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news, analysis, talking points, every team analysed, contenders, power rankings


We’re a quarter of the way through the NBA season, with nearly every team playing at least 20 games.

So what better time to take a step back and assess where all the teams are at amid a marathon 82-game campaign?

There’s clear-cut contenders, and some even clearer basket cases and everything in between. Here’s every team analysed!

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Tue, 30 Nov

Tuesday November 30th

THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets have played without Kyrie Irving all season yet still sit first in the East at 14-6, while it feels like they have another gear or two they can go to regardless of whether the seven-time All-Star returns.

Kevin Durant is playing at an MVP-calibre level, while James Harden overcame a slow start to really get rolling in recent weeks.

And the addition of Aussie star Patty Mills has been a huge boost, with the sharpshooter on track for his most ever three-pointers made in a season.

If you had to put money on one team right now to win the title, it’d probably be the Nets. And yet they’ve seemingly gone under the radar in the East given the impressive rise of teams like Chicago, Miami and Washington.

Kevin Durant and James Harden have led the Nets (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)Source: AFP

Miami Heat

The addition of Kyle Lowry to this already talented Miami team has pushed them into title-contending territory.

Lowry is still finding his feet in a Heat uniform and how to best mesh with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but this has all the makings of a team capable of making a deep playoff run.

They say defence wins championships and it’s been a hallmark of Miami’s game. Erik Spoelstra’s team ranks second in the NBA only to Golden State in opposition points per game, while Miami’s 104.4 defensive rating ranks fourth.

Throw in Tyler Herro’s magnificent Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner campaign and there’s plenty of reason for optimism in South Beach.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks were probably hit harder by injuries than any team early in the season to the likes of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, while Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo remain sidelined.

And yet the reigning champs have overcome a slow start to six fourth in the East in a testament to how strong their foundation is.

It could’ve derailed any other team’s season, but the Bucks have now won seven in a row and are showing no signs of slowing down.

A ton of credit goes to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who could’ve been forgiven for slightly taking his foot off the gas under such circumstances and after winning his first championship.

But the Greek Freak has put together another MVP-calibre season that would be garnering more attention if not for Steph Curry’s ridiculous form.

The Bucks are reportedly set to sign DeMarcus Cousins in a potentially worrying sign for how Lopez (back) is tracking. But when they get all their pieces back and firing, look out.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns have won 16 games in a row and their 17-3 record is second only to the Warriors…. when did that happen!?

Phoenix is the hottest team in the league and their 1-3 start to the season is now a distant memory. Plus it’s fair to say if there was any qualms over whether last year’s run to the NBA Finals was a fluke, they’ve proven otherwise in recent weeks.

Any team with this version of Chris Paul leading it is going to go far.

Chris Paul seemingly gets better with age (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)Source: AFP

Utah Jazz

The Jazz were probably the biggest lock to finish top four in the Western Conference and are on track to do so.

Anchored by the best defensive player in the league in Rudy Gobert and a fantastic coach in Quin Snyder while boasting maybe the deepest line-up in the NBA, the Jazz are a formidable outfit.

The only question mark over Utah at this stage is whether the team can carry its brilliant regular season form into the playoffs, something it’s failed to do in recent years.

THEY AREN’T WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE

Golden State Warriors

It was widely thought that the Warriors would improve on last season, but no one could’ve predicted they would be this good.

Steve Kerr’s team sits first in the West with an NBA-best 18-2 record and Steph Curry could well be in the best form of his entire career, on track for a third MVP.

They’ve done it all without Klay Thompson and James Wiseman, although the latter may not even play a big role in the nightly rotation.

Regardless, Golden State is the most fun team to watch in the league at the moment and looks more like the version of itself that broke out in 2015 as opposed to the one that’s struggled in recent seasons, spelling trouble for the rest of the NBA.

LA Lakers

It’s been a rocky start to the season for the Lakers after 12 roster additions in the off-season including Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook has so far struggled to mesh with the team despite playing better recently, LeBron James has missed a chunk of the season through injury and the rotation is all over the place.

Plus Anthony Davis is shooting the worst of any player in NBA history from three-pointers (from two plus attempts per game and 20 games played), mid-range (100 plus attempts) and jump shots (150 plus attempts), per StatMuse.

Nothing has come easy for Frankl Vogel’s team where nearly every win has been a grind and gone down to the wire.

And James hitting Detroit Pistons centre Isaiah Stewart to ignite an all-in brawl last week was perhaps symptomatic of the internal frustrations in Laker land.

This isn’t to completely write off the Lakers’ season given it’s still early days and new pieces generally take a while to mesh. But right now they’re a fair way off being the top dog in the West as originally projected.

It has the feeling of a team that will say it’s still working things out in December, then January… and February etc.

It’s been a rocky start to the season for the Lakers. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls were always set to be one of the big improvers this season after adding Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and even the long-underrated Alex Caruso over the last eight months.

But this has emerged as a team that can go deep into the playoffs, in large part behind arguably a career-best season from DeRozan.

The Bulls are fifth in the East after a slight dip in recent, but realistically, there aren’t too many teams in the conference you’d say are categorically better than them.

Washington Wizards

The Wizards have been maybe the biggest surprise package, occupying a top four spot in the East for much of the season.

The Russell Westbrook trade has proven to be a master stroke by Tommy Sheppard, bringing in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Spencer Dinwiddie, who’ve all emerged as key contributors for the team.

First-year coach Wes Unseld Jr. also deserves a ton of credit for making so many new pieces function so well together so quickly.

BANGED UP

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers overcame the absence of Ben Simmons as well as several others early on to sit atop of the East standings.

And while Joel Embiid wasn’t in his best form, the star centre helped keep the team banded together.

But once the big man entered Covid-19 protocols, things fell apart badly, with Doc Rivers’ team now fighting for a playoff spot altogether.

Something has to give with Simmons, who’s contracted for three more seasons for a total of $140 million (AUD$196 million). The ongoing drama continues to be a massive distraction for the Sixers and is taking its toll on the Aussie star.

Plus it’s put a massive workload on Embiid, who has a history of injuries and will surely break down if continues to shoulder such a massive duties all season long.

And the emergence of Tyrese Maxey is even more reason why a Simmons trade would be the best outcome for all parties.

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid (Photo by Christian Petersen)Source: AFP

Denver Nuggets

Despite Denver’s impressive run last season when Jamal Murray went down with an ACL injury, it was always going to be tough to stay among the West’s elite without him.

The key factor that could’ve offset Murray’s loss was a proper breakout season from Michael Porter Jr, fresh off signing a max extension.

But Porter struggled early in the campaign before succumbing to a potential season-ending back injury — the same issue that plagued the forward in college and caused him to slip down the draft board.

Now PJ Dozier has also ruptured his ACL and ironman star Nikola Jokic is even uncharacteristically missing games due to a wrist niggle… yikes.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers were flying along in the first month in what was unfolding as one of the season’s great stories.

Then injuries hit them all at once to the likes of Colin Sexton, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen, leading into a five-game skid.

While the latter three have all returned, they‘re back in the middle pack of the East, with what once looked like a team locked into the playoffs now anything but.

OK, SHOW ME MORE

LA Clippers

Any team pushing for a top four seed in the West with Reggie Jackson as its second best player deserves credit.

That’s not a knock on Jackson, but more a reflection of how well he and the rest of LA’s role players have performed, while Paul George has simply been a juggernaut.

Tyrone Lue is showing the NBA world he can seriously coach, lifting a team that had tapered expectations — given Kahwi Leonard’s ACL injury — into the upper echelon of the West.

But it’s a slippery slope between the good teams and middle ranks in the West, so we aren’t going all in on them yet.

Paul George has been a juggernaut for the Clippers (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)Source: AFP

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas is around the mark of what it’s been the last several seasons: a solid team that might be able to push into the second week of the playoffs.

But there’s been no other overwhelming evidence to suggest that they’re anything more than that currently despite strong recent form.

There’s even be criticism towards Luke Doncic for being out of shape, with the Slovenian star not quite erupting with an MVP contender season he’s been long mooted to have.

And are we sure Jason Kidd is a good coach?

Props to Kristaps Porzingis for his excellent start to the season, but there remains several question marks on this team.

Charlotte Hornets

Credit where credit’s due, the Hornets have played well… but do we fully trust them yet?

Miles Bridges has improved out of sight, LaMelo Ball is a genuine superstar in the making and Mason Plumlee has really helped shore them up at the centre position.

But James Borrego is playing heavy minutes to his starters and they could be one injury from the whole thing blowing apart.

LaMelo Ball has taken his game to new heights (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)Source: AFP

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have been some sort of peculiar case study this season.

Nate McMillan’s team started slow out of the gates including a six-game losing streak, leading many to question if last year’s Eastern Conference run was an aberration. But they followed that up with a six-game winning streak to get things back on track.

It’s anyone’s guess what’s going on in Atlanta at the moment, but it is spearheaded by one of the league’s most talented rosters.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have all the tools to charge up the standings behind Ja Morant, who’s emerged as a genuine superstar, and Jaren Jackson Jr., plus several more strong pieces.

But are they there yet? It still feels like Memphis is a fringe playoff team and things could go either way for them from here.

Of course, Morant’s knee injury is a massive setback that will sideline him for a few weeks. While it could’ve been much worse, the Grizzlies without Morant are an unproven entity.

This isn’t to say they don’t have an extremely bright future.

Minnesota Timberwolves

It’s been an up and down season in Minnesota including a horror six-game losing streak and dominant five-game winning streak.

So who are the real Wolves? Seemingly somewhere in the middle but certainly much improved from last year.

It’s possible Minnesota maintains its spot in the West’s top eight behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, but the current sample size isn’t enough to have a proper handle on them.

WHAT ARE YOU?

Boston Celtics

There were signs that the sky was falling in Boston early in the season when Marcus Smart called out Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum for not passing the ball enough.

Then reports emerged that there had been locker room problems for some time now dating back to Brad Stevens’ tenure.

On paper this is a team that could be really good, but remain one of the NBA’s biggest enigmas.

It’s been an up and down year in Boston (Photo by Brian Fluharty-Pool/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have bounced back from their disappointing 2020/201 season that helped them land Scottie Barnes to currently sit in the playoff picture.

But they’re now seemingly caught between rebuilding and trying to push up the East rankings.

There’s plenty of talent at Nick Nurse’s disposal, but the Raptors could just as easily be sellers at the trade deadline.

Indiana Pacers

Seriously, what is this team!?

It has several All-Star calibre players in Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner and can beat the Jazz and Bulls on the road… but then also lose to the Pistons and depleted Nuggets?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers can’t be far off blowing it up.

They’ve gone to the well time and time again with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and consistently come up short, while making no significant moves to improve further.

It’s downright confusing what this franchise’s current objective is.

New York Knicks

One of the big improvers last season where they bolted into the East’s fourth seed, the Knicks are thereabouts in the playoff picture again.

But their defensive deficiencies have been well documented a season after it was the backbone of their DNA, an area where free agent pickups Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier are liabilities.

It could be an up and down season in the Big Apple.

The Knicks have been inconsistent on the defensive end (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)Source: AFP

EMBRACING THE TANK

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons looked awful early in a season where they were expected to show some level of improvement.

Yet unlike some of the other lowly-ranked teams, Detroit seemingly has its franchise star in Cade Cunningham and there’s a world where he motors them into Play-In Tournament territory.

This became a different team when Cunningham returned from injury and his star power can go a long way for it.

But it’s been an unflattering start to the campaign and the main focus remains development over winning.

Houston Rockets

There’s tanking and then there’s the Rockets, hence paying John Wall in excess of US$40 million to spectate games.

You could at least hide it a little better H-Town?

Orlando Magic

The Magic have actually shown promising signs, with a clear objective to develop their young players.

There’s potential for a bright future amid a breakout season from Cole Anthony, while Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs have all shown plenty.

It’s far from a lost cause in Orlando despite its poor record.

OKC Thunder

The Thunder were widely considered the worst team in the league — or at least in the West — behind one of the youngest rosters in the league.

But they’ve actually played well under first-year coach Mark Daigneault to be knocking on the door of the Play-In qualification, while Josh Giddey has proven to be a great value selection at Pick 6.

In saying that, the inexperience of the Thunder is sure to catch up to them at some stage, while the franchise doesn’t quite yet have all the pieces of the puzzle to move it into the future.

Josh Giddey has been a great value pick for the Thunder (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs

Any team coached by Gregg Popovich is trying to win every game at all costs.

But the demographic of the Spurs is significantly younger than previous years and developing that next core of talent is clearly the priority.

As the season wears on, look for their youngsters to get even more opportunities.

TIME TO RELOCATE?

New Orleans Pelicans

Three words: They need Zion…. badly.

It’s been a rough goings for the Pelicans, with Zion Williamson’s foot injury putting them well behind the eight-ball this season before it started.

And if missing their franchise superstar wasn’t bad enough, Brandon Ingram had also missed a chunk of the season through injury.

Further, the new pieces haven’t fit particularly well together, while letting Lonzo Ball walk to Chicago in free agency is looking like a huge blunder.

Sacramento Kings

Man, where do you start with this team?

It feels like every year they go in with Playoff ambitions but disappoint. And that’s again been the case this season, leading to Luke Walton’s seemingly inevitable sacking.

De‘Aaron Fox has really struggled and maybe just isn’t as good as everyone thought he was. Meanwhile, Buddy Hield has been marginalised in a bench role and there’s limited upside elsewhere.




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