Sunday, November 17, 2013

How Do the Spurs Do It? (Power Rankings, Week 3)

This week, we watched Carmelo's failed "Hack-a-Howard"a Windy City statement, and nothin' but Nets. Oh, and two of the beatliest dunks of this young season. (Click here for DeMar DeRozan and  and here for Xavier Henry.)

In the Week 3 Power Rankings, we'll take a deeper look at the elite San Antonio Spurs as well as the middle-of-the-pack Atlanta Hawks.

Here are my Week 3 power rankings:
30. Utah Jazz (1-10)
29. Sacramento Kings (2-7)
28. Washington Wizards (2-7)
27. Milwaukee Bucks (2-7)
26. Boston Celtics (4-7) 
25. Toronto Raptors (4-7)
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-7)
23. Detroit Pistons (3-6)
22. New York Knicks (3-6)
21. Orlando Magic (4-6)
20. New Orleans Pelicans (4-6)
19. Los Angeles Lakers (5-7)
18. Denver Nuggets (4-5)
17. Charlotte Bobcats (5-5)
16. Brooklyn Nets (3-6)
15. Philadelphia 76ers (5-6)
14. Phoenix Suns (5-4)
13. Memphis Grizzlies (5-5)
12. Atlanta Hawks (6-4)
11. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-4)
10. Dallas Mavericks (6-4)
9. Chicago Bulls (5-3)
8. Houston Rockets (7-4)
7. Golden State Warriors (7-3)
6. Protland Trail Blazers (8-2)
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-3)
4. Los Angeles Clippers (7-3)
3. Miami Heat (7-3)
2. Indiana Pacers (9-1)
1. San Antonio Spurs (9-1)

San Antonio Spurs   
In this space on Wednesday, I joked that Spurs wins are as certain as death and taxes. I wasn't exaggerating too much.

San Antonio came within a fluky 20 seconds of a title last spring, and the Spurs are poised to come out of the West once again.

Tony Parker is having a typically brilliant season, shooting over 50 percent from the floor while directing a Spurs offense that averages the fifth-most assists in the NBA. Young gun Kawhi Leonard has responded well to an increased role, with his stellar defense leading a unit that ranks second in defensive efficiency.

And no analysis of the Spurs is complete without discussing Tim Duncan. Gregg Popovich is again treating Duncan like a Fabergé egg, playing the big man just over 28 minutes per game. The Big Fundamental should be fresh in May and June, giving the Spurs a great shot at Ring No. 5.

Atlanta Hawks
 
I had the opportunity to watch Atlanta twice this week as they split a pair of games against the Knicks. The Hawks have a solid offense led by a strong frontcourt, but they're lacking at shooting guard and small forward. 

As former Hawk Josh Smith struggles in Detroit, Al Horford has dominated this season in Atlanta. He's scoring 18.7 points per game, which would be a career high. And Horford gets his points efficiently, shooting 55 percent on mostly close-range shots.

In Saturday's convincing win over New York, Horford and new frontcourt-mate Paul Millsap controlled the Knicks in the paint. The bench also chipped in 41 points, completely outplaying New York's second unit. Shelvin Mack led the onslaught from the bench, as the former Butler Bulldog scored 12 points and dished out 12 assists after being held out of Atlanta's previous two games.

Atlanta has some nice pieces, but they'll probably get bounced in the first round of the playoffs. For the purpose of these power rankings, we'll consider the Hawks relevant, but they're still not championship contenders.

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