Though it's way too soon to make bold predictions and analyze teams, lets dive into the stats anyway and see which trends will turn into truth and what can be corrected throughout the season. We'll find what the numbers say are the best and worst offensive and defensive teams through the first week of the season, and then take a look at some good and bad lineups so far.
The Best 5 Offenses
5. Houston Rockets - ORtg: 110.2
So far the Dwight Howard experience has been a success with the big fella averaging 15 ppg and 17 rpg through the first three games of the season. The starting lineup - Lin, Harden, Parsons, Asik and Howard - is grabbing an impressive 35.9% of offensive rebounds when on the court. Though there are still questions about the long term makeup of the Asik and Howard frontcourt, it will be fun watching them gobble up rebounds in the meantime.
4. Dallas Mavericks - ORtg: 111.3
This team looks a lot different than the 2012-2013 one, and the big reason so far has been the stellar play of newly acquired Monta Ellis. He’s averaging 23.3 ppg and he (along with Jose Calderon) has looked very good in the pick and roll with a healthy Dirk Nowitzki.
3. Golden State Warriors - ORtg: 112.2
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are a pretty good backcourt, huh? This Warriors team is ranked 2nd in ppg at 112.7, 1st in apg at 29.3, and 1st in FG% at 52.5%. Not only is Steph making 5.3 triples a game, but he is shooting a ridiculous 56.5% from the field, with the field being his super-long range.
2. Portland Trail Blazers - ORtg: 112.3
And the first triple-double of the season goes to Nicolas Batum! He put up an impressive 11-12-11 in points-rebounds-assists. Reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard has shown no signs of a sophomore slump, averaging 25 ppg, 5.3 apg, with 4 triples. Not too shabby.
1. Los Angeles Clippers - ORtg: 115.2
Ho hum, Chris Paul is still the best point guard in the world. He’s at 27.7 ppg, 12.0 apg, and 3.7 spg. His 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is crazy impressive considering his high usage rate. If you haven’t seen this half-court alley oop to Blake Griffin, please do so immediately.
The Worst 5 Offenses
5. New York Knicks - ORtg: 97.1
In stark contrast to the Warriors, the Knicks are shooting 43.5% as a team with only 19.3 apg. They typically go as Carmelo Anthony goes, and he has struggled shooting out of the gate at 37.7% from the field and an awful 26.7% from the 3-point line. The Knicks will need Melo to be more efficient and create in order to correct this offense.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder - ORtg: 96.9
Now that Russell Westbrook is surprisingly back, the Thunder should be just fine. Last night, Westbrook had 21 points with 7 assists, but most importantly went 11-14 from the free throw line. This means he is back to his old self and attacking the rim. It will benefit the whole team, especially Kevin Durant, as he’ll be able to penetrate and get their shooters some open looks.
3. Boston Celtics - ORtg: 95.9
Well, what can you expect from this team? With Rajon Rondo out (and apparently not coming back anytime soon), there is a sore lack of creators on the floor. Jeff Green was supposed to take the next step for this Celtics club, but he’s only averaging 15 ppg with 5.3 rbg so far and is apparently in new coach Brad Stevens’ doghouse with his lackluster defensive performance. They rank worst in the league at only 14.3 apg and desperately miss Rondo’s passing.
2. Charlotte Bobcats - ORtg: 91.7
With big Al Jefferson out due to an ankle injury, this Bobcats team really struggles to score. They’re shooting a terrible 39.5% from the field and even worse 23.3% from the 3-point line. Sadly, forward Josh McRoberts leads the team in assists at 4.3 per game, and the team as a whole is at 16.0 per game. They will have to learn to move the ball better if they hope to turn around this horrible offense.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - ORtg: 89.6
The Cavs are the worst shooting team in the league at 38.2% from the field and are only dishing out 15.3 apg, good for 3rd worst so far. Point guard Kyrie Irving has struggled mightily, only averaging 15.3 ppg with 2 turnovers and shooting an awful 34.0% from the field. Tristan Thompson has been the lone bright spot in this roster so far with 13.7 ppg, 8.0 rbg, and 51.7 FG%. Even still, they’ll need their young PG to step up in order to make this offense more efficient.
The Best 5 Defenses
5. Minnesota Timberwolves - DRtg: 98.2
Opponents are only shooting 42.6% from the field against the Wolves and a super low 28.9% from the 3-point line. The Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love and Pekovic lineup is only allowing 90.9 points per 100 possessions while grabbing 80.0% of defensive rebounds. Love has been out of his mind the past couple games and if Rubio and Martin can provide consistent pressure on the perimeter, this team can surprise people with their defense.
4. New York Knicks - DRtg: 98.1
This rating is a tribute to Knicks big man Tyson Chandler, who is averaging 3.0 bpg and is anchoring the paint so well that the Knicks can go to a couple of dangerous small-ball lineups. The Felton, Prigioni, Shumpert, Anthony and Chandler lineup is only allowing 68.6 points per 100 possessions and has a crazy 30.3% TO ratio, meaning that their opposition turns the ball over 30% of the time they face this small-ball lineup.
3. Phoenix Suns - DRtg: 98.0
The emergence of Miles Plumlee and Eric Bledsoe has created a very good Suns start to the season. Plumlee is averaging 2.3 bpg and Bledsoe is creating havoc up top, averaging 2.0 spg so far. Most fans were definitely not expecting a 2-0 start from this club, so it will be interesting to see if the Suns can keep rolling, especially as Dragic could be out with an ankle injury.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers - DRtg: 95.5
Opponents are only shooting 42.2% from the field against the Cavs. They are giving up a low 8.0 offensive rebounds per game. The defense won’t wow you- they don’t necessarily create a lot of turnovers and get out in the open floor- but have been solid at limiting opponents to just one shot on most possessions. It still remains to be seen if Andrew Bynum can return to his old form, but if he does then him and Anderson Varejao would make one of the better defensive frontcourts in the league.
1. Indiana Pacers - DRtg: 88.5
Wow. The Pacers are holding opponents to a 37.9 FG% behind front-runner for DPOY Roy Hibbert’s 4.7 bpg. Despite their physical play, opponents are only shooting an average of 15.3 free throws per game. The Pacers starting lineup is absolutely decimating the opposition and aren’t looking to stop any time soon. This team could have one of the best defenses we’ve seen in a long time.
The Worst 5 Defenses
5. Denver Nuggets - DRtg: 107.8
Despite making the playoffs last year (and looking impressive doing it), the Nuggets look to be in full tank mode so far this season. There is a lot of drama surrounding the frontcourt with J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried, but it’s not so great in the backcourt either. They are allowing opponents to shoot 51.5% from the 3-point line. The Nuggets won’t win many games this year if that continues.
4. Portland Trail Blazers - DRtg: 108.1
The Trail Blazers are giving up 14.3 offensive rebounds per game, tied for 2nd worst in the league. Lillard talked about wanting to improve his defense in the offseason, but the Blazers haven’t held true to that so far. They are only forcing 10.7 turnovers per game, good for second-worst in the league as well. If you can’t get pressure and give up offensive boards, that’s a recipe for a bad defense.
3. Memphis Grizzlies - DRtg: 109.0
Woah, the Grizzlies are the 3rd-worst defense in the league? This is a little bit shocking, as they were one of the best defenses last year and I can’t imagine their struggles will continue. Marc Gasol is the reigning DPOY and there aren’t many perimeter defenders better than Tony Allen. I would bet that this defense turns it around this week and gets out of the bottom five.
2. Washington Wizards - DRtg: 112.3
The Wizards were a top-10 defense last year, so this is a little bit surprising as well. Through their first three games, they are allowing a league-worst 51.2% opponent FG%. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been less than stellar on the defensive end with 111.7 and 106.9 DRtgs respectively. They will certainly miss Emeka Okafor's presence in the paint, but Wall and Beal will have to do better at using their quickness to create pressure up top.
1. Los Angeles Clippers - DRtg: 112.8
When you combine the facts that opponents are shooting 46.7% from the field and 47.8% from the 3-point line, it's no wonder why the Clips find themselves at the wrong side of this list. They've managed to hide their bad defense so far due to the offensive brilliance of Chris Paul, but against the better teams in the West, they'll eventually have to bring those percentages down. Caron Butler was their best wing defender last year, and new acquisition Jared Dudley will have to step up in this role.
We'll dive into more stats next week, enjoy week two!