1. Pacers (4-0) - The only undefeated team heading into last night’s showdown with the Bulls, the Pacers have the type of balance that could, maybe, possibly, with luck, knock off the Heat down the road. Paul George just continues to get better and is averaging 27.0 points per game. Roy Hibbert and David West continue to dominate up front and Lance Stephenson is coming into his own. The Pacers are at Brooklyn this Saturday, which should be an intriguing early-season matchup.
2. Clippers (3-1) – It didn’t take long for Chris Paul and crew to rebound from their opening night loss to the Lakers. Paul looks like a legit MVP candidate under former point guard Doc Rivers as he is averaging 26.5 points and 13.3 assists per game. J.J. Redick looks like a fine addition, as he’s pumpin in 17.3 points per game.
3. Rockets (4-1) – Dwight Howard’s demeanor has changed (for now), as he looks determined to re-invent his image. But body language always takes a backseat to talent and in Monday night’s blowout loss to the Clippers, Howard scored just 13 points and had just nine rebounds.
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4.Warriors (3-1) – Philly’s Evan Turner texted “You’re Next” to Andre Iguodala before the Warriors plowed through the Sixers, 110-90, at the Wells Fargo Center Monday. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are both averaging 20-plus points per game and David Lee is right behind at 19.8.
5. Timberwolves (3-1) – It’s easy to fall in love with Minnesota given Ricky Rubio’s flash on offense. But it’s what the T’Wolves did on defense last week against the Thunder which turned heads. They held Kevin Durant to just 4-of-11 shooting in a 100-81 win.
6. Thunder (2-1) – Oklahoma City had played just three games heading into last night’s home game against the Mavericks. This is a good time to mention that the West is already superior to the East, record-wise, as there were eight teams above .500 as of Wednesday in the West and just three teams above .500 in the East.
7. Mavericks (3-1) – The Mavs have dumped the Hawks, Grizzlies and Lakers so far this season. The early returns on Monta Ellis have been impressive as the guard is averaging a team-high 25.0 points per game. Dirk Nowitzki looks rejuvenated, scoring at a 20.3 clip.
8. Spurs (3-1) – The Spurs have no interest in November basketball, but nonetheless, they’re off to a 3-1 start with wins over the Grizzlies, Lakers and Nuggets. Tony Parker is picking up where he left off from last season, scoring 20.3 points per game.
9. 76ers (3-1) – That loss to the Warriors was a bit of a buzz-kill but it shouldn’t make Michael Carter-Williams any less fun to watch the rest of this season. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week was averaging 20.0 points and 7.8 assists heading into last night’s game against the Wizards.
10. Suns (3-1) – The early surprise out West, Phoenix is placing a ton of responsibility on guard Eric Bledsoe night-in and night-out. Bledsoe has responded well thus far, averaging 22.8 points per game and 7.8 assists. He sunk a game-winning 3-pointer against the Jazz last week.
11. Heat (3-2) – Is there a game this season where the champs aren’t on national TV? They’re at home against the Clippers tonight on TNT. This could prove to be a nightmare matchup for Miami, with Chris Paul vs. the Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole tag-team as an obvious vulnerability.
12. Nets (2-2) – As was seen last year in Boston, there are going to be ugly regular season losses for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. They beat LeBron and the defending champs by one point at home last Friday but were blown out by Orlando 48 hours later.
13. Grizzlies (2-2) – They’ve lost a pair of roadies so far to the Spurs and Mavericks but beat the Pistons and Celtics at home. In other words, we know absolutely nothing so far about new head coach David Joerger and Memphis’ potential.
14. Cavaliers (2-2) – The Cavs made plenty of headlines on opening night when they upset the Nets. But then they turned around and lost to the Bobcats. Andrew Bynum is progressing as he gave the Cavs 10 points off the bench in a win over Minnesota.
15. Blazers (2-2) – Portland opened with a tough four-game schedule and made it through at .500. Now they can kick back and enjoy a back-to-back against the Kings and a visit to the Celtics next week.
16. Hawks (2-2) – The Hawks are no longer an average team with Josh Smith. They’re an average team without Josh Smith. Paul Millsap has been solid thus far, averaging 18. 5 points per game, but they still have the stench of a one-and-done playoff team.
17. Bobcats (2-2) – What do we have here? The playoffs could actually be a reality for Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, basically because the rest of the bottom half of the league is already in all-out tank mode.
18. Pistons (2-2) – On Pistons.com right now, the web site’s background is Chauncey Billups. Tradition rules in Detroit, and yes, Billups is actually giving Detroit minutes, but Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond are the true reasons why Detroit could put a scare into a few of the big players in the East.
19. Magic (2-2) – Jameer Nelson is the only notable holdover from the Dwight Howard era, but Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson and Victor Oladipo give the Magic an exciting mix.
20. Raptors (2-2) – Quick, who is the Raptors’ leading scorer? If you guessed Rudy Gay, you’d be wrong. DeMar DeRozan is off to a fine start for Toronto, averaging 20.5 points per game.