By: Louis Prejean
Another week of fantastic NBA action is set in stone. The theme of the NBA to start seems to be one of confusion. Are teams as good as we think they are? Are teams better than we think? There have been some up and down starts for most teams, but let’s take a look at the ten best in the NBA after five weeks.
1. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors had their first real scare of the season against the Utah Jazz, but they managed to escape with a win and protect their perfect season. Stephen Curry continues his phenomenal play, however, people need to start acknowledging the play of Draymond Green. Green has posted two triple doubles in his last three games and is becoming the second best player on the team to Stephen Curry. The Warriors look to go 20-0 when Curry returns home to play the Charlotte Hornets. Golden State has a real battle to beat the Lakers’ 33-game win streak because their next six games are all on the road.
2. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs only know how to be good. Despite losing to the Chicago Bulls in Chicago, the Spurs have still won 11 of their last 13 games and they are holding opponents under 90 points per game. San Antonio has become an elite defense since they have handed Kawhi Leonard more responsibility. Leonard is averaging 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game and can possibly win his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year. The Spurs have the league right where they want them. With all eyes on the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs are flying a little under the radar and keep winning.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers are one weird team. There is no doubt that with Kevin Love and LeBron James this team is one of the best in the league. On the other hand, they start games flat and uninspired. Still, they have the best record in the Eastern Conference and still have Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, and Mo Williams out with injury. A 13-5 record is certainly not bad, in fact, it is great. Perhaps, the Cavaliers are more focused on getting healthy for the playoffs because they know that even without full effort in the regular season they can still get home court advantage.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant is back and all seems right in Oklahoma City. The Thunder are back on track with wins in five of their last seven games. The Thunder lead the league in rebounding and score the second most points per game at 108.9. The funny thing is Oklahoma City scores more points on the road (113.1) than they do at home (106.2). Enes Kanter is emerging as the most productive and efficient player off the bench for them, which he needs to be. Dion Waiters is averaging 10.6 points per game off the bench and the Thunder now seem to have depth to add to their tandem of Westbrook and Durant. All Oklahoma City needs to do is stay healthy and they are one of the better teams in the NBA.
5. Indiana Pacers
Do not look now, but the Pacers have the second best record in the Eastern Conference and they are only one game back of the Cavaliers for first. The Pacers are 11-5 and they are holding opponents to a fourth-best 95.6 points per game. Their offense is kicking into gear with 101.8 points per game, which ranks 11th in the NBA. The Pacers, like the Spurs, have won 11 of their last 13 games and it is all thanks to Paul George and C.J. Miles. Miles is averaging an unexpected 15.2 points per game on 43% shooting from three point territory. Paul George is averaging 27.2 points per game on 45% shooting from downtown and 46% from the field. Not only are his scoring numbers great, but George is doing it all with 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. The Pacers are putting the league on notice and it is all thanks to those two players, along with head coach Frank Vogel.
6. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are 10-6 and still prove to have the second best defense in the NBA by holding opponents to 92.5 points per game. One area of concern is the offense for Miami because as of now, it ranks 27th in the league at 96.2 points per game. They also rank 27th in pace, which is part of the problem. Miami’s offense will be able to score more points if they pick up the tempo in games. The only problem with playing more up-tempo, is their defense might suffer because of that. It is a hard balance, but Miami seems to be doing just fine right now. Going down the line, expect Miami to solve their offensive problems and continue to play their smothering brand of defense.
7. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls recently scored one impressive win over the San Antonio Spurs and have a nice 10-5 record. The third best team in the Eastern Conference and Central Division have picked up the pace of their offense and all is right in Chicago. The Bulls are finally playing a faster style, while still being in the top ten in defense by holding opposing teams to 98.3 points per game. Their offense continues their balanced attack under the lead of Fred Hoiberg and Jimmy Butler. The Chicago Bulls’ numbers do not jump off the page, but they know how to win basketball games and now have a nice three-game homestand as they look to improve on their record.
8. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors are a hard team to gauge, as this becomes the central theme of the NBA this season. The Raptors seem to have all the pieces on their roster to be better than what they are. A record of 11-7 is not too shabby, though. Their scoring as a team has dropped to 100.2 points per game and 17th in the NBA, but Toronto is fifth in offensive rating at 106.1. While the Raptors offense declines, their defense remains steady. Toronto has a great starting five, but their offensive problems stem from the lack of production off of the bench. They need players like Terrence Ross, Scola, and Patterson to play a little better if they want to climb the Eastern Conference standings.
9. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks continue their roller coaster season as they are now 12-8. There are some consistent positives in Atlanta, like their offense being one of the best in the NBA. Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague are leading the Hawks in scoring and to a top ten offense. Atlanta is seventh in the league in scoring at 102.3 points per game. The Hawks can easily put themselves in positions to win more consistently when they improve their focus on the defensive side of the ball. The Hawks still give up over 100 points per game and rank 15th in the NBA in defensive rating. Once the Hawks show more of a determination to stop opponents from scoring then they can string together some wins.
10. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies were off to a bad start to the 2015-16 season, but now they have won eight of their last ten games and have a 11-8 record. Their overall numbers do not jump off of the page for this season, so we will not dive into them. The Memphis Grizzlies have righted the ship and prove to be unstoppable when they score 100 points or more in a game. As long as the come up scoring the ball at an efficient rate, they will slowly climb the Western Conference because their defense will be there every night. Memphis knows how to turn games ugly and slow in today’s fast pace of play. That is the formula for Memphis and they will continue their hot streak if they play like that.
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