FD Power Rankings Week 1
The latest Outside the NBA/FD joint venture.
I can't promise we'll keep these up regularly, or that they will even change that much. But it seemed like an idea whose time had come, so Eric and I spent about twenty minutes putting this list together, straight from the gut. Leave your suggestions in the comments section!
1. Monta Ellis: Longtime FD favorite makes good, and how. All it took was Nellie's retirement for Monta to trust his teammates, play nice with Steph Curry, and mature into one of the league's prime offensive weapons without sacrificing a bit of his life force. If anything, grown-ass Monta -- in the preseason, he blamed his new outlook on marriage -- is a more sublime figure than before. His crossover is nearly effortless; the writhing drives and hopped-up floaters now look anything but forced. This is style, and other than Blake Griffin, there's no player in the NBA right now as regularly rewarding to watch. That it feels like it could end any day only makes the whole thing more beautiful.
2. Blake Griffin: At this point, the only surprise from Griffin is that he continues to amaze more and more every game. His all-out attack philosophy would grow stale if not for the fact that he plays with an insatiable need to devour the oppposition. If he doesn't sit at the top of this list, it's only because you know about him already.
3. Hating the Cavs: A few months ago, the Cavs were the world's most pitiable losers, shamed by their former star and ready to face the new season with moral superiority. But the actions of Dan Gilbert and his roving band of immature sign-carrying fans have turned the entire franchise into a group of sore losers who think anger alone can bring others to their side. They're the NBA's version of the Tea Party crowd, just with slightly fewer guns.
4. Timberwolves: As one Minny broadcaster put it, "we may not always be happy with the outcome, but the fans love to watch this team and they sure do give you a lot to get excited about." Kevin Love is simply phenomenal, and early returns suggest that Al Jefferson really did need to go. Michael Beasley can't quite flex his muscle like he did at K-State, but he's quicker and probably in better shape. Darko is a legit presence in the middle. Corey Brewer is really long. Wesley Johnson is a nice guy's J.R. Smith. If they're not getting blown out, the Wolves are definitely a team that will force a shoot-out and make you love every minute of it.
5. Black Swan: Darren Aronofsky's latest deals largely with an old FD standby -- the struggle between cool professionalism and messy romanticism -- but its best virtue is the director's ability to forget about what's respectable and engage in the kind of risky mindfuckery that's missing from too much art-house fare. The last 45 minutes of this movie piles craziness on top of craziness -- it will leave you either in a state of shock or cackling in a mixture of delight and terror.
6. Raymond Felton: Any son of UNC is a friend of this blog, but Felton -- who looked so good at Carolina, and was very briefly lumped in with Chris Paul and Deron Williams -- had the added burden of real promise. The Knicks looked sensible when they signed him over the summer; if Chris Duhon could put up numbers in D'Antoni's system, then certainly Felton could manage something. But little did we realize that, one month into the season, Felton might turn out to be the steal of the summer. His numbers are top-flight, and every game we watch him, he looks more and more in synch with Amar'e and Gallo. To wit: Stoudemire's own explosive week, which suggests that the "can he live without Nash?" question just might be moot.
7. Manu Ginobili: The Spurs have never been much of an NBA favorite, yet they have become a commendable lot in their increasingly successful dotage. With Duncan near the end of the line, Ginobili has become their on-court leader, molding the team's system in his eccentric image while maintaining the club's impressive attention to detail and regal air.
8. Larry Sanders: He has arrived. Well, actually, he's getting minutes because Gooden is dinged up. But Sanders is pretty much as advertised -- a shot-blocking demon who can pressure the ball and make athletic plays on offense. When Jennings tossed him a prime alley-oop against Miami, it was like watching a dating show where everything goes right and everyone ends up happy forever. Bonus point for the totally FD tandem he and Ersan Ilyasova make for.
9. Chris Paul is too nice to blame: No matter what happens with the Hornets, and what part Paul's plans (or lack thereof) play in the outcome, there's no way dude takes a LeBron-like hit. He's too good a guy, and has done too much for the city. Plus, he was a refugee from Katrina, too, exiled to OKC for two seasons and never once flinching in his commitment to return. It's simply unreasonable to expect him to agree to stick around just to make the franchise more sale-able -- and thus more likely to remain in New Orleans.
10. Shoals loves Derrick Rose, pass it on: Russell Westbrook is a monster. Yes, like the song. Unlike Monta, who streamlined his act, Westbrook somehow got even more unpredictable and incendiary -- and popped out on the other side a bonafide All-Star. Anecdotally, or spiritually, he turns the ball over at least 400 times a game, and still makes a play almost every time he decides he wants to. What prompted this transformation? He spent all summer working out with Derrick Rose, and in Istanbul, competed against him in practice. Now, their destinies are inextricably linked. Rose helped make Westbrook what he is this seasons, and vice-versa; they learned from each other, and on this very rock they started a mutant point guard tradition that may be carried on for decades. So yeah, I like Derrick Rose now. Sorry for the inconvenience.