The NBA season is really cruising along right now. So much so that we’ve seen enough games to make some sweeping generalizations about teams without sounding like we’re totally overreacting. I mean, it’s still pretty early, but this is not a total overreaction. Just a regular, partial overreaction.
The plan is to revisit these rankings every 8 games or so, which is basically breaking the season up into 10% chunks. As opposed to 10% chucks which I believe was Kobe Bryant’s 3-point shooting last season. Anyway, here are the 1st 10-percent-al rankings of the season.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-7)
The Process appears to have worked thanks to how great Joel Embiid has looked in limited minutes. If Ben Simmons pans out – and his passing ability was other-worldly over the summer – they could turn into a playoff team. It might be a couple more years, but why hurry now?
29. New Orleans Pelicans (1-9)
I had them 30th, but moved them up because they did win a game last night. Even so, this is the most pitiful franchise in the NBA. They have been unable to put Anthony Davis with any legitimate teammates at any point in his career. Buddy Hield has been an early bust, even if he did pull his 3-point shooting up to 22% last night.
28. Dallas Mavericks (2-6)
27. Brooklyn Nets (3-5)
Fun fact: Anthony Bennett is on the Nets. And he appeared in a nationally televised game on Wednesday. The schedule-makers who put a Knicks – Nets game on national television are ranked 31st.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-5)
OK, so the Karl-Anthony Towns hype train has lost a few passengers just because he’s not in the top-20 in points, rebounds or blocks. He is making 43% of his three-pointers though.
25. Washington Wizards (2-5)
In case you were worried that John Wall wouldn’t waste another season in his prime… He is. He totally is. Just trade Beal and whoever for Boogie and see what happens. Just do it. Just see what happens. It’s not like the Wizards would be blowing up a contender.
24. Phoenix Suns (3-6)
Devin Booker and TJ Warren are going to get their shots up this season and they make enough of them to win some games. They’ll be a real annoyance for other teams.
23. Orlando Magic (3-5)
Bismack Biyombo is making $17 million this season. He’s scoring 1 basket a game and blocking 1.6 shots. He’s going to be a real game-changer come playoff time. Not sure what board game he’ll be playing, but he’ll definitely change it.
22. Denver Nuggets (3-5)
Thus far, the shots Jamal Murray was jacking up in Summer League have not translated as he’s shooting 28% from the field. And point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is shooting 35% and handing out 3.8 assists a night. Great backcourt.
21. Miami Heat (2-5)
Just a solid, not very good team. They should miss the playoffs in the East, but they have a lot of pieces. NBA teams need to contend, tank, or have pieces.
20. Sacramento Kings (4-6)
This could be the best team DeMarcus Cousins has ever played on! They’re currently on pace to win 33 games and last season they won 33. So if they get lucky, they could win 34 and that would be the most in the Boogie Era. What a sad professional existence. Somehow he still only has 2 technical fouls this season. Saving his confrontations for after games seems to be working.
19. Boston Celtics (3-4)
When you add Al Horford to a team that has won two games in two playoff series in the last two season, you get… well. Horford has only played 3 games this season and they’re 2-1 in those games. So this is totally a playoff team and they could totally get to the second round this year. But for now, Horford is dealing with a concussion.
18. New York Knicks (3-4)
The Triangle Offense / Kurt Rambis situations continue to perplex fans and media. And me. Seriously, Phil Jackson. Let it go. All of it. Otherwise, the Knicks will never reach their superteam potential.
17. Detroit Pistons (4-4)
Andre Drummond is shooting a career high 52% from the free throw line this season so just you watch out team that sweeps Detroit in the first round. He’s also available for dunk parties.
16. Indiana Pacers (4-4)
A lower seeded playoff team that can play with anybody. Paul George is awesome. Not a great start. Not a disaster.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (4-4)
All of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s numbers are up. Again. Plus, they’ve got Delly now. They are probably headed for the leap everyone thought they were going to make last season. Though losing to the Pelicans isn’t a great sign.
14. Chicago Bulls (5-4)
I feel like the Bulls are about where everyone expected. Right? Right in the middle of the middle. The weirdest thing is how well they’re shooting the 3. Just a bunch of wily veterans veteraning the ball into the hoop like veterans.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (4-4)
Boring. Hustle and Flow. Whatever they usually call it. Tough team. Probably a playoff team for the 7th straight season. Good for them.
12. Los Angeles Lakers (5-4)
People call them the “Baby Lakers,” but best I can tell, they have the 20th youngest team this year. Of course, their core is super young in both years and experience and their coach too. The future is very bright for the Lakers, but the present isn’t exactly dim. They’ll probably double their win total from last season. And if they don’t do quite that well, at least they have Larry Nance Jr.
11. Utah Jazz (5-4)
The second best scoring defense in the league. Gordon Hayward continues to improve and he’s not even shooting the 3 well yet this season.
9. Toronto Raptors (5-2)
DeMar Derozan is leading the league in points per game (34.1) and he’s doing it as a wing player without averaging a single 3-pointer a game. Best scoring defense in the East. The Raptors are good again.
8. Atlanta Hawks (6-2)
Solid team playing solidly. Dwight looks pretty good. Dennis Schroder is doing well as a starting point guard. Just a good team top to bottom having a good start to the season. Good.
7. San Antonio Spurs (5-3)
After a 4-0 start, they’ve dropped 3 of 4. Tim Duncan is retired, Tony Parker has been surpassed by Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili has nothing left in the tank. They’re still good. Coach Pop remains, Kawhi Leonard is putting up MVP numbers and LaMarcus Aldridge has been fine.
6. Houston Rockets (5-3)
Holy effing S James Harden. While some teams are figuring out how all the pieces go together, the Rockets know exactly what they want to do and how to do it. It will come down to making shots and James Harden surviving the season, but what a fun team to watch.
5. Charlotte Hornets (6-1)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is healthy and Kemba Walker is putting up UConn numbers. Still, they’re only this high to ensure I have teams to move down as the season progresses.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-2)
Eventually, Russell Westbrook will just collapse from exhaustion and the Billy Donovan won’t even bother taking him out because there is no second option. He is setting the pace for the entire league with an absurd 42.4 usage rate right now. I think they’ll regress, but as long as Westbrook continues to average all the points, rebounds and assists, they’ll do pretty well.
3. Golden State Warriors (7-2)
The Warriors are so talented that expectations were so high that everyone went the other way and assumed they couldn’t live up to expectations, which meant everyone thought they would struggle, so a 7-2 start is actually being treated like a good start by a good team. Weird how that works out. One thing to note – Stephen Curry is only on pace to make the 2nd-most 3-pointers in a regular season right now – he’d be somewhere in the mid-300’s. He will have to go on a 74-game tear to beat his record of 402.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (6-1)
Stumbled against the Hawks, but its the regular season. Top scoring team in the East and just 1.9 points behind the Warriors. They’re leading the league in 3pt attempts and makes per game. LeBron James is averaging 22.9 points, 9.9 assists, 8.9 rebounds and 1 steal. Kevin Love is averaging 22 and 9. Still, the things they do off the court – Halloween party, last White House visit ever – are just as newsworthy as their usual awesome brand of basketball.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (7-1)
Just a great start from a familiar team. They are holding opponents to the fewest points per game (88.3) and its not even close. Same for average point differential (16.9). It’s not as awe-inspiring as what the Warriors did last season, but so far it is just as effective.
Now let’s talk about Chris Paul. He leads the NBA in a load of advanced stats. At 31, in his 12th season, he’s averaging 19.3 points, 8.4 assists (5th), 5.8 rebounds (3rd among PG), 3 steals (1st) and shooting a career-best 43.6% from three. The Clippers are a legitimate contender.
5. Kawhi Leonard
4. LeBron James
3. Russell Westbrook
2. Chris Paul
1. James Harden
1. Joel Embiid
It’s not even close. Embiid, on a minutes restriction, has been awesome. Sure, his team sucks, but in 21 minutes he’s averaging 17.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, .6 steals and 2.5 blocks. He’s also shooting 66% from three. Small sample size (6/9), but still. LeBron forbid he gets injured, we’ll reopen the discussion and figure out who else is a rookie this season.