1. Indiana Pacers (9-1)- The Pacers finally lost a game! That means they stink now right? Wrong. The Pacers are still the best defense in the league, but they got crushed by the Bulls, so they aren’t undefeated anymore. They still have a great defense, a decent offense, and an improved bench. The Pacers are a great team.
2. San Antonio Spurs (9-1)- The Spurs are a great team despite the play of Tim Duncan for once. Duncan has more shots than points so far, which means the center of the Earth is cold now, and I can dunk. The Spurs are the Spurs again, and it is really amazing to see them so balanced and so effective year after year.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (8-2)- Portland is the best team that no one is talking about. They have the league’s third best offense, and they have been really impressive. They had one of the worst benches in the NBA last season, but that isn’t the case now. Damian Lillard is averaging 20 points and 6 assists per game, and LaMarcus Aldridge is 9th in scoring in the NBA. The Blazers are real contenders.
4. Miami Heat (7-3)- The Miami Heat are starting to look like the Miami Heat again. They are finding their groove on offense, and they are starting to shake off the rust. The biggest challenge they will face this year is themselves. Miami does need to fix some problems on the defensive side of the ball, though.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (7-3)- The Clippers were supposed to be better on the defensive end under Doc Rivers, but it’s their offense that is powerful. They have a top 2 offense, and Chris Paul is looking better than he ever has before. We will see how they do when the game slows down, and how they do late in games defensively, but they have been impressive so far.
6. Golden State Warriors (7-3)- There is a possibility that the Warriors could be the best team in the West. Andre Iguodala seems to be a perfect fit, and they don’t have any weaknesses. Andrew Bogut looks good, and we may be seeing a true contender emerge before our eyes.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-3)- The Thunder will be one of the top teams all year long, but they have some legitimate questions. Who will be their consistent third option? Can they be solid enough defensively? Can Scott Brooks finally run an offense? The Thunder are a great team, but there are some holes in their make up.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-4)- The Timberwolves may be one of the most complete teams in the league. They have great scoring options all up and down their roster, and Kevin Love has a real chance at the MVP. They are one of the best teams in the league in terms of starting out strong, and I like this team.
9. Houston Rockets (7-4)- The Rockets have some talent, but they also have some issues. Their perimeter defense is terrible, and they lack good role players. Dwight Howard looks like he did last year in LA in terms of being left on an island on defense, and he isn’t hitting his free throws. They will always be in games, but they need to fix these issues soon. Omer Asik has requested a trade, and we will see if they can get some good pieces in return.
10. Chicago Bulls (5-3)- It was only a matter of time for the Bulls to find their rhythm. Derrick Rose is looking better, and their defense is starting to be solid again. Now that they are healthy and getting more time, they look like the team we thought they’d be. They beat the undefeated Pacers by a large margin, and that was impressive.
11. Atlanta Hawks (6-4)- If the Blazers are the best team that no one is talking about, then the Hawks are the second. They are a top 5 offense, and they are looking impressive under Mike Budenholzer. Al Horford, Jeff Teague, and Paul Millsap are looking great as a trio, and Korver is a sharpshooter. I cover them in Atlanta, and I like this Hawks team.
12. Dallas Mavericks (6-4)- The Mavericks are deadly on offense, but not so much on defense. Monta Ellis is tenth in scoring in the league, and Dirk is a great partner for him. Rick Carlisle would prefer them to play better on defense, but they are a scary team in terms of scoring.
13. Phoenix Suns (5-4)- The Suns have fallen down to Earth a bit, but they are still a good young team. They will probably start to lose more games soon, but it has been nice to see these young guys playing so well. Eric Bledsoe will get paid this off-season.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (5-5)- The Grizzlies have overcome a slow start to get to .500. They are in the lower half of the league in offense and defense, and David Joerger needs to get this team back to what made them successful last season if they want to match those results.
15. Denver Nuggets (4-5)- The Nuggets looked bad early on, but they have rallied. They have gone 3-1 in the last week, and have been better without JaVale McGee. They are great at home again, and Brian Shaw has them playing to their strengths.
16. Charlotte Bobcats (5-5)- The Bobcats are in the bottom half of the league in offense and defense, but somehow they are finding ways to win games. Steve Clifford is getting the most out of this young team, and they are a scrappy bunch. They will probably start to fall off soon, but they are no pushover.
17. New Orleans Pelicans (4-6)- I am still holding out hope that the Pelicans can turn into something great. They have the talent to make the playoffs, but so far they are not executing down the stretch. It is probably just a matter of lack of playing time with their new pieces. Ryan Anderson’s return will help them immensely, and Anthony Davis is a beast. They have been disappointing so far, but they are still talented.
18. Philadelphia 76ers (5-6)- The Sixers have gone 2-6 in their last 8, and they look like the Sixers we thought they’d be, albeit without MCW. They will probably trade Evan Turner soon. Expect them to keep falling, but this team has some fight in them.
19. Orlando Magic (4-6)- The Magic have also fallen lately, but this is a fun team to watch. Aaron Afflalo has exploded lately, and they are in every game. Expect them to hover around the 19th spot all season. If you have league pass, watch this team.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (5-7)- If the Lakers hit their shots, they can beat anybody. They lack a shot creator when things aren’t going well, but they have been pretty good so far this season. They crushed the Pistons on Sunday night, and they can score the basketball. They have some issues defensively, but when Kobe and Nash come back, this team could start to play more consistently.
21. Brooklyn Nets (3-6)- The Brooklyn Nets are probably the most disappointing team in the league. They are iso heavy on offense, old on defense, and their aging stars are missing games. Jason Kidd needs to take a page out of Doc Rivers’ playbook and get the ball movement flowing out of Deron Williams hands. They will be fine, but it hasn’t been pretty early.
22. Toronto Raptors (4-7)- The Raptors will probably trade Rudy Gay. The DeMar DeRozan-Rudy Gay experiment is not working well, and Gay is still inefficient. This team has playoff talent, but they are not living up to it. They can still compete with any team, but look for them to make a move soon.
23. Boston Celtics (4-7)- The Celtics have shown some fight, but they still aren’t a good team. Jeff Green has finally started to play good consistently, and this is a pretty fun team to watch. They have moved Jordan Crawford to the point guard, and it has been better for them. Look for them to get Rondo back next month.
24.Cleveland Cavaliers (4-7)- The Cavs are terrible offensively, and their new pieces need time to mesh. They are decent on defense, but they lack ball movement, and they aren’t getting good shots. Something needs to change in Cleveland.
25. New York Knicks (3-6)- The Knicks are a mess. They are dealing with trade rumors, injuries, and bad defense. Melo has called out their effort, and expect James Dolan to do something drastic soon. Don’t expect much from a team that has Andrea Bargnani anchoring their defense.
26. Detroit Pistons (3-6)-The Pistons have not been good. Josh Smith, Andre Drummond, and Greg Monroe have not worked out, and they need some new rotation plans. Even with the big lineup, they are dead last in defensive rebounds per game, and they need to get Josh Smith into a role that suits his strengths. He’s on pace to shoot way too many 3 pointers.
27. Washington Wizards (2-7)- The Wizards aren’t good. They have the pieces to be a playoff team, but it hasn’t panned out. John Wall is shooting at an abysmal rate, and Randy Wittman could be fired soon.
28. Sacramento Kings (2-7)- The Kings are improving as they get more games under Mike Malone, but they aren’t a good team. This year will be about finding who will be part of their future. DeMarcus Cousins looks good, but they need better personnel.
29. Milwaukee Bucks (2-7)- The Bucks are where I thought they would be through this point in the season. They signed a bunch of secondary players to be their primary, and it has shown. Larry Drew is a decent coach, but it doesn’t look like he is maximizing what little talent he has. Larry Sanders is out and a mess when he has played, and it will be a long season for the Bucks.
30. Utah Jazz (1-10)- This team stinks.
This is just week 3, so look for trends, not records. The contenders are starting to show themselves, and the tankers are starting to fall down to earth.