Photo via Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo
NBA television ratings have fallen nearly 25 percent from last year but that does not prevent this league from being extremely competitive. The Western Conference has already been an absolute dogfight. Here’s a look at the ten best teams in the league heading into the most anticipated month of the season.
1. Los Angeles Clippers(12-5)
A big HAHA to all those that said the Clippers were overrated. The team went 4-0 last week with a clear win over the Pelicans and three nail-biters against OKC, Houston, and Boston. I said last week that the Clippers were the deepest team in the league and that holds true this week. The defense has vastly improved with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the court at the same time. The one improvement the Clippers need to make is their three-point shooting. At only 35% as a team, they need to step it up as it has led to slow starts that make the team have to pull off a late comeback. If they fix that, they just won’t be defeated.
2. Los Angeles Lakers(14-2)
Best record in the league? Fine. But when you look at the schedule they have played this year with the talent on the Lakers, it does not look that impressive. Their two losses have come to the Clippers and Raptors. When you look at their wins, a lot of them have come by single-digit points to mediocre teams(Thunder(twice), Grizzlies, Kings, Spurs, Bulls). There’s no doubt the Lakers are an elite team but how will they look down the road?
3. Milwaukee Bucks(13-3)
Winners of nine of their last 10 games and riding a seven-game winning streak, there is no slowing down the cheesehead deers as they continue to dominate, especially with that Greek guy. They lead the league in team scoring and are 8-2 on the road. Barring injury, they are the favorites to win the East at the moment.
4. Dallas Mavericks(11-5)
One name: Luka Doncic.
It is absolutely flabbergasting what this man has done so far this year. Get a load of these stats: 30.6 points per game at a 49.5% shooting clip, 10.1 rebounds per game, and 9.8 assists per game. Doncic is the clear MVP right now and he is the sole reason why the Mavericks are so high on my rankings. Kristaps Porzingis has been solid but nothing compared to what Doncic has done. With being in the top three in scoring, Dallas is one of the most exciting teams to watch in the league and is continuing to get better.
5. Denver Nuggets(12-3)
The Nuggets are only fifth because they are not doing much to stand out from the rest of the league. The one stat that does jump off for me is that they are the best defensive team in the league, only allowing 101.7 points per game, which is shocking because their backcourt defense has been lackluster, to say the least. Nikola Jokic has underwhelmed this year but the team is riding a five-game win streak so they seem to be stable for the moment.
6. Boston Celtics(12-4)
Kemba Walker went down with a pretty terrifying injury last week but should get back to play very soon. I love the grit out of this young team, especially Marcus Smart. Smart is the best defensive player in the league right now and is the glue that holds Boston together.
7. Toronto Raptors(12-4)
Pascal Siakam, along with Doncic, is an MVP candidate. My only question for the Raptors is if Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet can be long-term second and third scoring options for Toronto. They knew their roles perfectly last season but can the carry the weight of this team even more?
8. Miami Heat(12-4)
The Heat are off to a hot start with their scoring depth but I am sorry, I am not buying this team as a legit threat in the East. Is Jimmy Butler a suitable leader to lead a very young and inexperienced team later in the season? They are good now but don’t be fooled by their record.
9. Utah Jazz(11-5)
The Jazz are on a three-game winning streak but outside of their elite defense, I do not think this a team capable of competing with the elites. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been a huge addition to this roster but where is the offense from Rudy Gobert? He’s a great post defender. However, he is only averaging 13.3 points per game in 34.9 minutes played on average this season. To add on, their bench is not too deep either so Utah is going to have to make some moves at the trade deadline if they want to compete for a title this year.
10. Philadelphia 76ers(11-6)
Even at 11-6, the 76ers still feel like a disappointment to start the season with the talent they have. They are in the middle of the pack in team scoring and are still being carried offensively by Joel Embiid. When you look at their bench, the leading scorer is….Furkan Korkmaz. Yeah, I am just hearing this name as I type this. There could be a problem in Philly.