Last Week's Rank - 2
Now the NBA is down to one unbeaten team and Paul primarily is responsible, with his play and with his leadership. His stats weren't breathtaking in victories over Miami, Milwaukee and the Clippers, though he did get the compliment of seeing the Bucks' 6-foot-8 Luc Mbah a Moute assigned to him as Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles sought ways to cut down on Paul's passing lanes and otherwise pester him. "The goal is to not let him get in the paint," Skiles said. "But that's every team's goal."
Last Week's Rank --
What did Williams do this week, besides boosting himself close to Paul in MVP consideration the way those two split so many best-PG debates? He had 30 points and seven assists against the Clippers, 21 and 14 at Miami and 30 and 14 at Orlando. Utah wound up with two victories in overtime, two on a dreaded back-to-back in Florida and all three as the result of terrific comebacks. (Special mention in the MVP teammate category: Paul Millsap averaged 31.3 points and nine boards, while shooting 61 percent in the three games.)
Last Week's Rank - 8
Gasol is averaging 2.5 fewer points than Bryant but he has a big lead in rebounds (11.8 to 5.4) and is even leading his backcourt pal in assists (a team-high 4.4 to Bryant's 4.3). The Western Conference's player of the week in Week 2, Gasol is averaging two fewer shots than Bryant but one more "make," thaks to 52.9 percent shooting (Bryant is at 42.2). And while he sputtered in the loss at Denver Thursday (6-of-17), the lanky Spaniard still finished with 17 points and 20 rebounds.
Last Week's Rank - 3
In about 82 minutes against the Miami Heat, spread across two meetings, the Celtics point guard has passed for 33 assists with only six turnovers. His overall ratio is nearly as good -- 134 to 35 -- and he has set up 15 or more Boston baskets six times in nine games.
Last Week's Rank --
If not for Gasol, this could have been an all-point guard Top 5. Rose ranks fourth among all NBA players at 37.0 in combined points, rebounds and assists. He is as vital to the Bulls as Paul and Williams are to their clubs, had Chicago winning the games it was supposed to in advance of a grueling road stretch and ? save for his 45.5 percent shooting decline -- shows the results of a busy but dedicated summer.
Last Week's Rank - 6
The league's leading scorer always is going to attract MVP votes. But Durant's efficiency isn't strong -- he ranks 23rd, 10 spots behind Elton Brand and five behind Roy Hibbert ? and his assists average is the lowest of his career. He has passed for more than four in a game yet.
Last Week's Rank - 1
Bryant needed 32 shots (making 11) to get there, but in the loss at Denver he scored a season-best 34 points and became the youngest player to reach 26,000 in a career. His 32 years, 80 days beat Wilt Chamberlain by 34 days.
Last Week's Rank - 7
Howard is scoring at a career-best pace and, with 58 percent accuracy on his field goals, is on track to outshoot himself from the foul line for the fourth time in seven seasons. But eight guys have had more double-doubles so far. Also, Orlando's last three opponents shot a combined 48.4 percent, which would rank among the league's worst. That isn't what Orlando or their two-time Defensive Player of the Year have come to expect.
Last Week's Rank - 4
It's not that Nowitzki played himself down in the rankings, it's just that last week was a special case with very strict criteria. Nowitzki this week sparked the Mavericks to victories over Boston and Memphis, and even on his 6-of-14 shooting night vs. the Grizzlies, he had a double-double (12 points, 10 boards) in less than 30 minutes.
Last Week's Rank - 5
Truth be told, the committee was prepared to slot in Dwyane Wade here until his almost listless performance against Boston Thursday night. He followed up games of 26, 28, 29 and 39 points with just eight as the Heat seemed stumped for way to get Wade and James going simultaneously. Ellis, on a downer night for Golden State (brutal loss at Chicago on tail end of road back-to-backs), still got his (24) for the 6-3 Warriors. Luis Scola, Al Horford or Millsap all might grab this rung if they keep playing as they have with sufficient team results.