and Jermaine O'Neal has showed comfort in his new role, this team has yet to blow me away yet. They may be stuck in the "average" label all season long.
15) San Antonio Spurs (26) - After the horrid 1-5 start (the team's worst in over a decade), Tim Duncan, even still at this point in his career, has taken this team on his back and carried them to a 3-1 record this week. Michael Finley has shown flashes of his old self and Roger Mason continues to look like a guy who just seems like a "Spur fit". Tim Duncan is playing good ball, though, and if this team is around .500 when Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili come back then the rest of the league will have to watch another run by those pesky Spurs.
16) Chicago Bulls (16) - Derrick Rose continues to play at a phenomenal level and Ben Gordon is playing out of his mind at the moment. All of these things hide the fact that the Bulls had to sign Lindsey Hunter even though they have an influx of guards on the roster. Injuries to the backcourt have hurt this team but you wouldn't notice it in their play.
17) Miami Heat (13) - Dwyane Wade still continues to play amazing ball but the rest of the team is a nightly question mark. Shawn Marion looks so uncomfortable out there and Michael Beasley is going to be a rookie all season (meaning the inconsistency is going to be there). Udonis Haslem is playing good ball (as is Chris Quinn and Daequan Cook off the bench) but it's still too early to get a good read of this team.
18) Philadelphia 76ers (22) - I burried this team last week and even though Elton Brand, Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala are all still underacheiving, Thaddeus Young and Willie Green have powered a nice little three game winning streak in Philadephia. They have been two different teams this season but we'll look to see a little consistency (either way) as time goes on with them.
19) Milwaukee Bucks (19) - Impressive showings against the Spurs and Celtics (including a win against San Antonio) show that this team is more than capable even without Michael Redd in the lineup. Andrew Bogut is playing aggressive ball and Ramon Sessions needs to see an increase in minutes right now. Scott Skiles continues to get the most out of what he has on his roster.
20) New Jersey Nets (23) - Devin Harris has been amazing in his return from injury and the team has followed suit. They look like a much different team with him in the lineup and Ryan Anderson is playing very productive ball off of the bench. This team has played strong, energized ball so far this season and it's nice to see a team give that much effort after being burried all offseason.
21) Sacramento Kings (17) - This team has played admirable without Kevin Martin and even though Beno Udrih and John Salmons have kept the team in games with out Martin, they've lost almost all of the games without him in the lineup. His contributions go beyond the boxscore for this young team but you have to be impressed by the effort they show even when undermanned.
22) Indiana Pacers (20) - This team has been tough to figure out this season but I think with Mike Dunleavy yet to play a game this season, it's important that you don't completely judge what they're doing on the court. Brandon Rush is seeing an increase in minutes and an increase in production has followed. T.J. Ford has also continued his stellar play so far this season.
23) Golden State Warriors (25) - Stephen Jackson and Andris Biedrins have been amazing this season and slowly this team is getting a little bit of direction to them. I think once they address the Al Harrington situation (and we see what they get in return) we could see this team become a pesky counterpart for any team during the rest of the season.
24) Charlotte Bobcats (24) - They're still wildly inconsistent but at least Gerald Wallace is showing a bit of a return to form these past few games. Rumor has it that he's on the trading block, though, and with the play of Adam Morrison I can't say I'm surprised. But if they get anything other than a offensive frontcourt option then Michael Jordan will again have dropped the ball. This team is incredibly bland, though, and could be looking at a new owner in the next few years already. This organization is in dire need of success and I just don't see it on the horizon.
25) Dallas Mavericks (21) - After the tumultous offseason, Josh Howard has played encouraging ball. Jason Kidd, though, looks out of his element in this lineup and I think this team is better suited to a half court offense. I think they need to get back to what Avery preached but the problem is that Avery's no longer on the sidelines. Carlisle is rooted in defense, though, and I don't understand why he's not doing more to stress that side of the ball. This team has talent but needs to get Brandon Bass more minutes and needs to become dedicated to the defensive side of the ball again.
26) Memphis Grizzlies (18) - I praised the team last week and they fell back down to Earth this week. O.J. Mayo has been amazing so far but they are going to be wildly inconsistent as a team all season. Iavaroni probably won't make it past this year (if he makes it the entire year) but the team still has a good young nucleus intact.
27) Washington Wizards (28) - JaVale McGee and Nick Young have played admirable ball so far this season but this team still lacks a true identity and they just don't seem to play inspired ball. A coaching change may take place by the end of December in our nation 's capital.
28) Los Angeles Clippers (27) - Same old Clippers although they're starting to get relatively healthy again. This team still has yet to gell so far this season and with as many egos and personalities that they have on that roster it may be tough to do so. The fact that Baron Davis and Mike Dunleavy are already at odds, too, doesn't bode well for Dunleavy's job security.
29) Minnesota Timberwolves (29) - Aside from Al Jefferson and Randy Foye, does this team really have anything on its roster? Mike Miller has looked awful this year and moral victories are all that you have to look at this season. Randy Wittman doesn't deserve to be a coach in this league anymore than Dwayne Casey did.
30) Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - Jeff Green finally showed some life this week but the Thunder still continue to lose. Kevin Durant looks to be in the same rhythym he was last season, in other words getting his 20 points with a low 40's percentage shooting the ball and without much either rebounding or dishing the ball. He needs to develop his game a little bit more and this team has to show some signs of life if we're going to take any encouragement from this promising squad.