NBA Power Rankings: Raptors, Kings shoot into top five after strong starts
I won't quote some famous philosopher like Aaron Rodgers, but believe me when I tell you that the first two weeks of the regular season don't mean much.
Full-fledged opinions about teams shouldn't be formed until December at the earliest. Clubs have played about eight percent of their regular-season games. That means we're not even to the appetizer course yet; we're still on the bread.
So, for now, enjoy DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings' stunning start. Get your laughs in while LeBron James and the Cavaliers try to find their way. Entertain the idea of the Bucks in the playoffs. And wonder, just like you do every season, if this is the year the Spurs finally fall off.
This week, the Knicks run into a familiar foe named reality and drop 13 spots. The Raptors catapult into the top five after their perfect week, and the Warriors remain on top despite suffering their first blemish.
(All stats and records are through Nov. 9.)
Coach Dave Joerger wants the Grizzlies to get more exposure, but defense doesn't translate on national television as well as it does on the hardwood. Keep winning like this, though, and Memphis' games will be easy to find with a remote come late spring.
Maybe James Harden was right: The Rockets haven't missed Chandler Parsons one bit so far, thanks to Trevor Ariza (14.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 47.8 percent from three-point range), who is playing his part to perfection. In addition to being a cheaper alternative in free agency, Ariza also represents a defensive upgrade.
Whether Derrick Rose is healthy or not, the Bulls must continue to carve out playing time for Aaron Brooks, whose excellence off the bench has included a 26-point performance in a loss to Boston. The 29-year-old point guard has already become a favorite of Tom Thibodeau's, which means his defense is also up to snuff. Brooks' presence reassures Chicago that its season doesn't depend entirely on Rose's body.
Gregg Popovich has already started 10 different players, so yeah, he's taking the regular season pretty seriously. How much is San Antonio snoozing? It is scoring just 96.9 points per 100 possessions compared with 108.2 last year.
Credit Erik Spoelstra for reinventing Miami's offense yet keeping it among the league's best. With Chris Bosh as the No. 1 option, Luol Deng and Shawne Williams joining Dwyane Wade on the wing and Norris Cole starting over Mario Chalmers at the point, it's a new era for the Heat, not rebuilding one.
The best dunker in the world has fallen in love with his jumper. Blake Griffin is attempting almost twice as many shots from outside 16 feet as he is at the rim. That's a problem considering Griffin is shooting 37.5 percent on all jumpers (and hit just 34.9 percent last season).
Scoring isn't everything. P.J. Tucker was a plus-26 in Sunday's comeback win over Golden State despite finishing with two points on 1-of-6 shooting. Tucker's gritty defense, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks more than made up for his lack of offense. He's the type of role player who fits perfectly alongside Phoenix's three-headed backcourt juggernaut.
Dallas has allowed opponents to shoot better than 50 percent in each of its three losses. The Mavericks have the NBA's top offense, but they will need more balance to be a top-10 team.
The Blazers are one of three teams (along with Houston and Toronto) in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The defense is particularly encouraging for Portland, which was 16th last season.
Bojan Bogdanovic, 25, is one of the best rookies in the league. The 6-8 forward is adeptly filling ex-Net Paul Pierce's role in the starting lineup, highlighted by a 22-point effort in Sunday's win over the Magic. Much like Pierce, Bogdanovic is a capable shooter with good size and ball-handling skills. Brooklyn, however, misses Pierce on defense, where Bogdanovic is still adjusting.
Gordon Hayward is playing like a leading man in Utah, which is good because at 24 he's the oldest player in the starting lineup. Hayward's all-around evolution is making Utah look wise for matching his maximum four-year, $63 million offer sheet from Charlotte in the offseason.
The arrival of Lance Stephenson hasn't had the intended impact on the offense; Charlotte ranks only 25th in points per possession and is shooting just 29 percent from three-point range. Born Ready's banked-in, game-winning three to beat Atlanta was nice, but it's also the only trey (1-of-12) he's made this season.
Reggie Jackson is getting the type of opportunity that players in contract years love. OKC's sixth man has been plugged into the starting lineup and become the focal point of the offense while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook heal. The pending restricted free agent is averaging 18.3 shots and 41.8 minutes in his first four games, up from 11.5 and 28.5 last season. Unfortunately for Jackson (37 percent), the shots haven't been falling enough yet.
Boston's offense has improved to 107.1 points per 100 possessions from 99.7 per 100 last season, when Rajon Rondo missed 52 games. Rondo is the NBA's early leader in assists with 11.2 per game.
After lighting up the Knicks for six three-pointers in nine attempts, Kyle Korver is shooting 61.3 percent (19-of-31) from three-point range. He's connected on 38.9 percent (7-for-18) of his twos.
Ricky Rubio's potential two-month absence is a big setback, but all is not lost. While Rubio recovers from a sprained left ankle, rookie Zach LaVine has a chance to get his feet wet. Minnesota started the 19-year-old in its last game (a loss to Miami in which LaVine had five points, six rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes), electing to keep veteran Mo Williams in his bench role.
Stan Van Gundy's quest to tame Brandon Jennings is yielding some better results. After a rocky start, Jennings has averaged 6.7 assists to 1.3 turnovers over his last four games. His shooting remains a problem, though, with Jennings converting only 31 hitting percent of his jumpers.
Five different starting lineups in seven games probably isn't a recipe for success. Nor is playing Jason Smith and Samuel Dalembert together. Derek Fisher is limited by the fact that his best healthy big man, Amar'e Stoudemire, can't play more than 25 minutes a night and his second-best big, Quincy Acy, has a list of offensive skills as long as his last name.
Nikola Vucevic, who has averaged a double-double in each of the past two seasons, is putting up career numbers (17.2 points and 12.3 rebounds) this year. The Magic center could sneak onto the East All-Star team if this production continues.
Kobe Bryant isn't going to want to hear this, but the Lakers' offense looked the best it has all season with Jeremy Lin orchestrating the attack in Sunday's victory over Charlotte. Lin tied Kobe with a team-high 21 points and proved that L.A.'s path to success doesn't necessarily have to include Kobe shooting 30 times.
The Nuggets, who have lost five consecutive games since a season-opening win over Detroit, are off to the league's most disappointing start. A stunningly flat offense is shooting 41.5 percent, the NBA's second-worst mark.