Six weeks into the regular season, and I think it's time again to take a few moments to praise Michael Malone for the work he's doing with the Nuggets.
Wilson Chandler is out for the season, without having played a single game, with a hip injury. Jusuf Nurkic has been 3-4 weeks away for months. Gary Harris has missed almost two weeks recovering from a concussion. Joffrey Lauvergne is coping with a back injury, while Danilo Gallinari is ailing with a leg injury.
The Nuggets are bottom-five in the league in offensive and defensive rating - it's a struggle on both ends of the court. There isn't a formidable rim protector on the roster to defend the paint, and the team doesn't have the experience in Malone's defense to guard the perimeter well. But despite all that, the Nuggets won 8 of their first 21 games. I give Malone credit for two or three of those wins - if Brian Shaw was still here, what would be the difference between the Nuggets and the Lakers other than the amount of media coverage?
Thanks, Coach Malone, for helping establish a team identity and fighting every day. Sadly, team culture doesn't factor into the power rankings - here are the latest one for Denver Stiffs*.
|Rank||Team||Stiffiness Summary||Move (LW)|
|1||Golden State Warriors||Best team in the NBA, hands down.||-- (1)|
|2||San Antonio Spurs||Spurs got to rest their starters against the 76ers and they won 119-68. To quote a legendary man, "Good God, Lemon!"||-- (2)|
|3||Miami Heat||The Heat have transitioned back to having Bosh at power forward, stretching the floor around a big man. Whiteside is on pace to block 100 shots by this time next week, and already has a 30 block lead over DeAndre Jordan.||+2 (5)|
|4||Oklahoma City Thunder||Thunder are 9-5 with Kevin Durant in the lineup, and the All-Star is taking and making more 3-pointers than at any point in his career. He's the greatest small-ball four in the league, the Thunder are elite with him on the floor.||+2 (6)|
|5||Cleveland Cavaliers||LeBron is going to be set for life with his Nike deal, but until Kyrie Irving comes back, the Cavaliers aren't set as the best team in the Eastern Conference. It's tough to be the King of Cleveland.||-2 (5)|
|6||Indiana Pacers||Paul George is having a MVP-caliber season, and have a shot to beat the Warriors tonight. Monta Ellis revenge game coming?||+4 (10)|
|7||Chicago Bulls||I'm giving them credit for going 3-0 against Cleveland, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, but docking them for struggling on offense. Derrick Rose and Nikola Mirotic need to be more productive.||-3 (4)|
|8||Toronto Raptors||Hey, they lost to the Nuggets! They were on the second game of a back-to-back, but that was a game they should have won. The time without Jonas Valanciunas will be a struggle, they'll miss his presence down low.||+3 (11)|
|9||Dallas Mavericks||Dirk is doing Dirk things, and Deron Williams is playing well. I thought Rick Carlisle would help him, but didn't expect it to be this much help.||-2 (7)|
|10||Atlanta Hawks||They haven't had a 30-point scorer this season, but their balanced attack wears down on teams. Paul Millsap is the team MVP so far, with career-high marks in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.||-2 (8)|
|11||Charlotte Hornets||The Hornets are 9-3 at home, and winning at home is important. I wouldn't be surprised to see them make a trade and try to keep their momentum on the rise. The East is good this year, so they may as well try to keep up.||+5 (16)|
|12||Boston Celtics||They own the second-best defensive rating in the league, and they're doing that without Marcus Smart. They may have the assets to swing for a superstar, but until then, winning on defense isn't a bad strategy.||+2 (14)|
|13||Los Angeles Clippers||Things could get ugly for the Clippers soon - no Chris Paul, and only two games out of their next 13 are at home. Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford will need to be really good for them.||-- (13)|
|14||Memphis Grizzlies||Big game tonight against Oklahoma City, but the Grizzlies are going to grit and grind through this season playing defense and being efficient on offense. They win in their own way, and it works.||+4 (18)|
|15||Utah Jazz||Rudy Gobert is going to miss time, which lowers them in the rankings. Going through the year without Dante Exum was manageable, but if Gobert is out for a while, they're dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight.||-3 (12)|
|16||Detroit Pistons||They're fourth in the Central Division, but sit just two games back of Cleveland. Reggie Jackson has a 125 offensive rating when they win, and a 84 offensive rating when they lose - he has a big impact on their success.||+1 (17)|
|17||Washington Wizards||Huge win over Cleveland, but they're banged up and missing players. If John Wall can keep them above 500, that's remarkable, but it's going to be a challenge. Randy Wittman could end up on the hot seat.||-- (17)|
|18||Orlando Magic||The Magic are figuring things out, even if that means bringing Victor Oladipo off the bench. They are 5-1 with him out of the starting lineup, and he could thrive as a sixth man candidate.||+5 (23)|
|19||Houston Rockets||At Brooklyn, at Washington, and home for the Lakers? Ty Lawson has been a failure, but they have enough talent to win a few games and try to get back to playoff contender status.||-- (19)|
|20||Phoenix Suns||A 2-8 stretch has sent them tumbling down the rankings, as they didn't have enough wins to stay above 500. Markieff Morris was a problem before the season and that hasn't changed, and it's finally bubbling over.||-11 (9)|
|21||New York Knicks||Kristaps Porzingis is playing like Master Chief battling the Flood, but they need some more scoring if they want to be a playoff team. I bet they could get Kevin Martin to help with that if they made a few phone calls.||-2 (19)|
|22||Milwaukee Bucks||One of the teams in the Central Division was going to struggle this year, and it turns out it's the one with Greg Monroe again. Their offense and defense are struggling without a league-average point guard.||-2 (22)|
|23||Minnesota Timberwolves||This team is going to be in this region the rest of the season barring a long winning streak. Too reliant on young players and their coach is bottom-five in the league. Play KAT in the fourth quarter!||-2 (31)|
|24||Sacramento Kings||DeMarcus Cousins gets a lot of attention, but Rudy Gay looks less bouncy than normal. Ideally he'd be a power forward at this point, but you know, Kings.||+1 (25)|
|25||Portland Trail Blazers||C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard are helping them out big-time, but with so little frontcourt production, they're going to burn out. Just can't rank them higher.||+1 (26)|
|26||Denver Nuggets||I like Jameer Nelson's game - I think he brings a lot to the team, and is a good veteran presence. But the Nuggets really could use another guard in the draft, because Nelson's productivity is going to start to wane.||-4 (22)|
|27||New Orleans Pelicans||It has to be frustrating to look at Anthony Davis and the same idiot that gave Omer Asik 5-years/$60 million is going to be responsible for building a winning team around that great of a talent.||-- (27)|
|28||Brooklyn Nets||"I don't mind it. Someone's going to be compared to someone all the time, and I don't mind him being compared to me," LeBron James said about Ben Simmons.||-- (28)|
|29||Los Angeles Lakers||The loss to the 76ers has to be the worst loss in franchise history. Kobe is pulling up from Steph range, and it's just a factory of sadness. Kobe gives great media interviews though, at least that's a positive.||-- (29)|
|30||Philadelphia 76ers||Honestly thought that Brett Brown was going to be leaving the team with their press conference yesterday. Jerry Colangelo should help the team long term, but Jesus Shuttleworth couldn't save this team's season.||-- (30)|
* - week 5 didn't happen due to a scheduling conflict, aka I slept in. I'll try to do better.