After a short month to start proceedings the NBA got down to business in November and some of the results are quite shocking.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, after taking a shellacking on social media to start November, are now the NBA’s hottest team, having won nine straight to end the month with one to go on Thursday night in Atlanta.

Right behind them in the Eastern Conference, where no one expected them to be, are the Detroit Pistons, who have lost just six times all season.

A pretty interesting off-season saw plenty of change, though we think that the balance of power is still tipped toward the Warriors and Cavaliers. On the other side of that early-season equation were the hot starts by the Memphis Grizzlies and Orlando Magic.

That is not say they won’t be challenged, but the NBA is not a paragon of parity.

There is plenty to be excited about in this NBA season and with it comes SportsBreak’s November update to the Power Rankings.

Like hockey and football, we are only focusing on those teams we figure will contend for playoff spots (eight from the East and eight from the West), in ascending order.

16. New Orleans Pelicans – October Rank: N/A

The Pelicans have not played to expectations the last two seasons, winning a combined 64 games (losing 100) and missing the playoffs both years. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins form two-thirds of one of the best front courts in basketball, but the team overall just wasn’t getting it done. So, they brought in help in the back court for Jrue Holiday in the forms of point guards Jameer Nelson (9.2 PPG, 5.1 assists for Denver) and Rajan Rondo (7.8 PPG, 6.7 assists for Chicago). The also brought in 12-year veteran SG Tony Allen from Memphis and journeyman SG Ian Clark from Golden State (6.8 PPG, 37.4 percent three-point shooting).

November Results: The Pelicans draw into the rankings at the expense of the L.A. Clippers, who are in deep doo-doo without Blake Griffin. An 8-6 month of November saw a few highlights — wins over OKC and San Antonio — and a few lowlights — a blowout loss to Denver and back to back losses to Golden State and Minnesota to end the month. Boogie has been a superstar, averaging 25.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.62 steals and 1.57 blocks per game. 

A look ahead: It’s a balanced month of December that finds ‘Nawlins on the road for eight and home for seven, with four sets of back-to-back contests. The start of the month is particularly tough for the 11-10 Pelicans, as they are in Utah and then Portland back-to-back this weekend, followed by a four-game home stand that features Golden State, Denver and Philadelphia.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

15. Oklahoma City Thunder – October Rank: 7

The Thunder, after losing Kevin Durant to free agency, finally gave all-world point guard and reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook some serious talent to play with. First, they dealt Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana for all-star and elite defensive swing man Paul George. Then, they heisted all-star power forward Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second rounder. And with that, this version of the Thunder is an instant contender, that is, if this trio can gel together without egos getting in the way. Forgotten, we think, in all the off-season hullabaloo was the improved play of fifth-year center Steven Adams and what he will bring to the table, as well as the quiet acquisition of back-up power forward Patrick Patterson from Toronto. Expect big things from the Thunder in 2017-18.

November Results: We are only putting OKC here because we believe they are way better than there 8-12 record, which puts them in ninth in the Western Conference. Whatever the team needs to do to get Westbrook, George and Melo gelling, they ought to get down to business. Westbrook hasn’t been as prolific in the triple-double category as his ridiculous 16-17 season, but still has six in 19 games. As a team, a 4-9 November has no excuses. After opening with four straight losses, they won three in a row to show signs of a turnaround. But, they have dropped five of six since and their last three. They get one month in the rankings to turn it around.

A look ahead: The schedule maker was easy on them in November, but stuck it to the Thunder in December with 17 games (only two back-to-backs). To their credit, just six are on the road, of which five are in the first nine games. They end the month with seven of eight at home.

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

14. Milwaukee Bucks

Just by virtue of having the Greek Freak on their roster makes the Bucks a force to be reckoned with at the bottom of the Eastern Conference pecking order. What the Bucks will have to contend with, however, is an injury to second leading scorer Jabari Parker that will keep him out of the line-up until February. John Henson, his understudy in 2016-17, will have to pick up some of the scoring slack along with Mirza Teletovic and first round draft pick D.J Wilson (should he make the starting line-up out of camp). Giannis Antetokounmpo, the aforementioned freak, has the ability to carry this team on his back and will likely improve on his career best marks from last season (22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.9 blocks). One dark horse in camp, Gary Payton II, has lit it up and may be a force like his old man down the road.

November Results: Milwaukee was extremely streaky in November, which keeps them on the low end of the power rankings. The Bucks started November by losing three straight (all on the road), then winning four straight (including three at home). They concluded the month going 3-3. As was expected, much of the credit for victories goes to Antetokounmpo, who is the second leading scorer in the NBA with 29.2 PPG. He also has hauled down 10.1 rebounds, recorded 1.79 blocks and dished out 4.5 assists. Newly acquired PG Eric Bledsoe has done a fantastic job, averaging 16.7 points, 5.0 assists and 2.1 steals in 10 games since coming over.

A look ahead: The Bucks must have been good, since Santa awarded them nine home dates in December, with just five on the road (and all single trips, no stringed together dates). However, they do have four sets of back-to-backs, including a home-and-home with Charlotte just before Christmas and then a home-road against Minnesota and OKC, respectively, to end the month.

(AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

13. Washington Wizards – October Rank: 8

The East isn’t a strong conference and of all the teams not named Cleveland, the Wizards can make a serious move up. That is, if the front court can bring their game up to the level of back court stars Bradley Beal and John Wall. Both Beal and Wall scored 23.1 points per game last season for the fourth place Wiz. Wall’s career year also included highs in assists (10.7), steals (2.0) and field goal shooting (45.1 percent). Up front, fifth-year starting forward Otto Porter Jr. brings enough scoring (13.4 PPG) and defence (6.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals) to the mix. The question marks surround veteran center Marcin Gortat and starting power forward Jason Smith. Neither would be considered elite, so back-ups like PF Markieff Morris (14.0 PPG in 2016-17) and veteran center Ian Mahinmi need to put in good minutes.

November Results: It was a strange month for the Wiz, who went 7-8 with varied results to sit in eighth in the East at 11-10. They beat strong clubs in Milwaukee, Toronto and Minnesota, all on the road, but fell at home to Phoenix and Dallas. Like the Denver Nuggets and injured Paul Millsap, the Wizards will have to deal with the absence of John Wall for a couple of weeks. Journeyman PG Tim Frazier will be pressed to pick up the slack for Wall, who was third in assists in the NBA with 9.2 per game. He has started five of 21 games and has scored 3.6 points and 3.8 assists per game. It will also be incumbent on Bradley Beal (23.2 PPG) and Otto Porter Jr. (15.9 PPG) to kick things up a notch too, scoring wise.

A look ahead: The first two weeks of December, where Wall will likely be out, is savage for Washington. They are at home to Detroit Friday night, then embark on a five-game road swing that goes through the Western conference and ends in Brooklyn on Dec. 12. That game is followed by home dates with Memphis (Dec. 13) and the Clippers (Dec. 15). Phew. Of 16 games in the month, eight are at home and eight away, with three back-to-backs.

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

12. Denver Nuggets – October Rank: 16

Just like the Heat in the Eastern Conference, the Nuggets barely missed the playoffs last spring, finishing one game back of Portland. But, they didn’t have four-time All-Star and defensive stalwart Paul Millsap on the roster like they do now. He doesn’t instantly give the Nuggets an instant lock on a post-season berth but he sure will improve their fortunes to the point we think they will get in. He will replace the scoring void left by PF Danilo Gallinari and play more stout defence. Denver’s front court is now scary good, with C Nikola Jokic (16.7 PPG, 7.0 rebounds) entering his third season and SF Wilson Chandler coming off his best season in 10. The front court is young and athletic, with shooting guard Gary Harris getting better year over year (42 percent shooting from 3-point range last year) and point guards Emmaneul Mudiay and Jamal Murray learning the quarterbacking ropes.

November Results: Denver will have to overcome the loss of Paul Millsap if they want to remain in the running for the post-season. The all-star forward injured his wrist against the Lakers in mid-November and had to undergo surgery. He will be out three months. To their credit, the Nuggets have won three of five since he was out to finish November 12-9, good for sixth place in the Western Conference. What will help the team is balance, as six players, including Millsap, were in double figures in scoring, from Emmanuel Mudiay at 10.3 to Nikola Jokic at 15.5. Second year PF Trey Lyles has seen more floor time in Millsap’s vacant place and has played fairly well.

A look ahead: If the Nuggets do have designs on the playoffs, they are going to have to weather a six-game road trip east after they host the Lakers on Saturday. It’s a butt-kicker of a month that will see Denver play 10 of 15 away from the Mile High City, with three sets of back-to-back games thrown in for good measure.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

11. Indiana Pacers – October Rank: N/A

After losing veterans Paul George, Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis and C.J. Miles, many expected that the 2017-18 season would be a rebuilding one for the Pacers. In their stead came SG Victor Oladipo from Oklahoma City (15.9 PPG in 2016-17), SF Bojan Bogdanovic from Washington (12.7 PPG, 39.1 percent three-point shooting), PF Domantas Sabonis from OKC (5.9 PPG, 3.6 rebounds) and PG Darren Collison from Sacramento (13.2 PPG, 4.6 assists). Holdovers like C Myles Turner (14.5 PPG, 7.3 rebounds) and PF Thaddeus Young (11 PPG, 6.1 rebounds), are expected to help gel the new-look unit. First round pick, PF T.J. Leaf out of UCLA (18th overall), could also get more floor time due to the exodus of players.

November Results: Absolutely no one would have given the Pacers any kind of chance to compete, but they have. While they were not great in November (8-7 record) neither were they really horrible, finishing the month in seventh place with a 12-10 overall mark. An early four-game losing streak was followed by a nice five-game winning streak later in the month. Oladipo is the surprise performer, leading all Pacers with 22.8 points per game, along with 3.9 assists, 1.81 steals and 1.05 blocks. Collison has been another nice addition, leading the team in assists with 6.5 per game (11th in the NBA).

A look ahead: The Pacers open the month with a game in Toronto Friday night, then stay home for six in a row, with key tilts against the Knicks, Cleveland, OKC (the return of George) and Detroit. After that they alternate their last eight games, four on the road and four more at home.

(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

10. Toronto Raptors – October Rank: 10

Are the Raptors a serious contender, or just another Eastern Conference also ran? They have been knocked out of the playoffs two years in a row by a Cleveland team that got better this off-season, so the needle points to also ran. However, this is still a playoff caliber club that played better defence in 2016-17, what with the addition of starting PF Serge Ibaka. On the other side, the Raps made a decent move in free agency by getting veteran SF C.J. Miles, who was a dependable spot starter with the Indiana Pacers, shooting a career high 41.3 percent from beyond the arc in 2016-17. The secret sauce for Toronto will be getting veteran point guard Kyle Lowry some rest so he can be fresh for the playoffs, which means youngsters Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet will be leaned on hard for bigger minutes this season. Much will also depend on all-star SG DeMar DeRozan duplicating his fantastic 2016-17 campaign (27.3 PPG, 5.2 rebounds).

November Results: It was another month of “two steps forward, one step back” for the high scoring 13-7 Raptors (9-5 in November, fourth in the NBA in points per game at 110.4). That is, an early big win over Utah was followed by a thumping from Washington. Later, a four-game win streak with victories over the likes of Houston and Washington was spoiled by consecutive losses to the Knicks and Indiana. DeMar DeRozan has been the most consistent and leads all Raptors in scoring with 23.3 points. Kyle Lowry continues to be impressive from three-point range, including a superb 8-for-11 in a big win over Charlotte Wednesday night. Newcomer C.J. Miles has added nice scoring off the bench (10.4 PPG).

A look ahead: It’s a road heavy month as Toronto plays eight away from the ACC. The Raps have a Western swing that sees them play four games between Dec. 8 and 13 and then four of five on the road between Dec. 20 and 27. Thankfully, Toronto only has one set of back-to-backs (at Dallas and OKC Dec. 26-27).

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

9. Minnesota Timberwolves – October Rank: 9

To the detriment of many teams ahead of them in the Western Conference standings last year, the T-Wolves got a whole lot better in the off-season and will supplant a few of them (including Utah and Memphis). In fact, we don’t see any reason that Minny could flip that 31-51 record around this year. The acquisition of all-star swing man Jimmy Butler from Chicago and PG Jeff Teague from Indiana makes the Timberwolves a scary good club right out of the gate. And that front court, wow. Veteran Taj Gibson was brought in from Oklahoma City to round out a frighteningly good trio that features C Karl-Anthony Towns and SF Andrew Wiggins. And if getting Jimmy Butler was good enough, the team also signed uber sixth man and shooter Jamal Crawford to back up him up. This team will be in the playoffs next spring — and make some noise, too.

November Results: It was an up-and-down month for the new look T-Wolves, who never slumped or surged and finished November 9-6 to go to 13-9 overall. That puts them middle of a dense pack in the Western Conference with little breathing from third to eighth. Like Philadelphia in the east, Minnesota can score (107.8 PPG, 10th best), but their not that good at defending (107.2 against, tied for 20th worst). Karl-Anthony Towns has been monster so far, leading the team in points (20.4), rebounds (11.7, sixth in the NBA) and blocks (1.27, 19th overall). Newcomers Jimmy Butler (1.8 steals, eighth overall) and Jeff Teague (7.5 assists, fifth overall) have made important contributions.

A look ahead: December won’t be any easier for Minnesota, as they have another 15-game slate awaiting them, with eight on the road. In their favor, the Timberwolves only have two back-to-backs and a nice five-game homestand in the middle of the month. They end it by playing five of six on the road.

(AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)

8. Philadelphia 76ers – October Rank: 15

We will soon find out if the 76ers bold move to trade up in the NBA draft to get star point guard Markelle Fultz was a good thing. The Sixers now have the last two no. 1’s in their line-up, including PF Ben Simmons, who was a scoring threat and defensive leader in the pre-season. Fultz, who is dealing with a couple of slight injuries, only played two games in the pre-season and will a second unit player to start the regular season behind Jarryd Bayless. The Sixers front court situation was solidified by the acquisition of premier three-point shooter J.J. Redick. He is a career 41.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc and will provide oodles of leadership on a youngish team. The Sixers playoff hopes will also depend on the contributions of centers Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. Embiid, a defensive wizard, needs to remain healthy and Okafor should give the Sixers reason not to trade him (as has been rumored) with better all around play.

November Results: A 3-4 October morphed into an 9-5 November that pushed the 76ers into the playoff conversation. The plucky squad, led by a re-energized Joel Embiid and super rookie Ben Simmons, beat some very good clubs last month, like Utah, (twice), Portland, Washington and the L.A. Clippers (before Blake Griffin went down). The Sixers are the sixth highest scoring team in the NBA (108.5), owing much to some great three-point shooting from J.J. Redick (40.3 percent) and Robert Covington (41.7 percent).

A look ahead: December might be a butt-kicker, since Philly closes the 15-game month with nine of 12 on the road. After a three-game home stand, they jet to Cleveland, New Orleans and Minnesota. Later in the month, they are home to Toronto on Dec. 21, then embark on a month-ending five-game road swing, starting in Toronto on the 23rd and ending on New Year’s eve in Phoenix.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

 

7. Portland Trail Blazers – October Rank: 12

In a tough and nasty Western Conference, the balance of power, at least in the lower echelons has shifted, but only slightly. The Trail Blazers, who finished eighth last year and were first round playoff fodder, are going to find it real hard to maintain that footing, considering they were just 41-41 last year. They return a good starting five from a year ago, highlighted by two-time All-NBA PG Damian Lillard (27.0 PPG, 5.9 assists), SG C.J. McCollum (23 PPG, 3.6 assists) and C Jusuf Nurkic (15.2 PPG, 10.4 rebounds). Portland didn’t make any significant free agent moves but did have a good draft, getting two players in the first round, including 10th overall pick Zach Collins from Gonzaga and 26th overall selection Caleb Swanigan from Purdue. As of the pre-season, Collins was third in depth at center and Swanigan third at power forward.

November Results: A quarter of the way into the 17-18 season, Portland finds itself right in the thick of things in the Western Conference. A recent successful road swing to the Eastern Conference, where the Trail Blazers won four of five, helped them salvage a 9-6 month for a 13-9 overall record. As usual, guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are the offensive catalysts, scoring 25.4 and 21.2 points per game, respectively. Defence, though, has been key to their fortunes, as they have limited opponents to just 99 points per game, third best in the NBA. Twin towers Jusuf Nurkic and Al-Farouq Aminu have been responsible for much of that stout D, registering 7.9 and 7.8 rebounds, as well as 1.23 and 1.11 blocks each.

A look ahead: A fairly light December sees Portland play 13 games in 31 days, with seven on the road. The opening of the month will be particularly trying, as the Blazers host New Orleans, Washington and Houston, before departing on a five-game road swing that includes visits to Golden State, Charlotte and Minnesota.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

6. Detroit Pistons – October Rank: 13

Detroit narrowly missed the post-season last year, finishing four games back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. That couldn’t have sat well with team president Stan Van Gundy, what with the team moving into the posh new Little Caesars Arena. They were soft and made some moves to improve toughness. On a team sporting PG Reggie Jackson and C Andre Drummond, the Pistons added SG Avery Bradley in a trade from Boston (16.3 PPG, 6.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals in 2016-17), SG Langston Galloway from Sacramento (7.9 PPG, 39 percent three-point shooting) and PF Anthony Tolliver from the Kings as well (7.1 PPG, 3.6 rebounds). First round draft pick SG Luke Kennard, taken 12th out of NCAA powerhouse Duke, will have plenty of time to acclimatize and apprentice under veteran shooters.

November Results: No one, maybe not even the Pistons themselves, saw this team in second place a quarter of the way into the 2017-18 season. But, there the Pistons are, sporting a great 14-6 record. A balanced attack has been key, with veteran forward Tobias Harris leading the charge at 19.1 points per game. Defence, though, has been the name of the game for Detroit, which is seventh overall in points against at 102.4 per game. Andre Drummond has been a catalyst in that department, leading the league in rebounds with 15.2 per game, including 9.9 defensive. He also has 1.15 blocks per game and 1.5 steals.

A look ahead: The Pistons, who are 6-4 on the road so far, open a 15-game month of December on a four-game road trip with key contests against Washington Friday night, then Philadelphia , San Antonio and Milwaukee in the space of six days. The return home won’t offer much of a respite, as Golden State, Boston and Denver all come to town before the middle of the month.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

 

5. Cleveland Cavaliers – October Rank: 5

Fresh off a disappointing lost to Golden State in the NBA finals, the Cavaliers didn’t stand pat in the off-season, freshening up a roster with trades and free agent moves. The Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas deal was the off-season’s most surprising and won’t bear fruit until Thomas returns from a hip injury early in the new year. In the meantime, it looks like free agent signee Derrick Rose will split duties at point with Jose Calderon. The Cavaliers also brought in LeBron James Miami sidekick Dwyane Wade in to start at shooting guard, which may or may not pay off, considering Wade’s age. The most tantalizing part of the Irving/Thomas swap was the inclusion of PF Jae Crowder, who increased his cred with two good years in Boston. The depth the Cavs have behind their stars is stunning and we see no reason they won’t repeat as Eastern Conference champs this season.

November Results: All the heat the Cavaliers took early on after a poor start seems to have fueled a recent surge. The Cavs won their 10th straight Thursday night to close out a superb month of November with a 12-3 record (15-7 overall, third in the Eastern Conference). And more good news is on the way for a team that has made do without a starting point guard for much of the season. Isaiah Thomas’ rehab of hip injuries is nearly over, which means Cleveland will be even more scary good soon. 

A look ahead: Cleveland’s schedule is actually pretty friendly in December, with only two back-to-backs. It’s an even split between road and home (seven and seven), but the end of the month could be punishing. They hit the road on Dec. 17 to take on Washington, and save for a home tilt with Chicago on Dec. 21, they have five away until the end of the month, including a Christmas day re-match at Golden State.

(Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

4. San Antonio Spurs – October Rank: 4

As good as the Golden State Warriors have been the past few seasons, there is a tendency to forget about the Spurs, who haven’t missed the playoffs in 20 years and got to the Western Conference finals against the Dubs last spring. The old guard from four championship clubs in the last 14 years are still kicking around, like Tony Parker, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobli, but for all intents and purposes now, this team belongs to all-star Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs are a deep and well coached bunch and in the off-season, they didn’t load up huge (didn’t need to), adding excellent depth at forward in journeyman Rudy Gay (18.7 PPG last year in 30 games). What the team will need is improved play in the rear from veteran SG Danny Green, as well as second-year PG Dejounte Murray. All in all, the Spurs are still solid.

November Results: It is a tough, tough ‘hood to play in, that Western Conference. And somehow, the Spurs find a way to compete night in and night out. They had a solid month, going 10-4, with a modest three-game winning streak at the end. They won in Charlotte by 20, then downed Dallas and Memphis at home. LaMarcus Aldridge is the offensive engine on a fairly old team that has learned to spread the scoring around in the absence of Kawhi Leonard. Promising second-year men PG Dejounte Murray (7.0 PPG, 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists) and SG Bryn Forbes (6.3 PPG, 42.6 percent three-point shooting), might make the future bright in south Texas.

A look ahead: The Spurs will put in 16 games of work in December, with nine on the road and three back-to-back contests. A five games in six days segment will be particularly harsh, as they play in Houston on Dec. 15, host Dallas on the 16th, the Clippers on the 18th and then play in Portland on the 2oth and Utah on the 21st.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

3. Boston Celtics – October Rank: 3

What an absolutely crazy off-season for the Eastern Conference’s first place club. The Celtics, who finished ahead of Cleveland last season — but couldn’t beat the Cavs in the playoffs — made several bold (and maybe even questionable) moves. First and foremost, they dealt all-star point guard Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to Cleveland for all-star point guard Kyrie Irving. Crazy. Second, they traded the rights to no. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz to Philadelphia, but still ended up with the third overall pick in SF Jayson Tatum. Third, they acquired all-star forward Gordon Hayward from Utah, and last, the Celts traded Avery Bradley to Detroit for Marcus Morris. Thus, this team was almost completely remade. We think for the better.

November Results: The Celtics just keep on, keepin’ on. Kyrie Irving and Co. at one point won a ridiculous 16 games in a row after opening with a pair of losses and finished November with a 14-2 mark to go 19-4 overall. We’re not about to anoint them no. 1 status, not until they show us that the pace they’re maintaining isn’t an aberration. Irving has been very good, leading a deep team with 23.4 points and 5.2 assists per game. Second year shooting guard Jaylen Brown has been great, as has rookie Jayson Tatum, who is shooting an astounding 48.6 percent from three-point territory.

A look ahead: December is going to be hell on the Celts, who play 17 total games and have four back-to-backs. However, just seven are on the road and no trip his more than three games, or goes past the central time zone.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

 

2. Houston Rockets – October Rank: 2

Adding Chris Paul to a back court that includes perennial MVP candidate Ryan Harden was like adding King Kong to a movie featuring Godzilla. The Rockets exponentially improved their chances in the Western Conference by trading seven players, a future first round pick and cash to the L.A. Clippers for one of the game’s elite offensive and defensive point guards. Harden scored 29.1 points per game last season and contributed a NBA high 11.2 assists, while Paul scored 18.1 points and dished out 9.2 dimes, along with superior defensive numbers. Additionally, the Rockets re-stocked their roster with another defensive stalwart in Toronto’s P.J Tucker, who will back up Trevor Ariza. Lesser signings included forward Luc Mbah a Moute from the Clippers, as well as Tarik Black from the Lakers. It will be interesting to watch the Rockets this year.

November Results: That six-game winning streak the Rockets are on right now is in no small part attributable to the appearance of Chris Paul at starting point guard. Finally in the line-up after an injury kept him out after the first game of the season, Paul has recorded two double-doubles in those six games, along with 11 steals. With that streak, the Rockets now occupy first in the West with a 17-4 record. Mr. Everything, James Harden, has stayed consistently hot this season and leads all scorers with 31.5 points per game. He also has seven double-doubles and two triple-doubles in 21 games.

A look ahead: Houston bookends a seven-game home stand in December with a three-game West Coast swing to start the month, then three on the road in OKC, Boston and Washington. They host the Lakers on New Year’s eve to end it. 

(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

1. Golden State Warriors – October Rank: 1

The reigning champion Dubs didn’t need to make any off-season moves to remain the class of the NBA, but they did anyway. To a team featuring the best starting five in the loop — Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Zaza Pachulia — the Warriors added Nick “Swaggy P” Young from the Lakers and reserve forward Omri Casspi from Sacramento. Heck, the Warriors subs could vie for a playoff spot. A reserve five of David West, JaVale McGee, Andre Iguodala, Young and Shaun Livingston could beat many team’s best quintets. And so it goes for the Warriors, who, if they stay healthy, will walk through the Western Conference again and on to another championship.

November Results: The defending champs put a fairly tepid (5-3) start in October in their rearview, reeling off six straight wins to start November and 11 of 14 overall. There weren’t many slouch teams in their path, either, as they beat San Antonio, Denver, Minnesota, Philadelphia (twice) and New Orleans. Steph Curry got hot along with Kevin Durant to carry the club most nights. Curry currently sits fourth in scoring with 26.1 PPG and has two double-doubles and is shooting 36.8 percent from three-point range. Along with 24.9 points, Durant leads the team in blocks with 34 (two per game).

A look ahead: Golden State plays 15 in December, starting with a five-game road trip through the east that starts in Orlando and ends in Detroit. After that, they only play one of 10 on the road, ending the month with a seven-game homestand that features a visit from archrival Cleveland on Christmas day.

(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)