Seven days of the NBA season have come and gone, leaving us with a wildly entertaining start to a wide-open year of basketball. Gone are the days of superteams; in its place is a landscape where all 30 teams are competitive. Of the 51 games played so far, only six were decided by 20 or more points. Eleven finished in a one-possession win.
In some ways, the 2019-20 season has started like we thought it would. The Los Angeles Clippers, even without Paul George, look like one of the best teams in the league. On 37 points per game, Kyrie Irving is carrying the Brooklyn Nets. The LeBron James–Anthony Davis pairing is tearing frontcourts apart.
Not everything has played out as we’d thought, though. After just one week it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s small sample size noise. Let’s look at the state of the league now and imagine if it continued for a whole year.
Most Valuable Player — Karl-Anthony Towns
The KAT that was promised has been delivered, three Timberwolves wins out of three games later. Towns looks absolutely unstoppable. He’s averaging 32 points, 13 rebounds and five assists per game. He’s made 32 out of the 61 shots he’s taken, including 15 out of 29 three-point tries. With almost every other MVP-type player paired up (James Harden and Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George) can this last? Can this be real?
Rookie of the Year — Kendrick Nunn
Just like we all thought, ahead of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett, Nunn is our Rookie of the Year-to be. Nunn was an undrafted guard out of Oakland University who played all of last year for the Golden State Warriors’ G League affiliate.
Three games in, he’s been a Miami Heat go-to in the absence of Jimmy Butler. He’s scoring 22 points per game with three assists and three rebounds. He’s also shooting 52 percent from the field and 42 percent from deep.
I just don’t see how this could possibly change by season’s end.
Three-point king — Devonte Graham
A player who made all of 34 three-point shots last year on 121 attempts, Graham already has 15 on 28 tries. He holds a share of the NBA’s three-pointers made crown.
The Hornets don’t entirely stink without Kemba Walker (yet), and Graham’s a big reason why. He’s scoring 18 points per game with seven assists. Look at how pretty his shot chart is from distance.
Most Improved Player — Markelle Fultz
We want the Markelle Fultz redemption story, and so far we’re getting it. He’s a real contributor on a playoff-hopeful team, playing 25 minutes per game and scoring 12 points with five assists and two rebounds. Fultz looks bouncy, he’s scoring in the paint and in the mid-range, and he appears to be an NBA player again.
He’s only shooting 23 percent from three-point range, but he’s making 47 percent of his shots from the field. He can still be a really good player without hitting triples! If he maintains this pace, it’d be a huge win for him, the Magic and the league.
The four best teams in the league — Timberwolves, Clippers, Raptors and SUNS
Net rating is a stat that estimates a team’s point differential per 100 possessions. It’s usually very accurate in understanding who the league’s best teams are past merely their records. Last year, the Bucks, Warriors and Raptors were the three best teams, in that order.
So far, the top teams are Minnesota, the LA Clippers, Toronto and Phoenix. (Yeah, Phoenix!) The Wolves are undefeated with the league’s best player so far, the Clippers have the NBA’s best offense without Paul George, the Raptors have the fourth-best defense without Kawhi Leonard, and the dang Suns are right behind Toronto defensively.
Clearly, the Suns are destined for the Western Conference Finals. Numbers don’t lie.
By the same net rating stat, the four worst teams in the league are exactly in that order: Memphis, Golden State, Charlotte and Sacramento. That’s right, the Golden State Warriors, the team Draymond keeps saying “f-ing sucks” are the No. 28 team in the NBA right now. That’s it. Count ‘em out. It’s over.
The 1-2 Warriors are being outscored by 12 points per 100 possessions with the absolute worst defense in the league. Losing Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston is tough it seems!
The Grizzlies and Hornets are rebuilding teams expected to sink to the bottom, but don’t overlook the Kings here too. This is a team that nearly made the playoffs last season. Now they’re winless at 0-4 with the worst offense in the NBA so far. Yikes.
Over the next eight months, any can change. But for now, let’s enjoy overreacting on these wild week one stats.