By: Louis Prejean
The NBA has officially ended the first week of action. Teams are starting to get the feel of how the season is going to go, but it is still early. Players are looking to develop chemistry and coaches are testing line-ups to get an idea of what works the best. Some teams are living up to the preseason hype, some are not, and some teams are surprising everyone with great play. Based off of their first week’s performance, we will rank the top ten teams in the NBA.
1. Golden State Warriors
No shock here as the defending champions deserve the number one spot this week. After going 3-0, the Warriors are picking up where they left off after the title run and amazing regular season last year. Stephen Curry has been simply unstoppable. There is no question that if he can keep this up he could be looking at consecutive MVP awards. Not only is Curry playing great, but the overall team is getting the job done. The team is winning by over 16 points in their 3 wins. They rank as the second best offense, scoring 119 points per game. The Warriors are sharing the ball better than any team with 27 assists per game. Golden State is just doing what Golden State does.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
The NBA better watch out. The Thunder are healthy. That was the only problem last season for this team, who sorely missed Kevin Durant. However, KD is back and he is playing like he never left. Durant is averaging 30 points and 6.7 rebounds per game on 48% shooting. As good as it is to have Durant back, Russell Westbrook is filling up the stat sheet in the Thunder’s 3-0 start. Thus far, Westbrook is averaging 32 points, 8.7 assists, and 7.3 rebounds per game on 52% shooting. OKC’s bench has improved with Kanter, Waiters, and Augustin playing well. The Thunder are the number one offense. They are scoring a little over 122 points per game and show no signs that they can be stopped. With two of the top ten players in the league, the Oklahoma City Thunder were great in week 1.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
After dropping the season opener to the Chicago Bulls, the Cavaliers are playing just as good as anyone in the league. The Cavaliers are winning by 12.7 points per game in their two wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and the Miami Heat. Those are both great teams that they have beaten. Kevin Love is seeming to find a role in Cleveland. Kevin Love is averaging 19.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He is also showing that he can still pass the ball better than most big men with four assists per game. The Cavaliers are showing great team play and tough defense by being second in assists per game and the second best defense in the NBA. LeBron needs to continue to find rest between games, averaging 33 minutes per game. The Cavs have impressed in week 1 without Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert.
4. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have always been towards the top of the Eastern Conference, but have never put it together come playoff time. However, this season might be a little different for the Raptors as they kick off the season undefeated and have played great on both sides of the ball. They rank 6th in total offense and 8th in team defense. In three wins, Toronto has won by over 12 points per game against bubble playoffs teams in the Pacers, Bucks, and Celtics. The addition of DeMarre Carroll is key to helping out the talented backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The Toronto Raptors will continue their impressive play throughout the regular season and in the first week of NBA action that has earned them the 4th spot.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers are off to a perfect start all thanks to their three best players. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan are out on a mission after losing their 3-1 series lead to the Houston Rockets in last year’s playoffs. One player has shined out of these three, and that player is Blake Griffin. Griffin has averaged 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists per game on 64% shooting. People need to put him in the MVP race right now because he is playing just as good as anyone in the NBA. The Clippers are 5th in total offense and they are scoring over 109 points per game. Their defense could improve a little bit, but they are still winning by 9.3 points in their three wins. Expect the Clippers to continue this type of play rolling into the second week of the NBA.
6. Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons are the most surprising team to kick off the NBA season. The Pistons are 3-0 with wins over the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, and Utah Jazz. Those are all potential playoff teams and the Pistons are not scared of anyone. Detroit is the number one rebounding team with over 52 per game and they have the 4th best defense in the league. The Pistons seems to be going back to their tough ways and it is working. Detroit is only giving up 91.7 points per game. Stan Van Gundy has this team playing past expectations so far in week 1 and Andre Drummond has played like a man possessed. Drummond is averaging 18.7 points, 16.3 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. Perhaps the most surprising player for the Pistons is Marcus Morris. Morris is leading the team in scoring at 19.3 and is still pulling down over seven rebounds per game. The Pistons have not been all that great in the past few years, but in week 1 they have impressed.
7. San Antonio Spurs
The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge was the best move in the offseason. It will take time for him to adjust to a new team with different players and a different system. However, Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard have led the Spurs to a 2-1 start. This is a good sign for San Antonio fans because when Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili retire this team belongs to them. LaMarcus Aldridge showed signs of what he can do for the Spurs against the Spurs. Aldridge put 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists in the win. Leonard has been the leading scorer with 22 points per game. The Spurs rank second in overall defense and 10th in assists per game. Their only loss is to the Thunder and have an average victory of 17.5 points in their two wins. It is early in the season for the Spurs, so once they fit Aldridge into the team the Spurs will remain one of the top teams in the NBA.
8. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have started their first week by playing four games and are 3-1. Fred Hoiberg has the Bulls playing better offense, while still sticking to their brand of great defense. The Bulls are only giving up 95 points per game. As for the offense, no players seem to be thriving more under Hoiberg than Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic. Butler is averaging 19.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. He is still playing lockdown defense with 2.8 steals per game. Mirotic is the second leading scorer on the team with 18.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Perhaps the most important thing to the start of the season for Chicago is the health of Derrick Rose. Rose has played in all four games and he is playing over 32 minutes a night. That is a great sign for the Bulls if they want to make a deep run in the postseason. The Bulls have had a solid week 1 and that earns them the 8th spot.
9. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are 2-1 with wins over the Houston Rockets and the Charlotte Hornets. In their win against the Rockets, the Heat trailed by 21 points but ended up winning by 20. People expected this team to play well this season with their improved roster, and they have. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade look healthy in the first week, especially Wade. Dwyane Wade is averaging 21.7 points and 5.3 assists per game. Hassan Whiteside is showing everyone he belongs in this league by averaging a double-double with 3.3 blocks per game. The Heat are the 6th best defense, only allowing 95 points per game. Erik Spoelstra has them playing great team basketball too. Miami ranks 9th in assists per game with players still adjusting to each other’s style. The Heat are showing promise to be one of the better teams in the East, but it is still early.
10. Atlanta Hawks
Coming off of the Eastern Conference’s best record one year ago, the Atlanta Hawks started week one right. Atlanta went 3-1 and that is something to be said after losing their starting small forward from last season. DeMarre Carroll emerged in a big way for the Hawks in last season’s postseason run. Now he has signed with the Toronto Raptors and the Hawks seem to have transitioned nicely with a good start to this season. Their ball movement still ranks in the top ten in the NBA at 8th. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford are up to the challenge of remaining towards the top of the Eastern Conference and that started with week one.
You can follow Louis @LouisPrejean.
Be sure to follow @bucketsanddimes for more basketball news and updates.