Now that the first month of the NBA season has been wrapped up it’s time to look at the best teams of October. The first month came with many surprises (the Kings), as some stuff everybody expected (the Warriors are still really good). Anyways, here is the first set of power rankings for the NBA season:
1. Golden State Warriors (8-1)
Team MVP: Stephen Curry (33 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.9 APG)
Points Per Game: 125.0 (1st of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 111.9 (15th of 30)
Despite the one loss on their record, the Warriors have still been the most impressive team in the league. They have two players that have already dropped over 50 points in a game, 51 for Curry against the Wizards and 52 for Klay against the Bulls. Additionally, they have 2 of the top 3 talents in the NBA with Curry and Durant. Also, they have one of the best defensive players in the NBA in Draymond Green. The Warriors being the best in the NBA shouldn’t surprise many, but the Champs have resoundingly proven nobody is above them.
2. Toronto Raptors (7-1)
Team MVP: Kawhi Leonard (27.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.2 APG)
Points Per Game: 117.4 (5th of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 109.0 (6th of 30)
After trading their most loyal franchise player for a new superstar in Kawhi Leonard, Raptors fans questioned the front office. Now, a month into the season, I don’t think any Raptors fan is crying over DeMar DeRozan. Leonard has elevated this franchise to new heights already as they achieved a franchise-best 6-0 start to the season. Even though they did suffer a loss to the Bucks they were missing both Kawhi and OG Anunoby. This season the Raptors have looked way better on both ends of the court and should only get better as the team gets used to playing with a new coach and superstar player. People say this every season, but maybe -just maybe- the Raptors will finally find playoff success this year.
3. Milwaukee Bucks (7-0)
Team MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo (25.0 PPG, 14.2 RPG, 5.7 APG)
Points Per Game: 120.0 (4th of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 105.8 (5th of 30)
In October the Bucks finished with an undefeated record largely through the great play of Giannis and Khris Middleton. Giannis dropped 25 and 14 a game while Middleton chipped in 20.7 points a game on great shooting splits (50/55/87). This team has adapted well to their new coach, which isn’t a surprise given how much better Budenholzer is than Jason Kidd. They boasted a top 5 offense and defense this month and appear to be trending in the right direction as a team. (For an in-depth breakdown look here). They still don’t look better than the Raptors or Warriors as their best win was against the shorthanded Raptors. Nevertheless, this October the Bucks proved they deserve to be considered with the best in the East.
4. Denver Nuggets (6-1)
Team MVP: Nikola Jokic (21.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 7.1 APG)
Points Per Game: 112.9 PPG (13th of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 103.6 PPG (4th of 30)
Surprisingly enough the Nuggets defense, not offense, has carried them through a great October. The return of Paul Millsap, although an awkward fit on offense, has brought this defense to another level. His presence down low gives Jokic much needed support protecting the rim. On offense, this team will likely bounce back once Jamal Murray heats up. He is currently shooting 41% from the field and an uncharacteristic 28% from three. Despite this, the Nuggets still have impressive wins over the Warriors and Kings. Overall, they have been an impressive ball club and look like a contender for second place in the West.
5. Boston Celtics (5-2)
Team MVP: Jayson Tatum (16.6 PPG, 8.1 PPG, 2.3 APG)
Points Per Game: 102.4 (29th of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 99.5 PPG (1st of 30)
As expected, the Celtics had a very shaky start to the season. Now that they have added back Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward they have to figure out how to play with each other. Tatum is still trying to be the number one option and Jaylen Brown has failed to recreate his offensive output from last year’s playoffs. Luckily, despite their atrocious offense, the Celtics still have an amazing defense. They can almost switch all 5 positions and Stevens is one of the best defensive coaches in the NBA. The bad loss to the Magic hurt their ranking, but wins against the 76ers and Thunder are a good sign. Overall, October was a good month for the Celtics, but they should be a lot better by the end of the season.
6. Portland Trailblazers (5-2)
Team MVP: Damian Lillard (29.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 6.0 APG)
Points Per Game: 117.0 (6th of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 110.4 (10th of 30)
Behind the electric performances of Damian Lillard, the Trailblazers have found themselves among the top of the NBA despite a tough October schedule. Their wins this month were over the Pacers, Spurs, Lakers, Magic, and Rockets. Four of these five teams were projected to make the playoffs this season. Nik Stauskas‘ contributions off the bench have been a huge help for Portland. After lacking a respectable bench scorer last season Portland acquired Stauskas who is averaging 10 points per game on 44/46/100 shooting. Also, against the Lakers, Stauskas dropped 24 points in a narrow win. The improved bench play and continued greatness of Dame has made Portland a top team early in the NBA season.
7. San Antonio Spurs (5-2)
Team MVP: DeMar DeRozan (27.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 7.3 APG)
Points Per Game: 114.6 (11th of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 113.0 (18th of 30)
Even after trading their franchise player the Spurs have managed to remain highly competitive. Behind Popovich’s wisdom, the team has stayed afloat with huge contributions from DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. Although both love to shoot the unpopular mid-range jumper, they have been able to score very effectively. Many people discounted the Spurs making the playoffs after the loss of Kawhi through trade and the loss of Lonnie Walker IV, Dejounte Murray, and Derrick White through injury. Despite the turmoil, the Spurs have remained one of the best organizations in the league and have had a great October.
8. Sacremento Kings (5-3)
Team MVP: De’Aaron Fox (17.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 6.9 APG)
Points Per Game: 116.5 (7th of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 116.6 (21st of 30)
The most shocking of all the early season successes has to be the Kings. In the stacked West, the Kings were the last team anybody would expect to be competitive. But, behind the play of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, the Kings have competed in every game. The development from the young guys in addition to veteran additions such as Nemanja Bjelica and Iman Shumpert has made Sacremento look like a completely new team. The team also finally has a game plan because of Fox’s speed they constantly look to push the pace leading to the 7th best offense in the NBA. Whether or not they continue this hot start the Kings deserved their spot as a top 10 team of October.
9. Philadelphia 76ers (5-4)
Team MVP: Joel Embiid (27.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 4.1 APG)
Points Per Game: 112.5 (14th of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 113.4 (19th of 30)
Although many believed the 76ers would be one of the better teams in the league they have been somewhat disappointing. Obviously, 4 losses early in the season isn’t great, but 3 of the 4 came against other top 10 opponents. The lack of depth in this team is obvious, but the top-heavy talent of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons make up for a lot of problems. They definitely haven’t been awful, but the Sixers have been far from impressive in October.
10. Indiana Pacers (5-3)
Team MVP: Victor Oladipo (22.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.4 APG)
Points Per Game: 108.8 (21st of 30)
Points Allowed Per Game: 102.6 (3rd of 30)
Even though it is not as surprising as last season the Pacers have been one of the better teams in the NBA through October. Their defense has gotten them most of their wins as they have only allowed 83, 96, 101, 107, and 112 points in their wins. Oladipo still had to carry the Pacers’ offense in October as Tyreke Evans only scored 10 points per game on sub-par efficiency. Luckily, Oladipo is really good so the Pacers offense hasn’t been a complete trainwreck. Their elite defense and passable offense allow the Pacers to round out the Top 10 teams of October.