Golden State Warriors (19-0) —
Another week, another perfect stretch of games for the Dubs. The Warriors are showing how truly nasty they are by lessening Steph’s playing time, which led Draymond Green to notch back-to-back triple doubles. A long road trip should provide opponents with the first shot at destroying perfection for Golden State. Not that it’s mattered so far.
San Antonio Spurs (14-4) —
San Antonio turned in a nice 4-1 week, and were able to capitalize off facing seven of their last ten games at home, winning all seven. With LaMarcus Aldridge healthy and Kawhi Leonard playing as well he has been, this team is shaping up to be the only potential counter to the Warriors in the West.
Cleveland Cavaliers (13-5) —
The Cavs’ three games last week were all decided by five points or less, and they managed to go 2-1 before being completely outplayed by Washington Tuesday night. This included a highlight-reel game winner from LeBron, who, despite living in Steph Curry’s shadow so far this season, is still managing a line of nearly 26/8/7. Health is, again, a pressing issue for this team.
Indiana Pacers (11-5) +7
The Pacers are a great story so far this season, and have now won their last five. They’re holding their own in potentially the best division in the league, and Paul George’s return has been nothing short of tremendous. Stingy defense is the team’s #1 asset.
Oklahoma City Thunder (11-7) +4
Kevin Durant is back, and subsequently, the Thunder are back in tip-top shape, going 3-1 this week. The league’s best duo of Westbrook (28/7/10) and Durant (28/7/3) is absolutely ridiculous together, and the team is 8-4 when Durant is playing. They will be scary if they can stay healthy come playoff time.
Chicago Bulls (10-5) -2
A 2-1 week featured a fantastic win over the Spurs, a loss to the red-hot Pacers, and a win over a pesky Portland team. This is not always the sexiest team to watch, but Doug McDermott is starting to improve and Bobby Portis is a future star. Something about Derrick Rose just is not right yet – he’s shooting 20% from three. It’s becoming unhealthy to hope that he’ll ever return to MVP-form.
Los Angeles Clippers (10-8) +7
Lob City and the rest of the Clippers are finally starting to come back into focus in the West. Three straight home wins have steered them out of the destructive path they were on, but a recent rib injury to Chris Paul does not look encouraging. Despite abysmal free-throw shooting, DeAndre Jordan is shooting almost 70% from the field.
Toronto Raptors (11-7) +2
A four-game win streak was snapped by the Suns, but Toronto has reasons to be happy. Cory Joseph sank a buzzer beater to give the Raptors a win in Washington on Saturday night, and the DeMar DeRozan-Kyle Lowry tandem is looking better and better. This is their year to prove they can win in the playoffs.
Memphis Grizzlies (11-8) +9
The Grizz are quietly becoming one of the better teams in the West simply by winning close games. Zach Randolph is rebounding from a knee injury, but Memphis is otherwise healthy and has won eight of their last 10 games. This team will grit-and-grind you to death, which should keep them afloat in the West.
Charlotte Hornets (10-7) +3
Things are going very well in North Carolina. The Hornets and Panthers have a combined record of 21-7, but the Hornets’ 10-7 record might be more surprising than the Panthers’ 11-0 one. Six players are averaging at least ten points, and Nic Batum seems to really be growing into a leadership role with this team. It’s reasonable to believe they would be legitimate contenders in the East if they hadn’t lost Kidd-Gilchrist for the season.
Atlanta Hawks (12-8) -5
It was a busy week for the Hawks, who went 3-2 and are in the middle of the 11-team pack in the East that is separated by four games. Along with the Warriors and Thunder, they hold the unique distinction of being undefeated in their own conference. Also, Paul Millsap is continuing to develop a sneaky three-point game.
Miami Heat (10-6) -7
The Heat were absolutely embarrassed by the Pistons last Wednesday, but recovered nicely against the Knicks. Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic remain ice cold from three, but are balanced by one of the best 4-5 combos in the game in Bosh and Whiteside. Whiteside’s PER of 26 is 10th in the NBA, validating that last season was no fluke. They will continue to win with the way they’re playing defensively.
Dallas Mavericks (11-8) -5
It was a rough week for the Mavs, who went 2-3 and are now 2-4 after a six-game win streak. Beyond Dirk and a semi-revitalized Deron Williams, no Maverick is shooting better than 32.1% from three. One positive: Zaza Pachulia is averaging close to a double-double a game, something he hasn’t done his entire career. It feels funny to say, but the Bucks miss Zaza’s versatility on both ends of the floor.
Orlando Magic (10-8) +9
Four straight wins have the young Magic looking like a team with a real chance in the competitive East. They have only their starters to thank, who are collectively averaging 71.9 PPG, 30.3 RPG and 17.2 APG. Victor Oladipo is ready to get back on the court, and with him, this team is much stronger than they look on paper. The future is bright in Orlando.
Phoenix Suns (8-10) +2
Yes, the Suns are 2-6 in their last seven. But beyond the two Pelicans losses (and let’s be honest, the Pels are starting to shape up) and last night’s loss to Brooklyn, the other losses are to the Warriors, Spurs, and Bulls – three teams with a combined record of 43-9. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight seem to be a winning combo at the 1 and 2.
Boston Celtics (10-8) -4
A 32-point win over the fading Wizards highlighted a 3-2 week for Boston, who have benefitted largely from the guard play of Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics point differential of +4.5 is third-best in the East behind the Cavs and Pacers.
Utah Jazz (8-8) +2
Utah lost to Golden State and Oklahoma City, two of the best teams in the NBA right now, to round out a 2-2 week. Still, they only allowed over 100 once in those four games – to the Warriors, who still scored nearly ten points less than they regularly do. Derrick Favors is turning in a nice season so far, averaging nearly 17 points and 9 boards a game.
Detroit Pistons (9-9) -3
With a 2-4 record in their last 6, including losses to the Bucks and Nets, Detroit is starting to fall back to earth after their hot start. Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond are pulling their weight, but the 2-4 spots in the only NBA lineup that has stayed the same every game this season needs to start picking up the slack if the Pistons want to be in the playoff picture.
Minnesota Timberwolves (8-10) +5
The best part about this young Minnesota team is that its last two lottery picks are combining for 36 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. In terms of success, keep in mind that Minnesota was 16-66 last year – in just 18 games, they’re already halfway to their win total from the past season.
Washington Wizards (7-8) -13
Four straight losses have turned a 6-4 Wizards team into a 7-8 team with serious problems on both sides of the ball. But, after last night’s definitive win in Cleveland, perhaps they’ll start to turn it around with Bradley Beal coming back.
New York Knicks (8-10) -5
The Knicks have now lost four straight, including nearly identical losses to Miami in which they failed to reach 80 points. The production beyond Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis is worrying – the two are the only regularly-playng Knicks with a PER above 15, the league average.
Sacramento Kings (7-12) +3
Boogie’s back, Rondo is playing his best basketball in quite a while, and the Kings are 6-5 in their last 11 after a 1-7 start. Rondo is averaging almost an entire assist more than anyone else in the NBA, and he seems to be enjoying basketball again, so everyone wins.
Portland Trailblazers (7-12) -1
Damian Lillard’s recent injury could be a huge area for concern for a team on which he’s averaging 24.4 PPG. The Blazers are 3-3 after a 7-game losing streak, and continue to scrap against stronger opponents.
Houston Rockets (7-11) +2
Donatas Motiejūnas is visiting a doctor, James Harden is shooting barely above 2015 Kobe numbers, and the Rockets are struggling to keep up in what’s beginning to look like a lost season. Was the Kevin McHale firing seriously the best move for this team? Also, Harden is doing this again on defense.
New Orleans Pelicans (4-14) +2
3-3 in their last six games – including two wins over the competent Suns and a nice 14-point win over the four-loss Spurs – has this team on the rise. This is the Pelicans team that Coach Alvin Gentry has been looking for, and it should get better with Tyreke Evans coming back this week. The Anthony Davis injury scare certainly didn’t help, but this team is finally headed in the right direction after a 1-11 start.
Milwaukee Bucks (7-11) -5
A confident win over the struggling Nuggets ended a three-game losing streak for the Bucks, who haven’t seemed to figure out their identity as a team this season. Would this season have started differently if the likes of MCW, Jabari, and OJ Mayo were healthier? The pieces are clearly there, but it will take a while for them to grow together on both sides of the floor.
Brooklyn Nets (5-13) +1
The Nets have yet to win a game by more than ten points, and the offense is mainly to blame. Brooklyn has only hit 100 points five times this season, and are 2-3 in those games. They’re 3-10 in games where they score less than 100. Can anyone outside of Brook Lopez score for this team?
Denver Nuggets (6-12) -8
The Nuggets’ losing streak is up to seven games after a 74-point performance against the Bucks in which Danilo Gallinari led the team with 13 points. Emmanuel Mudiay’s shooting is a major concern for a team that was confident in him during the draft.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-13) —
Kobe’s beautiful farewell letter put a melancholy touch on this even more depressing season. The Lakers are a young team that refuse to let go of the past – instead of letting Kobe go out as an experienced voice on the bench, his 30% shooting (21% from three) is standing in the way of more production from D’Angelo Russell, likely the true future of this team.
Philadelphia 76ers (1-19) —
The streak continues, and was made even worse this week with some negative headlines from the team’s current best player, Jahlil Okafor. The team is by far dead last in points per game, but finally got their first win of the season on Tuesday.