A. Sherrod Blakely's NBA Starting 5: They're the tops
BOSTON – We’re not even at the first quarter mark of the season, but there have been enough NBA games played to at least make some initial impressions who some of the top players, coaches and teams are in the league.
Today’s Starting Five will include the top 5 teams in the NBA in addition to Top 5 power rankings for coaches, MVP candidates, super sophomores and one of my favorite categories, top 5 new teamers (guys who are on different teams now after having played for a different team last season).
TOP FIVE TEAMS
1.Boston (9-2) – Best record, best coach. Easily playing the best basketball in the league and winning.
2. Golden State (9-3) – The champs are finding their stride, remain the team to beat when all is said and done.
3. Houston (8-3) – Even without Chris Paul, James Harden and company are still playing great basketball.
4. Detroit (8-3) – One of the big surprises this season, road win at Golden State validates fast start.
5. Minnesota (7-4) – Jimmy Butler great addition, provides much-needed leadership and versatilit
TOP FIVE COACHES
1.Brad Stevens, Boston – Stevens’ system is really good, which has allowed them to absorb injuries to key veterans by plugging in youngsters who get the job done when called upon.
2. Dave Fitzdale, Memphis – He has completely changed the culture and style of play by the Grizzlies … and it’s working.
3. Stan Van Gundy, Detroit – The Pistons are off to a great start, getting lots of production from lots of players which bodes well for a Detroit return to the playoffs this year.
4. Frank Vogel, Orlando – The success we’re seeing now, began at the end of last season. Smart move by the front office, Vogel to build off of what was working.
5. Mike D’Antoni, Houston – The reigning coach of the Year is doing another masterful job, winning lots of games despite not having Chris Paul available because of injury.
TOP FIVE MVP CANDIDATES
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – The Greek Freak has been amazing all season, but he’ll need some help (Eric Bledsoe?) if the Bucks are to take that next step and become a legit contender in the East.
2. James Harden, Houston – He’s putting up big numbers, the Rockets are winning and they’re doing it without Chris Paul. Harden is right where he always seems to be – in the thick of the league MVP race.
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State – Don’t let the numbers fool you. No shooter strikes fear into the heart of a defense like Curry who continues to put up big numbers for the Warriors.
4. Kyrie Irving, Boston – Proving himself to be more than just a scorer, Irving’s leadership and solid play defensively – as well as being a great ankle-breaking, points producer – have helped catapult Boston to the top of the NBA standings and in doing so, makes Irving a legit MVP candidate.
5. LeBron James, Cleveland – The Cavs are struggling, but it’s certainly not due to a lack of production on James’ part. He’s having yet another stat-stuffing season and continues to be a top-5 talent in the NBA.
TOP FIVE SUPER SOPHOMORES
1.Joel Embiid, Philadelphia -- His minutes may be limited and he doesn’t do back-to-backs. Still, you would be hard-pressed to find another big man with his upside at both ends of the floor.
2. Jaylen Brown, Boston -- The athleticism, defense and improved shot-making has made Brown one of the brightest, up-and-coming stars in the NBA.
3. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee -- The reigning rookie of the year is solid pro in every sense of the word, but the addition of Eric Bledsoe will likely limit to some degree his role with the Bucks.
4. Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers -- The comparisons to Kevin Durant are slowly fading away, allowing Ingram to continue evolving as a player without that kind of hype to live up to.
5. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana -- The trade to the Pacers has been a good thing for Sabonis who is shooting better than 60 percent from the field and averaging a double-double on the season.
TOP FIVE NEW TEAMERS
1.Kyrie Irving, Boston – The adjustment period that we anticipated Irving would need, never came. He has been meshing with his teammates from Day One, racking up a ton of wins in the process.
2. Jimmy Butler, Minnesota – Like Irving, Butler’s scoring numbers are down but his ability to put his imprint on games with so many talented, impressionable players on the roster, has done wonders for the Timberwolves this season.
3. Victor Oladipo, Indiana – The former University of Indiana standout has played at an all-star caliber level this season, and is the biggest reason the Pacers are off to such a solid start.
4. J.J. Redick, Philadelphia – Conventional wisdom was Redick signing with the Sixers for $20 million was a money grab. His play and the team’s success, validates his decision to leave LaLa land.
5. Paul George, Oklahoma City – The Thunder haven’t gotten off to the best of starts, but George’s two-way talent is only going to help the Thunder as he, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony become more familiar with one another.