We are still very early in the NBA season. Only a handful of teams have played as many as a half of dozen games. This doesn’t mean that it’s too early to check in on the top teams in the Association nearly two weeks into the regular season.
You will see a combination of perennial contenders and up-and-coming teams ranked within the top-five here, but it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the top-three teams reside in the much more difficult Western Conference.
Here is our first look at the top-five teams in the NBA.
1. Golden State Warriors (4-0)
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 7, 2014
There is very little doubt at this early point in the season that Golden State has been the most impressive team in the NBA. Three of the team’s four wins have come by 17-plus points with the other victory coming on the road against the Portland Blazers. The domination Steve Kerr’s squad has shown against a few really good teams has the Association buzzing.
Talent wasn’t an issue for the Warriors over the past two seasons, but they seem to be a deeper all-around unit and are better coached at this point. The likes of Leandro Barbosa, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Marreese Speights and Draymond Green head one of the better second units in the NBA.
Meanwhile, the stars are performing at a high level. Klay Thompson (27.0) and Stephen Curry (26.0) rank in the top-five of the NBA in scoring. Andrew Bogut is averaging over 10 rebounds per outing and Green seems to have upped his game a great deal from last season. At this point, there is no reason to believe the Warrirors aren’t a top contender in the Western Conference.
2. Houston Rockets (6-0)
— NBA.com (@NBAcom) November 7, 2014
Houston has two more wins than the Warriors and it has been quite impressive in the process. It is winning by an average of nearly 15 points per game with Dwight Howard and James Harden playing at elite levels.
However, it’s the all-around play of newly-signed Trevor Ariza that seems to be making a difference here. The Rockets are +101 with him on the court thus far this season. And while he shot just 2-of-10 from the field against San Antonio on Thursday, Ariza hasn’t been a downgrade from Chandler Parsons on the court. If he continues to excel with both Howard and Harden playing that their current levels, the Rockets are going to be in a good position moving forward.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (5-0)
Marc Gasol has returned from an injury-plagued 2013-2014 season strong. He’s averaging nearly 22 points per game and is shooting 55 percent from the field. Zach Randolph continues to run off double-doubles on a consistent basis. Meanwhile, Courtney Lee is playing the best call of his career. This doesn’t even take into account other solid contributors such as: Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince, who are playing at high levels as well.
If the Grizzlies were in the Eastern Conference, they would be legitimate contenders. The issue here is that they don’t seem to match up well with the elite teams in the Western Conference. But for now, a 5-0 record is hard to ignore.
4. Chicago Bulls (4-1)
Chicago’s only loss on the young season came against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then, the Bulls have won three in a row against what can be considered less-than-stellar competition. They took out a vastly improved Minnesota Timberwolves team by one point before pulling away late against the Orlando Magic earlier this week. Fresh off a nine-point win over the Milwaukee Bucks, it appears Chicago has found an identiy with the surplus of new players it has on the roster.
Pau Gasol has racked up double-digit rebounds in three of the team’s five games, Jimmy Butler is putting up nearly 20 points per game and Derrick Rose has returned to action after missing two games due to an injury. Once Rose gets completely healthy (if that ever happens), the Bulls will be a force in the Eastern Conference. Heck with the Cavs struggles, they are likely already the best team in the conference.
5. Washington Wizards (4-1)
Washington has come out of the gate extremely strong without the services of star shooting guard Bradley Beal, who is targeting a late November return from a wrist injury. Garrett Temple has filled in well in his stead, averaging nearly 14 points per game and shooting 52 percent from three-point range.
With that said, it’s the continued good play of John Wall that has Washington atop the Eastern Conference standings. He’s averaging 21.4 points and 10 rebounds per outing through five games. Marcin Gortat is averaging nearly 16 points and it appears that Paul Piece is having emerging as a solid veteran presence in his first season with the team. This team is only going to get better as the season progresses.
Photo: USA Today