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EDIT: oops, didn't see the other Power Rankings thread, mods, feel free to merge...
By Marc Stein ESPN.com
Monday, Nov. 4
As fate would have it Saturday night, your trusty NBA Power Rankings committee (of one) crossed paths with our old friend John Hollinger just as those stunning Philadelphia 76ers were rallying past the Chicago Bulls to move to an unfathomable 3-0. Now vice president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, after all those years as the patriarch of ESPN's daily automated NBA Power Rankings -- which are coming back soon to complement this weekly version -- Hollinger couldn't help but chuckle at the quandary Philly's early success has thrust upon yours truly.
And here's why: ESPN's weekly edition of the NBA Power Rankings, as you surely know by now, always measures what we're seeing in the present (Philly's fairy-tale start) against every team's big-picture projected ceiling (which in the Sixers' case is the top of next spring's lottery). Brett Brown and his young team, however, didn't just uncork those one or two "funky" results -- to steal Hollinger's word -- that you get during the opening week of the season. The Sixers, with a roster folks were openly scoffing at a week ago, upset the two-time reigning champs from Miami, one of the Heat's top rivals (Chicago) and a team (Washington) that is supposed to challenge for a playoff berth ... coming back from big deficits in all three victories and with rookie Michael Carter-Williams putting up historically crazy numbers along the way as Philly's new star-is-born trigger man. So ... The Sixers have been bumped all the way up to a spot in the hallowed top 10 this week, which has to be one of the biggest leaps we've ever authorized. If you were hoping to see them even higher, I totally understand, but we're sorry: It's going to take more than three funky results for us to divorce the principles we've applied to these rankings for more than a decade and promote them all the way into the upper crust.
Something tells me that the 20-spot jump from last Monday's poll will nonetheless allow the Sixers to upstage the season's first change at the top: Indiana has climbed five spots to No. 1 while Miami dips to No. 5. The Sixers' thoroughly unforeseen climb will also undoubtedly overshadow big leaps for Houston (No. 5 to No. 2) and Minnesota (No. 12 to No. 3), too. And rightfully so after Philly erased a nine-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to beat the Heat; Miami had won 48 straight games in which it had led by at least nine points after three. These rankings, as always, were compiled with the ever-helpful assisting that comes from ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau. You can click here to rank the teams yourself until we return next Monday with a fresh 1-to-30 pulse take of the league. Indiana Pacers, # 1
Although I probably should have said something about this earlier, after seeing Paul George just light up American Airlines Center in Indy's final preseason game like he always does when he comes to Dallas, it's obvious to everyone now: PG was ready to start the season. Ready in the extreme.
Houston Rockets, #2
They were supposed to be good, so there's little Philly-style shock value in the Rockets' 3-0 launch. Yet you have to say that Saturday night's big rally in Utah was impressive. Ditto for the Dwight-led defense in general that has Houston on the brink of its first 4-0 mark since way back in 1996-97.
Minnesota Timberwolves, #3
No one was going to deny the Sixers their highly improbable Team of the Week honors, but the Wolves showed us glimpses of the potential we've been talking about for ages by clamping down on Durant and Melo to secure the best start in Sota since a KG-led pack of Wolves opened up 6-0.
San Antonio Spurs, #4
We've been spoiled for a l-o-n-g time: Tim Duncan's absence from the Spurs' win over the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers in L.A., thanks to a chest contusion, marked the first meeting between the teams with neither Kobe nor TD on the floor since Nov. 22, 1996 ... back when I was still on the Lakers beat.
Miami Heat, #5
The Heat managed to beat Washington and avoid their first three-game losing streak since January 2012. Didn't take long, though, for all that preseason talk about how focused they were for the long season ahead to evaporate amid a rash of punchless first quarters.
OKC Thunder, #6
Question: What can bump you up the charts instantly after you just went to Minnesota and got drilled by 19 points in the club's worst defeat in more than two seasons? Answer: The thunderbolt news that Russell Westbrook is back in the lineup about a month earlier than anyone expected.
LA Clippers, #7
The Clippers' bandwagon has certainly emptied some after that inexplicable crash on opening night against the Kobe-less Lakers. They've rebounded reasonably well, though, setting up a rather interesting Monday night duel at Staples pitting the new (?) DeAndre Jordan against Dwight Howard.
Golden State Warriors, #8
If you like the sort of wild (borderline irresponsible) stat projections that crop up with the small sample sizes we're working with at this point, you'll love this one: Steph Curry is on pace to splash home 437 triples this season based on what we've seen so far ... after a record 272 last season.
Chicago Bulls, #9
Don't want to overreact to three games. Especially when D-Rose is harder on himself than anyone early in his comeback. But all the stuff Charles Barkley said on TNT about the Bulls not having enough scoring ... that's why I came into the season saying Indy is the East's bigger threat to Miami.
Philadelphia 76ers, #10
The madness continues when the Warriors visit town Monday. Philly will be going for its first 4-0 start since the Allen Iverson-led team that made the Finals went 10-0 in 2000-01 and the MCW/Steph matchup brings together two of only three players averaging at least 20 points and nine dimes.
I really feel like somehow people are surprised by the Pacers being good. Its odd, because back in 04, nobody seemed surprised at the idea of us being good. But now the media act like its such stretch.
Yeah... in 04 we were still a few years from the finals, had made the playoffs for like 13 straight years or something (except for the season we do not discuss), and had a recognizable name with Reggie Miller... so I guess we were still in the public consciousness.
But yeah, people acting like the Pacers have come out of nowhere = ignorant