Those who picked the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA title for a third-straight season did so because of one man: Kobe Bryant.
But this year, it's Bryant's wingman, Pau Gasol, who's leading the charge for the undefeated Purple and Gold.
Gasol leads the team with 23.4 points and, surprisingly, 4.8 assists per contest, and his 10.8 boards tie him with Lamar Odom for the team lead. On Sunday against the Trail Blazers, Gasol recorded his fourth career triple-double, netting 20 points, 14 rebounds and 10 dimes.
Kobe is playing well with 22.9 points per game, but it's Gasol who is keeping the Lakers on top.
NBA Power Rankings
Last week: No. 1
Pau Gasol has emerged as the best all-around center in the NBA, and he's not even a center. Pau's manning the low post, Lamar Odom's dominating at power forward, and the Lakers haven't skipped a beat this season with Andrew Bynum sidelined. If the defending champs are this good now, just imagine how scary they'll be at full strength.
Last week: No. 2
There are still questions about whether the C's veterans can put together a complete 48-minute effort. But with impressive wins this week over Milwaukee, Chicago and Oklahoma City, Boston affirmed its status this week as the top team in the Eastern Conference.
Last week: No. 3
The Heat have three amazing scorers at their disposal, but how are they all fitting together? LeBron James is less of a factor offensively than he's ever been, and Chris Bosh looks lost. This is the first time in his life he's been the third option. It might take a while for Miami's stars to learn their roles.
Last week: No. 4
For the longest time, the lack of a post game has been Dwight Howard's greatest weakness. It's still early, but it looks like D12 is starting to figure it out this season. If he does, look out.
Last week: No. 12
It's been a dream start for the undefeated Hornets — Chris Paul is the best point guard in the league again, Emeka Okafor is shooting a zillion percent, and the supporting cast has come together. They're making it look easy in the Big Easy.
Last week: No. 5
Portland's only three losses so far: at Chicago, in overtime against OKC, at the Lakers. Give 'em a pass. The Blazers will be 55-game winners when all's said and done.
Last week: No. 6
What do James Anderson, Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter have in common? Yes, that no one's ever heard of them, but also, they've all had fantastic starts for San Antonio off the bench this season. The Spurs are deeper than ever, which bodes well for the health of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili down the road.
Last week: No. 13
Excitement over the Hawks' rip-roaring 6-0 start was quickly tempered with back-to-back losses this week against the Suns and Magic. But as long as Al Horford and Josh Smith continue to dominate on the glass, the Hawks will continue to be a force in the East.
Last week: No. 8
Dirk Nowitzki proved Monday night that he can still be a crunch-time scorer in big games, carrying the Mavs past the Celtics. He's still one of the best closers in the league, and as long as that holds up, Dallas will always contend out West.
Last week: No. 15
The Nuggets are hard to figure out. On some nights, Carmelo Anthony's dominating and they win handily; on others, the Nuggets give up 144 points to the hapless Pacers and get laughed out of the building. A lack of discipline has always been the problem with these Nuggets.