We are about 12 games into the NBA season. Although it is early on, we are starting to see trends in several teams.
Team on the rise:
The Sacramento Kings: For the 1st time in decades, the Kings have a young nucleus of talent. They won’t make the playoffs but if they can win 35 or more games, it will be a successful season.
Team on the decline:
The Houston Rockets: Houston we have a problem. There is something not right about this team early on. They have enough talent to win 60 games but they won’t. Keep any eye out for their head coach Mike D’Antoni to be on the “hot-seat” if they continue to play .500 basketball.
The Sports Whisperer’s Top 10 Power Rankings:
#10 Indiana Pacers,7-5: It is starting to look like trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis was a huge mistake for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oladipo is averaging 24.1 points and 7.1 rebounds and Sabonis is averaging 14.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. I don’t know why Sabonis is not in the starting lineup but he is a very good player.
#10 Philadelphia 76ers,7-5: The 76ers have two of the best, young players in the NBA. 22-year-old, Ben Simmons, is averaging 14.1 points, 7.5 assists and 9.4 rebounds per game. He is shooting 50% from the field but hasn’t made a 3-point-field goal in 11 games. 24-year-old, Joel Embiid, is my early favorite for the MVP Award. He has been the best big man in the NBA thorough the first few weeks. Embiid is averaging 27.7 points, 3.4 assists, 2.2 blocks and 12.4 rebounds. The 76ers need more shooters on their team. They are 22nd in field goal percentage. This team has enough talent to win 50 games, but if they don’t develop or trade for another shooter they will not go far in the playoffs.
#9 Los Angeles Lakers,5-6: The Lakers have the most “up-side”of any team in the NBA. In a 114-110 victory of the Minnesota Timberwolves the Lakers stat line was as followed:
- LeBron James: 24 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
- Kyle Kuzma: 21 points.
- Brandon Ingram: 20 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.
- Josh Hart: 21 points and 4 rebounds.
- Kuzma is 23, Ingram is 21 and Hart is 23-years old.
JaVale McGee has been great at center. He is averaging 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game in limited minutes. Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson continue to provide veteran leadership. The odd man out for the Lakers is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. LA should trade him to Cleveland for Kyle Korver and add another shooter.
#8 San Antonio Spurs, 6-4: The Spurs suffered a huge blow in the pre-season when Dejounte Murray tore his ACL. Their offense hasn’t been great but should get better under Gregg Popovich as the season goes along. DeMar DeRozan is putting up Kawhi Leonard like numbers. DeRozan is averaging 26.4 points, 6.8 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game. Aldridge is becoming a double/double machine averaging 18.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. This team will continue to struggle to find a legitimate number three scorer but they should win over 45 games.
#7 Oklahoma City Thunder, 7-4: Russell Westbrook has missed a few games with injuries but this team is playing well despite being a very poor shooting team. The Thunder are 20th in field goal percentage shooting and 28th in three-point field goals made. Dennis Schroder has been a pleasant surprise. He is averaging 16.5 points, 5 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
#6 Boston Celitcs, 7-4: Other than the Lakers, the Celtics have one of the deepest benches and talent in the NBA. It is going to take time for this team to gel. Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the NBA so look for this team to start to gain momentum in their last 25 games.
#5 Portland Trail Blazers, 9-3: Portland doesn’t get a lot of national press coverage but they have a great “Big 3”
- Damian Lillard is averaging 26.6 points, 5.3 assists and 5 rebounds per game.
- CJ McCollum is averaging 21 points, 2.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
- Jusuf Nurkic is averaging 15.1 points, 1.8 assists and 9.8 rebounds.
No one wants to play Portland in the playoffs.
#4 Denver Nuggets, 9-2: The Nuggets are 6-0 at home and they are 2nd in defense, giving up 101 points per game. Nikola Jokic could be the most complete center in the NBA that no one knows about. He is averaging 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and leads his team in assists, dishing out 7.4 per game. I don’t know if this team has enough scoring. There is not one player on this team averaging over 20 points per game but they are playing very well as a team.
#3 Golden State Warriors, 10-2: Stephen Curry left the game on Thursday night with an apparent groin injury. I don’t expect this team to win more than 65 games because Steve Kerr wants his team healthy for the playoffs. Look for them to rest a ton of players throughout the season. On paper, when healthy, there is no one who can challenge them in the Western Conference.
#2 Milwaukee Bucks, 9-2: The Bucs dominated the Golden State Warriors Thursday night, 134-111. Is there a better player in the NBA than Giannas Anteokounmpo? He is scoring 25.6 points, 5.7 assists and 12.9 rebounds per game. I don’t know what Center Brook Lopez does well, other than shooting. He is averaging 11 points. Lopez is 7 feet tall and he averages 3 rebounds per game. That is not getting it done. Head Coach, Mike Budenholzer has implement the three point shot. The Bucks are 1st in the NBA, making 15 three’s per game.
Milwaukee is a legitimate threat to win the Eastern Conference.
#1 Toronto Raptors, 11-1: It seems like every year the Raptors are like the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL. They dominate the regular season and always fizzle out in the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard appears to be healthy and he is putting up great numbers. He is averaging 26 points and 8 rebounds per game. Kyle Lowry is averaging 11 assists per game. Danny Green has really brought a professional, veteran approach to every game. Obviously, he learned that from playing in San Antonio. Serge Ibaka could be the comeback player of the year. He is averaging 17 points and 7 rebound per game. The only question here is this… Can you win an NBA Championship with Lowry as your number 2 option? My answer right now would be no.
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