It was nice to have basketball back, wasn’t it folks? We made it through a wild weekend of sports, which also featured the return of the NHL! We all love hockey too! But back to basketball. So the NBA is through the first weekend and most teams have given us a two-game sample of what to expect in the NBA bubble. The seeding round has been mostly competitive basketball, so it doesn’t seem like teams are going to mail it in yet. With that, we can now effectively rank each team in the seeding round. Let’s go over things.
22. Washington Wizards (24-42, 0-2 in bubble)
The Wizards are a dumpster fire but this isn’t anything surprising. No Bradley Beal will do that to you. Washington did somehow lose to the Nets. At least Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura look good!
21. Brooklyn Nets (31-25, 1-1)
Hard not to have Wizards-Nets as the bottom two through the weekend. Prior to their win, the Nets got destroyed by the Orlando Magic. Caris LeVert hasn’t had a pre-pandemic break type of performance yet, though.
20. New Orleans Pelicans (28-38, 0-2)
This pains me because I loved the Pels going into the bubble. It’s clear they DGAF about winning now, they care about Zion Williamson. The rookie hasn’t played much in two games. Hopefully we get one last Zion stand before the seeding round ends.
19. Sacramento Kings (28-38, 0-2)
The Kings have allowed 129 and 132 points in their two losses in the seeding round. Defense is an issue, conditioning is clearly an issue, and it’s looking like another season out of the postseason for SacTown.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (32-35, 0-2)
The Grizz have had two tough losses in the bubble so far — in OT to the Blazers and then Sunday to this surprising Spurs squad. That 8-seed isn’t going to hold onto itself here. Memphis needs to get it together if they want to seal things up.
17. Phoenix Suns (28-39, 2-0)
The Suns have started things off with back-to-back wins, including a come-from-behind victory over the Mavs on Sunday. Can Phoenix go on a run and somehow force a miracle 3-way play-in tournament for the 8-seed? Crazier things have happened.
16. Orlando Magic (32-35, 2-0)
Orlando got some pretty devastating news with Jonathan Isaac tearing his ACL on Sunday night. It’s a tougher blow long-term, though his defensive intensity will be missed off the bench. It’s a morale killer or a team rally-er.
15. Denver Nuggets (43-23, 0-2)
As currently constructed — without three of their top players in Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton — the Nuggets are not a good team. If they continue to operate without those three, they will keep losing games. Things don’t get easier against the Thunder on Monday.
14. San Antonio Spurs (29-36, 2-0)
The Spurs have basically shocked everyone and are almost at their OVER for the win total in the seeding round. But should we really be surprised that the best coach in the NBA has his team winning games again? Let’s see if the Spurs make it three straight Monday vs. the Sixers.
13. Dallas Mavericks (40-29, 0-2)
Luka Doncic and the Mavs are among 0-2 teams in the seeding round. No way of stopping James Harden led to the first one. No offense in the second half caused Sunday’s loss to Phoenix. Dallas can right the ship but it may not matter if the Mavs have to play the Clippers in the first round.
12. Indiana Pacers (40-26, 1-0)
I’m still not sold on the Pacers without Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon healthy, plus no Domantas Sabonis. T.J. Warren hero ball can only carry a team so far in this League. An easy schedule could save Indy.
11. Utah Jazz (42-24, 1-1)
The Jazz still don’t really seem like they have it together. This unit hasn’t played many minutes together and now Royce O’Neale is dealing with a groin issue. A date with the Lakers coming off a loss doesn’t bode well either.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (30-38, 1-1)
I’m still high on the Blazers with a healthy front court and a beach season Carmelo Anthony on the court. The Celtics should have blown Portland out on Sunday afternoon but it was much closer. Dame is a few hero ball games away from getting the Blazers back into the 8-seed mix.
9. Philadelphia 76ers (39-27, 0-1)
If you’re the Sixers, you gotta tip your hat to T.J. Warren and chalk an L up to the Gods. Warren couldn’t miss. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons look great. The defense will come around and the Sixers will be dangerous. Three tune-up games against the Spurs, Wizards and Magic are coming up.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-24, 1-0)
OKC beat up on a somewhat reeling Jazz squad the other day. The defensive intensity was there and Chris Paul looks fine. Depth will be an issue in the playoffs, but for now, the Thunder have a legit shot at the 3-seed, which is crazy to think about.
7. Boston Celtics (44-22, 1-1)
I have an undying anti-Boston bias, I’ll admit. It’s easy to point out the Celtics have some work to do to get where they want to be. The win against the Blazers has a cloud above it. Poor defense and a blown lead. Heat-Celtics will tell us a lot about how the East could go.
6. Miami Heat (42-24, 1-0)
I’m giving the slightest edge to Miami until we see Tuesday’s game. The Heat are one of the deeper teams after adding Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder to the mix. Miami has so much size and shooting. Let us pray Jimmy Butler is fine.
5. Houston Rockets (42-24, 2-0)
The Rockets are going to have to basically run their starting lineup into the ground, but if they’re up to the task, Houston could win a lot of games in the bubble. On Sunday, it was Russell Westbrook who stepped up, the first game it was James Harden. Wins over the Mavs and Bucks early on are impressive.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (50-15, 1-1)
This is going to piss some people off but it’s what they need to hear. The Lakers don’t look good right now. They have no offense. There’s no secondary scoring outside Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Nobody stepped up against the Raptors and Toronto contained Davis and LeBron. Who is it going to be? Dion Waiters? Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? JR SMITH?!@??!?!<
3. Toronto Raptors (47-18, 1-0)
The defending champs clamped down on the Lakers for their first win of the seeding round. They’re just such a complete team when everyone is healthy. It’s like watching the early 2000s Pistons teams with Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey. Kyle Lowry is on a warpath too, look out!
2. Los Angeles Clippers (45-21, 1-1)
The Clippers are like the sleeping giant. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will carry them for now and then Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are going to come in and the Clips will take off. That first game could have gone either way. George looks like an MVP candidate in the bubble.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (54-13, 1-1)
The Bucks maintain the top spot in the NBA. Similar to the Clips, when Eric Bledsoe gets back, Milwaukee should be fine. I’m not worrying about the loss to the Rockets. Milwaukee has the least to play for and went out and took care of a very good Celtics team. Now it’s time to beat up on the Nets, yikes.