Three teams could make a convincing argument on this Rankings Monday that they deserve the top spot in ESPN.com's weekly power poll.
As you know, though, your faithful Committee (of One) does not do ties.
So we crunched the numbers in the Power Rankings dungeon all weekend, considered a wide range of possibilities ... and ultimately decided to leave our top three in the same order we had them a week ago.
Golden State certainly continues be impressive offensively, having averaged a gaudy 120.7 points per game during its current seven-game winning streak, but the Cleveland Cavaliers and the LA Clippers convinced us they should stay right where they were with their own strong weeks. The Cavaliers improved to 2-0 this season against their Eastern Conference finals foes from Toronto and thumped Detroit to offset a loss at Indiana in which LeBron James was rested.
The Clips, meanwhile, continue to lord over the rest of the league with the only double-digit nightly average point margin (+13.7) on the NBA map, which (we presume) makes their home loss to Memphis on ESPN on Wednesday night a tad easier to take.
If you disagree with our thinking, that's fine and fair. Such arguments are what the Power Rankings were founded upon. Here's hoping you find more to dissect and discuss throughout our 1-to-30 ladder, with many thanks, as always, going to ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau -- particularly research ace Micah Adams -- for supplying much of the background data that helps your Committee arrange things.
The Cavs, when they're in the mood, are a sight to behold. LeBron James is averaging the most taken-for-granted 23, 9 and 8 in NBA history, everyone knows their roles, and suddenly Channing Frye is emerging as more of a contributor than you anticipated. The concern, if you want to manufacture one, remains Cleveland's depth. The lack of a seasoned backup point guard is hard to ignore, but we ask again: Who in the East can really make the Cavs pay for that shortcoming?
The Clippers are allowing a ridiculously stingy 91.4 points per 100 possessions when DeAndre Jordan is on the floor compared to 106.1 points per 100 possessions when Jordan is sitting. J.J. Redick has been as hot as any Clipper in the opening month, which is just one more reason these guys are off to a franchise-best unbeaten start on the road at 6-0. There's too much goodness going on, in other words, to drop the Clips after one narrow misstep at home against Memphis.
The offense is humming now to such a degree -- better ball movement, gorgeous looks galore, Kevin Durant producing with unfair efficiency, Klay Thompson finding his groove -- that it's almost a relief Golden State still has plenty to sort out on the defensive end. If the D was anywhere close to this same level in mid-November, with the Warriors up to seven 120-point eruptions already after just three at this same stage last season, hope would be quickly draining away leaguewide.
No team in the league is unbeaten at home. The Spurs, by contrast, are a tidy 7-0 on the road and take a five-game win streak overall into Monday night's reunion with their old friends from Dallas. To the Spurs, who've been able to field their first-choice starting five only four times thanks to Danny Green's lengthy absence, it's no accident that the current unbeaten run coincides with a return to the lineup for Tony Parker, still a key steadying hand even with Pop limiting Parker to 25.9 MPG.
The Hawks awoke Sunday ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency, ninth in PPG allowed and feeling pretty proud of what they're doing on D because they're also playing at a top-five pace, which naturally means more possessions to defend. Pride then turned to anger when Atlanta looked so lackluster in a Madison Square Garden matinee defeat to the Knicks, who have actually won four in a row at home but, according to Paul Millsap, shouldn't have caused the trouble they did.
The sting of Saturday night's OT loss in New Orleans has to be lessened somewhat by the home win that Charlotte eked out Atlanta the night before, especially with Nicolas Batum playing a starring role with his best game all season after a somewhat underwhelming start. Otherwise we'll focus here on what we seem to be focused on here every Monday: Kemba Walker's career-best numbers in just about any category you check in his bid to be Charlotte's first All-Star since Gerald Wallace in 2010.
Rough weekend for DeMar DeRozan. The mere 12 points he mustered in Sunday night's heartbreaking (and controversial) loss in Sacramento knocked him out of the league's scoring lead for the first time in 20 days. Now, on the second night of a back-to-back, DeRozan has to deal with the league's most-feared defense. He'll be trying to join Chicago's Dwyane Wade on this season's short list of starting shooting guards to crack the 20-point plateau against the Clippers.
Two stops remain on 3-1 Chicago's annual Circus Trip, but it seems safe at this point to just call it the Traveling Jimmy Butler Show. After weeks of good press for DeMar DeRozan and what a summer stint with Team USA did for his game, now it's Butler's turn to be feted for the serious step he's taken since getting back from Rio. Surely there was an element of catching Portland and Utah at the right time at work, but the Bulls are still enjoying what's surely been a fun told-you-so opening month.
No longer is James Harden averaging 30+ point and 10+ assists. Dare we say you can cut him some slack, though, since this league has only seen three players EVER who averaged 25+ points and 10+ dimes over the course of an entire season: Michael Adams in 1990-91, Tiny Archibald in 1972-73 and the inimitable Oscar Robertson five times. Harden heads into a new week at a robust 28.7 PPG and 12.5 APG, which means he's still nearly doubling his assist norm from last season (7.5 APG).
Al Horford and Jae Crowder made such a difference in their long-awaited returns from injury, setting up the Celts to inflict Detroit's first home L of the season. Perhaps we should let them settle back in after absences of nine and eight games, respectively, before making too many firm judgments about these guys. Isaiah Thomas, meanwhile, is averaging 26.2 PPG, which would set a new single-season franchise record for a club that's been blessed with 11 Hall of Fame guards.
Toronto is leading the league in Sunday misery after the way things finished up in Sacramento, but the Thunder haven't exactly enjoyed the occasion, either, after tacking an OT home loss to Indy onto the narrow L in Serge Ibaka's OKC homecoming the previous week. What makes this latest defeat even tougher to take: Russell Westbrook was just 3-for-25 in his career on game-tying or go-ahead 3s in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter or OT before the triple he hit that appeared to save the Thunder against the Pacers.
All the understandable hoopla surrounding Marc Gasol's dagger 3 from the corner to take down the Clippers -- as well as the ensuing celebration we're guessing you've heard about by now -- has camouflaged the fact Gasol is shooting just 41.1 percent from the field in the new season compared to a career success rate of .503 coming into 2016-17. There are fresh concerns about Chandler Parsons' health, too, but let's not completely ignore Memphis' impressive four-game win streak.
We are big, big fans of Utah's full-time return to the J-note logo and even the sleeved variety of its jersey that got some good national TV exposure last Thursday night when they played host to Chicago. Fashion, however, is suddenly where the compliments start and stop for this Jazz, thanks to a four-game skid in which they've been exposed as a team that doesn't function nearly as well offensively without new point guard George Hill, who has been shelved for eight straight games thanks to a thumb injury.
The Blazers are up to 4-0 now when C.J. McCollum scores 30+ points after Sunday's rout of the Nets, but their brilliant backcourt can't cover up all the problems that have cropped up on the boards and on D. Portland awoke Monday ranked 29th in rebound rate and a sobering 30th in defensive efficiency, backing up Damian Lillard's "we kind of suck right now" assertion. The Blazers, furthermore, can only claim one win over a team with a winning record (Memphis) at this stage.
If the Pacers indeed have nothing left for Monday night's home date with Golden State, one suspects they won't mind too much. Not after they escaped OKC on Sunday night with precious Road Win No. 1, which Indy achieved without the injured Paul George (or C.J. Miles) and after surviving a triple from Russell Westbrook that forced OT. Can't worry about the Warriors, either, when it's not yet clear, on top of all the Pacers' ups and downs already, how long PG-13 will be shelved.
After a couple narrow losses (by seven points combined) to teams with a composite record of 19-7 (San Antonio and Atlanta), Miami welcomed back Goran Dragic and promptly showed some life with a couple wins. Hassan Whiteside, meanwhile, continues to put up numbers -- against what ESPN's computer ranks as the league's toughest schedule to date -- that have to make him a legit contender to spend All-Star Weekend in New Orleans if this sort of production persists.
You have to believe the Dubs will be ready when Luke Walton makes his return to Golden State on Wednesday. Surely you haven't forgotten that the Lakers won the teams' last two meetings by a combined 37 points and hounded Steph Curry and Klay Thompson into combined 3-for-38 shooting from long range in those shockers. One would imagine Walton, with his upstart squad starting to come back down to Earth, would rather not have to see the Warriors on either side of Thanksgiving as the schedule requires.
The Wolves' well-chronicled habit of third-quarter collapses and their offensive struggles in general while Ricky Rubio was out injured make it wholly unfair to suggest Andrew Wiggins' inconsistency is the prime culprit in Minnesota's 4-8 start. There's also no way to ignore it completely when Wiggins has played so much better in the Wolves' wins (32.0 PPG, .629 shooting, 5.3 RPG, 4.3 APG, 34.6 PER) compared to their losses (22.5 PPG, .405 shooting, 4.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 14.2 PER).
The compelling and courageous candor coming regularly from Stan Van Gundy on matters grander than basketball has understandably gotten most of the November attention where the Pistons are concerned. Yet it's clear that, on the floor, Detroit is feeling the strain of life without Reggie Jackson more with each passing day. The schedule is about to heap more stress on after this week's three home dates, too, with nine of 13 games on the road looming for a team that's 1-7 outside of Detroit.
Phil Jackson offends LeBron James and the two NBA power-brokers who've co-captained Team LeBron for years. Kristaps Porzingis riddles Detroit for 35 points to ever-so-briefly give the Zen Master some relief from the mounting criticism of his reign to date. Then the Knicks, after a team meeting in Phil's presence, beat the Hawks to improve to 6-1 when Derrick Rose scores 15 points or fewer ... compared to 0-6 when D-Rose exceeds 15 points. A wild, wild week, even by MSG standards.
The prospect of a three-win week must have felt thoroughly out of reach for the Pelicans during that interminable 0-8 start. Yet it's already clear, after just one weekend back-to-back with their point guard back, what a difference Jrue Holiday makes as a steadying force alongside Anthony Davis, who just rumbled for his league-leading fourth game in the last four seasons with at least 35 points, 15 boards and three blocks in Saturday night's 121-116 triumph over Charlotte.
Remember when visiting teams feared the Mile High air of Denver? These Nuggets were the last team in the league, believe it or not, to win a home game this season, finally breaking through in the past week with W's over Phoenix and Utah to sandwich around an OT loss to Toronto at the Pepsi Center. On the more hopeful side: Emmanuel Mudiay, pestered constantly about his turnover problems, had 23 assists to just five TOs in those three games we mentioned.
The Magic sport the league's third-worst nightly point differential (-7.3), better only than Dallas (-7.4) and Philadelphia (-10.4). They're also ranked 28th in offensive efficiency, while not yet nearly as fearsome on D (13th in defensive efficiency) as expected when this group was assembled. You take in all those numbers and inevitably conclude that Orlando has to feel somewhat fortunate to be off to 6-7 start unless that's merely a function of its favorable schedule so far.
After the Bucks' recent narrow setbacks to Dallas and New Orleans, teams that were struggling hugely when they saw them, Giannis Antetokounmpo & Co. really could have used more than the moral victory they scored Saturday night by throwing another almighty scare into Golden State. Milwaukee has suddenly has lost five of six and needs to take advantage of yet another scheduling break that presents two games each against Orlando and Brooklyn between now and Dec. 3.
The Kings clearly need more Sunday night games against Toronto. Twice this month, Sacramento has lugged a four-game skid into the final hours of the weekend against the Raptors and promptly manufactured a win few expected. Of course, it should also be noted that the Kings have held the Raps under 100 points in both meetings, something they've managed only twice in their other 12 games. The Kings' D (29th overall) shouldn't be so weak when they're playing at a bottom-five pace.
If you felt sorry for the Raptors when they had to play host to Golden State on the night after losing at Cleveland, spare a thought for the poor Nets. They're the only other team scheduled to play the last two NBA champions on consecutive days this season and right before Christmas to boot. On Dec. 22, Brooklyn plays host to Golden State. On Dec. 23, it's Nets at Cavs. Brooklyn, by the way, has plenty of pressing concerns after allowing 127, 124, 124 and 129 points in its last four games, all of them L's.
Ian Mahinmi is back on the practice floor and Markieff Morris appears to have dodged serious injury when he tweaked his ankle in a home loss to Miami. These can be classified as upbeat developments for the Wizards in their current state, which features very little tangible D (25th overall) as confirmed against the Heat, with the Wiz falling short despite the fact it was the first time in their time together that both John Wall and Bradley Beal scored at least 30 points in the same game.
The good: Phoenix snapped a string of 25 consecutive games surrendering 100 points or more with its bench-fueled win at Indiana last week. It was the league's longest such streak, believe it or not, since Golden State's 25-gamer that began late in the 2009-10 season and stretched into the 2010-11 campaign. The problem: Phoenix sandwiched that win, which featured a whopping 78 points from its reserves, with heavy road defeats at Denver and Philly by a combined 31 points.
If Joel Embiid lines up Monday night against Hassan Whiteside and the Heat, it'll be the 10th NBA game of his career. Of course, even if Embiid doesn't play, he'll have made more 3-pointers already -- 10 in 198 minutes -- than Stephen Curry did in his first 10 games as a pro (nine in 277 minutes). And if you think we're reaching wildly now for any pro-Embiid stat that our ESPN Stats & Info bro Micah Adams will feed us just because we've been stricken with Embiid Fever ... guilty.
While it's true that they've played a lot of road games (eight) and even more without Dirk Nowitzki (nine) so far, there's no way to spare the Mavs from the dreaded rankings cellar as currently constituted. The cold reality, with Dirk still out indefinitely, is that Dallas' run of 16 consecutive seasons with a record of .500 or better is already in real jeopardy. ESPN's trusty Basketball Power Index says Mark Cuban & Co. have a mere 0.2-percent chance of getting to 41 wins this time.