People were very skeptical that a team featuring Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic can win, but they, and the Mavericks have been excellent. The Mavericks likely have found their franchise center in rookie Dereck Lively who has immense potential, but the rest of the team is basically long-time helpers like Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway and Maxi Kleber, and players of their ilk, like Seth Curry. The Mavericks’ season has been a big win, but they need to find one more star talent to challenge Denver.
The Nuggets are the champions, and they look they have a very strong chance to repeat. Nikola Jokic is looking like he will win his third MVP in four seasons, and he is averaging 29 points, 13 assists and 10 assists on 57% percent shooting, it’s crazy. The Nuggets also have arguably the best starting five in the NBA.
The biggest question starting the season was Denver’s bench, which became younger, but so far, it’s working too. The Nuggets are the favorites and have had an excellent start to the season.
Golden State Warriors
Superstar Stephen Curry has been his normal incredible self, but he needs help. Nobody on the Warriors not named Curry is averaging more than 15.7 points a game. Injuries and age have taken Klay Thompson, who is no longer a second option, which is someone they truly have to find. Draymond Green is his normal versatile and volatile self, so that is fine, but the Warriors miss the scoring of Jordan Poole, plus their role guys have to score more.
A couple developments that have been nice is that Chris Paul seems to be an excellent fit, and Jonathan Kuminga has taken a leap. Additionally, Golden State has some nice prospects.
The Rockets started hot, but there just isn’t the talent for them to continue that trend in the West. Center Alperen Sengun has become their franchise player and should be an all-star this season. He may be rivaling Domantas Sabonis as the No. 2 center in the West. Fred Van Vleet was paid a fortune and simply hasn’t come close to meeting his contract, as his efficiency has been poor and he also hasn’t helped fellow guard Jalen Green become a star, which was expected from Green.
Houston’s signings have simply taken minutes away from the team’s elite young roster, which is a shame, although Van Vleet and Dillon Brooks have helped. Jabari Smith and Jalen Green have been lesser stars, and Cam Whitmore and more so Amen Thompson deserve way more minutes. The wins are nice, but not using the season to give the young guys as many minutes as they can actually handle was the right move really.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers made an error in trading for James Harden, and there are still zero reasons why they needed to trade for him, but they are making it work. As for the non-Harden players, their two superstars are playing quite well and scoring efficiently, but you want a little bit more. As for Russell Westbrook, it was brave of him to move himself to the second unit, as he should be a reserve, plus it makes the Harden trade look a tad smarter.
They still have strong depth with Ivica Zubac, Mason Plumlee and Daniel Thies as their bigs, Westbrook at guard obviously and with Normal Powell as a scorer, but they have a couple nice prospects too. The issues with the Clippers are that they have no need for four stars and they lost a lot of valued chemistry.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers were able to keep the roster that won two playoff series a season ago, but Austin Reaves hasn’t taken another jump or actually played like a season ago, which has hurt the team. Gabe Vincent over Dennis Schroder was a very poor move, as Schroder has looked like a franchise point guard, while Vincent simply is not. The Lakers have also had a number of injuries, but the point is, this isn’t the same team. LeBron James has been incredible in his 20th season, but Anthony Davis needs to help a lot more too. The Lakers have to find a way to improve their roster, and as a Chicago guy, I think they should trade Austin Reaves and assets for Zach Lavine.
There’s less than 10 games left for them with no Ja Morant, so the Grizzlies will improve in a big way, but this current version of the team is pathetic. A roster with Marcus Smart, Jaren Jackson and Dillon Brooks should not have four wins. Steven Adams missing the season is also a big loss, but it has allowed big man Santi Aldama to prove himself a key part the team at least. Regardless, the Grizzlies’ offense is a mess, as has been the roster.
Anthony Edwards is now one of the league’s 10 biggest stars; Rudy Gobert is once again a Defensive Player of the Year favorite; Karl-Anthony Towns has also had a huge season; and Minnesota has stronger role players this season, which starts with Mike Conley, Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniel. The Timberwolves are also winning and look like a player in the West for the first time in a while.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have an elite duo in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, and their stats are literally identical, and they are also at an all-star rate, but what is vital is that they have been healthy. C.J. McCollum has not been so lucky, as he has missed about half the games, although he’s been very productive as well. Rookie Jordan Hawkins has already become a starter and has been excellent. You have to really like the depth of the roster as well. The Pelicans have a chance at the playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Josh Giddey issues are taking attention from an incredible season. The young Thunder are again and winning. They are receiving MVP type of play from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander while rookie Chet Gresham is having a monster season, looking like a two-way star. Additionally, Jalin Williams has taken a huge scoring jump, and rookie Cason Wallace is playing well.
The Thunder have far more talent than they can possibly use, and if it were not for Giddey, this would be an A season.
Phoenix’s season was about the big three the team assembled by adding Bradley Beal to Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, but health has been a huge issue. Durant has missed two games; Booker has missed nine games; and Beal has missed 17. Durant and Booker have been their normal incredible selves, and the Suns’ roster is far superior to last season’s at least.
Obviously because of the injuries, the Suns’ record was affected, but they are one of the NBA’s elite teams.
Portland Trail Blazers
This season is about Portland developing its elite young roster, which has been quite interesting. Scoot Henderson has had his issues when it comes to poor play and injury, but he’s still a franchise talent. Veterans Jerami Grant and Malcolmn Brogdon may be the Trail Blazers’ first and second scoring options, but center Deandre Jordan has been excellent and Shaedon Sharpe has shown a lot of potential.
Injuries have been a big issue, not just with Henderson, but Anfernee Simons has played just one game and Robert Williams will miss the rest of the season. The Trail Blazers are basically one of the weakest teams in the league, which was assumed, but they have so much talent.
The Kings are basically who they were last season, and that’s fine. De’Aaron Fox is a superstar and their biggest star in at least 20 years. Domantas Sabonis is an elite second option, but Keegan Murray has been having a lesser second season, which is disappointing as they had to be looking for a big jump. Kevin Hueter, Malik Monk and Harrison Barnes are nice pieces as well, but Sacramento needs improved depth and a legitimate third option. Fox is carrying the Kings, so wins are coming in spades, but at most, the Kings are just the same that they were.
San Antonio Spurs
After a fun start where the league was in awe of Victor Wembanyama, the Spurs are looking like the cellar of the West. Wembanyama is an incredible two-way player already, but you have to remember that the supporting players aren’t special.
Keldon Johnson and Devin Vessell are nice secondary players and Jeremy Sochan is a lot of fun, but the Spurs are very young, and if a 19-year-old is by far your No. 1 player, not many wins will come. The Spurs are really struggling, but this season was about developing Wembanyama and their roster, so losses are fine.
The Jazz continue to confuse. Starting three big men – Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler and John Collins – is moronic. Utah has no actual point guard on the team; the team is rebuilding, but not trading several valuable veterans; and the organization is not playing several of its valuable young players.
Lauri Markkanen is still a star for the Jazz, but he cannot be the No. 1 option on a winning team, but Walker Kessler is having another excellent season, and rookie Keyonte George looks like a keeper, so they have some quality pieces, but they are not impressive.