The NBA season is now about a month old. So much has happened in such a short period of time.
The Golden State Warriors opened up a pristine new venue in San Francisco, only to start the season with a league-worst 2-12 record.
Back east, the Boston Celtics currently find themselves on pace for 67 wins. The same thing goes for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. The combination of young star power and those of the old guard has made for a lot of fun, too.
It’s in this that we give you our biggest winners and losers from the first month of the 2019-20 NBA season.
Winner: Monty Williams
The past two seasons have seen the Phoenix Suns average 20 wins. Through the first month of the 2019-20 campaign, they are at 35% of that total with a remarkable 7-5 record. The one outlier here has been respected first-year head coach Monty Williams.
He has this young team playing some absolutely tremendous basketball. Even with former No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton sidelined with a suspension, Phoenix remains one of the biggest surprises. That starts with stud guard Devin Booker, who is averaging 25 points on 50% shooting from distance. Though, veterans Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes have also played big roles here.
Loser: Knicks front office
It can’t be stated enough just how horrible the Knicks’ front office is. Starting with owner James Dolan and continuing with president Steve Mills, it’s been a complete and utter disaster on Broadway.
New York currently sits at 4-10 on the season despite playing the NBA’s easiest schedule. The decision to sign marginal players to big-time deals during the summer has backfired. When Marcus Morris is leading the team in scoring, there’s a major problem. We’re now openly wondering whether the powers to be in the Big Apple will use head coach David Fizdale as a fall guy here.
Winner: Boston Celtics
We really have to give Celtics general manager Danny Ainge a lot of credit here. He pushed back against mortgaging the future for a player in Anthony Davis who did not want to come to Boston. Instead, Ainge stood strong with his plan to build through Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. It’s been a smashing success.
The two youngsters are averaging a combined 39.7 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, the bright lights of Boston have not been too big for free-agent guard Kemba Walker. All of this has Boston at 11-2 on the season and looking like the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Loser: Gregg Popovich and the Spurs
We previously focused on the need for San Antonio to start anew with a rebuild. That could include mutually parting ways with five-time NBA champion head coach Gregg Popovich. It seems like a reach, but this veteran-laden squad is going nowhere fast.
San Antonio currently sits at 5-9 in the season and is relying on two capped-out veterans in LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan to lead the way. That’s not going to cut it in a top-heavy Western Conference. Years of relevance in San Antonio has now given in to the unexpected. One of the worst teams in the conference. That certainly makes Pop and Co. a loser.
Winner: Russell Westbrook, James Harden backcourt
Don’t tell us you’re not surprised that this MVP pairing has done work through the first month of the season. The two ball-dominant guards are attempting to (and succeeding in) hash out the differences that were prevalent during their days with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It’s worked out in grand fashion. Harden is in the midst of a record-breaking season that’s seeing him average 39.2 points per game. Taking a bit of a back seat, Westbrook is averaging 21.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game. This continuity has Houston at 11-3 and a legit threat out west.
Loser: Jim Boylen
We focused on the Chicago Bulls as a potential surprise team heading into the season. We’re also not afraid to admit when we’re wrong. It’s just been a brutal start to the campaign in the Windy City.
Chicago currently has the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference at 4-10. We have not seen any progression from Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Meanwhile, Zach LaVine has regressed big time. More than even the embattled front office, this is on head coach Jim Boylen.
Winner: Miami Heat
What a tremendous job Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have done with this rebuilt Heat roster. It should not come as too much of a surprise that Miami got it right under these two. After all, they are among the most respected at their positions in the Association.
Even then, a 9-3 start to the season with a roster that lacks real star power in today’s age is no small thing. Goran Dragic has taken big time to the sixth man role. Previously unknown youngsters such as Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn are far exceeding expectations. Jimmy Butler has been an absolutely perfect fit. This has Miami as one of the biggest winners in the NBA over the first month of the season.
Loser: Golden State Warriors
If we were to tell you a couple months ago that the Warriors would finish the first month of the season at 2-12, you’d probably call for us to be locked in the psych ward. Even without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, most figured this was a 50-win team.
More than anything, injuries have derailed this season for the five-time defending Western Conference champions. Thompson is likely out for the duration with a torn ACL. Stephen Curry could follow suit after suffering a wrist injury early in the season. D’Angelo Russell is currently sidelined. Draymond Green has missed action to injury. It’s led to the worst record in the NBA, and a season of tanking in San Francisco. Just ouch!
Winner: NBA stardom
We’re witnessing an era in the Association that sees old-school stars combine with the wave of the future to build up the NBA’s brand. In Los Angeles, Anthony Davis and LeBron James are in command for the 11-2 Lakers. Out in Texas, Mavericks star Luka Doncic is dominating at a pace we have not seen from such a young player since Mr. James himself.
The list goes on and on. Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam has morphed into a legit MVP candidate. Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference also features a dynamic young scorer in Trae Young as well as the two stars in Boston we covered before.
It’s great to see the old guard refuse to pass on the torch to youngsters. It’s equally great to see said youngsters attempt to rip said torch from these future Hall of Famers. The rest of the season is going to be a blast.
Loser: NBA fans
From Zion Williamson remaining sidelined in New Orleans to the controversy that is “load management,” fans have not gotten the best end of the deal thus far this season. It shows in television ratings. It shows in the Clippers continuing to rest Kawhi Leonard during elite nationally televised games.
It’s also sad to see two teams with championship pedigree struggle. The Golden State Warriors are missing two stars that have combined for six NBA titles. Kyrie Irving has proven to be an utter failure in Brooklyn with Kevin Durant sidelined for the season.
The only saving grace here is the star power we see in other NBA cities. Hopefully that will lead to more excitement from fans around the Association as the season progresses.