Despite the Nets’ recent upgrade, the Lakers continue to show why they’re the title favorite with the league’s best record. They absolutely smashed the Rockets, Thunder and Pelicans this week with a plus-21.5 net rating and are getting it done on both ends of the floor. They did all this with Anthony Davis averaging 18 points and while keeping both he and LeBron James under 30 minutes per game. This is a deep, confident, talented team that’s going to be hard to beat.
After winning a closer-than-expected matchup against the depleted Pelicans on Wednesday, the Clippers obliterated the Kings and Pacers by 30-plus points to close out the week. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard each averaged over 24 points per game this week, while Marcus Morris and Luke Kennard have bolstered the Clippers bench. Kennard thrived in two games as the primary reserve ball-handler with Lou Williams sidelined, averaging 17 points on blistering 7-for-10 3-point shooting, perhaps strengthening the case for an eventual Williams trade.
Utah blasted the Cavs and Hawks before a convincing win over the Nuggets in Denver on Sunday, and has now won five straight games. The Jazz were throwing flames from 3-point distance, making 59 3s in the three wins this week at a 46.8 percent clip. Jordan Clarkson is on one of his signature hot streaks, averaging 20 points and six rebounds on 45 percent 3-point shooting this week, while Bojan Bogdanovic has found his offensive rhythm after a slow start. The Jazz look dangerous to start the season.
After beating the Magic and the Pistons, the Bucks picked up a big win over Luka Doncic and the Mavericks on national TV on Friday. Despite going just 1 for 10 from the free throw line, Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 31 points and nine rebounds in the win, while Khris Middleton added 25 points on 4-of-9 3-point shooting. Milwaukee continues its historic offensive pace while the defense slowly makes strides.
What a week for the Nets, who won all three games and saw three-time NBA scoring champ James Harden join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to potentially create one of the most explosive offenses of all time. Harden endeared himself to Brooklyn fans and made league history by becoming the first player to ever put up a 30-point triple-double in his team debut. Meanwhile, Durant made Nets history on Saturday by scoring 25 or more points for the ninth straight game. Irving is expected to rejoin the team soon, making Brooklyn must-watch entertainment for the foreseeable future.
The Celtics played two games this week, and they were polar opposite performances. First they beat the Magic by 27 without Jayson Tatum, then turned around and lost to the Knicks by 30 on Sunday in Kemba Walker’s return. Putting the bad loss aside, Walker said he felt pain-free, putting up nine points and four assists in 20 minutes. Having Walker on the court is a welcome sight for the Celtics, who, even without him, have been one of the league’s best teams to start the season.
The Pacers took a hit in the short term with newly acquired Caris LeVert out indefinitely due to a mass on his kidney, and now have to replace Victor Oladipo’s production by committee. Indiana went 2-2 this week, with wins over the Warriors and Blazers and losses to the Kings and Clippers. Malcolm Brogdon cooled off a bit from the 3-point line, but still averaged 19.5 points and eight assists this week, while Domantas Sabonis put up 22 points, 13.5 rebounds and five assists per game. Those two will have to do the heavy lifting offensively until LeVert and TJ Warren are ready to get back on the court.
The Sixers were able to pick up back-to-back wins over the Heat, a team facing similar issues with player availability, but fell to the Hawks and Grizzlies. The loss to Memphis was ugly, as Philly committed 22 turnovers, including seven from Ben Simmons, with Joel Embiid out of the lineup. Shake Milton returned to the lineup for the final two games of the week and was on fire, scoring nearly 30 points and dishing out 5.5 assists per game on 64 percent shooting.
The Suns only played one game this week due to health and safety protocols, and it was not good. They were clobbered by the Wizards without Russell Westbrook or Thomas Bryant, and Phoenix made just 4-of-27 3-pointers in the loss. The Suns have four games scheduled for this week, so we’ll see how many they can actually play.
A 3-1 week for the Blazers was hampered by injuries, as Jusuf Nurkic is expected to miss two months with a broken wrist and CJ McCollum is out indefinitely with a sprained left foot. Enes Kanter helped beat the Hawks on Saturday with 12 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, but stayed on brand defensively by allowing Clint Capela to rack up 25 points and 15 rebounds. Damian Lillard averaged 30 points for the week, and that should be the norm as long as McCollum is out.
After a win over the Thunder on Tuesday, the Spurs were blitzed by a defiant Rockets team in the game after the James Harden trade, but bounced back to beat them in the rematch on Saturday. Keldon Johnson averaged a team-high 19.3 points for the week, including a career-high 29 in the loss to Houston. San Antonio has the second-best defensive rating in the league over its last six games.
The Nuggets beat the Warriors but lost to the Nets and later the Jazz in a rematch of one of the most exciting playoff series from the bubble. Nikola Jokic is putting up MVP numbers, averaging 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists this week, but the Denver defense continues to struggle, ranked 25th in the NBA allowing 112.5 points per 100 possessions. Michael Porter Jr. is expected to rejoin the team by the end of this week, but he won’t do much to help on the defensive end.
Kristaps Porzingis returned for the Mavericks this week, but they played all three games without key rotation players due to health and safety protocols. Porzingis looked expectedly rusty, averaging 17 points and 7.3 rebounds on 26 percent 3-point shooting in three games, but meanwhile Luka Doncic put up an incredible week. The early MVP candidate averaged 32.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 12.3 assists while shooting 44 percent on nine 3-point attempts per game this week, but he was only able to lead his team to one win.
After a meteoric rise in last week’s rankings, the Warriors plummet once again as the offense completely stalled in losses to the Pacers and Nuggets this week. Stephen Curry struggled to find clean looks against Indiana, and his 35 points on 5-for-11 3-point shooting weren’t enough to outlast Denver. The Warriors starting lineup now has a minus-10.8 net rating with a 92.8 offensive rating this season, which makes you wonder if Steve Kerr will make a change in the near future.
The Thunder’s lone win this week was of the comeback variety, erasing a 10-point deficit with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to set themselves up for the overtime victory behind a career-high 33 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Lu Dort had a great week shooting the ball, going 10 for 23 from 3-point range before Sunday’s game against the 76ers was postponed.
The Grizzlies put up a 3-0 week and, more importantly, saw Ja Morant return to the court in Saturday’s win over the 76ers. He looked a bit rusty, but still put up 17 points and six assists in 30 minutes. In Morant’s absence, Memphis has gotten strong contributions from players like Brandon Clarke, Grayson Allen and rookies Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman, which should only bolster its depth moving forward.
Toronto dropped a close one to the Blazers, then got two tight, but much-needed “home” wins over the Hornets in Tampa to close out the week. The defense is still struggling, but the offense did enough to win as the Raptors made a combined 41 3-pointers in the two wins against Charlotte. Chris Boucher has continued to be a revelation off the bench, averaging 21.7 points, nine rebounds and 2.3 blocks this week, while Norman Powell tied a career high with six 3-pointers on Saturday.
Charlotte beat the Knicks this week before losing to the Mavericks and twice to the Raptors. Gordon Hayward missed the first Toronto loss with a hip strain, but had a great week otherwise, averaging 25 points on 55 percent 3-point shooting. LaMelo Ball keeps filling the stat sheet, but he had a rough week shooting the ball at 33 percent field goals and 29 percent from behind the arc. The Hornets rallied back from large deficits in both Toronto games, but were unable to complete the comebacks.
Despite being severely short-handed, the Pelicans kept things close against the Clippers, with Nickeil Alexander-Walker pouring in a career-high 37 points on 5-of-8 3-point shooting. Things weren’t so close a couple of nights later against the Lakers, but New Orleans closed out the week by hanging on to beat the Kings in Sacramento. Zion Williamson missed the first game of the week, but looked excellent in the next two, averaging 26 points and nine rebounds on 65 percent field goals.
The Cavs offense continued to struggle this week without Darius Garland and Collin Sexton in the lineup, but Andre Drummond came to the rescue with a monster 33-point, 23-rebound performance in Friday’s win over the Knicks before Sunday’s game against the Wizards was postponed. Cedi Osman has looked pretty good with more offensive responsibility, averaging 18.7 points and five assists per game for the week.
The Knicks were on their way toward a dismal week, but they saved face by destroying the Celtics in Boston on Sunday afternoon. That win followed losses to the Hornets, Nets and Cavs, who were without Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Love, among others. Immanuel Quickley has taken Knicks Twitter by storm, averaging 19.7 points and five assists on 47 percent 3-point shooting over his last three games.
Chicago split two games this week after Tuesday’s postponement, coughing away a win against the Thunder before handily defeating the Mavericks in Dallas on Sunday. Lauri Markkanen played in both games following a seven-game absence, averaging 22.5 points and eight rebounds in 34 minutes. Chicago beat the Mavericks despite Zach LaVine and Coby White combining for just 10 points on 1-for-13 shooting, a testament to the rest of the roster.
Another rough week for the Magic, who have now dropped five games in a row after a strong start to the season. The losses to the potent offenses of the Bucks and Nets were somewhat excusable, but being blown out by nearly 30 points against a severely undermanned Celtics team can’t sit well with head coach Steve Clifford. The normally reliable Magic defense has allowed an abysmal 123.4 points per 100 possessions during the five-game skid.
Houston picked up a gritty win with only nine available players the game after trading away disgruntled James Harden, but they lost to the very same Spurs on Saturday. Christian Wood is staking his claim as the team’s new best player, averaging 25.5 points, 16.5 rebounds and three blocks in the two games after Harden was dealt. If Wood, John Wall, Eric Gordon, DeMarcus Cousins and Victor Oladipo can consistently stay on the court, they should be able to remain competitive despite a trade that clearly prioritized the future.
The Pistons’ league-worst 3-9 record might be a bit deceiving, since they’ve played a brutal schedule to begin the year. They looked great in their win over the Heat on Saturday, with Jerami Grant continuing his development as the team’s top offensive option. He averaged 23 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 blocks in Detroit’s 1-1 week, and head coach Dwane Casey said he was impressed by the way Grant patiently handled the extra defensive attention from the Heat. Derrick Rose also looked solid in his return from a two-game absence, and the Pistons have been playing better than their record indicates.
If defense is your thing, you might want to stay away from the Kings this season. They’re on pace to have the worst defensive rating in league history, have allowed at least 120 points in eight straight games, and opponents are shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range against them. All this adds up to a lot of losses, and a hot seat for Luke Walton … if it wasn’t hot enough already. De’Aaron Fox had an incredible week, averaging 26.8 points and 7.8 assists on 43 percent 3-point shooting, but none of that will matter if Sacramento can’t guard anyone.
The Hawks got a much-needed win on Monday against the severely short-handed 76ers, then lost to the Jazz and the Blazers to close out the week. That’s now six losses in seven games for Atlanta after a 4-1 start, and Trae Young is mired in a horrific shooting slump. He averaged 18.7 points this week on 32 percent shooting from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range, while Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic continue to be sidelined with injuries.
Miami played at varying degrees of short-handedness all week, and it showed as it lost twice to the 76ers and to the Pistons on Saturday. It will be hard to judge this team until it gets a full complement of players, but it wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire before the COVID-19 issues arose. At least the missing players opened up time for rookie Precious Achiuwa, who nearly averaged a double-double this week in 25 minutes per game, and could be a valuable contributor come playoff time.
The Wizards were finally on the verge of picking up some momentum after a blowout win over the Suns on Monday, but a team COVID outbreak halted all basketball activities for the rest of the week, including games. Washington won doing what it does best — scoring — hitting 15-of-34 3-pointers while Phoenix went ice cold, making just 4-of-27 3-pointers. It may be a while before the Wiz get back to full strength.
Just an awful week for the Timberwolves, who saw big man Karl-Anthony Towns test positive for COVID-19 after losing several members of his family, including his mother, to the virus. The Wolves lost their only game of the week on Wednesday to the Grizzlies before Friday’s rematch was postponed.