The first week of the NBA season is in the books, and it’s already been an entertaining start. No team has played more than five games, and it’s impossible to get a completely accurate reading from such a small sample size, but you can get a general idea of who the major players are going to be down the stretch.
There are a few teams who have looked less than convincing in their start, while some have picked up right where they left off. Sadly, there are also some teams at the bottom of the totem pole who can never seem to climb back to the top, and this season appears to be no different.
Each season brings its own mixture of winners and losers. Take a look at who’s who out of the gate.
- Cleveland Cavaliers Record: 4-0
The defending world champions haven’t missed a beat. Kyrie Irving is in MVP form, LeBron is, well, LeBron, and Kevin Love is actually playing with confidence. This team has so many weapons.
- Atlanta Hawks Record: 3-0
Apparently Dwight Howard does make that much of a difference. In the early going, the Hawks rank 1st in the NBA with 88.7 points per game on defense and 6th in rebounds.
- Chicago Bulls Record: 3-0
The Bulls got a facelift in the offseason, and adding Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo has paid off. Chicago ranks 2nd in the NBA in points per game, assists per game and rebounds per game. This team could be scary good.
- Los Angeles Clippers Record: 3-0
Defense is the name of the game, especially with DeAndre Jordan protecting the rim. The Clips showed they can win both ways, grinding out an 88-75 win over the Jazz, then thumping Portland 116-98.
- Oklahoma City Thunder Record: 3-0
Kevin Durant who? Look out, world — a Russell Westbrook MVP season could be in the making. The king of chaos currently averages 38.7 points, 11.7 assists and 12.3 rebounds per game. No, that’s not a typo.
- San Antonio Spurs Record: 4-1
Life after Tim Duncan has been manageable for the Spurs, who rank 5th in the league in points given up. Kawhi Leonard is in peak condition, averaging 28.4 points and 3 steals per game. He’s the early frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year.
- Detroit Pistons Record: 3-1
Detroit has recovered nicely since losing to Toronto on opening night, winning three straight. The emergence of Tobias Harris as a leading scorer has been encouraging, especially when you combine his 58.5 field goal percentage with the Pistons’ second-ranked defense.
- Golden State Warriors Record: 3-1
Since dropping their opener to the Spurs, the Warriors have won three straight. Kevin Durant currently averages 28.5 points per game on 57.4% shooting from the field. However, their defense is 26th in the league and they barely beat the Suns. This isn’t the unbeatable team we expected, but it’s early.
- Toronto Raptors Record: 2-1
DeMar DeRozan has been on a tear, averaging 35 points through the first three games. The Raptors’ single loss was to the Cavs, which is nothing to be ashamed of. However, they’ll need to improve upon their NBA-worst 15 assists per game — that’s not enough ball movement.
- Charlotte Hornets Record: 2-1
Charlotte’s nice start can be largely attributed to its improvements on defense, giving up just 97 points per game. Kemba Walker is off to a nice start as well, putting up 23.3 points per game.
- Boston Celtics Record: 2-1
Isaiah Thomas’ emergence as one of the NBA’s bright, young point guards has been a wonder to behold. And right now, he’s got his team scoring with the best of the NBA.
- Miami Heat Record: 2-2
Losing Dwyane Wade was a bit of a blow, but the Heat have enough young talent to develop a nice core group. They just need to improve their scoring ability and offensive efficiency.
- Utah Jazz Record: 2-2
If not for their punishing defense (95.3 points per game), the Jazz would be in trouble. They rank near the bottom of the league in points, assists and field goal percentage.
- Houston Rockets Record: 2-2
James Harden is off to a nice start, averaging 32.2 points and 11.8 assists per game, but the Rockets rank near the bottom of the league in defense and dead last in rebounds per game (39.5). Plus, that opening night loss to the Lakers really stings.
- Portland Trail Blazers Record: 2-2
In their defense, their two losses have come against the Warriors and Clippers, two premier teams in the Western Conference. Damian Lillard is playing angry, putting up 34 points per game, clearly making a bid to not be snubbed from the All-Star game again.
- Memphis Grizzlies Record: 2-2
Good grief, the Grizzlies’ offense is bad — 99.5 points and 18 assists per game, which both rank 26th in the NBA, respectively. The bright spot is that Mike Conley, the NBA’s most underrated point guard, is back on the floor.
- Indiana Pacers Record: 2-2
The addition of Jeff Teague has given a spark to this offense, which now ranks 4th in the NBA with 110 points per game and 5th with 26.3 assists per game.
- Sacramento Kings Record: 2-3
DeMarcus Cousins is still a beast (26.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game) and Rudy Gay is playing some of the best basketball of his career, but the Kings don’t have much else going on. The front office needs to add one more piece to that equation before playoff contention becomes a sure thing.
- Milwaukee Bucks Record: 2-2
Giannis Antetokounmpo (try saying that five times fast) is a triple-double waiting to happen, and has developed into one of the more well-rounded players in the league — 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and two blocks per game.
- Minnesota Timberwolves Record: 1-2
After two close losses (by a combined seven points), the Timberwolves finally figured out how to play defense. The upside and youth of this team is fantastic — they could be the best team in the NBA next year.
- Denver Nuggets Record: 1-2
The Nuggets lead the NBA in rebounding (55 boards per game), but an inability to score consistently will likely keep them out of the playoffs. If they do make it, they won’t go far.
- Los Angeles Lakers Record: 1-3
After a huge win over the Rockets on opening night, the Lakers have dropped three straight. Los Angeles is still just too young and inexperienced to be serious competitors, although the raw talent is there, and you’ve got to love the upside.
- Brooklyn Nets Record: 1-3
The Nets rebound well, but are inefficient on offense and have a shaky defense. Second-year guard Bojan Bogdanovic leads the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game, coming on nicely in the early going.
- Orlando Magic Record: 1-3
Yes, their only win is against the 76ers, but a win is a win. The simple fact is that without Victor Oladipo, the Magic offense is horrendous, ranking second-to-last in the NBA in points per game.
- New York Knicks Record: 1-2
Sorry, Derrick Rose. You won’t win every game this year, after all. A starting lineup of Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings should be tough to handle, but these stars (and former stars) need to learn to share the ball — 19.7 assists per game won’t get it done.
- Washington Wizards Record: 0-2
It’s only two games, but the start is still rather disappointing, considering John Wall (17 points and 11.5 assists per game) and Bradley Beal (13.5 points per game) form a nice backcourt. The problem is the defense, giving up 113 points per game.
- Dallas Mavericks Record: 0-3
Landing Harrison Barnes has been a bright spot for an otherwise disappointing Dallas squad, who currently sits winless. The good news is that the Mavericks get Dirk Nowitzki back soon.
- New Orleans Pelicans Record: 0-4
Anthony Davis has a case for being a top-five player in the NBA, averaging 37 points, 13 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals, and three blocks per game. The only problem is he can’t win games all by himself.
- Phoenix Suns Record: 0-4
It’s an encouraging sign that the Suns played close with the Warriors and Clippers, but it’s less encouraging that they got blown out by the Kings and the Trail Blazers. This team has some young talent, but they’re clearly still trying to figure out how to play efficiently together.
- Philadelphia 76ers Record: 0-3
The 76ers just can’t catch a break. After losing stud forward Ben Simmons to a foot injury, things haven’t improved for Philly. They have a bunch of young, talented players, but they can’t keep them all healthy at the same time, or even get them on the court at the same time. Another lost season, it would seem.
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