While many teams shook off preseason rust in opening week, the Boston Celtics look in midseason form already. KG's knee? Check. Paul Pierce motivated? Check? A deeper rotation despite Big Baby's big boo-boo? Check.
The Celtics start the season ranked No. 1 and might be tough to remove from top spot.
1. Boston Celtics
Through four convincing victories, the Celtics points differential is almost at 20 already. It’s very early, but everything is clicking for Boston, though three of their next four games are on the road.
The Magic have already knocked down 39 three-pointers this season, putting them on pace for more than a thousand makes if they keep it up. Seeing Jameer Nelson back to full strength shows just how much they missed him in the Finals last season.
Carmelo Anthony has stormed out of the blocks with two 40-plus point games and 41 trips to the free throw line already. Things figure to get tougher for the 3-0 Nuggets as they head East for six straight on the road.
4. Miami Heat
Jermaine O’Neal broke his nose in Sunday’s victory over the Bulls but isn’t expected to miss any time. He has been very impressive so far and is a large reason why the Heat are 3-0.
5. Phoenix Suns
The Suns are unbeaten though they are yet to face a playoff opponent. That ends this week as they take a trek East, where they face Orlando, Miami, Boston, Washington, and Philadelphia all on the road.
6. L.A. Lakers
Sandwiched between two comfortable victories was a surprising home loss to the Mavericks. It was probably the early wake up that Kobe needed just to remind him that repeating is never easy. Andrew Bynum’s maturity has been more impressive than his career numbers so far.
The Spurs have looked re-energized at home, though the Bulls easily handled them in Chicago. Back-to-back trips this week to Utah and Portland should give us a closer indication of what the Spurs will be all about this season.
8. Dallas Mavericks
The Wizards strolled into Dallas on opening night and grabbed a win, but Dallas quickly responded by doing the double over L.A. on Friday and Saturday night. Shawn Marion’s energy is just what the Mavericks have lacked in recent years.
9. Washington Wizards
Will Washington’s Big Three ever see court time together again? After missing Saturday nights game, Caron Butler is expected to return on Tuesday but Antawn Jamison is still two weeks away. The good news is that Gilbert Arenas looks to be completely over his knee injuries, though he’s still not talking all that much.
There was expected to be an adjustment period with the big Shaq-usition, but after recovering from an 0-2 start, there is talk of bringing O’Neal off the bench. I still have no idea why the Cavs gave Jamario Moon $8 million over three years.
11. Houston Rockets
Trevor Ariza wanted to be the man and he’s shown so far that maybe, just maybe, he can be a go-to guy. He’s averaging 23 points per game, and the Rockets are 2-1. A matchup with the Lakers on Wednesday should be compulsive viewing.
12. Oklahoma City
Kevin Durant was just 3-for-21 from the field in the Thunder’s first loss, but last season, OKC didn’t register two wins until Nov. 29, this year they reached that mark before the end of October.
13. Atlanta Hawks
There is still something missing from this team. On Sunday night against the Lakers, the Hawks conceded 18 unanswered points en route to their first loss. Mental strength continues to be the issue in Atlanta.
14. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers laid an egg on opening night but responded with two solid victories. They host the Celtics on Tuesday where they get a chance to show if they are for real or not.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
Greg Oden got his first big chance to show that he was cool in the clutch but fluffed his lines when he missed two free throws late against the Nuggets. Brandon Roy needs consistent help on offense if the Blazers are going to cement their place in the western conference elite.
16. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls opened with an impressive win over the Spurs but were crushed by the Celtics one night later. Derrick Rose avoided the rookie wall, but with averages of 10 points and five assists so far through three games, signs are that he might be facing one in his sophomore season.
17. Utah Jazz
The Jazz can’t move forward until they part with Carlos Boozer. He’s moody and just isn’t a good enough defender for a player of his size.
The Hornets pushed the Celtics on Sunday, further than any team had so far, but the gap in depth became evident as Boston pulled away at the end. Chris Paul must be fuming after George Shinn gave away Rasual Butler.
19. Milwaukee Bucks
It’s only been two games but Brandon Jennings has settled the starting point guard debate already. It’s his. It’s not good to hear that Michael Redd is already experiencing soreness in his right knee.
20. Detroit Pistons
Through three games, Ben Wallace is averaging 10 rebounds and playing more than 30 minutes. I say again, he could just be the steal signing of the summer.
Through three games, the Grizz have had three different guys top them in scoring and not one has been Rudy Gay. If Memphis can get everything together, they are capable of doing some serious damage, but it’s not good to hear that O.J. Mayo and Gay had to be separated in Sunday’s loss.
Fifty-nine points on opening night was a disgusting effort. Getting Raja Bell back should at least help their offense, but it’s hard to believe in Charlotte performing better than they did last year.
23. Toronto Raptors
After a stirring home win over the Cavs to open the season, the Raptors bubble quickly burst with losses against Memphis and Orlando. With seven of their next nine out West and on the road, the Raptors struggle to maintain .500 ball has already begun.
Johnny Flynn is another rookie making impressive strides early on. Wonder if Ricky Rubio is paying attention?
The Stephen Jackson trade watch continues in earnest but just who would want to hear the words from their agent that they are heading to Oakland to play under Don Nelson?
26. Indiana Pacers
Danny Granger is doing all he can, but Indiana hasn’t really been close to a victory in either game so far. With four of their next five at home, the Pacers should at least get on the board.
27. Sacramento Kings
Tyreke Evans is the third rookie point guard to feature in today’s rankings. I like Kevin Martin, but seriously, in 33 minutes against the Spurs, he didn’t get one assist or rebound. That is just not good enough.
28. New Jersey Nets
Seeing Devin Harris already missing time due to a groin strain adds weight to the theory that he’s far too injury prone. Brook Lopez exploded for 27 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocks on opening night, but he's grabbed just eight rebounds since.
29. L.A. Clippers
Oh the Clippers. Baron Davis looks in great shape, but his shot selection, which has always been questionable, seems to be getting worse. Blake Griffin must be wishing that he hadn’t been such a lock for the No. 1 pick last June.
30. New York Knicks
Did the Knicks work on anything over the summer? It’s OK to lose with dignity, but the way the Knicks are playing, it’s like they don’t even respect themselves.