When the NBA season starts every October, fans are in the mode of watching the NFL–which is a week to week league. The NBA season is long, and is a journey that lasts from October to June. When the season first starts, you tend to see overreactions from fans that think that every game matters. The Sixers beat the Heat, the Bulls are 1-2, and the Lakers killed the Clippers. Those games won’t be talked about in March, but they are big news now.
I always tell people to look for trends early in the season, and focus less on the records. The Blazers’ bench was bad early in the season, and it ended up hurting them all year long. A big think to look at during early NBA games is how teams defend. Typically you can see if teams will be putting in the effort to defend, and a lot of times offenses are the things that form later on.
So who are the best defenses through the first week?
The Pacers come in at number one. They hold teams to 84.4 points per 100 possessions, which is an insane number. They are also only giving up 87 points per game, and they are 3-0 because of it. The Pacers had the best defense in the playoffs, and you can expect them to do this all season long. They probably won’t defend at this crazy rate, but they will most likely take the crown as the best defense in the league. With Paul George locking down the perimeter, and Roy Hibbert protecting the rim, they will cause teams a lot of headaches.
Coming in at number two is a surprise team. The Cleveland Cavaliers sit there with the league’s second best defense. Last year, they were terrible on defense, and Kyrie Irving couldn’t defend a mannequin. When they brought back Mike Brown, he started stressing defense, and it seems to be working. They are giving up only 91 points per game, and 92.8 points per 100 possessions, which is 2nd behind Indiana. They are going to be fine on offense, so this is a good sign to see.
The Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, and Golden State Warriors round out the top ten through the first week. The surprising thing to see is the fact that the Clippers and Grizzlies are the two worst defenses in the league thus far. Doc Rivers was supposed to get this team to defend better with DeAndre Jordan anchoring them. They have let teams like the Lakers and Warriors blow them up, and they still have a lot to improve on. The Grizzlies built their identity on defense last season, and David Joerger may be tinkering too much with their offense. The Bulls are also struggling, and that isn’t good either.
It’s still early, but these teams clearly are focusing on defense. We will see if this trend continues.