Ranking Every NBA Team by Its Chemistry After One Week
The NBA season tipped off in thrilling fashion giving us a week of games we won't soon forget. Between the opening night showdown between Boston and Miami, James Harden superstar emergence, the Lakers struggles and Orlando starting out undefeated there was just too much to like (or hate, depending on your side in the situation).
With so much to digest from the past week, the one thing that's going to be the true test of which teams continue on with a fast start or a meandering pace is how well they've worked together so far.
A bunch of teams out there have looked a lot better than anyone expected, some teams have fallen to the back of the pack just as we thought they would, but still others are struggling to put their teams together and really make progress.
Whether it's a new offensive system, rookies populating the lineup or just mixing and matching parts that weren't together in the previous season, some teams just look downright disorganized.
So let's take a look back at the week that was and really shake out which teams seem to be working together the best.
30. Sacramento Kings
This Kings team looks like no more than five guys on the floor at one time all trying to score. It's not that they have an insatiable hunger to score for the team, it's just that they seem to want to get to the rim for their own good, and some of them don't even care to get to the rim.
Sacramento's defense isn't terrible, but a lot of that stems from them being full of young, but not particularly inexperienced guys. Plus they started out the season against the dilapidated Bulls and Timberwolves.
Are they the worst team in the league?
They've got the talent to win a handful of games this year, but we can pretty safely rule out any playoff run at this point.
29. Detroit Pistons
If ever there was a more disorganized team in the first few days of the season I've yet to see them.
Brandon Knight has looked okay as their new full-time starting point guard, but Rodney Stuckey, who has been relegated to the shooting guard spot, just looks lost.
Most of Detroits' struggles can be drawn back to Stuckey's new position. With a new point guard in control of the offense, most of what made them good late last season is gone.
Then there's his own struggles, which he talked about himself saying that he's not in a rhythm.
Combine that with a decent number of minutes going to Andre Drummond who looks bumbling at best early on and you've got a team that's going to take some work to get out of this hole.
28. Charlotte Bobcats
The Charlotte Bobcats won their first game of the season, so they were able to get that pesky 23-game losing streak off their back early on.
The only problem is that they won their first game of last season as well.
Individually, there's a bit you can pick out from this team that's been productive, but there's not much overall.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is still very much learning the ways of the game, and it's going to take some time to get into the flow of their team, but then again the rest of the team kind of looks the same way.
Defensively they are creating a good amount of steals, but their lack of any offensive flow outside of Kemba Walker in their win over Indiana is extremely concerning.
27. Phoenix Suns
I don't dislike the starting five in Phoenix, but once you get past those first five guys they've got absolutely nobody coming off their bench that can be called a playmaker or a game changer.
As far as a sixth man goes the best option they've got is Shannon Brown, which is frightening.
Phoenix's defense has been pretty good, but that's thanks mostly to Marcin Gortat's extremely underrated block-a-thon that's been going on in his paint.
Offensively they're a work in progress, generating just 16.7 steals per game through their 1-2 start.
That, again, is thanks to the fact that their backup point guard is big, bad Bassy Telfair.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves
There's been some to like about Minnesota so far, but a lot more to dislike. Fans can take solace in the idea that most of what can be disliked will disappear once Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio come back from their injuries.
On the surface their defense looks good, giving up just over 92 points in each of their first two games, but they have also played at one of the NBAs slowest paces, so they've got an average defense at best.
What's hurting them is that outside of Andrei Kirilenko's extremely efficient start, shots just aren't falling.
Oh, and the fact that Kirilenko, a 6'9" forward who isn't LeBron James is leading the team in assists doesn't instill much confidence in their offense.
Right now they don't look pretty, but given time they might turn into something much better.
25. Washington Wizards
There's not a lot of negativity you can heap onto a team that's missing their two best players, but we've got to throw a little bit out at them for their 0-2 start.
For a while during their game against Cleveland there was some sort of flow going between Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, but the rest of the team just doesn't seem to know the subtle nuances of their teammates yet.
When A.J. Price, Jannero Pargo and Jordan Crawford are your primary ball handlers, it's time to re-evaluate what's going on.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a lot of fun to watch so far this season, but outside of Kyrie Irving's late-game heroics (which we've already seen twice) and Anderson Varejao's innate rebounding and passing ability (once again, we've seen that twice), there's a lot of shaky basketball going on in Cleveland.
They were able to start their season off at home against a team that was missing their two best players, so a win opened up their season. Beyond that there have been problems on both sides of the ball, mostly from their bench.
Cleveland starting unit has worked together well so far, but the absolute cluelessness of their bench has been astonishing.
That Luke Walton is even a rotation player, and is somehow managing to miss two shots a game while averaging only 2.3 attempts is boggling my mind.
23. Los Angeles Lakers
Thankfully for the Lakers they got their first win of the season on Sunday night.
Unfortunately that's not likely to detract from the disappointed looks from the outside looking in when you factor in that they beat what is probably the worst team in the league right now.
The Lakers win over Detroit was impressive in that their offense was in quite the impressive flow and their defense was finally able to step up.
Beyond that, Kobe Bryant took on the role of a distributor and ended the game with eight assists.
What should concern Lakers fans more than the fact that they've turned the ball over a league-worst 74 times already is that their defense is in the bottom third in points per game while they are playing at one of the slowest paces in the league.
This should all start to evaporate once Dwight Howard is fully healthy and Steve Nash is worked back into the lineup, but right now there's a lot of ugly in this Lakers team.
22. Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia's offense is lacking a legitimate punch on the inside with Andrew Bynum out, but their defense has been incredibly impressive thus far.
Coming into the season I was very concerned that losing Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand would decimate their defense, but the quick hands of their perimeter defense has held up, and even Spence Hawes looks decent in the post.
For that they get props, but offensively the only guys making any kind of net positive impact are Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young, that and Hawes has been rather efficient. There's a lot of isolation game going on, which isn't conducive to early-season chemistry. Plus it has contributed quite a bit to Philly's league-worst 16 assists per game.
21. New Orleans Hornets
There are going to be a lot of concerns moving forward for the New Orleans Hornets, mainly based on the fact that Eric Gordon is out and that outside of the point guard spot the team can't seem to make a good pass to save their lives.
What has been impressive is the play of Greivis Vasquez, who always struck me as a back-up point guard at his peak, but has ended up putting together a nice three games so far.
The biggest concern of them all has to be Austin Rivers thus far. Rivers is shooting an atrocious 20 percent through three games and always seems to end up passing the ball too high or too low.
With a young team like the Hornets this is expected, and of course they look a lot cleaner with Anthony Davis on the court, but there's a lot of sloppy they need to clean up.
20. Brooklyn Nets
There's only one game to base Brooklyn's season on so far, so there isn't much worry to be brought out so far, especially when you consider that they won the game.
The Nets worked together well enough to beat Toronto. They didn't overtop any kind of teamwork plateau, but they did what they needed to win.
The lack of ball movement notwithstanding, Deron Williams was able to rack up nine big dimes, plus Brooklyn got great teamwork from Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson, but a lot of the game consisted of some isolation around the top of the key on in the post with Brook Lopez.
19. Indiana Pacers
Indiana is playing a game similar to that of Philadelphia, but they're doing it in a much better fashion with some mild improvements in efficiency and teamwork.
Overall this team has played extremely well as a group on defense, and a lot of the credit has to be given to their young, long and athletic defenders. Paul George, George Hill, Roy Hibbert, Gerald Green and even Tyler Hansbrough and Ian Mahinmi have all contributed to their defense.
It'll be interesting to see how they do once they face some playoff-level competition (their wins came over Toronto and Sacramento and a loss to Charlotte) but for now they're doing good enough to get by offensively.
18. Utah Jazz
It's kind of weird to comprehend when you vocalize it, but Utah rebounds incredibly well as a team. It's not that they just put up big rebounding numbers (which they do) but they crash the boards in a way that one of their guys will end up with the rebound. That's the reason why they've given up the third-fewest offensive rebounds (8.7) and the fourth fewest rebounds overall (37.5).
Aside from the rebounding and defensive end, Utah has yet to find a legitimate flow of their offense, especially after adding Williams' Mo and Marvin, both of whom like the isolation game.
If they get the big dudes a bit more into the game on the offensive end this team could go places.
17. Denver Nuggets
While Denver spent their first two games of the season playing basketball that was totally unrepresentative of how they played last season, it seems like they are back on the right track after their game against Miami.
They aren't notching too many rebounds, but their ability to force a turnover as a team or crash the boards as a team is really working well when they do it.
This forces fast-break opportunities for one or two guys, usually leading to an easy layup.
Denver's passing game should get back on track once the season rolls along, but for now they're going to have to rely on each other defensively.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder
It hasn't been the smoothest of transitions for Oklahoma City thus far, but they've got by with a win and two close losses, so there shouldn't be a reason to raise the alarm yet.
Kevin Durant hasn't looked nearly himself yet, turning over balls left and right and getting denied on offense, but Russell Westbrook's tunnel vision has been the big story for them so far.
The two share the team lead in assists at 6.7, otherwise there are a bunch of guys getting circumstantial assists here and there.
Defensively, however, they've played very well together, and save two big shots from Tony Parker they could be on the happy side of .500.
15. Toronto Raptors
There's been a lot to be impressed about with the Toronto Raptors so far, mostly because of the fact that Jose Calderon has slipped back into the backup point guard role, one which he was born to have.
Lowry is becoming one of the best Raptors we've ever seen (I know, it's early) and he's doing more than just scoring in the isolation, he's opening up routes for DeMar DeRozan to take to the rim so he can try to earn his contract extension.
Defensively they're just outside of the top ten in points allowed, thanks mostly to the denial at the rim from Jonas Valanciunas and the bulldog role that Kyle Lowry plays, but they're becoming a good cohesive unit defensively, slowly but surely.
14. Boston Celtics
There's some big things Boston needs to work on in the next few weeks, but as long as they've got Rajon Rondo on offense they'll always be a cohesive unit.
Boston's defense has been, well bad so far this season giving up nearly 102 points per game. What they are doing though is something they've always done, limiting second chance points.
The Celtics are giving up fewer than seven offensive rebounds per game, well in front of the rest of the league.
13. Atlanta Hawks
Josh Smith has only played in one game so far this year, but when he was in against the Rockets he was playing a nice two-man game with Al Horford. Only instead of him jacking up threes in this two-man game, he was in the post more often, or at least taking reasonable mid-range jumpers. Horford was the one bouncing out to knock down his silky mid-range, or he would just attack the basket and decimate it.
If these two play a game like that all season long everything else will fall into place and the shooters will start dropping the rain.
Defensively they aren't doing great, but their offense has looked so powerful that it might not matter too much.
12. Memphis Grizzlies
That dominant Memphis defense hasn't reared its head yet, but we've seen bits and pieces of it as this team starts to come together.
They're giving up the third-fewest rebounds per game, thanks in part to their slow pace, but they're also doing it with the Grizzlies style of rough-and-tumble basketball that they've played for a few years now. Plus they're second in the league in turnover percentage as they're completely mugging opposing players at times with double-teams.
Offensively they've actually started to work out this Zach-Rudy conundrum that they've been in for a year now. Randolph is picking his spots on offense, gladly dumping off to Gasol as he focuses his efforts more on the rebounding end that we've ever seen him do before.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
If there's anybody out there who was a doubter of Damian Lillard's ability to chase down Anthony Davis and win the Rookie of the Year Award, this first week of the season did a lot to show them what Lillard can do, including myself.
Lillard is feeding this team every step of the way, finally giving LaMarcus Aldridge a break from running the offense after he had to do it for much of the past two seasons.
He has given them a very nice flow offensively, but defensively they're showing a few holes.
I'll be interested to see whether the holes fill up or not and whether the shine can stay on Lillard in the coming months. This team's going to need it.
10. Golden State Warriors
Golden State, with Andrew Bogut hobbled but playing, Steph Curry coming off an ankle injury of his own and Brandon Rush going down with a torn ACL somehow found time to make up some chemistry along the way.
They're scoring fewer points than they're allowing and their defense hasn't nearly turned the corner yet like Mark Jackson would have hoped, but they're finding ways to win games as a team.
Stephen Curry is doing a fine job with the offense, but Jarrett Jack has been a godsend off the bench, leading this team in assists and bridging the starter-bench gap.
9. Chicago Bulls
If the Bulls are going to stay in the playoff race this season and hope for some playoff positioning when Derrick Rose finally comes back, they're going to have to rely on teamwork. That's just what they've done through their first three games.
Joakim Noah has become a do-it-all center in these first three games, Carlos Boozer hasn't looked terrible yet, Kirk Hinrich is running the offense well and Nate Robinson is absolutely playing well. That's the biggest part that's confusing me, Robinson is contributing to an overall goal of teamwork.
The offense isn't blowing teams out of the water (unless that team is the Cavs) but the Thibodeauian defense is dominating as usual, giving up the second fewest points per game.
8. Orlando Magic
Raise your hand if you predicted a 1-3 Lakers' start in concurrence with a 2-0 start by Orlando. Yea, nobody saw this one coming.
Not only are the Magic winning, they're doing so in a Jacque Vaughn offense that's running and gunning. Oh, and it's working.
I'm not sure where it's coming from but Orlando is averaging 108.5 points per game while holding opponents to an average of just 91.5 points per game.
Orlando has gotten better offensively and defensively without Dwight Howard. Just wait for Skip Bayless to have a field day with that one.
While they'll probably fall back to Earth (and Big Baby probably won't average 25 points a game), they're fun to watch right now.
7. Los Angeles Clippers
The best NBA team in Los Angeles today is the Clippers, how many times have we been able to say that over the course of the past decade? Twice? Negative three times?
A lof of their great play has come from the stellar teamwork coming at the hands of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin not being afraid to spread the ball around. Plus, these guys don't ignore the hot hand.
Jamal Crawford somehow has 77 points in three games and the entire world is baffled.
They're not playing great defense at this point, but as things go along their offense will continue to prosper with Paul at the helm (whether Crawford is leading the team in scoring is another matter), their defense will catch up.
6. Milwaukee Bucks
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are both on contract years, so their quick start isn't that surprising. It's the way they've played together that's been stunning me the most.
The two have only combined for 35 points a game through two, while Brandon Jennings is jumping out to average 13 assists per game.
Oh, and did I mention Mike Dunleavy has scored 36 points already this season. I don't think he scored 36 points in the course of a week in any of the past four seasons.
They've run a smooth, directed offense in which everyone has been involved, and their increasingly pesky defense is a nice development.
5. Dallas Mavericks
I've got to give props where props are deserved, and they definitely need some down in Dallas today.
The 2-1 Mavericks are averaging 106 points through three games, all without the help of Dirk Nowitzki. In part that's thanks to Darren Collison's lightening-quick feet, but you've got to legitimately spread the praise around with this team.
Dallas has eight guys averaging at least two assists per game and 11 who are pulling down at least two rebounds per game. That's teamwork at its finest right there.
You've got to go to the root of this one to figure out why they're playing so well, there's no other reason but Rick Carlisle's excellent coaching for their impressive start.
4. Houston Rockets
Who saw it coming? A guy gets traded to an entirely new team three days before the season starts, one on which the oldest guy is barely over 30, and they go on to develop some of the most impressive chemistry in the league.
James Harden and Jeremy Lin are running together like they've played alongside each other for a decade. They're hitting open guys on the wing, swinging the ball around the arc, even dumping the ball into Omer Asik and making him seem like a legitimate offensive threat.
Not only are they scoring, but they're doing so relatively efficiently, making them very fun to watch.
3. Miami Heat
LeBron James is looking like he could have a better-than-bad shot at averaging a triple-double this season once this team really gets into a flow, and that's not a joke.
He started out the season in a game where he let Mario Chalmers run the offense for most of the game, finishing with just one, but now he's up to six assists to go along with nearly nine rebounds and 23 points.
Miami is shooting over 50 percent from the field, and it's possible that they hover near that mark all season long. With him playing power forward on defense and point forward on offense, LeBron has an outside shot at threatening that mark.
If he ultimately does end up with staggering numbers, it'll be thanks to the incredible teamwork going on in Miami offensively, although their defense has left a bit to be desired.
2. New York Knicks
The undefeated New York Knicks are putting together some of the best chemistry in the league. It's a shame that Amar'e Stoudemire has to recover at some point and come back to ruin it all.
New York is getting a boost from the veteran point guards they have, which is surprising based on how old this team actually is, but it seems like everything is working out for them so far.
Plus they've got Carmelo Anthony out there leading the charge and actually hustling for the first time in his career, leading by example.
It's unlikely that they shoot 48 percent from the three-point line all season long, as that would be one of the most amazing things in the history of the league, but this is a legitimate high-powered offense when J.R. Smith is shooting well.
1. San Antonio Spurs
They've yet to grace national television (well NBA TV, but that hardly counts) so most people were pleasantly surprised to see the San Antonio Spurs off to yet another great start.
Is it that surprising that a team that only added one player in the offseason (a guy who will see limited minutes anyway) is starting off hot? They're the most professional team in the NBA.
San Antonio is putting out 26 assists per game, the second-most in the league, and they're doing so with help from everybody who touches the floor. Incredible spacing and pin-point passing continue to be the anchors of the Spurs offense, and that it will continue to be for as long as Greg Popovich coaches this team.
Defensively they look like they'll do about as well as they did las season, but that was good enough to earn them a trip to the Western Conference Finals, so there shouldn't be any big complaints there.
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