We are officially two weeks into the season, and it has been an eventful one so far. Damian Lillard’s 39-point special in Game 1, Steph Curry’s game-winner against the Thunder, and James Harden being traded to the Clippers headline a whirlwind start to the year.
With all of the basketball that has been played so far, let’s see which 10 teams have been the best.
Note: This is strictly based on how the teams have played and is not a forward-looking projection.
10. Milwaukee Bucks
If you were to ask me which team will take the biggest jump over the next two weeks, the Bucks would be my first guess. They are 3-2 but have a -4.4 net rating, have played a pretty weak schedule, and their first win came against a short-handed Sixers team. The good news is that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lillard have played great, though they have struggled to mesh, posting a -8.14 net rating when they are on the floor together. Will this change? I’d bet my house that it does, but as of now, No. 10 on this list may even be generous.
Basketball can be easy
Lillard screens for Giannis and is open when he pops. Instead of passing, Giannis takes a contested pull-up jumper
Giannis on right elbow shots last year: 0.7 points per shot attempt
Lillard on top of key 3s last year: 0.93 points per shot attempt pic.twitter.com/6TamfBtsOc
— Bucks Film Room (@BucksFilmRoom) November 1, 2023
9. Orlando Magic
The team I predicted to have the most improvement this year has played like a top-10 squad so far. Their young star, Paolo Banchero, struggled in his first couple of games but has bounced back to post 25 and 30 points in his last two games, respectively. The Magic went 2-2 in the first four games where Banchero scored 15 or less in every game he played, and the fact that they were able to win games despite their star not playing great shows their impressive depth. I am still expecting Banchero to have an All-Star-esque season, and if he does, Orlando can make the playoffs.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are a polarizing team. Everyone knows their ceiling is probably a second-round exit, but what is their floor? After two weeks, their floor might not be as low as people think. The trio of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert has looked good. The Timberwolves are 3-2, and one of those wins was a blowout against the Nuggets. The real test will be how well they recover when they hit a true crisis. I think Anthony Edwards will be just fine, but whether Towns or Gobert will is tough to tell.
The Timberwolves are currently the best defense in the NBA and Rudy Gobert is No. 1 in the league in defensive rating
Still an elite defensive anchor 👀🔒 pic.twitter.com/LjAF8231HM
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) November 6, 2023
7. Atlanta Hawks
After starting 0-2 with an overtime loss, the Hawks are now 4-2 and have looked like one of the best teams in the league. Trae Young and Dejounte Murray have been playing much better together, and their young teammates seem to be clicking, too. I will stand by the take that a team built around an undersized defensive liability can never win a championship, but Atlanta has still been fun to watch and has the potential to be a top-five team in the East.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
Just like the team that traded away James Harden, the team that traded for him is difficult to rank. Through five games, they are 3-2, and their two losses were a two-point defeat at the hands of the Jazz and an overtime loss to the Lakers. Paul George has been playing like an MVP, Kawhi Leonard looks great on offense, and Russell Westbrook continues to be a good fit. With that said, can this success continue with James Harden? Acquiring an All-Star-caliber player is usually a great thing, but there are cases where such an addition has been polarizing and destructive. What will happen to the Clippers? Only time can tell.
5. Golden State Warriors
Going into the season, the Warriors were the most polarizing team in the league in regard to their evaluation and potential. Some people thought they were a top team in the West while others argued they were a borderline play-in team because of how much they were aging. So far, they’re playing like the Warriors we all know and remember. Even though they lost their opener to the Suns and another game to the Cavaliers, they have been great every other night. Stephen Curry is playing like a top-five player, Chris Paul has been very efficient, Draymond Green is still an elite defender, and it seems like all of their locker-room issues disappeared. It’s too early to tell whether this success is sustainable, but a Curry-led team should never be counted out.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers are a pretty tough team to rank given that they just traded Harden, who was supposed to be their second-best player this year. However, they seem to be doing okay without him. They have not lost since Game 1. Joel Embiid is playing like an MVP again, Tobias Harris is a solid third option (averaging 20 points per game), the Harden trade brought back key depth, and Maxey is making the All-Star jump we all expected. Sure, the Sixers have had their playoff woes the past few years, but maybe an All-Star Maxey is what they have been missing the entire time.
The 76ers are the first team in NBA history to have 4 players average 20+ PPG over a team’s first 5 games of the season
Joel Embiid: 29.4
Tyrese Maxey: 26.2
Kelly Oubre Jr: 21.0
Tobias Harris: 20.0
*Minimum 5 games each
— Josh Schrager (@Schragz) November 4, 2023
3. Dallas Mavericks
This one shocked me. The league knew Luka Doncic was good, but after not watching him since the 2022-23 regular season, they forgot just how great he is. He is tied with Nikola Jokic in the way-too-early MVP race after averaging 32 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists to start the season. Elsewhere on the roster, Kyrie Irving missed two games but has been solid, too. Finally, the addition of Grant Williams seems to be working quite well. How high is the ceiling for a team lacking depth? Only time will tell, but I would not bet on this team being in the top three all year long.
2. Denver Nuggets
Not only are the reigning champions looking like an early favorite to defend their title, but Jokic has been just as great. I don’t think people realize how insane it is to be averaging 27 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists per game with 69 percent True Shooting. He continues to put up video game numbers. Denver’s one loss came against the Timberwolves, who had their double-big lineup for the majority of the game, and it was Jokic’s worst contest. While I do not believe this is a cause for concern, it is something to keep in mind.
1. Boston Celtics
Is there a debate? The new-look Boston Celtics could not have gone off to a hotter start. They are 5-0, their two new additions, Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, have settled in great, homegrown stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown look better than ever, and they have responded to adversity a lot better than in years past. Their main concern will be depth. Outside of a top six that might be the best in the league, the Celtics do not have a surplus of good options. This is something that will need to improve later on, but for now, the Celtics are easily the best team in the NBA.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 5, 2023
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