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 defending champion Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo are currently 18-11 this season.
The defending champion Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo are currently 18-11 this season.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

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.

NBA roundup: Dončić puts on another show for the Mavs, Curry leads Warriors to road win
NBA NBA roundup: Dončić puts on another show for the Mavs, Curry leads Warriors to road win

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

Nets forward Kevin Durant leads Brooklyn as they sit atop the Eastern Conference at 19-8.
Nets forward Kevin Durant leads Brooklyn as they sit atop the Eastern Conference at 19-8.  © imago/ZUMA Press

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.

NBA roundup: Celtics beat Lakers in overtime, Clippers and Nets win
NBA NBA roundup: Celtics beat Lakers in overtime, Clippers and Nets win

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

Warriors guard Stephen Curry is currently tied for second-place in the NBA's average scoring list with 27 points per game.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry is currently tied for second-place in the NBA's average scoring list with 27 points per game.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

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

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is the NBA's reigning 2020 Defensive Player of the Year.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is the NBA's reigning 2020 Defensive Player of the Year.  © imago/Icon SMI

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

LeBron James leads the Lakers with 26.3 points per game.
LeBron James leads the Lakers with 26.3 points per game.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

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.

LeBron James was out for a while with abdominal issues, forcing the team to have to make do without their best player. Since his return, suspensions and Covid-19 issues have hampered his return.

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

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