NBA talking points: The Bucks are back, Brooklyn's on top, and more
New York, New York - The Nets are still at the top of the Eastern Conference while the Warriors and Suns battle for league supremacy out West, and the defending champs are back into the role of contenders for the first time this season. Here's some food for thought on the main NBA storylines so far.
The reining champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, are at 18-11, sitting third in the Eastern Conference and second in the Central Division.
Led by two-time league MVP and last year’s Finals MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo (27) the Bucks are finally playing like a team deserving of that title.
Right above them though are the Chicago Bulls, who are taking somewhat of a "pause" this week after the league postponed two of their games after a recent Covid-19 outbreak within the team.
The Cavs, who are riding a three-game winning streak, trail at third in the division, followed by the Pacers and Pistons.
Brooklyn's still running the show in the East
The Nets, who are sitting just a spot above the Bucks in the Eastern Conference, have been getting better and better thanks to the efforts of only two of their big three superstars.
By now, everyone knows that Kyrie Irving is on a leave of absence from the team while he continues to refuse to comply with the NBA’s Covid-19 vaccination policy.
He hasn't been missed so far, and while Milwaukee and Chicago are handling their own business, other teams like the Sixers, Heat, Wizards, and the Hornets haven't been able to gain any ground on a Brooklyn squad that's thriving.
Each of those middle-tier squads underneath the Nets could win out through this week and still not quite get close to them.
The Suns keep shining and so does Golden State out west
After dropping the first two out of three games to start the season, the Suns went off for 18-straight wins to eventually find themselves with the NBA’s best record.
But Golden State just took back the league's best record despite playing without a big star, just like Brooklyn
Klay Thompson hasn’t made an appearance for the Warriors since the 2019 NBA Finals, missing the last two regular seasons with both an ACL tear and then an Achilles injury.
Through all that, Golden State is still one of the best league-wide and has learned how to cope with Thompson's absence.
The Jazz are playing all the right notes in the West
Just behind the Suns and the Warriors, the Utah Jazz are also a step above the competition in the Western Conference.
Earning the league’s best record last year, Utah is still among the best of them.
At 19-7, every other team under them in the West right now has double-digit losses already, the first being the Grizzlies, followed by the Clippers, and then the Lakers.
Just like last year, Utah's team of role-players, along with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, have been able to play consistent basketball that makes them serious contenders.
Showtime in LA is missing some star power
When a team is stacked with four eventual first-ballot Hall of Famers, it stands to reason that they’ll go far.
But the Lakers still haven’t taken off just yet.
But what makes their situation different from the Nets is that LA isn’t being chased from below by lesser teams.
They’re only two games over .500 and can easily lose ground, even this week with the Mavericks, Nuggets, T’Wolves, and Blazers right behind them, respectively.
But barring any catastrophic injuries down the Lakers’ roster, they’ll at least get through the season with a winning record.
Cover photo: imago/Icon SMI