By: Louis Prejean
Not much is changing at the top of the NBA each week. The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs cannot stop winning by double digits. The Cavaliers have Kyrie Irving back and the Oklahoma City Thunder may have a new trend to look at for their ultimate key to success. However, the inconsistency of the rest of the league has everyone wondering where teams stand after eight weeks into the 2015-16 season.
1. Golden State Warriors
All-Star voting is now open and the Golden State Warriors might as well have their entire roster featured in All-Star weekend. Specifically, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green deserve to make the All-Star team this season for their tremendous play. Draymond Green is proving to be one of the best overall power forwards in the NBA. Klay Thompson is finding his groove as the season progresses and Curry is being Curry. Luke Walton has replaced Steve Kerr seamlessly and has the Warriors firing on all cylinders. Every week is repetitive. Watch the Warriors for yourself so you can see just how great this team is and why they are first on this list week after week.
2. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are flat out dominating teams just as much, if not more, than the Warriors have. Their smothering defense leads the NBA in every defensive category imaginable and they pass the ball with the best of them. The Spurs have had the winning formula for 15+ years now and it seems to be working this season. It is also good to see the Spurs get more mention throughout the week and seem to no longer be “under the radar”.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
Kyrie Irving is back. As much as NBA fans like to see Irving return from injury, the Cavaliers like it more. Cleveland is currently on a five game winning streak. When the Cavaliers are at full health with their “Big 3” plus Timofey Mozgov, they are 34-4 according to Marc Stein on ESPN.com. Cleveland will be at full strength when they play the Warriors on Christmas. This game will be a nice measuring stick to see just how good Cleveland is when they have all of their players available. They already gained a nice 104-100 win against the Thunder and look to beat another elite Western Conference team to boost their ranking as perhaps the best team in the NBA.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Obviously the Thunder go as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook go. However, there may be one trend that will change how Oklahoma City plays moving forward. The Thunder are currently 19-9, but they are 17-1 when their bench scores 30 or more points. So now Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook might have to look to get their bench players more involved instead of looking to score first. Durant and Westbrook will still lead this team in scoring, but putting in more of an effort towards ball movement will make the team harder to guard.
5. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat suffered a loss to the Detroit Pistons, but still remain, arguably, the second best team in the Eastern Conference. I will always stand by the fact that the Miami Heat still have one of the better rosters in the league. They have three different players with PERs of 20 or more in Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Hassan Whiteside. The tandem of Goran Dragic and Wade has not quite panned out the way Miami thought, but both are talented players individually. It is only a matter of time for that backcourt to gel and the Heat to benefit the rewards of having those two guards. For now, the Heat will continue to hang their hat on their top five defense.
6. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have been missing two starters in DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas, but there are no signs of slowing down. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have put this team on their back and have been keeping Toronto afloat. The Raptors are 18-12 and face two struggling teams in the Bucks and Bulls in their next two games. While this team is 21st in points per game, the Raptors rank 5th in offensive rating and only allow the fourth-fewest points to their opponents at 96.5 per game. Toronto is challenging the Miami Heat for the second best team in the East, which is very possible when their two starters return.
7. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers did not make the list last week, as they were a borderline top ten team, but now I am realizing how much I am overlooking this Pacers team. While they truly only have one offensive threat in Paul George, the Pacers continue to win. Their ability to shoot the three ball with players like C.J. Miles shooting lights out helps George space the floor for him to create plays for others. The 16-11 Indiana Pacers are 7th in both scoring and stopping teams from scoring. They average 102.6 points per game and only allow 98.8. The Pacers are top ten in pace, which shows how Frank Vogel has been able to adjust his style of play to best suit the roster around him. The Pacers are a threat to most teams and they are not one to be overlooked.
8. Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons make their return to the top ten this week with some impressive wins over their last five games. The Pistons are won three straight and four out of five with wins over the Heat, Bulls, Celtics, and Pacers. The Pistons are 7-1 against the top 6 teams in the Eastern Conference. They are also the kings of overtime. Detroit has won three overtime games this season, which leads the East. Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are emerging as a great 1-2 punch that the NBA needs to acknowledge a little more. The team stats may lead you to believe the Detroit Pistons are a middle of the pack team, but their play on the court shows otherwise.
9. Atlanta Hawks
Long time no see for the Atlanta Hawks. They are currently on a four game winning streak and have clawed their way to the number three seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 18-12. Their schedule is easing up after playing the Thunder, Spurs, and Heat before this current winning streak. The Hawks still spread the ball better than most teams as they have six players averaging over 10 points per game. They forced their opponents to turn the ball over more than any team. Teams are averaging 16.8 turnovers against the Atlanta Hawks. If these trends continue then the Atlanta Hawks can become a more consistent team and restore their reputation as one of the best teams in the East.
10. Charlotte Hornets
With all of the sudden problems in Chicago, the Charlotte Hornets take their spot this week. The Hornets have been mildly struggling by losing four of their last five games, but their schedule favors them with their next four games coming at home. The concerns in Chicago along with the injury to Joakim Noah, who has been playing better lately, have the Hornets looking more poised to climb the ranks in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets still rank in the top ten in offense and defense. Look for the Hornets to have a nice home stretch and be the team we have been impressed with to start the season.
You can follow me @LouisPrejean.
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