By Steve Kerr, Yahoo! Sports
December 5, 2005
As the old saying goes, the cream always rises to the top. That's what happened this past week, as the NBA's best two teams – Detroit and San Antonio – each went undefeated and staked a claim as the best squad in their respective conference.
While Dallas and Cleveland faltered, Memphis continued its climb up the rankings, reaching unprecedented heights as the new No. 3 team. Mike Fratello will be calling with his thanks any second now.
Right behind the Grizzlies is a trio of Pacific Division teams: the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State and the fast-rising Suns. But with Shaquille O'Neal ready to return to action soon, the Heat will be primed to join the elite teams at the top.
Meanwhile, in the South Pole of the rankings, the Hawks lost their showdown with the Raptors, who built some confidence and routed New Jersey for a second straight win. Toronto's performances dropped the league's most disappointing team this season – the Rockets – down to the 29th slot.
Here's a look at this week's rankings. (Records and statistics are through Dec. 4.)
1. Detroit Pistons (13-2, Last week: 1) – A perfect week was highlighted by a drubbing of their former coach's team.
2. San Antonio Spurs (13-3, Last week: 3) – Rasho Nesterovic is playing well.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (12-5, Last week: 7) – They defend, they're deep and they can score. The Grizzlies are for real.
4. Dallas Mavericks (11-5, Last week: 2) – Jason Terry has become the Mavs' go-to guy late in games.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (11-5, Last week: 6) – Chris Kaman is much better than you think.
6. Phoenix Suns (10-5, Last week: 12) – Is Boris Diaw a guard, a forward or a center? I don't know, but whatever he is, he's good.
7. Golden State Warriors (12-6, Last week: 11) – Baron Davis is distributing the ball and the Warriors are winning.
8. Indiana Pacers (10-6, Last week: 4) – Their defense is almost as good as the Colts'. Indy held the Jazz to 60 last week.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-6, Last week: 5) – The Cavaliers' lack of defensive focus is costing them.
10. Miami Heat (10-7, Last week: 13) – Shaq is due back any day. Look out, Top Five.
11. Milwaukee Bucks (9-6, Last week: 15) – Maurice Williams put on a show against the Wizards.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-6, Last week: 9) – If the wins keep coming, the Kevin Garnett trade talk will die.
13. Seattle SuperSonics (8-8, Last week: 27) – Consecutive wins over Indiana and Cleveland could jumpstart the Sonics.
14. Chicago Bulls (8-7, Last week: 10) – Last place in Central is good enough for first in Atlantic.
15. Denver Nuggets (9-9, Last week: 8) – Just when they start to click, Carmelo Anthony goes down and George Karl gets suspended.
16. New Orleans Hornets (8-8, Last week: 19) – Despite the ugly yellow unis, the Hornets must be taken seriously.
17. Philadelphia 76ers (8-10, Last week: 14) – Allen Iverson is in a battle with Kobe Bryant to see whose arm falls off first.
18. New Jersey Nets (7-9, Last week: 17) – A disappointing loss to Toronto exposed the Nets' bench woes.
19. Washington Wizards (7-8, Last week: 21) – Same old problem for the Wiz: quick shots, poor shooting percentage.
20. Orlando Magic (7-9, Last week: 20) – Hurry back, Steve Francis. The Spurs, Bulls and Nuggets visit Orlando this week.
21. Boston Celtics (7-9, Last week: 18) – Paul Pierce is averaging 27 points and nine boards a game.
22. Sacramento Kings (7-10, Last week: 16) – Peja Stojakovic is just 10-for-46 from the field since returning from a sprained finger.
23. Los Angeles Lakers (7-9, Last week: 22) – Their December schedule is cruel. The Lakers must find a way to tread water.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (5-13, Last week: 24) – Poor shooting: The Bobcats are making just 41.5 percent of their field-goal attempts.
25. New York Knicks (5-11, Last week: 26) – Another game, another lineup. Stephon Marbury is the only Knick to start every game.
26. Utah Jazz (7-10, Last week: 23) – There is simply not enough talent. Will we ever see Carlos Boozer this season?
27. Portland Trail Blazers (5-11, Last week: 25) – Ruben Patterson demands playing time. The Blazers should demand to know why.
28. Toronto Raptors (3-15, Last week: 30) – Draft-day experts who questioned the Charlie Villanueva selection aren't laughing now.
29. Houston Rockets (4-12, Last week: 28) – Stromile Swift hasn't been the force the Rockets were hoping he'd be.
30. Atlanta Hawks (2-14, Last week: 29) – Marvin Williams is not contributing much. Think the Hawks wish they had taken Chris Paul?
Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send Steve a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Tuesday, Dec 6, 2005 10:55 am, EST
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