Updated: November 30, 2015, 2:27 PM ET
Power Rankings: Dubs in danger?
By Marc Stein
Monday, Nov. 30
Questions inevitably spawn more questions. So it is in life.
And so it is here with ESPN's weekly NBA Power Rankings, where the question du jour in the NBA is no longer simply: What happens first? Golden State loses a game or Philadelphia wins one?
The bigger mystery to work out, for your faithful Committee of One, is this: How many losses would it take to knock the Warriors from their perch atop these rankings?
Two? Three? Four? That's how big of a gap these Warriors, after an NBA-record 18 straight victories to start the season, have opened up on the rest of the league.
It has reached the point, with a whopping 13 of these victories coming by double digits, that even ESPN's very discerning Basketball Power Index suddenly gives Golden State better-than-even odds to win at least 70 games. The BPI, in fact, now gives the Warriors better odds of winning 70 games than it gives any of the other 29 teams for winning 60.
Maybe we'll actually soon see a loss or two for the Dubs as they embark Monday on a seven-game trip, which will be the league's third longest this season, behind only a nine-gamer for Brooklyn and eight-game trips for the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio. Or maybe we'll be forced to wait until the new year for some real drama at the top, with No. 2 San Antonio not getting a shot at the Warriors until Jan. 25 in Oakland ... and the next three meetings between the teams coming on March 19 (in San Antonio), April 7 (Oakland) and April 10 (San Antonio).
We'll dig into the rest of our 1-to-30 order, as always, via Stein Line Live. And we naturally give thanks, in the lingering Thanksgiving spirit, to our friends in the NBA wing of ESPN Stats & Information, as well as the Elias Sports Bureau, for their peerless assistance with data used to sort this ladder. Please feel free to comment below on what you see.
|The St. Louis Maroons, back in 1884 before Major League Baseball was in existence, is the only known franchise in North America's four major team sports to open a season with a longer unbeaten run (20-0) than the 18-0 Dubs. We assume a loss is probably coming on this looming seven-game trip. But who would dare say it any stronger than that?|
|Life, in general, is going swimmingly for the Spurs, who are right where they like it as they continue to win a bunch while blending in LaMarcus Aldridge -- completely under the radar -- while Golden State soaks up all the spotlight. Not sure, though, that we can continue to call them the NBA's Ball Movement Kings, as these recent tweets will explain.
|Kudos to LeBron James for trying to manufacture urgency after each of Cleveland's four defeats, but we'll let you know when there's real cause for concern. Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert haven't played yet. Timo Mozgov, Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova have missed time, too. And you still can't dream up a threat to the Cavs in the East.|
|The Thunder validated the Committee's thinking in the wake of our decision last Monday to bump them up to No. 4 largely on the strength of Kevin Durant's looming return. With KD back in uniform, OKC posted three double-digit wins to move to 7-3 this season when No. 35 is available to team up with one-man cyclone known as Angry Russ.
|Frank Vogel has taken to calling Paul George this league's best two-way player. And who can argue at the minute? With not a lot of Pacers playing peak ball around him and the team changing its style on the fly, Indy starts a new week as the East's No. 2 team in nightly point differential at +6.2 and fresh off a sparkly 11-2 record in November.
|After a league-high 12 road games already and with a home win over Cleveland on Drake Night to savor, Toronto needn't dwell too much on Sunday night's narrow home loss to Phoenix on the back end of a back-to-back. Getting more of what they've seen so far from Luis Scola, who's shooting a bonus .500 from the 3-point line, is a fun sidebar.|
|If it seems like we're always writing about Hassan Whiteside, we have to ask you something: How can we resist? He's sporting a PER of 26.5 and just became the first player to reject at least 70 shots through 15 games since Dikembe Mutombo in 1995-96. The same Mutombo, in case you missed it, who just got his jersey retired by the Hawks.|
|In the last game of Fred Hoiberg's first month as an NBA coach, Chicago will trot out the league's 26th-most efficient offense against San Antonio's No. 1-ranked defense. The consolation: Chicago gets to play nine of the next 11 games at home after hosting the Spurs, which has to help in the pursuit of better execution. Better health would help too
|One of the more surprising aspects of the West's uncharacteristically shaky opening month, as a collective, is the fact that Utah's modest nightly average margin of +2.3 is actually good for fourth in the conference as November comes to close. The slow-it-down Jazz have the honor of serving as Host No. 1 on Golden State's seven-game trip.|
|Profuse apologies from the Committee. Asked to list our surprise team for the opening month, we mentioned the Pacers, Knicks, Mavericks and our ultimate choice -- Minnesota's young Wolves -- but embarrassingly omitted the Hornets, who have been nails at home while ranking an amazing No. 5 in offensive efficiency to go with a No. 12 rank in DE.
|It would be easier to launch into a deep discussion on Al Horford's 22 3-pointers in November, compared to the 21 he sank in his first eight NBA seasons, if the Hawks weren't in a 4-7 funk. This past week, though, did feature Atlanta's two top performances for nearly a month in the home rout of Boston and Friday's offensive eruption in Memphis.|
|Avery Bradley has stepped up quite nicely into the void created by Marcus Smart's knee injury. And All-Lefty Teamer Isaiah Thomas is bidding to become the first Celtic to average 20+ PPG and 6+ APG since a certain Larry Joe Bird in 1989-90. But when the Celts don't guard? They're 0-7 when allowing 100+ points and 9-1 otherwise.
|Into the Mavs' final game of November on Monday night at Sacramento, Dirk Nowitzki lugs the following shooting percentages at age 37: .523 from the field, .500 on 3-pointers and .911 from the line. And Zaza Pachulia, in his 13th season, is trying to turn back the clock as well, seeking to average a double-double for the first time in his career.|
|It's a good thing almost no one looks at division standings anymore, because the Clips would certainly find it unsettling to be fielding regular questions about how they're already 8 1/2 games behind the Warriors when we haven't even reached December. Maybe all is not lost, though: L.A. is still No. 4 in offensive efficiency despite its bench woes.|
|My well-known biases against bright red are such that I was never going to get as excited about those Memphis Sounds throwbacks as the applauding masses. What matters most here is the Grizzlies' 7-2 rebound since their dreadful 3-6 start, as well as slicing their nightly point margin to -3.3 even after that 50-point humiliation by Golden State.|
|The prevailing narrative about the Magic is that they're a year away from certifiable contention in the Eastern Conference. A revise might be in order, however, if The Skiles Effect continues to produce results like these: Orlando has quietly won seven of its past eight home games as it readies for a tough five-game trip out West.|
|Utterly defenseless for a week, with losses at home and on the road to old friend Alvin Gentry's Pelicans, Phoenix then surprised itself by going north of the border to find its best win of the season. The next problem: The Bledsoe and B-Knight Show, with both guards averaging 20+ PPG and 5+ APG, still has five more games to go on this road trip.|
|Kristaps Porzingis continues to produce, but the Knicks' week couldn't have gone much worse after the big bump into the league's top half. The last of their four straight L's came in agonizing fashion, with a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter -- and a real chance to win without an unexpectedly ill Melo -- spurned against the vulnerable Rockets.|
|The Pistons are the only team in the league to use the same starting lineup combination in every game so far this season: Reggie Jackson/Kentavious Caldwell-Pope/Marcus Morris/Ersan Ilyasova/Andre Drummond. The bad news: Detroit's punchless bench continues to put all the onus on Drummond and Jackson to carry this crew.|
|Amid all the justified hoopla generated by rookie big man Karl-Anthony Towns, we're probably guilty of not paying sufficient attention in the opening month to Andrew Wiggins. The truth is he's quietly producing like a star after some early shooting struggles; Wiggins is up to three 30-point games already after posting four total as a rook.|
|The coach occupying the league's hottest seat might suddenly be Randy Wittman, whose Wizards followed up that seemingly favorable four-games-in-16-days stretch with four losses to East rivals, marked by serious regression at both ends amid futile pleas from Marcin Gortat calling for a halt to all the internal and external negativity.
|Ryan Anderson has been rolling. Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole are both almost ready, at last, to join the season. Anthony Davis dodged major injury in that Chris Paul-induced collision that looked so scary. The Pels have led for fewer fourth-quarter minutes (42) than any team except the Lakers (38), but it's finally starting to look like that's only temporary.|
|The list of players averaging at least 25 points and seven assists per game only runs two deep: Russell Westbrook and the Blazers' Damian Lillard. But something tells me even Dame has to cede some of his Rip City spotlight -- at least for the next week -- to the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer as they prepare to play for the MLS title.|
|It's a good time to note, with Dallas in town Monday, that Mavs castoff Rajon Rondo is averaging a tidy 13.0 PPG, 13.6 APG and 8.1 RPG in his last 10 games, though FTs (.375) are still a problem. The bigger issues for the Kings: DeMarcus Cousins has missed eight games for a Sactown squad that's a worrisome 1-9 against the rest of the West.|
|A frantic comeback against Portland in J.B Bickerstaff's first game in charge. A fortuitous home escape against lowly Philly after throwing away a double-digit lead. And an OT win at MSG that was its own roller-coaster. Those are the wins in Houston's 3-3 response to a coaching change that hasn't changed nearly as much as management was hoping.|
| Twenty-one points, 20 boards and seven assists for Ben Simmons, on the Nets' floor, in a season where those Nets have to convey their top pick to Boston ... all that was only the week's first dose of cruel. But give it up for the Brooklynites: They couldn't have responded better to a heartbreaker in Cleveland than stunning Detroit the next night.
|Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of just six players in the league averaging 17+ PPG and 6+ RPG while shooting 50+ percent from the floor. And this concludes the what's-going-right portion of the discussion about the Bucks, who followed up a home win over Detroit with three more painful losses and have sunk to No. 30 in defensive efficiency.
|Standard stats say rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay (12.2 PPG, 5.9 APG) is hanging in there OK. Advanced stats, though, aren't as kind: Jahlil Okafor (-5.89) and Mudiay (-5.49) awoke Monday with two of the three lowest RPM (Real Plus-Minus) readings in the league, sandwiching Houston's totally out-of-sorts Ty Lawson (-5.75).
|Because paying tribute to Kobe Bryant is a sudden must well beyond the borders of Lakerland, here are some important dates for your calendar: Dec. 30 is Bryant's last visit to Boston. Jan. 22 at home versus San Antonio marks the 10th anniversary of his 81-point game against Toronto ... and April 13 at home to Utah now looms as his last-ever game.|
|They're somehow still winless despite holding a fourth-quarter lead in each of the past five games, getting outscored by 50 points in the final six minutes of those five L's. The Sixers also have a rash of unsavory Jahlil Okafor headlines to deal with on top of all the losing entering the Kobe Bowl. And yet it seems they'll really be favorites Tuesday night.