1. Cleveland Cavaliers (6-1)
The reigning NBA champs finally lost a game against a thriving Hawks team. Despite this, the Cavs are still heavy favorites to win the East. Occasional losses are not a setback by any means as long as this team can stay healthy. In other news, LeBron James moved up to the 10th leading scorer of all time.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (7-1)
Riding a four game win streak into Oklahoma City for their next game may change the results this time around. Key wins over the Spurs and Trail Blazers have shown signs of Blake Griffin’s dominance, but also this teams’ ability to actually play defense. The Clippers currently have the best scoring defense in the league, giving up just 88.3 points per game.
3. Golden State Warriors (6-2)
While the Warriors are not off to another 24-0 run to begin the season, they are still off to a hot start. Klay Thompson may not be shooting the ball as well as he’d like, just 25% from the three point line, but the Warriors have three other superstars to turn to. Steph Curry’s record-breaking 13 three pointers just foreshadows the type of season this team should have.
4. Charlotte Hornets (6-1)
The Hornets haven’t truly been tested yet, but they have done just about everything anyone could have asked of them at this point in the season. Having Michael Kidd-Gilchrist this year has benefited the defense, and Kemba Walker has dominated the offensive end, putting up 24 points a game.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-2)
Russell Westbrook has single-handedly carried the Thunder this season, putting up some gaudy numbers. He already has two triple doubles on the season, averaging 31 points, 9.5 assists and 8.3 rebounds. How long can he carry this team? The two losses to the Warriors and Raptors show that the Thunder may not be able to compete with top-tier teams.
6. Atlanta Hawks (6-2)
Dwight Howard has brought discontinuity to every team since he left the Orlando Magic, but it appears he is meshing with the Hawks. While there is no doubt he is out of his prime, his rebounding and defense has gone along well with Schroder and Millsap’s scoring abilities. The win over Cleveland proves that this team could be a contender for second place in the East.
7. Houston Rockets (5-3)
James Harden’s new role as point guard has led to a historic run of scoring and assisting. Harden is averaging over 30 points and 13 assists per game, and seems to be the early front runner for MVP. To add to this, the Rockets proved they can play with the elite teams, with a win over the Spurs. The Rockets will struggle to keep winning if they can’t fix their issues with turning the ball over and playing defense.
8. San Antonio Spurs (5-3)
The Spurs have not gotten off to the start they had hoped. They have beaten all the teams they were supposed to beat, but have not been able to beat any of the other top tier teams outside of the routing of the Warriors in the first game of the season. Kawhi Leonard has continued to dominate, but the Spurs’ poor team defense has been their downfall.
9. Toronto Raptors (5-2)
The dynamic duo of DeMar DeRozen and Kyle Lowry has turned into a historic scoring start for DeRozen, who is averaging 34 points per game, and a shooting slump for Lowry, who is shooting just 35% from the field. The Raptors should have no struggle getting a high seed in the East, but they will be unable to compete with the Cavaliers if both of the Raptors superstars fail to play at a high level.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (5-4)
Speaking of dynamic duos, the Blazers backcourt was second in scoring last season to the Warriors splash brothers. Damien Lillard has overshadowed McCollum so far this season, but they look to be picking up right were they left off last season. The problem with this team is that they don’t have a third scoring option. So far this season, Jake Layman is the third leading scorer on the team. This lack of scoring options was evident in the Warriors and Clippers routing of the Blazers.
11. Utah Jazz (5-4)
The Jazz have had a pleasant start to the year. They have had a tough schedule, losing to the Hornets, Clippers, Spurs, and Blazers. But the win over the Spurs and the early return of Gordon Hayward show that this team could make a push in the West.
12. Detroit Pistons (4-4)
A two game losing streak headed into San Antonio is never good. The Pistons clearly miss their star point guard Reggie Jackson, but Andre Drummond has been a force to be reckoned with, putting up constant double doubles.
13. Los Angeles Lakers (4-4)
It is difficult to judge this young Lakers team. After starting off 1-3, the Lakers strung together three solid wins over teams like the Hawks and the Warriors. Either way, not sitting at the bottom of the standings will help Lakers fans get over losing Kobe.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (4-3)
Just when it looked like the Bucks offense was flowing, they managed to put up just 75 points against the Mavericks, even with extra time to score in overtime. The Greek Freak is playing at an all-star caliber rate, but the poor shooting is evident.
15. Indiana Pacers (4-4)
The Pacers appeared to make some great moves this summer, but they haven’t panned out yet. Jeff Teague has shot the ball at a poor clip, and Al Jefferson has failed to contribute as a scoring threat. This team hopefully won’t have to ride Paul George as much this year, as Myles Turner appears to have potential to shine in this league.
16. Chicago Bulls (4-4)
The Bulls’ scoring options are limited. Dwayne Wade is far out of his prime, Rajon Rondo isn’t even averaging double digit points per game, and the team as a whole struggles to shoot the three ball. Jimmy Butler has been the one glimpse of hope, but the Bulls will need scoring from other players to win.
17. Boston Celtics (3-4)
The Celtics are on a three game losing streak. While Jae Crowder and Al Horford have both struggled with injuries, this team does not have the same drive to win as it did last year. It’s difficult to place a finger on one reason this team is losing, but they have clearly not performed at the level most people expected.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (4-4)
The Grizzlies appear to be having another average season thus far. Conley has played well, but not enough to be the highest payed player in the league. This team is getting old, with Zach Randolph coming off the bench and Vince Carter on the brink of retirement.
19. Denver Nuggets (3-4)
The Nuggets have had some impressive road wins over the Timberwolves and the Celtics. They have only had one game in Denver this season, so it’s hard to judge how good this team truly is, but this team has a lot of young talent and potential to compete for a playoff spot this season.
20. Miami Heat (2-4)
There is no doubt the Heat have had an extremely difficult schedule to start the season, with four close losses to top-tier teams. The fact that Dwayne Wade returning to play Miami this week is the biggest news of the season for the Heat so far, shows that they have truly had a rough start.
21. New York Knicks (3-4)
The Knicks are another team that made a splash in free agency this summer. If Rose and Noah can stay healthy, this team could make a playoff push. So far this season, this team has been fun to watch with Carmelo’s shooting performances and young star Porzingis rising to the occasion. But New York will have to play much better basketball to make an actual playoff push.
22. Sacramento Kings (4-5)
After having a difficult road trip in the eastern conference, the Kings are riding two consecutive wins. DeMarcus Cousins continues to perform at a high rate, and the Kings are showing signs of potential to have a good year.
23. Phoenix Suns (3-6)
Late game heroics have accounted for two of the Suns three wins. Phoenix has been able to compete with teams like the Warriors and the Thunder, but the question remains if they will be able to beat the lower level teams.
24. Orlando Magic (3-5)
The Magic have struggled to find a rotation that flows defensively. With the combination of Vucevic, Biyombo, and Ibaka, Frank Vogel will need to figure out how to create an effective rotation. Orlando has had a season of streaks so far, starting off with a three game losing streak, followed by three consecutive wins. They now head into a game against Utah with another three game losing streak on the line.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-5)
High expectations coming into the season have made this poor start to the season look even worse. Karl Anthony-Towns hasn’t upset anyone, but the Wolves lack of guard play and leadership has been evident. Rubio has missed a few games, and rookie guard Kris Dunn is only averaging about four points per game. For the time being, this team may just be entertaining to watch, because winning clearly has not been attainable so far.
26. Washington Wizards (2-5)
The Wizards have clearly struggled so far this year, but they cannot ask much more from their star John Wall. Eyes turn to his counterpart, Bradley Beal, who has shot the ball at a horrendous rate of 37.3 percent from the field. No doubt this team can turn their season around with better shooting, and after playing the Cavs on Friday, their schedule becomes much more manageable.
27. Dallas Mavericks (2-6)
The Mavericks age is showing as Dirk and Deron Williams are already struggling to stay healthy. Leaning on Harrison Barnes to get a win in Milwaukee seemed to work, and it appears the Mavericks will be doing that a lot this season.
28. Brooklyn Nets (3-5)
The Nets have played better than most people expected. Missing Jeremy Lin clearly hurts the team, but this young team has found a way to win a few games this season.
29. New Orleans Pelicans (0-8)
It’s tough to watch Anthony Davis continue to put up such good numbers with such little success. Even when Holiday and Evens return, it may already be too late for this team to make a playoff run in such a tough conference.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-7)
No Ben Simmons, no problem. Well, maybe a slight problem seeing as how this team hasn’t found a way to win yet. But Sixers’ fans can at least dream of a bright future with Joel Embiid playing like a superstar in limited minutes.