1. Toronto Raptors - The Raptors have been locked in on both ends of the floor, and Kawhi looks like he’s back to his old MVP candidate self.
2. Golden State Warriors - the Warriors have been in close games early on this season, but Steph’s 51-point game against Washington in 3 quarters solidifies there are no early season problems here.
3. Denver Nuggets - the off-season hype for the Nuggets had me skeptical, but Nikola Jokic has proven he was worthy of his max extension after his perfect game Saturday against the Suns.
4. New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Davis is the front runner for MVP so far this season and Elfrid Payton appears to be a serviceable point guard, who many people felt was a major downgrade from Rajon Rondo. (Make sure you checkout Preston Ellis, Oleh Kosel & Kevin Barios on the Bird Calls Podcast)
5. Milwaukee Bucks - the Bucks are shooting a high volume number of threes and connecting. Coach Bud’s system has proven thus far that the Bucks are a legitimate Top 4 team in the Eastern Conference.
6. Boston Celtics - the Celtics are at the bottom in offensive rating, but 1st in defensive rating. A bad loss early, but this team is still one of the front runners in the East.
7. Houston Rockets - the Rockets have struggled early on this season, and Chris Paul being suspended from the altercation at Staples Centre doesn’t help. However, this team won 65 games last season and it’s still way too early to proclaim they’re a worse team.
8. Portland Trailblazers - a tough overtime loss to Washington by 1 doesn’t have me concerned. Convincing wins overs Los Angeles and San Antonio are crucial for the tight Western Conference race. The 4-game road trip out East will Show us more of who this team is.
9. Utah Jazz - a tough loss to Golden State and a shocking loss at home to Memphis wasn’t the start Utah was expecting, but a nice win in Houston with a huge performance from Mitchell calmed the nerves of many Jazz fans.
10. Indiana Pacers - 5 games into the season, the Pacers have experienced 5 blowout games. They have been on the positive side 3 of those 5 times. In those 3 wins, the Pacers are averaging 28 assists as a team and shooting roughly 53% from three.
11. San Antonio Spurs - the Spurs do miss Dejounte Murray and rookie Lonnie Walker, but defensively, this has been a different team. It’ll be a season of ups and downs for the Spurs, but with Pop, Aldridge and DeRozan there isn’t reason to panic this early into the season.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves - the Wolves playing a disgruntled Jimmy Butler is odd to me. During the home starting lineups, he isn’t even joining the team till his name is called, and he runs out of the tunnel. They’re playing decent basketball right now, but the drama and uncertainty surrounding this team only continues the awkwardness of the 2018-2019 Timberwolves.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder - OKC is off to an ugly 0-3 start, but Westbrook coming back from an injury and no Roberson lessens my concern with this team. This is a team you should monitor closely over the next couple weeks to see if they can right this ship. If they’re still struggling in a few weeks, they could really dig themselves in a hole that will be hard to get out of in the strong Western Conference.
14. Detroit Pistons - the Pistons are indeed undefeated, but their average margin of victory is 2-points. They barely beat 2-non playoff teams and had a Blake Griffin throwback game that helped them overtake the 76ers in overtime. I don’t want to discredit the Pistons though because 3-0 is still 3-0. I just don’t see them as a threat for the upper echelon teams in the NBA.
15. Philadelphia 76ers - I am slightly concerned with the 76ers right now. Clearly their bench has suffered with Illyasova and Belinelli leaving via free agency, but inserting Fultz into the starting lineup for Redick hasn’t worked out. Wilson Chandler is still out with an injury, and even that doesn’t look promising for the depth of this Philly team. It’s still early, but Philly is going to have to find away to overcome these early season problems.
16. Washington Wizards - the Wizards opened up with a tough schedule and thankfully they were able to pull out a win against the Blazers in overtime. This team has talent, but how that talent jells will be what we keep an eye on for the next few weeks.
17. Los Angeles Clippers - the Clippers have a talented roster but their lack of a star will hinder their long term success. They did win against Houston and Oklahoma City, but I can’t buy into LA Clippers playoff stock, just yet.
18. Los Angeles Lakers - a 1-3 start with 2 starters getting suspended wasn’t the way LeBron and the Lakers wanted to start things out, but losses to Houston, Portland and San Antonio aren’t the worst thing. There are a lot of new faces and it’s going to take some time for this team to develop chemistry. The Lakers are still a playoff contender with LeBron leading the way.
19. Charlotte Hornets - interesting lineup combinations early from Coach Borrego have the Hornets playing competitively early on, but they are going to need to find Kemba Walker some help to be an Eastern Conference playoff team.
20. Orlando Magic - I like what I’m seeing from Gordon, Isaac and Bamba early on, but it feels like the Magic might be in the same boat they were last season early on. Impressive, but I don’t think it will last over the entirety of the season. But don’t be discouraged, the young players are growing quicker than I expected.
21. Memphis Grizzlies - Memphis had a nice win in Utah but I think Jackson should be starting of Green at the four. Parsons looks better, but he still isn’t the guy they signed a few years ago. Lastly, in the Opener, Gasol looked completely disengaged and I would keep an eye on what Memphis does with Marc. He could be a nice movable piece for a draft pick.
22. Miami Heat - underwhelming start for me with this Heat team. I wonder if the Jimmy Butler trade rumors had any affect on this team, but it wouldn’t shock me. They had a solid win against the Knicks, but they have to be more consistent or the Hornets and Pistons might give them a run for their money with the Eastern Playoffs.
23. Dallas Mavericks - love what I’m seeing from Luka so far this season. He doesn’t look like a rookie at all. I think this is a team that could compete for the 8th seed in the Western Conference, and getting Harrison Barnes back soon will help this team’s depth. However, they’re still in a transition period as they let Luka and DSJ develop chemistry.
24. Brooklyn Nets - the Nets were nationally laughed at when (according to rumors) they wouldn’t give up Caris LeVert for Jimmy Butler. The Nets are the ones laughing now as LeVert is on his way to the Most Improved Player of the Year award.
25. Phoenix Suns - the future is bright with Jackson, Booker and Ayton but they need a point guard or they need to at least play more minutes with Booker at the point. This team is still a bottom feeder in the West, and I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw the Suns deal Ariza before the deadline in hopes of acquiring a player/pick.
26. Atlanta Hawks - the Hawks are more fun than I thought they’d be. Are they a good team? No. But they’re fun. Trae Young, Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore and John Collins are all young players who are only going to get better. Enjoy this season of tanking, with occasional wins Hawks fans.
27. Sacramento Kings - the Kings are another young team to watch. De’Aaron Fox has looked good so far this season, and I like what I’ve seen from Harry Giles. Sacramento and Phoenix will be in constant battle to not be the worst team in the Western Conference.
28. New York Knicks - the Kevin Knox injury is a major blow to New York. With Porzingis hurt, there isn’t much to really look forward to this season. Noah Vonleh has been a nice surprise though and his development is a small sample size of what David Fizdale will bring to this team.
29. Chicago Bulls - outside of Zach LaVine, this team hasn’t looked too good. The Jabari Parker experiment will only last this season (his 2nd year is a team option) and Kris Dunn OUT for 4-6 weeks is already depressing news with Lauri on the injury report. The Bulls can continue to let Carter grow though during the injuries to 2 of their starters.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers - the Cavs have been absolutely dreadful this season. But, I think a majority of the Cavs fans are excited to acquire one of the freshmen from Duke in the 2019 NBA Draft. Over all though there isn’t much to say here. I think Mike Facci summed this up perfectly in Episode 4 of Setting The Pace, “The King can’t save you this time”.
Alex Golden is the creator and founder of UpAndUnder.net. Throughout the season, Alex Golden will breakdown what's going on in the association. Make sure to checkout his weekly Power Rankings (in the Power Rankings page) during the season as well.