Our league-wide barometer of NBA hype is back, where gut reactions are encouraged, losing streaks spell certain doom and small sample sizes are gospel. As the season goes on, we'll gauge the strikes and gutters, ups and downs of the Spurs campaign to repeat as champs. This time last year the Sixers were 3-0 and Michael Carter-Williams was the second coming of Magic Johnson, so it's safe to say most of this will look very different by season's end. Still, it provides an interesting weekly snapshot of the wild narratives each NBA season provides, and is especially satisfying to review when things end as they did last year.
With the short-handed Spurs starting from the top, a drop was to be expected at some point. But even with the early loss to Phoenix, San Antonio held onto the top spot on a few lists, while not falling further than fourth in others. Most writers are giving the team a pass, based on their credentials and the challenge of playing without three key players.
This week is no cakewalk, with the Hawks, Rockets and Pelicans all on the slate. Some of the league's most talented big men are featured on those teams, so the Spurs will be especially happy to welcome back rim-protector and pick-and-roll maven Tiago Splitter. Splitter missed the preseason and the first two games of the regular season with a calf injury, and his insertion into the rotation, along with Kawhi Leonard returning to form should be a boon to the team.
Austin Daye increased his career Power Rankings shout-outs to two with, well, two mentions this week. It may not be for the best reasons, but with a team as steady as San Antonio any novelty is a talking point.
A further look from top to bottom on most power rankings confirms what we all assumed about the league's conference balance. Even with the Thunder having its less-than-ideal start to the season, the top of each list is heavy with Western Conference teams. Again it's early, but the distribution is one thing I don't expect to change.
Marc Stein from ESPN, (Spurs rank: 1, last week's rank: 1)
Quite a week looming for the champs. Tim Duncan is in fine form and Kawhi Leonard has finally returned from three weeks' worth of eye issues, but Thursday night calls for a visit to Houston after going 0-4 against the Rockets last season followed by this season's first TD-Anthony Davis duel at home.
Marc J. Spears from Yahoo! Sports (Spurs rank: 4, last week's rank: 1)
The reigning NBA champions will be tested this week against the Hawks, Rockets and Pelicans.
Drew Garrison from SBNation NBA (Spurs rank: 1, last week's rank: N/R)
The Spurs didn't come galloping out of the gates, but they picked up a strong win over the Dallas Mavericks sans Kawhi Leonard to stay atop our Power Rankings. It's just too early to unseat the champions. Plus, they're trying to get away with starting Austin Daye while Tiago Splitter misses time, which deserves some sort of award. San Antonio will have to have a better Week 2 or there's a good chance they'll step down from the power ranking throne. There's your one-time "champions" pass.
USA Today (Spurs rank: 1, last week's rank: N/R)
The defending champions drew much respect after an offseason spent maintaining. Coming off a historic playoff performance, the Spurs were first on six of nine ballots. Every year it becomes harder to imagine them ever falling out of the top five or so.
John Schuhmann from NBA.com (Spurs rank: 4, last week's rank: 1)
In case you still had The Finals on your mind, Friday's loss in Phoenix was a reminder that the Spurs sometimes play like a regular basketball team, and that Austin Daye (who got the surprise start) is on their roster. At this rate, Tony Parker is going to match his 2013-14 3-pointer total (25) by late next week. He shot 6-for-6 from deep in the first two games.
Matt Moore from CBSSports.com (Spurs rank: 2, last week's rank 1)
The loss to the Suns was a bit of a stunner, but taking out Dallas on opening night without Splitter or Kawhi Leonard was... well, very Spurs. They stay this high based on being the champs and the injuries they're still coping with.