The beginning of the season is a nebulous time. Whether you're trying to make out the pretenders from the contenders or guess what lineup Pop will throw out on any given night (which, when you're writing previews, can be slightly maddening), the murky view of the league-scape makes it hard to paint a real picture of where 'power' really lies.
A perfect example of this is our San Antonio Spurs, who are all over the place in the power rankings of our writers. They're inside the top 5 of three lists and outside the top 10 in two. At 5-4, San Antonio isn't really in a bad place -- especially considering how the team hobbled into the season. But it has meant Pop playing his guys more than he'd perhaps like. The Spurs have also relied more on the defense than expected, surprising considering Tiago Splitter's prolonged absence.
It's on the offensive end where the struggles have mounted, as a poor offensive rating and mediocre outside shooting have brought last year's point-scoring juggernaut down to earth. They're barely in the top half of point differential and behind only the Lakers, Celts, Kings and Bucks in terms of worst three-point shooting. Just like the team's current place in most rankings, we can expect these numbers to change -- and the shift could begin soon.
Aside from a Wednesday battle against LeBron's new/old team, the schedule gets a lot lighter for the rest of the month of November, giving San Antonio plenty of opportunities to climb back up the hypothetical hype hump, starting with tonight's game against a team whose name might be eclipsed by its loss total this season.
Marc Stein from ESPN, (Spurs rank: 4, last week's rank: 7)
Cannot tell a lie: There was some second-guessing by the committee (of one) after dropping the Spurs only to No. 7 amid just the fifth sub-.500 start through five games for any reigning champ since the NBA/ABA merger in '76-77. A road sweep of the Warriors and Clips then quickly took care of that.
Drew Garrison from SBNation NBA (Spurs rank: 5, last week's rank: 6)
This is why it's hard so hard to drop the Spurs' ranking despite their early struggles. They just went 3-1 on a road trip through California, beating the Clippers, Warriors and Lakers before dropping a close one to the Kings in their final game before heading back home. Good week for the Spurs, bad week for West Coast teams playing the silver and black.
Mark J. Spears from Yahoo! Sports (Spurs rank: 10, last week's rank: 9)
The reigning champions face LeBron James Wednesday in Cleveland for the first time since the NBA Finals.
USA Today (Spurs rank: 11, last week's rank: 11)
Cory Joseph's development has made Patty Mills' injury a non-factor.
John Schuhmann from NBA.com (Spurs rank: 5, last week's rank: 9)
The Spurs righted the ship a little bit with impressive, back-to-back road wins over the Clippers and Warriors. But something's wrong when Tony Parker is their best 3-point shooter, and it may be time to start worrying about Tiago Splitter, a vital cog who has been able to play just 10 minutes this season, dealing with some unexplained pain in his right calf.
Matt Moore from CBSSports.com (Spurs rank: 13, last week's rank 2)
Putting them here because of uninspired play and missing starters is the basketball equivalent of a gunfighter telling the young hotshot to pick up his gun.