Early Season Stock Report for Every NBA Team

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2012

Early Season Stock Report for Every NBA Team

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    Just a handful of games into the 2012-13 NBA season, we're already getting a taste of what each team has to offer. It's time to gauge where each team's stock is.

    The new-look New York Knicks are off to a red-hot start, but how are the rest of the Atlantic Division squads faring?

    Out west, both Los Angeles clubs have had roller-coaster first weeks, so what are their statuses?

    We take a look at what each team is dealing with, how it's handled the first week and what it needs to do moving forward to improve its stock.

Atlanta Hawks: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 1-1

    Atlanta might not have the wherewithal to be an elite Eastern Conference squad, but a win over Oklahoma City without Josh Smith is a great sign.

    As good as Lou Williams was off the bench as a Sixer, he might be even better as a Hawk. He sees less than 30 minutes of playing time per night but leads the team in scoring and has swiped five steals in two games.

    Al Horford is making the most of his touches this season, being assertive near the basket and also draining his 15-to-20-foot attempts.

    Meanwhile, Smith is still nursing a sprained ankle, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Nevertheless, the team's overall outlook is positive.

Boston Celtics: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 1-2

    Doc Rivers' club is stumbling out of the gate, and the primary reason is that the new faces are still figuring out how to be Boston Celtics on both ends of the floor.

    Jason Terry and Courtney Lee haven't found their places offensively and are definitely not in rhythm. Terry is shooting 29 percent from three-point range, while Lee is converting an abysmal 25 percent.

    Their involvement in the system will improve, and those numbers will inevitably climb, but one area that will be a season-long struggle is rebounding.

    Kevin Garnett is supported by two capable power forwards in Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger. But is that frontcourt a bit undersized and undermanned? Boston is pulling down a horrendous 37.3 rebounds per contest. That statistic must improve if Celts fans want to see basketball in June.

Brooklyn Nets: Stock Is Steady

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    Record: 1-1

    In a battle between two of the most supposedly improved teams, Brooklyn fell at home Monday to a Minnesota club playing without Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio.

    In the first half of the game, the Nets were sharing the ball, finding the holes in the defense and attacking. In the second half, Minnesota was the more aggressive and efficient team, launching a 22-point comeback and handing Brooklyn an ugly loss.

    One game isn't cause for major concern for Brooklynites, which is why I'm refraining from labeling a downward stock for them. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams seem to be coexisting, and the depth is something to smile about.

    But the disappointing nature of the loss and Gerald Wallace's questionable return result in a skeptical stock report.

Charlotte Bobcats: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 1-1

    Second-year guard Kemba Walker is doing everything in his power to raise the Charlotte Bobcats' stock, but Gerald Henderson's prognosis is a letdown.

    According to ESPN.com, Henderson will likely miss two to four weeks of action due to a sprained foot.

    It's not as if this ruined a probable playoff run, because the Bobcats had little hope for that to begin with. It just means they'll be shorthanded and won't be quite as dangerous for the next month.

    Charlotte fans are just looking for baby steps in 2012-13. Wednesday's home game against a beatable Phoenix squad is a great chance for that kind of progress.

Chicago Bulls: Stock Is Steady

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    Record: 3-1

    For the most part, the Chicago Bulls have taken care of business to start the season.

    Tom Thibodeau and company have enjoyed an easy schedule through the first week and a half, but things get serious over the next few days. Week 2 includes home games against Oklahoma City and Boston— games that will reveal who the Derrick Rose-less Bulls really are.

    Nate Robinson has shined in his first few games as a Bull, and the team is sharing the ball and staying focused defensively.

    Will the Bulls be able to consistently defend and move the ball against top-tier teams? The Thunder and Celtics games will be early indicators.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 2-2

    After Monday night's gutsy road win over Los Angeles, NBA fans realized that Cleveland's dynamic backcourt might be ready to compete sooner than we thought.

    It's far too early for Cavaliers fans to get too excited. Gradual progress (35-45 wins) is more likely than instant success (50-55 wins), but the duo of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters makes it difficult to exercise restraint.

    First, Byron Scott needs someone other than Anderson Varejao to grab a few rebounds, and he needs someone other than Irving to create shots for others.

    Until that happens, the Cleveland faithful should maintain cautious optimism.

Dallas Mavericks: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 3-1

    Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks failed to land their desired free-agent targets (Dwight Howard or Deron Williams) this offseason. Dirk Nowitzki is out for a couple months due to knee surgery. And Shawn Marion is out for three games with an MCL sprain, the team announced.

    Yet somehow, the squad's stock is up.

    Newcomers O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman have risen to the occasion, injecting life into the Mavs offense.

    The supporting cast is also overachieving, as veterans such as Vince Carter and Marion are thriving alongside youngsters like Jae Crowder and Bernard James.

    Toppling the Spurs in the Southwest Division might be too much to ask, but when Dallas gets Dirk back, it will be an offensive juggernaut and a top-five team in the conference.

Denver Nuggets: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 1-3

    Andre Iguodala and company are starting to regain their footing, but embarrassing losses to Philadelphia and Orlando in Week 1 still leave a bad taste in my mouth.

    The pieces and the system are in place in Denver for a playoff run, but the Nuggets need to find a way to connect from three-point range. They are still shooting worse than 30 percent from distance.

    Tuesday's victory over Detroit to get in the win column was important, but George Karl's crew must toughen up on the road.

    Six of its next eight games are on the road, so Denver's early-season standing depends on how well it can execute in hostile territory.

Detroit Pistons: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 0-4

    Lawrence Frank's Detroit Pistons have yet to put 48 minutes of basketball together, and as a result, they are winless into the second week of the NBA season.

    Although the team got some nice additions in Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond, the roster doesn't seem equipped enough to tackle playoff-caliber opponents.

    Greg Monroe is the lone shot-creator in the post, and the rest of the cast is just too mediocre to hold their end of the bargain.

    To be fair, three of Detroit's first four games have been on the road, and its next three games will be on the road. But an 0-4 start is not what it hoped for.

Golden State Warriors: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 2-2

    Over the last year and a half, the Golden State Warriors have made substantial improvements to the roster, but poor rebounding efforts and the loss of Brandon Rush are two major setbacks.

    Rush was to be one of the most important bench players for this squad, and his ACL injury severely hurts their playoff chances.

    Also concerning are Andrew Bogut's ankle woes. His limited involvement compromises the effectiveness of the whole frontcourt.

    A shootout win over the Clippers is the sole bright spot. Other than that, they had a narrow win over Phoenix and disheartening losses to Memphis and Sacramento.

    This team is talented, but its overall health is in jeopardy, and therefore, the 2012-13 season is in jeopardy.

Houston Rockets: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 2-1

    There's a much different feel in Houston now than there was in the preseason. Trading for James Harden makes the Rockets a more exciting and dangerous team.

    Will they compete for a playoff spot? Probably not. But the combination of Linsanity and Harden gives Kevin McHale a strong backcourt to work with, and the team is markedly better than it was two weeks ago.

    In the post, Houston isn't dynamic offensively, but Omer Asik is gobbling up rebounds and giving it a chance.

    Based on its first three games, it looks like this team will live and die by the three-pointer. That's not a recipe for sustainable success, but it will be fun to watch.

Indiana Pacers: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 2-2

    How does a team that rebounds the ball so well struggle to score more than 90 points per game?

    By shooting 28 percent from distance and 40 percent overall.

    The Indiana Pacers aren't getting scoring from enough places, and as a result, they were out-gunned by Charlotte and demolished by San Antonio. Only three players are averaging double digits, something that does not spell success.

    Frank Vogel must find a way to get Roy Hibbert more high-percentage looks deep in the post, as the 7'2" center is knocking down just four field goals per game. That's just two per half.

    Someone other than David West and Paul George needs to step up. Otherwise, the Pacers are headed for a third- or fourth-place finish in the division.

Los Angeles Clippers: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 2-2

    Lob City started strong in Week 1, but the Clippers' rebounding struggles caught up with them and resulted in two straight home losses.

    Jamal Crawford seems comfortable in Los Angeles and has been a fantastic addition to the club, but the rest of the newcomers haven't made much of a difference yet.

    The Clippers have been doing a superb job of attacking offensively and getting to the free-throw line. Unfortunately, they're a a bit over-agressive defensively and have committed the second-most fouls in the league.

    For right now, the stock is down for Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and company. But the Clippers' improved roster will eventually emerge as one of the best groups in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 1-3

    A blowout win over Detroit helped calm the nerves of Los Angeles Lakers fans, but there are still significant questions facing this team.

    1. Can the new pieces mesh at a championship level? They had extraordinary difficulty collaborating in three straight losses. Improvement is inevitable, however.

    2. Will the bench improve on its subpar start? Antawn Jamison, Devin Ebanks and Jodie Meeks are each chipping in 4.3 points per game or fewer.

    3. Will Steve Nash's health derail the trajectory of the season? Prolonged absence will leave too much responsibility for Darius Morris and Steve Blake.

    If all goes well, Mike Brown's squad should be contending for a conference and league title, but these issues must get ironed out.

Memphis Grizzlies: Stock Is Steady

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    Record: 2-1

    No one questions the caliber of Memphis' front line. It's the reserves that will determine how far this club goes in the spring.

    The Grizzlies' starting five is carrying the team so far, logging heavy minutes and scoring nearly 80 points per night. Zach Randolph is owning the glass, and Marc Gasol is passing and scoring flawlessly.

    But reserves Jerryd Bayless and Marreese Speights have been quiet thus far, and that won't cut it if Memphis wants to secure a decent seed in the postseason.

    Lionel Hollins' bunch is tough enough defensively to compete in the Southwest, but can the starting five carry it enough offensively to survive?

Miami Heat: Stock Is Steady

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    Record: 3-1

    The Miami Heat's quest for a repeat began with a roller-coaster first week.

    After one embarrassing loss and three high-scoring wins, they still look like the overwhelming favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in June.

    The most encouraging things for Heat fans early on is Ray Allen's comfort in the system and Mario Chalmers' growth in his role as point guard. If they continue to give such strong support to the Big Three, Miami will be untouchable for most opponents.

    It's too early to project whether LeBron James and company will indeed defend their title, but if they continue scoring efficiently, their odds are good.

Milwaukee Bucks: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 2-0

    We only have a pair of games to sample from, but what we've seen from the Milwaukee Bucks has been encouraging.

    Scott Skiles' club is moving the ball extremely well, as they are taking their cue from dynamic point guard Brandon Jennings. The elusive floor general is unleashing 13 assists per game, and the team as a whole is piling up 29.

    Winning the Central Division might be too much for this squad to ask, considering the lack of depth in the post.

    However, a playoff spot isn't out of the question, as Jennings is primed for a monster year.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Stock Is Steady

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    Record: 2-1

    The Minnesota Timberwolves launched a monstrous comeback to shock the Brooklyn Nets at home Monday, but it's unlikely that they'll be able to stay that hot for the next two months.

    Without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, the Wolves will struggle to consistently outscore opponents.

    That being said, the efforts of Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko should keep things interesting. Pekovic is a force underneath and is looking to build on his solid sophomore campaign.

    His frontcourt partner Kirilenko is enjoying his return to the NBA by doing a little bit of everything, including swatting 2.7 shots per contest.

    But scoring in the low to middle 90s won't cut it out west.

New Orleans Hornets: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 2-1

    Provided that Anthony Davis recovers from his concussion in a timely fashion, the New Orleans Hornets are set up for a great first couple weeks of the season.

    After giving San Antonio a good game in the season opener, Monty Williams' crew won low-scoring contests against Utah and Chicago.

    With Eric Gordon still sidelined, the frontcourt has picked up the slack for the thin backcourt depth. Both Davis and Robin Lopez have raised their level of play offensively.

    As for the thin guard backcourt, Greivis Vasquez has carried the club in the playmaking department, scoring 13 points and dealing 9.7 assists per game. Can he keep it up? The Hornets need him to continue wheeling and dealing in order to compensate for Gordon's absence.

New York Knicks: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 3-0

    A barrage of three-pointers has propelled the New York Knicks to an undefeated start.

    The Knickerbockers aren't just winning. They're pounding teams by playing smart defense, limiting turnovers and, of course, raining triples at a blistering rate of 14.3 per game.

    It's been pretty much a best-case scenario so far for Mike Woodson's crew, considering Amar'e Stoudemire is still in street clothes.

    The trio of guards consisting of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni have collaborated to notch 14 assists and four steals per game. Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith are having no problems finding their lanes and filling the hoop.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Stock Is Steady

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    Record: 2-2

    After a week of trying to adjust to life without James Harden, the Oklahoma City Thunder made a statement by pummeling the Toronto Raptors Tuesday.

    Generating offense isn't a problem with this group, as the team's most talented scorers (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) are also its two best passers. Kevin Martin has stepped in productively as well.

    The loss of Harden and the Lakers' remodeling has many wondering if the Thunder can return to the NBA Finals. All Scott Brooks and company can do is focus on improving themselves.

    That internal improvement starts with taking better care of the ball (that means you, Durant) and staying focused defensively (that means you, Westbrook).

Orlando Magic: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 2-1

    Orlando's stock is up because nearly everyone (including myself) left the franchise for dead after the Dwight Howard trade, and it's more competitive than we projected.

    Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo are leading the way statistically, but it's the defense and the bench bombardment from J.J. Redick that have boosted the Magic.

    The role-playing reserve followed back-to-back 20-point games with a 10-point, seven-assist game. He's one of the early candidates for Sixth Man of the Year. Much like his career at Duke, Redick has gradually become a more versatile scorer and playmaker during his time in Orlando.

    Nikola Vucevic and E'Twaun Moore have also been outplaying our expectations and helping people quickly forget about Hedo Turkoglu's absence.

Philadelphia 76ers: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 1-2

    Without a healthy Andrew Bynum, the Philadelphia 76ers are a flawed, incompetent lot.

    Evan Turner has been quiet offensively, Jason Richardson twisted his ankle on a photographer and there's still no sign of Bynum.

    To be fair, the Sixers haven't lost to anyone other than the New York Knicks (twice). But those losses to the Knicks were unsightly. Philadelphia won the hustle categories, but it became clear that New York's offensive weapons are far superior.

    Philly was once thought to be a contender for second place in the Atlantic, but now it looks like it'll have to scratch and claw just to finish third.

Phoenix Suns: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 1-3

    Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris are doing a decent job of protecting the rim, but the Phoenix Suns' defense as a whole has been blasted the last couple games.

    One glaring problem is their inability to rotate out to the wing to contest three-pointers.

    Against Orlando, Phoenix consistently allowed J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo and E'Twaun Moore to fire away from the right wing. The following night featured more of the same: Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier of the Heat had a field day from the right wing.

    The offense isn't off the hook either. Far from it, actually. No one but Goran Dragic is able to adjust to the defense and make plays for others. Consequently, the Suns are scoring in the low 90s.

Portland Trail Blazers: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 2-2

    The young, revamped Portland Trail Blazers are in the midst of a brutal early schedule.

    They've hung tough to achieve a 2-2 record so far, but games against the Clippers, Spurs and Hawks are on the horizon.

    Defense isn't the strength of Terry Stotts' club, but its starting five can keep pace offensively with any unit in the league (Portland's starters account for 85.9 of the team's 98.5 points per game).

    Damian Lillard is already the darling newcomer of the NBA, and with good reason. He can carry the Blazers backcourt and will put the franchise back in the playoff hunt.

    However, if the bench continues to be M.I.A., a .500 season is this squad's ceiling.

Sacramento Kings: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 1-3

    Instead of someone emerging as a primary floor general, the Sacramento Kings are dealing with a handful of mediocre playmakers who cough up a turnover for every assist.

    Instead of a top-tier rookie, the Kings are dealing with a 2.8 rebound-per-game Thomas Robinson.

    Instead of an improved team, the Kings are more of the same.

    DeMarcus Cousins and Marcus Thornton are the only ones producing, and if that continues to be the case, Sacramento will be lucky to reach the 30-win mark.

San Antonio Spurs: Stock Is Up

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    Record: 4-0

    Even without a full-strength Manu Ginobili, the San Antonio Spurs have gotten off to a hot start.

    A rock-solid defense and extraordinary depth have the Spurs poised to contend out west once again.

    Duncan is nearly putting up 20/10 numbers, yet he's playing just 31 minutes per game. Gregg Popovich is reaching deep into his rotation to keep his veteran stars fresh: No one is playing more than 32 minutes per game, and a dozen players are getting at least 13 minutes.

    They're winning by sharing the ball extremely efficiently, dishing out 25 assists per game and ensuring that at least eight players get six shot attempts.

    If the Big Three can stay healthy and the squad can sustain its efficiency on both ends of the floor, the conference finals are well within reach.

Toronto Raptors: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 1-3

    A favorable offseason for the Toronto Raptors has resulted in a slow start.

    The injury-prone Kyle Lowry is doubtful for at least Wednesday's game against Dallas due to an ankle sprain, so the 1-3 start will likely turn into a 1-4 start. Prior to Tuesday's loss at Oklahoma City, Lowry was leading the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

    Landry Fields and Terrence Ross have been underwhelming additions to this point, and Toronto needs them now more than ever.

    Without Lowry, the team's assist-to-turnover ratio will shrink, and so will its chances of winning.

Utah Jazz: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 1-3

    A convincing 19-point win over Dallas jump-started Utah's season, but the team has since stalled after running into a trio of Southwest foes.

    Utah's frontcourt is crashing the boards, and Mo Williams is off to a hot start, but the team is failing to defend the perimeter or establish any offensive consistency.

    Someone forgot to tell Al Jefferson that the team needs him to score 18 or more per night. Right now, he's registering 12.3 points in 30.3 minutes per game, a stat that must improve as the season progresses.

    The Jazz have a couple chances to redeem themselves with tough tests against the Lakers and Nuggets coming up.

Washington Wizards: Stock Is Down

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    Record: 0-2

    Similar to the other clubs who have injured superstars, the Washington Wizards without John Wall are a vulnerable outfit.

    Wall's replacements are moving the ball, but they're not getting ideal looks, and the team's shot-making skills are almost nonexistent.

    The consequence is 39 percent field-goal shooting and 85 points per game.

    Bradley Beal may have a bright future in Washington, but if his first couple games tell us anything, the brightness won't come until John Wall returns.

    For more high-flying, ankle-breaking coverage of the NBA, follow me on Twitter: @Danielobleacher