1) Boston Celtics – Without Gordon Hayward I had my concerns about this team. Kyrie Irving is taking on this leadership role and the Celtics are surprisingly playing terrific defense. They’ve won 5 in a row.
2) Toronto Raptors – The Raptors are shooting an abundance of threes this season (which is the exact opposite of the Dwayne Casey led Raptors of years past). They have a net point differential of +10.8 which leads the NBA.
3) Orlando Magic – The Magic have been extremely impressive this season. I know they haven’t played a lot of games this season but they have wins over the Spurs and the Cavaliers. Evan Fournier has been solid with Elfrid Payton out with injury. They’ve won four of their last five.
4) Golden State Warriors – There are some concerns here as the Warriors seem to be ‘going through the motions’. I am not at all concerned about this team because offensively they are still atop the league. They will need to take it up a notch to solidify the number one seed in the Western Conference.
5) Milwaukee Bucks – They have the leagues’ MVP so far this season. He leads his team in almost every stat line too. The Bucks are a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference.
6) Washington Wizards – The Wizards almost won in Oracle Arena without Bradley Beal who was ejected after an altercation with Draymond Green. They also lost to Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers. Otto Porter has looked terrific this season along with Beal and Wall.
7) Detroit Pistons – Stan Van Gundy has this team playing solid basketball. They went into the Staples Center and defeated the Los Angeles Clippers who were undefeated. Then they walked into Oracle Arena and defeated the Golden State Warriors. This team is playing solid basketball and they are worthy of the high praise after winning three in a row.
8) Memphis Grizzlies – They have two wins over the Rockets already. They are currently the number one team in the Western Conference. However, they have two terrible losses to the Hornets and the Mavericks. I have them missing the playoffs but I could be wrong. Gasol and Conley are just too darn good.
9) Houston Rockets – It took Eric Gordon’s game winner over the 76ers to get the Rockets above a .500 record for the season. They have lost two straight and looked bad doing so. I am sure they will right this ship, but water finds its’ level.
10) Los Angeles Clippers – The Warriors beat them by 28-points after the Clippers lost to the Pistons by 8. This team is still playing good basketball with Blake Griffin running the show. The Blake show seems to be working without the ball dominate, Chris Paul.
11) Portland Trailblazers – They have lost three games, but were in every game till the last few seconds/minutes. The Blazers have a great chance of getting back to the playoffs but they have to continue playing this brand of basketball.
12) San Antonio Spurs – Back to back to back losses for the Spurs has me worried about their hot start being fools’ gold. Kyle Anderson and Dejounte Murray have struggled as of late, but Patty Mills has been all but forgettable this season as well. It will be interesting to see how soon Parker and Leonard will return.
13) Minnesota Timberwolves – The T-Wolves have Jimmy Butler back and they are playing decent basketball. Still a work in progress, they will be tough in a few months. I would really like to see KAT improve on defense. Too many times when I am watching Timberwolves games am I questioning what KAT is doing.
14) Indiana Pacers – The Pacers had impressive wins over the Timberwolves and Spurs this week. Victor Oladipo won Eastern Conference Player of the Week after he hit a game winner on the Spurs. Already, in 7 games, Domas Sabonis has netted three, perfect shooting nights (7/7, 9/9 and 7/7) and is 28/29 in Pacers’ wins. The Pacers look like they got a pretty good return for Paul George. Also, Myles Turner has not played in 6 of the 7 games.
15) Charlotte Hornets – While the Hornets struggled early on, they have played a lot better recently. With wins over two of the hottest teams in the league (Memphis and Orlando) the Hornets have found a formula that works.
16) Utah Jazz – The Jazz are playing terrific at home and are winless on the road. This team will be a .500 team all season. I don’t like their chances of making the playoffs because their offense is stagnant at times, but they are going to grind some key games out.
17) Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavaliers have the oldest roster in the NBA and it is showing. While LeBron is coasting, there is nobody there to help pick up the slack like Kyrie Irving did the last few seasons. This team will be fine but right now, they are atrocious.
18) Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder are a team I am very high on, but there is a lot of wrinkles here that need to be ironed out. Paul George looked atrocious in his game against the Pacers and then proceeded to talk about how he has other guys to bring him through when he struggles. There is clearly some shade being thrown out here to cover his off night, but he is right. The Thunder are going to get this figured out. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
19) New Orleans Pelicans – While Anthony Davis was out with injury, Boogie Cousins looked impressive. Specifically, in his return to Sacramento. The Pelicans still have to figure out how this team works with Cousins and Davis on the floor together, but Jameer Nelson has been a positive addition to this team.
20) Denver Nuggets – I think this team will be fine in a few months, but they still have a lot of work to do. I know that the media has hammered to death that the Nuggets need a point guard, but it is so true. Millsap hasn’t been great this year, but give it time. Millsap is a terrific forward who will figure this out.
21) New York Knicks – The Knicks have won three in a row. Porzingis is playing like an All-Star and the Knicks look like they’re having fun. They were just a few days ago labeled as the joke of the NBA. Courtney Lee said that guys don’t know the plays and that is what is causing a lack offensive success. If the season ended today though, the Knicks would be the 8th
22) Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons has made it known that he is the best rookie in the league after a handful of games. The 76ers need to unload Okafor at some point this season but they really need to figure out what is wrong with Markelle Fultz. This team just seems to draft injury prone players. I am worried about the long-term health of this team. That will be a huge factor for this teams’ success.
23) Miami Heat- The Heat haven’t looked good at all this season. They have played some tough games and all, but they have lost three straight. Waiters Island is slowly starting to dissolve into reality and the Olynyk signing hasn’t paid off that much. I think this team has to be concerned about making the playoffs, even though I picked them to finish 6th. Also, Justise Winslow should be on the trade block as well.
24) Brooklyn Nets – The Nets are 3-1 at home and 0-3 on the road. Barclay’s has provided some key wins for the Nets as they defeated the Cavaliers and the Magic. They are currently in a competitive tilt with the Suns. I am anticipating this team plays hard but will struggle to close out games.
25) Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers are a young team that is still trying to figure things out. While Lonzo Ball has shown flashes of how good he can be, he has displayed how bad he can be too. Other than Ball, the Lakers have just been horrific on the defensive end. If they can pick up the slack in that area, they will be fine.
26) Dallas Mavericks – The Mavericks have failed to win games, but they are playing hard. There isn’t much hope for this team this season and last year Mark Cuban admitted that they did tank. Maybe he is feeling the urge to do that once again this season before the lottery rules are changed?
27) Phoenix Suns – Since the firing of Earl Watson, the Suns are actually playing better basketball. A change of voices seems to be helping the Suns, but I am still skeptical of this team. Eventually, they will deal Bledsoe and maybe Chandler.
28) Sacramento Kings – Well, the Kings should not be starting Zach Randolph. He should be playing backup center and Koufus should not be seeing the floor. De’Aaron Fox should be starting in the backcourt with Hill. I would bring Buddy off the bench as the 6th Regardless, this team is just super thin at small forward.
29) Chicago Bulls – The Bulls only scored 69-points in their loss to the Thunder. While the Thunder are far better, the lack of offensive fire power from the Bulls highlights the lowlight Chicago Bulls’ roster.
30) Atlanta Hawks – They have lost 6 in a row. This team is just terrible. Kent Bazemore is their starting small forward and he has been awful this season. This team will only go as far as Schroder takes them.
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