While the NBA’s in-season tournaments are still opaque and their purpose is somewhat confusing, the games were far more competitive than a typical regular-season game. LeBron James said the Lakers are motivated to beat the Suns because they have $500,000 on the line. If more money motivates athletes to play better, fans benefit as well. This is where everyone lines up going into the fourth week of the season.
1. Denver Nuggets
Even without Jamal Murray, Denver will find new ways to win games. But with Nikola Jokic, it seems easy to rise above everyone else. The negative factor this season was the way Aaron Gordon continued to develop.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia emerged as the East’s dark horse early in the season thanks to the surprise play of Kelly Oubre Jr. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Oubre will be sidelined for a while as he was hit by a car while taking a walk.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
Will Anthony Edwards make the leap? He combines the athleticism of Michael Jordan with the shot-making of someone like Devin Booker. Thanks to his stardom, the Timberwolves are off to their best start in years.
4. Boston Celtics
The Celtics’ hot start dampened a bit with two losses last week, but they are getting some good contributions from the bench. Sam Hauser’s nine points per game is a nice unearthed gem.
5. Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic had his fifth 40-point game of his career last week against the Clippers. If there is an impressive stat, Luka will take it and make it his own.
6. Golden State Warriors
For the Warriors to compete in the West, Andrew Wiggins has to start playing better. Stephen Curry needs a second scoring option, and Wiggins or Klay Thompson are the top options.
7. Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis scored 54 points in the loss to the Indiana Pacers, but it’s nice to know the Bucks star still has that kind of offensive performance. He relies on Damian Lillard for a lot of his scoring, especially late in games.
8. Indiana Pacers
Indiana has been playing well, with wins over strong contenders such as Milwaukee. Now, if we could match their jerseys to the atmosphere of their play on the court…
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
Chet Holmgren doesn’t get as much attention as Victor Wembaneyama, but his versatility and offensive skills are evident in every game. However, the Thunder are having some growing pains in a close game.
10. Houston Rockets
Are those the Houston Rockets in the Western playoff picture? That’s certainly true! Fred VanVleet’s consistency and scoring ability has been a big help, and coach Ime Udoka is holding his players accountable.
11. Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young is finally starting to look like the star point guard we expected him to be, scoring 41 points in a win over Orlando last week, but then took a turn for the worse and lost to Jimmy Butler-less Miami.
12. Miami Heat
Bam Adebayo has stepped up his offense this season, averaging a career-high 23 points per game. The Heat’s star center has improved his scoring average every year throughout his career, a testament to his work ethic and dedication.
13. Orlando Magic
Orlando continues to impress with quality wins against teams like Milwaukee. The core of the Magic, the Wagner brothers, Paolo Banchero, and Jalen Suggs, should blossom the more time they spend together.
14. Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers fans say the team needs a third star, but maybe Austin Reaves should play like he should. Los Angeles’ third option has struggled with poor shooting, and the team’s offense is often disorganized.
15. Phoenix Suns
Even with Brad Beal back, the Suns absolutely need Devin Booker back on the floor as soon as possible. They also need to understand why the Lakers have been a bad matchup so far.
16. New York Knicks
RJ Barrett will be the spark for New York’s offense this season, shooting a career-high from the 3-point line. The Knicks need to continue to build on their winning streak this weekend against weaker teams like the Hornets and Wizards.
17. Sacramento Kings
Domantas Sabonis has become something of a Swiss Army knife for the Kings in De’Aaron Fox’s absence. Playmaking at center is especially important for Sacramento’s offense.
18. New Orleans Pelicans
It’s the same old story for the Pelicans. The good start disappeared in less than a week with four consecutive losses. New Orleans ranks last in many offensive categories, including total points scored.
19. Toronto Raptors
Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby have become Toronto’s dynamic trio. Dennis Schroder has also taken on more of a scoring role since leaving Los Angeles.
20. Brooklyn Nets
Cam Thomas became the Nets’ breakout star, scoring approximately 27 points per game. Lonnie Walker has also grown with more responsibility and playing time since leaving the Lakers.
21. Cleveland Cavaliers
If the Cavaliers can play the Golden State Warriors every night, they will have the best record in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland’s length and athleticism helped them win against the Dubs, but now they’ll need to use those strengths against other opponents.
22. San Antonio Spurs
Devin Vassell has been touted as Gregg Popovich’s second option behind Wenby, but the Spurs have struggled mightily over the past week. The 21 and 41 point losses to the Knicks and Pacers don’t look too good.
23. Los Angeles Clippers
The James Harden experiment hasn’t worked out so far in Los Angeles. Coach Ty Lue has his hands full figuring out how to balance four different scorers, especially if Harden refuses to play the basketball.
24. Chicago Bulls
Trade machinery is warming up in Chicago. Where will Zach LaVine be traded if the Bulls decide to blow it up? The Golden State and New Orleans make sense as destinations.
25. Charlotte Hornets
Miles Bridges, who committed domestic violence, returns to the Hornets this week, yet another insult to a team with no pride or self-respect. Charlotte needs to leave Bridges immediately.
26. Portland Trail Blazers
Scoot Henderson will miss two to three weeks with an ankle injury, an unfortunate development for the struggling rookie point guard. D’Andre Ayton’s 13 rebounds per game shows he could be a cornerstone for the Blazers.
27. Utah Jazz
The Jazz got off to a great start a year ago, but this year has been a turnaround. If Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, and John Collins are healthy, the Jazz should start winning a little more.
28. Detroit Pistons
Detroit has played a few games this year, especially against Milwaukee and Philadelphia, but their youth and undisciplined nature has gotten in the way of winning. Monty Williams is still trying to find winning combinations in his lineup.
29. Washington Wizards
Jordan Poole claims he has no problem having his own team in Washington since he won a title with Golden State, but if he wants to make a name for himself outside of Steph’s coaching, he needs a more calculated presence. You have to play with feeling.
30. Memphis Grizzlies
There certainly seems to be some doubts about the Grizzlies’ maturity. They haven’t handled adversity well, and coach Taylor Jenkins is part of the problem. Ja Morant’s return could help the team, or it could make his dysfunction even worse.
Sean Leib is a writer who has loved all things pop culture since he was young. Growing up playing classic Nintendo games and watching various movies and shows, he always enjoyed dissecting stories and getting to the heart of the story. Once he entered high school, basketball and sports in general became his main interest. Determined to put the skills he gained in his English classes to good use, Sean majored in the field at the University of Washington and graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 2020. After his college graduation, he began his career as a freelance writer on sites such as SUPERJUMP, Den of Geek, and Quote. .com. He remains an integral part of publications such as The Manual and Wealth of Geeks.