As week three of the NBA is underway, teams are starting to build their records and the lines are being drawn between pretenders, contenders and off-season spenders. Now that every team has played at least ten games, you can start to predict which ones are striving to win it all and which are looking forward to the next draft. Some of the teams that have started out hot are the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets.
During last year’s offseason, the Celtics were one of the biggest talking points in the NBA and many thought they were the Eastern Conference’s heavyweight to win the Finals. Throughout the regular season, Brad Stevens’ squad couldn’t quite put their talent together as a team and their season ended short. During the offseason, Boston lost All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and center Al Horford. To compensate for their losses, the Celtics signed free agent point guard Kemba Walker, but the signing did not appear to fill the gap that Horford and Irving left. The Celtics have started this season as the hottest team in the NBA and, after losing opening night, they have won 10 straight games, putting them at the top of the Eastern Conference. The team also appears to have a new sense of chemistry. The Celtics’ young star guards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are looking ready to lead a team. Veteran forward Gordon Hayward is finally looking like his former self for the first time since his devastating ankle injury two years ago. Walker has been able to lead the team, and, unlike Irving, he has been able to let the young core develop and take over when needed. At this point in the season, the Celtics appear to be clear contenders.
Los Angeles Lakers
Power forward LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers after losing the 2017 finals to try and get a championship with the Lakers. After failing to make the playoffs with the Lakers’ young core last season, Los Angeles shook up their entire building by jettisoning multiple young players in exchange for All-Star center Anthony Davis, giving the Lakers one of the best big men duos the league has seen. To start the season, James and Davis are both in the early MVP talks as the duo is tearing apart defenses and owning the paint. To gain Davis in the offseason, the Lakers had to trade away the majority of the young core but decided to keep guard Kyle Kuzma. Keeping Kuzma, while trading away point guard Lonzo Ball, came as a surprise to many, but Kuzma has accepted his role on the team well and has been a key player for the Lakers’ success. At the moment the Lakers are 10-2 and sit at the top of the Western Conference.
After some late-season altercations last year between the Rockets’ two star players, guard James Harden and point guard Chris Paul, both players decided they did not want to play on the same court. They proceeded to tell the front office to trade one of the two guards, which the Rockets obliged to, trading Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for former MVP point guard Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has averaged a triple-double during both his last two seasons and Harden was the NBA scoring leader by a substantial amount last season. Although there is a lot of talent between both players, they’ve both had teams that have revolved around them for years, bringing up the question of whether both players can have success on the same side of the ball. To start the season, Westbrook and Harden have been able to play with chemistry and it has led to early success for the Rockets. They sit at 9-3 and are in second in the west.
Although it is very early in a long season, early momentum is crucial for teams, especially for Westbrook and Harden, who have a habit of setting their tone for the season very early on.