Through the first week, there are 6 undefeated teams (two in the East, four in the West) and nine teams still searching for their first W.
Many people around the NBA say, “Nothing matters before Thanksgiving.” While there is some truth to that theory, the first weeks of the season count. A win on Halloween counts just as much as a win on a Friday night in December.
While the first three games matter, they may or may not be indicative of a team. I accounted for each team’s early performance, but tried to refrain from overreaction.
1. Golden State Warriors
The only reason this team can’t win nearly 70 games again is injuries. Stephen Curry is every single cliché writers have been ravenously writing in their columns and tweets. He is a human cheat code. The ball is attached to his hand. The game sliders are all the way down. The game comes so easily to him it’s unbelievable. This first week was a statement for him and the Warriors after so much baseless hot takes about how they were so lucky to win the title last year and how he didn’t deserve the MVP.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
I ranked them seventh in preseason because I didn’t know how quickly Westbrook and Durant would recalibrate to each other’s styles. I was also cautious about Kevin Durant coming off three foot surgeries. In the first three games they have erased all doubts and solidified themselves as contenders once again.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs aren’t going to show up for every regular season game. They could win 45 games this season and they would still be a top ten team. With that said, watching LeBron pull his best Larry Bird impersonation on the bench is not encouraging.
4. San Antonio Spurs
They have some kinks to work out. LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan need to compliment each other better. I have faith that Gregg Poppovich will figure everything out.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
One of the 3-0 teams in the league, the Clippers have looked sensational. Their defense is a little suspect, as they allowed 109 points to the Kings. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan are clicking on all cylinders. Josh Smith playing meaningful minutes at center is an storyline to follow.
6. Houston Rockets
To be blunt, the Rockets have not looked good at all. They need to make some changes to the defense in some capacity, but they will likely mesh better as the season progresses. Houston will wake up from its first week nightmare sooner rather than later and rebound into contention. They are 0-3, with three blowout losses, but I’ll give them a few more games before I start panicking.
7. Memphis Grizzlies
A concerning blowout loss at home to the Cavaliers on opening night was avenged by two wins against the Pacers and Nets. Neither of the Grizzlies’ wins are necessarily “quality,” but the team led by Marc Gasol and Mike Conley is poised to ground and pound to another 50 win season. Zach Randolph, 34, hasn’t looked great physically this season. He needs to play himself into shape.
8. Chicago Bulls
Their first test was a nail biting victory over the Cavaliers. Derrick Rose is healthy and is gunning like vintage D-Rose crossed with Tracy McGrady. . Pau Gasol is continuing his exceptional play, and the Bulls have the best front court depth in the league.
9. Miami Heat
The Heat have talent, but the 1-1 team will have to deal with Dwyane Wade playing about half the season to preserve his body.
10. Washington Wizards
John Wall is one of the best point guards in the world and he keeps improving. Otto Porter Jr. and Bradley Beal are also on the rise, but depth in the front court is a cause for concern in D.C..
11. Utah Jazz
Rudy “The Stifle Tower” Gobert is a DPOY contender and Gordon Hayward is a consistent scorer. They need to sort out the point guard hierarchy, however, if they want to succeed in the powerful Western Conference.
12. Atlanta Hawks
The well-coached Hawks are 3-1 with their win over a the Hornets. They will feel the loss of DeMarre Carroll as the season wears on, but Kent Bazemore has done a nice job as his replacement on the wing.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
I predicted the T-Wolves would make the playoffs through the backdoor this season and they have made me proud so far. Karl Anthony Towns (KAT) had an insane game (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Ricky Rubio is playing at a career-high level. If Andrew Wiggins can make a leap in his offensive game, this is a scary bunch.
14. Toronto Raptors
The Drakes have a very talented roster. The addition of DeMarre Carroll is paying off and slim Kyle Lowry is playing well. Jonas Valančiūnas is putting up stats, but I am still skeptical of them as a long term powerhouse. Don’t love their coaching or defense.
15. Phoenix Suns
The Suns have two wins against the Blazers and lost against the Mavericks. As Bill Simmons would say, “Are we sure they’re good?”
16. Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond is a BEAST. He’s averaging 18 points and 16 boards. But the real pleasant surprise for the Pistons is Marcus Morris, who somehow still has his powers despite being separated from his twin. Detroit is 3-0 and have played three solid opponents in the Hawks, Jazz, and Bulls.
17. Orlando Magic
Although they are 0-2, they have played two incredibly competitive games against elite teams. They lost to the Thunder by three points in double overtime and the Wizards by just one. Victor Oladipo is averaging 19 points, 6 assists, and 12 rebounds to the tune of nearly 51 DraftKings points per game. Rookie Mario Hezonja has impressed and Aaron Gordon’s athleticism is key off the bench.
18. Boston Celtics
The C’s are struggling in the Win/Loss columns, but they are inspiring to watch. Marcus Smart is an upcoming superstar and coach Brad Stevens will put the pieces together. Boston plays so hard and they are incredibly deep, with at least 10 “plug and play” ballers on the roster.
19. New Orleans Pelicans
Unlike the Celtics, the Pellies are playing uninspired basketball. They are banged up and have stumbled through the gates. Anthony Davis is still a monster, but NOP needs the guards to step up.
20. Denver Nuggets
They crushed the Rockets in Houston, but also lost to the Thunder. Emmanuel Mudiay is ready for the NBA and Danilo Gallinari is back and better than ever. This roster is very unique, but it is just a matter of time before they trade away their veterans before their values depreciate.
21. Milwaukee Bucks
It’s too early to tell anything about the Bucks. They could really go either way. The Greek Freak is an animal and the defense is long and swarming. But fitting Jabari Parker, Carter-Williams, Antetokounmpo, and Henson on the court at the same time can be a challenge offensively. The spacing is off and Jason Kidd will have to get creative.
22. New York Knicks
Are the Knicks good? Is Kristaps Porzingis the next Rik Smits? Is Langston Galloway just Jeremy Lin without the hype? The burning questions go on and on, but the Knicks are unquestionably 2-1.
23. Sacramento Kings
24. Indiana Pacers
I had high hopes for the Pacers this year, but they haven’t impressed me at all so far. The 0-3 Pacers are lacking in big men talent, with Paul George playing most of his minutes at the four. George has been up-and-down, but hopefully he regains his 2013 form soon.
25. Portland Trail Blazers
C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, although undersized, is an explosive offensive backcourt. I bet Lillard will win the scoring title this year, but the Blazers could allow 110 points per game.
26. Los Angeles Lakers
Even though the Lakers have some young talent (Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell), Kobe Bryant is shooting 18 field goal attempts per game. ‘Nuff said.
27. Dallas Mavericks
This is a sad way to see Dirk Nowitzki ride out into the sunset. The Germinator deserves better than the scrubs on this team. Deron Williams is playing surprisingly elite, but there is no way he can keep up his unbelievable 33.08 PER.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor is an exceptional young starting front court. I kind of like Isaiah Canaan. Other than those three guys, the Sixers have room for improvement. Everyone is on the trade block.
29. Brooklyn Nets
Full disclosure: I’m a Celtics fan. I’m active rooting against the Brooklyn Nets because Boston has their first round pick this year and for what seems like the next 20 years.
30. Charlotte Hornets
This team has barely any redeeming qualities. The Nic Batum signing hasn’t paid off and P.J. Hairston is the starting small forward. They are 0-3 and on their way to the first ever 0-82 season.