Eight teams entered Saturday on winning streaks of three or more games, a list full of teams you’d expect to be there.
The Golden State Warriors are as hot as ever. The Oklahoma City Thunder got Russell Westbrook back and put together wins. The Portland Trail Blazers continue to be underestimated every season.
The Boston Celtics are getting better by the game as they reintegrate Gordon Hayward. The Denver Nuggets were expected to grow, their young core with lots of room to improve.
But the three other teams — the San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Sacramento Kings — are off to surprisingly good starts.
The Spurs might be the least surprising, even if some people thought they were due for a step backward thanks to a trio of injuries to their young backcourt. But DeMar DeRozan has been terrific in his first weeks with the Spurs, quickly adjusting to a new team and a bigger role in playmaking. His 7.3 assists per game are more than double his career average while he’s still scoring almost 28 points per game.
Memphis isn’t a shock, either. Finally healthy, the Grizzlies have a nice mix of veterans — the offseason addition of Garrett Temple has been a steal — and young players like rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. As long as they keep their best players on the court, they’ll be competitive.
The big shock is the Kings. After years of picking in the lottery, they finally appear to have the right mix of young players. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are both scoring close to 20 points a game, and rookie Marvin Bagley III has been much better than he was in the preseason.
But the big addition — and it’ll be wild if this continues to matter — was Nemanja Bjelica, a sweet-shooting veteran who agreed to a deal with Philadelphia this summer before backing out and landing with the Kings.
No one expected them to be a playoff team, and they still might not be, but they’re not the easy night off in the West that teams hoped they’d be.
The Wizards are broken
If President Trump was serious about draining the swamp in Washington, he’d do something about the sewage that is the Wizards. They’re 1-7, they’ve lost five in a row and they own the NBA’s worst defense.
They play with only a thin veil disguising disdain for one another. They’ve got horrible chemistry, and they just added Dwight Howard to the mix.
This is a team that’s run its course – a core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. isn’t good enough, not even in the East. All three could use fresh starts, and all three could be difference-makers for contenders.
Whatever they do, the Wizards can’t move forward with this group. It’s toxic.
No Love in Cleveland
LeBron James’ old teammate Kevin Love will miss at least the next six weeks because of a toe injury, capping a week in which the Cleveland Cavaliers fired their coach, struggled to define the title of his replacement and got sued by a former assistant coach for age discrimination.
At least they finally won a game.