The NBA season is only a week old and we have already seen some amazing individual performances as well as some thrilling finishes. Fans have been treated to some historic games from Kyrie Irving’s 50 point opener to Anthony Davis’s 40-20 game.
The NBA underwent a significant change this summer as teams shifted from forming super teams to dynamic duos. Several of the teams that have those duos have looked like playoff contenders and even potential NBA champions.
Teams such as the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, and 76ers have looked like the true title favorites, which was expected, while teams such as the Pacers, Warriors, and Nets have struggled with their new lineups. The 2019-2020 NBA season is already starting to look like one of the league’s most entertaining seasons in recent memory.
The West Looks Deeper Than Expected
Fans have come to expect the Western Conference to be filled with great teams and legit title contenders each season. This year is no different but it appears that the conference could be even better than expected.
Teams such as the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Rockets, and Nuggets have all had great starts (neither has more than one loss). However, its teams like the Spurs, Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Suns have looked better than projected that make the conference more difficult.
As of today, the Western Conference only has five teams with a losing record and one of the five is the Golden State Warriors. If teams such as the Timberwolves, Suns, and Mavericks can continue their hot starts then the West could have as many as nine to 10 teams battling for a playoff spot this season.
Atlanta Hawks look like a playoff threat
The Atlanta Hawks were not given much respect by the media when it came to projections for this season. The Hawks were viewed as a team that was at least another year away from competing for a playoff spot.
It’s still very early in the season but the Hawks look like they could be ahead of schedule. Atlanta is 2-2 to start the season and one of those losses came in a game in which they lost G Trae Young. Young is expected to miss at least a week.
Depending on how long Young is out he could miss 3-4 games or he could miss more. If the Hawks want to make the playoffs this season they will need him back as soon as possible. Through four games, Young is averaging 26.8-5.0-7.3 while shooting 50.7% from the field and 50.0% from three.
If the Hawks can survive his absence and he continues to play at the high level he was at then Atlanta could be a team that sneaks into the playoffs.
Before the injury to Young, the Hawks had just lost to the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers 105-103. The Hawks looked impressive in defeat and saw valuable contributions from rookies De’Andre Hunter (14 pts 9 rebs) and Bruno Fernando (11 pts 4 rebs).
Hunter has been impressive this season as he’s shown the ability to be more than just a 3&D player with his ability to attack and finish at the rim. Hunter, John Collins, and Cam Reddish will need to do more offensively while Young is out for the Hawks to remain competitive.
Golden State is in trouble
The Warriors were expected to take a big step back this season after losing Kevin Durant in free agency and Klay Thompson to injury.
The Warriors have struggled even more than expected as they have the NBA’s worse defense when it comes to points per possession at 123.2 (via Cleaning the glass). Just when things seemed to be at rock bottom, the Warriors suffered a nightmare scenario Wednesday.
Stephen Curry broke his hand on a collision and will now be out for an extended period. The Warriors are 1-3 on the season and it’s tough to imagine a way for them to remain competitive without Curry given that they were not competitive with him.
It appears more likely that this season will be a playoff-less season and the Warriors organization will work hard in the offseason to fix a roster that has struggled mightily. Golden State has dominated the NBA landscape for the past five seasons but that team is gone and now Golden State must figure out its roster.
Eastern Conference wide open at the top
The Milwaukee Bucks made an interesting choice this offseason to trade away starting guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers after he signed their offer sheet. The Bucks were coming off of a 60-22 season that saw them make the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Bucks should realize by now that they underestimated his potential and value. Milwaukee has watched its starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Wes Matthews struggle as they average a combined 21.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 6.1 APG while Brogdon is averaging 22.0 PPG, 5.3 Rpg, and an NBA leading 11.3 APG.
Milwaukee is 2-2 on the season and still looks like a favorite in the East but its no longer assumed that they are the favorite. The Philadelphia 76ers have looked great to start the season as they are 4-0 and the only undefeated team remaining in the East.
The Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, and Boston Celtics have also looked impressive this season and each could have an argument for being the top threat to the 76ers.
At the very least it’s looking like the East has five legitimate teams that could represent the conference in the NBA Finals.