Celtics unstoppable cruise to top spot through opening month

By | November 20, 2022

The opening month of the NBA season is within the books. What have we realized?

Non-basketball tales — commonplace on this dramatic league — dominated discussions, from the continuing Kyrie Irving controversy in Brooklyn to the Ime Udoka scandal rocking Boston. However on the pitch there was a variety of intrigue, producing some enjoyable surprises – the Jazz! – gradual begins to anticipated contenders and lots to determine with 5 months left within the season.

With the season nearly 20 p.c over, it is time for the primary energy rankings of the yr – break up East to West with 10 playoff groups every.

(Observe: Rankings replicate matches performed via Thursday, November 17)

IS

1. Celtics – The protection that led the league final season is a step again within the absence of Rob Williams, however beneath interim coach Joe Mazzulla the C’s have not in any other case skipped a beat of their debut torrid. Their unstoppable offense has made the rounds of the league, and led by early favourite MVP Jayson Tatum, Boston — fueled by their NBA Finals loss — is on a mission.

2. Bucks – After a 9-0 begin, Milwaukee was down three of 4 to lose first place within the East. However there’s nothing to fret about with a Bucks squad that is nonetheless not full. Khris Middleton hasn’t performed this season, and even Giannis Antetekounmpo has needed to miss just a few video games. Accidents to different gamers within the rotation have hit them onerous, however they’re treading water.

3. Hawks – Their resume contains two good wins over the Bucks, however a stinging loss at residence to the Celtics – who had been lacking three key gamers and one night time Tatum and Jaylen Brown had been principally non-factors – this week has confirmed that this group has a variety of room for development. Dejounte Murray made a clean transition alongside Trae Younger to create top-of-the-line backcourts within the NBA.

4. Cavaliers – Two early-season wins over the Celtics and an 8-1 begin proved this workforce is legit. Donovan Mitchell is flourishing in his new scenario, Darius Garland is a famous person within the making, Caris LeVert is harmful, and Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley’s frontline punch is horrifying. However a five-game dropping streak that included absences from Mitchell and Mobley revealed that this workforce wanted extra punch from its bench.

5. Raptors – Pascal Siakam’s adductor pressure highlighted a litany of accidents Toronto are coping with. Fred Van Vleet, Gary Trent Jr. and Treasured Achiuwa have additionally missed video games because the Raptors wrestle to search out profitable rosters with out a number of of their rotation gamers. They’ve weathered the storm admirably thus far – 3-3 of their first six video games with out Siakam – however till their All-Star returns, it will likely be an actual problem.

6. 76ers – Encouraging indicators for the Sixers, who’ve began the yr poorly however have responded even within the absence of James Harden as he recovers from a foot damage that may maintain him out of motion in December. Philadelphia went 3-2 in its first 5 video games with out him, thanks largely to MVP play by Joel Embiid, who capped off a ridiculous week final Sunday with a 59-point effort in a win over the Jazz.

7. Warmth – After lacking just a few video games to make the NBA Finals final season, the Warmth have been underwhelming thus far. Bam Adebayo has been higher these days, however Miami wants him to take care of that consistency they usually miss Tyler Herro, who has been out for the previous two weeks with an damage. Jimmy Butler — as he did together with his star block of Devin Booker in final week’s win over the Suns — goes to have to tug this workforce to the playoffs.

8. Wizards – Though star Bradley Beal (well being and security protocols) has missed 4 straight video games, Washington has gained 4 straight during which they eradicated the Mavericks, Jazz and Grizzlies earlier than falling to the Thunder. However the numbers counsel they’re outperforming, with a internet score that ranks close to the underside within the NBA.

9. Pacers – Indiana is in some kind of NBA purgatory, not adequate to compete for a title and never dangerous sufficient to be gamers within the Victor Wembanyama draw. They’re caught someplace within the center. However Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin will make these Pacers value watching this season.

10. Nets – Rooted in turmoil all through the opening month, may the Nets see a lightweight on the finish of the tunnel? Kyrie Irving is due on Sunday as they lastly attempt to put this controversy behind them, they usually’re hoping it would not take away from what they’re constructing beneath new head coach Jacque Vaughn, who’s now 5. -4 since taking workplace. after highway win towards the Blazers. Even Ben Simmons appears like he is turning a nook.

WEST

1. Suns – After a scorching 6-1 begin they gave up and misplaced 4 of their subsequent six however no actual considerations right here. Chris Paul and Cameron Johnson are gone, and the Suns nonetheless boast a Prime 5 offense and protection, with the very best internet score within the West. Devin Booker has typically been nice to begin the season.

2. Blazers – Damian Lillard missed 5 of Portland’s first 12 video games, however that did not cease this group from having probably the most surprisingly good begins towards one of many hardest schedules. The Blazers have a behavior of falling behind — trailing by double digits in six of their 10 wins — which they’re going to need to clear up, however they’re already proving they’re going to be powerful within the West.

3. Nuggets – Two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic leads a Prime 5 offense, nevertheless it’s the opposite aspect that provides them bother as they cruise via the opening month with a top-ranked protection NBA final 10. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are nonetheless looking for their groove, and the Nuggets are nonetheless searching for good wins.

4. Jazz – Danny Ainge insists he is pleasantly stunned by Utah’s unbelievable begin even after leaving the Donovan Mitchell/Rudy Gobert period and stripping the roster. Tanker? At the least the Jazz gamers did not appear excited about that after a surprising 10-3 begin led by Lauri Markannen and a hungry supporting solid of Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton and even an previous buddy Kelly Olynyk. Three straight losses counsel the parade is perhaps hitting all-time low, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a enjoyable story.

5. Grizzlies – Ja Morant stays completely ridiculous and already has a protracted streak of highlights to brag a couple of month into the season. He is taking part in at an MVP tempo, however he is nonetheless ready for his assist group to be absolutely wholesome. Jaren Jackson lastly returned this week, which ought to give an underperforming protection a lift, and he’ll want time to discover a rhythm. However the Grizzlies additionally simply misplaced Desmond Bane for a number of weeks after taking part in on the All-Star stage to begin the season.

6. Mavericks – For a workforce with an MVP favourite in Luke Doncic, the Mavericks have been irritating and inconsistent. They’ve had some good wins — together with the Blazers and Grizzlies — however they’ve additionally suffered latest losses to the Magic, Wizards and Rockets. A tricky time forward will reveal extra about this workforce. After two this weekend with the Nuggets, they’ve highway video games towards the Celtics and Bucks arising this week.

7. Pelicans — Zion Williamson’s return has paid off, however New Orleans is discovering methods to win with out him, as evidenced by their win this week over the Grizzlies when the star huge man sat out. The Pelicans are a sneaky darkish horse in what has been a confused West if Williamson can keep wholesome and their protection – ranked within the high 10 within the league at first – can stay constant sufficient to finish top-of-the-line offenses. of the NBA.

8. Kings – Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic led the Kings final time they made the playoffs. It has been a very long time. De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis lead this workforce and look set to place Sacramento within the playoffs for the primary time since 2006. They impress with the NBA’s No. 2 ranked offense – evidenced by this week’s 153 factors . effort towards the Nets – however their back-five protection might want to enhance for them to remain within the desk.

9. Clippers – Kawhi Leonard returned Thursday after lacking 12 video games, taking part in simply 25 minutes within the Clippers’ win over the Pistons, they usually’re hoping his return can start to resolve their early-season points. The Clippers entered Friday tied for the NBA’s worst offense with the Lakers — not good firm to have round proper now.

10. Warriors – After Klay Thompson was ejected from a gap week recreation towards the Suns, Devin Booker mentioned the Warriors star frequently bragged about his 4 championships. Golden State appears to be caught up to now to begin the yr. Steph Curry continues to play at MVP stage however the Warriors are losing it thus far, showing to lack motivation after successful the championship final season. Anticipate a turnaround in some unspecified time in the future – there are nonetheless 5 months to go, and this group is simply too skilled and gifted to be this torpid via a full season. However there’s a variety of work to be carried out, particularly on the defensive finish, and till it does there shall be questions requested about this ageing core – identical to final season – and whether or not their glory days are completed.