My Xanax-addled mind can't think of an intro, so instead I'm going to list my five favorite NBA play-by-play announcers of all-time: 1. Brent Musburger; 2. Jim Durham; 3. Neal Funk; 4. Hot Rod Hundley; 5. Jim Karvalis. This week's rankings follow.
RANK (Last Week) Team (Power rating) [ WIN PACE / PYTHAGOREAN PACE / PRESEASON PROJECTION ]
1. (8) Boston Celtics (63.1) [ 72 / 58 / 63 ]
Rankings: NET: 2; OFF: 26; DEF: 2; PACE: 8
It's hard to quibble with top billing. The Celtics' defensive efficiency is even better than last season, though they trail Lakers in that regard. The offense, however, has slipped to 26th. That's mostly attributable to a bench that really hasn't done much at the offensive end other than what it's gotten from Tony Allen. Doc Rivers was great putting faith in young players like Glen Davis and Leon Powe last season, which paid dividends in the playoffs. If he's not willing to put the same faith in rookies J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker this time around, then Danny Ainge is going to have to beat the bushes for some offensive sock off the bench.
2. (1) Atlanta Hawks (58.1) [ 70 / 62 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 4; OFF: 7; DEF: 4; PACE: 17
It feels like Joe Johnson has been around forever, but he's still only 27 and, seemingly, getting better every year. Johnson has been playing MVP-caliber basketball at both ends of the floor in the early season.
3. (21) Portland Trail Blazers (56.7) [ 51 / 35 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 29; OFF: 1; DEF: 29; PACE: 28
Did you know that the Blazers lead the league in offensive efficiency? I sure didn't, until about two seconds ago. They're 29th in defensive efficiency, something that Greg Oden can help with after he gets into shape.
4. (19) Cleveland Cavaliers (52.4) [ 61 / 59 / 44 ]
Rankings: NET: 9; OFF: 5; DEF: 9; PACE: 21
One day you get an e-mail from your brother, lambasting your entire basketball philosophy and disavowing all evidence of common ancestry because LeBron James isn't ranked among your top 10 in WP82. Three games later, James is third in the league. One week, the Cavs rank 19th, this week, they're fourth. It's early. And I once again have a brother.
5. (5) New Orleans Hornets (52.3) [ 46 / 50 / 45 ]
Rankings: NET: 16; OFF: 9; DEF: 16; PACE: 25
The Hornets have been playing well, but their most deficient categories are the ones in which Tyson Chandler excels. Chandler is back in the lineup and when he works his way back into form, New Orleans will be even better.
6. (6) Los Angeles Lakers (50.2) [ 82 / 76 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 1; OFF: 3; DEF: 1; PACE: 4
What can you say? The Lakers have been tremendous across the board, with a second unit playing as well as some other teams' starting lineups. Only a fairly soft schedule is holding back the Lakers' power rating, but that's not to say that what they've accomplished so far is a fluke.
7. (7) Houston Rockets (48.0) [ 51 / 48 / 61 ]
Rankings: NET: 7; OFF: 19; DEF: 7; PACE: 24
I can't stop raving about Aaron Brooks, who has a 56.3 eFG% and a 29% usage rate, resulting in an average of 23.6 points per 40 minutes. I have to admit, though, his style is probably better suited for the second unit, where he doesn't have to share the ball with Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. The Rockets have many players better than starting lead guard Rafer Alston, but probably no one who as crucial to the team's eventual success.
8. (2) Detroit Pistons (47.7) [ 58 / 52 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 20; OFF: 2; DEF: 20; PACE: 27
Food for thought: If you sort the current WP82 rankings by increase/decrease over last season, Utah's Deron Williams is on the bottom, a projected 10+ wins off of last season's total. He's played two games -- means nothing. The two names right above his are more interesting: Chauncey Billups and Allen Iverson.
9. (14) Indiana Pacers (47.6) [ 46 / 54 / 41 ]
Rankings: NET: 8; OFF: 11; DEF: 8; PACE: 6
No one should really be surprised that T.J. Ford is fitting in so well with Jim O'Brien's system. Ford's shooting and improved ability to take care of the ball, however, have fueled his renaissance as a point guard.
10. (3) Toronto Raptors (46.7) [ 41 / 36 / 42 ]
Rankings: NET: 17; OFF: 15; DEF: 17; PACE: 26
You wouldn't think that a team that starts Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal would be the worst offensive rebounding team in the league, but that's the facts. The Raps are still all about the drive-and-kick offense.
11. (11) Phoenix Suns (43.0) [ 54 / 48 / 49 ]
Rankings: NET: 18; OFF: 6; DEF: 18; PACE: 15
It's just a weird-feeling season in Phoenix as the Suns try to wrap their arms around their new style, whatever that may be. The defense has been better and the Suns are the second-best defensive rebounding team. But Phoenix is 29th in offensive rebounding, which is a strange paradox. Also, too many turnovers.
12. (25) Philadelphia 76ers (42.1) [ 30 / 44 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 10; OFF: 20; DEF: 10; PACE: 13
The Sixers continue to struggle on offense, ranking 20th in efficiency despite middle-of-the-pack shooting percentages. Philly has the highest turnover rate in the league. Too many squandered possessions. Strangely enough, point guard Andre Miller's turnover rate is excellent. It's everyone else that is coughing up the ball.
13. (9) Chicago Bulls (41.8) [ 30 / 38 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 15; OFF: 18; DEF: 15; PACE: 9
The Bulls' strengths are rebounding and blocking shots, which is somewhat contrary to how they are perceived. Derrick Rose has been terrific, but the team's star has been Ben Gordon, who is playing like a guy looking for a fat payday.
14. (10) Milwaukee Bucks (40.9) [ 36 / 36 / 31 ]
Rankings: NET: 14; OFF: 24; DEF: 14; PACE: 20
The upper tier of NBA rookies so far is clearly comprised of Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Fernandez. You know who's right there on the next tier? Could it be somebody on the Bucks? Indeed, it is -- but not Joe Alexander. Luc Mbah a Moute, recently inserted into the starting lineup, is proving to be one of the steals of the most recent draft.
15. (16) Denver Nuggets (40.0) [ 46 / 45 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 3; OFF: 27; DEF: 3; PACE: 1
Denver's best player this season has been Anthony Carter. That's a problem.
16. (23) New York Knicks (38.2) [ 51 / 41 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 19; OFF: 13; DEF: 19; PACE: 3
OK, so the schedule has been weak. Still, with a pair of road wins and a 5-3 overall mark, the Knicks are turning into more than just a fun little team to watch. I was against the insertion of Wilson Chandler into the lineup in place of David Lee but, you know what? Mike D'Antoni is a lot smarter than I am. Chandler fits better as a spot-shooting four on the first unit and Lee gives the second unit some much-needed punch.
17. (20) Memphis Grizzlies (37.3) [ 27 / 24 / 19 ]
Rankings: NET: 11; OFF: 28; DEF: 11; PACE: 7
The Grizzlies are still playing fast, but their defensive efficiency is actually 11th in the league, which is surprising. What's also surprising is that in what is supposed to be a Suns/Raptors model of offense friendly to point guards, Memphis is last in the league in percentage of assisted field goals. Michael Conley and Kyle Lowry could be playing better, but there are a few other players on the roster who apparently don't know it's legal to actually throw the ball to a teammate.
18. (18) Miami Heat (37.0) [ 41 / 52 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 12; OFF: 4; DEF: 12; PACE: 19
I keep thinking that Michael Beasley has been off to a slow start, but I have to remind myself that the kid is just 20 years old. He's averaging more than 16 points a game on a team that is playing much-improved basketball. He's been inefficient and downright bad on the defensive end. Early expectations for Beasley may have been out of whack, but that hasn't slowed down classmates O.J. Mayo or Derrick Rose.
19. (4) Utah Jazz (36.7) [ 61 / 59 / 50 ]
Rankings: NET: 6; OFF: 12; DEF: 6; PACE: 22
The Jazz is better than this rating. That should be obvious. They've played the league's easiest schedule, which is skewing things at this early juncture. Jerry Sloan has more substantial concerns. Just when Deron Williams returns to the lineup, Mehmet Okur has to leave the team to return to Turkey for personal reasons.
20. (22) Orlando Magic (35.3) [ 51 / 58 / 43 ]
Rankings: NET: 5; OFF: 8; DEF: 5; PACE: 10
Mickael Pietrus has been a nice addition, but the Magic was probably hoping that, as a 23-year old, its first-round pick, Courtney Lee, would have proven to be a little more polished. That hasn't been the case. Lee hasn't played much and when he has, he hasn't been very good. Meanwhile, Orlando is still playing with an awfully thin rotation.
21. (13) Charlotte Bobcats (34.3) [ 23 / 23 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 23; OFF: 25; DEF: 23; PACE: 29
In Ray Felton and D.J. Augustin, the Bobcats have a pair of young lottery picks manning the point guard position. Together, the two of them have produced fewer wins than Milwaukee backup Ramon Sessions. Larry Brown is known for being hard on his point guards. On this team, it's for good reason.
22. (15) Dallas Mavericks (34.3) [ 23 / 31 / 51 ]
Rankings: NET: 22; OFF: 17; DEF: 22; PACE: 14
Jason Kidd has ranked among my top 10 players all season. Nevertheless, Dallas has floundered thanks to the abysmal starts from Dirk Nowitzki and, especially, Josh Howard.
23. (12) New Jersey Nets (33.7) [ 23 / 20 / 38 ]
Rankings: NET: 25; OFF: 23; DEF: 25; PACE: 23
Let's try to say something positive. The Nets are the sixth-best team in the NBA at defending free throws. This season is all about developing the youngsters, so it's a little perturbing to see Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling near the top of New Jersey's WP82 list.
24. (29) Los Angeles Clippers (30.7) [ 10 / 9 / 33 ]
Rankings: NET: 24; OFF: 29; DEF: 24; PACE: 16
Let's not shovel dirt on the Cippers just yet. Marcus Camby is just getting back into the lineup and the Clips have played the league's toughtest schedule. We'll shovel dirt on them next week.
25. (30) San Antonio Spurs (29.9) [ 23 / 29 / 55 ]
Rankings: NET: 27; OFF: 10; DEF: 27; PACE: 30
Has the demise of the Spurs been exaggerated? With two of their core trio injured and a No. 27 ranking defensive efficiency, it's hard to say that's been the case. Right now, this is just a bad team and if San Antonio can't get healthy, a trip to the lottery may be in the offing. They are starting to feel like last year's Heat.
26. (28) Washington Wizards (29.8) [ 13 / 19 / 32 ]
Rankings: NET: 26; OFF: 22; DEF: 26; PACE: 11
Perhaps beating the Jazz will kickstart the struggling Wizards. The absence of Brendan Haywood has proven to be a bigger problem than another stint without Gilbert Arenas -- Washington's bigs have been terrible. Also, here's a vote to increase Nick Young's minutes even more at the expense of Antonio Daniels.
27. (27) Sacramento Kings (29.4) [ 36 / 26 / 39 ]
Rankings: NET: 30; OFF: 14; DEF: 30; PACE: 12
The nice collection of young talent Geoff Petrie has collected is really becoming apparent. Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes look like keepers and Sacramento has enough quality players that it can bring Donte Greene along slowly.
28. (26) Oklahoma City Thunder (28.6) [ 10 / 17 / 23 ]
Rankings: NET: 13; OFF: 30; DEF: 13; PACE: 5
The Thunder is last in just about every shooting and offensive efficiency measure you can think of.
29. (17) Golden State Warriors (28.2) [ 30 / 33 / 35 ]
Rankings: NET: 21; OFF: 21; DEF: 21; PACE: 2
The best course of action for Golden State is to just play the kids as much possible. Is that a course that Nellie has the patience to take?
30. (24) Minnesota Timberwolves (19.1) [ 11 / 27 / 26 ]
Rankings: NET: 28; OFF: 16; DEF: 28; PACE: 18
They're the worst team in the league, but at least has Randy Wittman has the Wolves playing fundamentally sound basketball. Minnesota is third in free-throw percentage and has the league's best turnover rate.
Adjusted winning percentage (AWP) = ((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) / (((home wins x 0.6)+(road wins x 1.4)) + ((home losses x .1.4)+(road losses x 0.6)))
Opponents winning percentage (OWP) = aggregate percentage of games won for each team's opponents, based on the number of times the team has faced that opponent.
Pythagorean winning percentage (PYTH) = uses the basketball-reference formula of Games x (Points scored^14) / ((Points scored^14) + (Points allowed^14))
Power rating = (((PYTH + AWP)/2)*(OWP/.500)) x 82
WP82 = wins produced per 82 games, adjusted for playing time
Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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