With a dose of serious defense, the Clippers make their case for best in the NBA. All’s still well with Grizzlies and Knicks, too, and seemingly getting much better for Lakers.
1 Clippers 8-2 +6
Blake Griffin’s free-throw percentage has jumped to near-acceptable levels. Gotta be the car commercial. But the biggest reason the Clips are here is because they’re defending better than at any time during the Griffin-Chris Paul era.
2 Grizzlies 8-2 +1
Winning eight of first nine tied best start in franchise history. Bottom line: Griz possess the familiarity and well-roundedness to really go places.
3 Knicks 7-1 -1
Clearly, they can win without Amar’e Stoudemire. But can they keep playing so well when Stoudemire returns?
4 Heat 8-3
We’re barely three weeks into the season, and already the Heat must be wondering if this title chase will have to come without the injury-prone Dwyane Wade. 5 Spurs 8-3 -4
Losing Stephen Jackson (broken pinky) is an underrated blow, but the question here is the same as always: When are these guys gonna start acting their age?
6 Thunder 8-3 -1
Still not all the way recovered from the James Harden trade, but this team belongs to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Read: Thunder will be fine. 7 Nets 6-2 +4
Unlike last season, winning even when they don’t play exceptionally well. Ain’t it great having everyone happy and healthy? 8 Lakers 5-5
Apparently, just naming Mike D’Antoni coach was the pick-me-up this band of stars needed. Just imagine when their first- or second-string point guard returns.
9 Bucks 6-3 +1
Everyone’s still ignoring them, and that’s OK by Bucks. They know Monta Ellis-Brandon Jennings backcourt good enough to carry them to wins all by themselves.
10 76ers 6-4 +2
Andrew Bynum potentially causing bowling to be banned in Eastern Pennsylvania. If his knees don’t heal soon, he’ll probably get chased out, too.
11 Celtics 6-5 -5
Starting much like they did last season: They look like their hearts are only half in it right now.
12 Hawks 5-4 +4
Might have traded Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, but hey, Al Horford and Josh Smith are still here (for now). Supporting cast already looks more cohesive. 13 Warriors 6-5 +8
Eventually, a lineup featuring Stephen Curry, David Lee and Andrew Bogut had to stay healthy and play near potential, right? Look out, world. Warriors might be ready now.
14 Jazz 6-6 +5
Look improved with Derrick Favors and Randy Foye taking over starting roles. Score one for coach Ty Corbin.
15 Mavericks 6-6
O.J. Mayo has been great, but Elton Brand appears to have very little left. Hurry back, Dirk Nowitzki.
16 Bulls 5-5 -2
No one expected them to be much better than .500 team without Derrick Rose. In that regard, Bulls have not disappointed.
17 Trail Blazers 5-5 +6
All five starters usually hit double figures in scoring. Yet another sign they got a pretty good point guard in that Damian Lillard kid.
18 Timberwolves 5-4 -9
Sad news about Brandon Roy, who had the guts to give his faulty knees another try. Just another example that Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio can’t come to the rescue quick enough.
19 Nuggets 5-6 -1
Fun brand of basketball suddenly fun again. Now all Nuggets need to do is use it to win on a consistent basis.
20 Bobcats 5-4 +6
Kemba Walker looking like the brave young guard who once led his college team to a title. Helping the Bobcats win 30 games might be a greater accomplishment.
21 Pacers 5-7 -8
Seem to have lost the edge that enabled them to look like the East’s most up-and-coming team last season. And Danny Granger’s injury alone isn’t enough to blame. 22 Rockets 4-7
As much as a one-man show (behind James Harden) as you’ll find in the league. Fare best when they receive underrated assistance from the likes of Patrick Patterson and Chandler Parsons.
23 Suns 4-7 -3
Never know what you’re going to get from one night to the next. Heck, one quarter to the next. And who’s the leader of this team? 24 Hornets 3-5 -7
Their two best players (Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson) play the same position. Their other best player (Eric Gordon) doesn’t really play at all. 25 Raptors 3-7 +3
DeMar DeRozan turning into this season’s breakout dude. If only Andrea Bargnani could play like he did last season.
26 Magic 3-7 -1
Glen Davis, J.J. Redick and E’Twaun Moore are having career years. So far, that’s enough to keep them from being total pushovers — but not a whole lot else.
27 Pistons 2-9 +3
Greg Monroe is fantastic, and the sudden and surprising climb of rookie Kyle Singler is one of early-season’s best stories. And a big reason the Pistons have actually won a couple.
28 Kings 2-8 -1
Not bad when their players can avoid getting suspended. Not good, either, but at least watchable.
29 Cavaliers 2-8 -5
Weren’t exactly setting the world on fire with Kyrie Irving. Now that he’s expected to miss a month, someone might want to set Cleveland on fire.
30 Wizards 0-9 -1
In fairness, John Wall and Nene haven’t played a game. But fans are beginning to ask if anyone else on this team has, either.