Roundball roundup: Week 2 in the NBA

Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (3), left, drives past Phoenix Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe (2) in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Welcome to the roundball roundup. This year we’ll be running a weekly column on basketball here on the blog, taking a look at each division in the NBA, as well as a few other assorted items. We hope you enjoy our look at Week 2.

Atlantic Division:

Last week, I wrote, "Boston ... with four losses by an average of 7.5 points per game (PPG), look every bit as bad as most though they’d be."

If we lived in a just world, you could jumble all the letters in that sentence in a hat and then retrieve them reading, "Jonathan Raymond is stupid." For Boston conspired to make this writer look awfully foolish this last week, winning four straight – including one over Miami, of all teams – to even their record at 4-4.

While it's well-accepted in sports like football and, ah, American football, that a coach can make a significant difference, it's more generally assumed that talent will usually rule the day in basketball. Brad Stevens, the Celtics' 37 year old coach who worked wonders at the college level with Butler University, is drawing the most out of his modest collection of talent two weeks into the season, though.

With Jeff Green and Avery Bradley seemingly taking turns leading Boston night after night, the Celtics probably still aren't a play-off team. But neither are they likely the doormat I envisioned just a week ago.

Shoutout to: The New York Knicks, who without defensive bulwark Tyson Chandler at center look like a dysfunctional collection of talent, stumbling out to a 2-4 start that includes one of their worst losses ever at home – a Sunday night beatdown courtesy of San Antonio.

Central Division:

There's been some amount of consternation in Chicago over when Derrick Rose would start looking like Derrick Rose again. The point guard suffered a major injury though and it was unreasonable to think he'd just step on the court right away and dominate competitive NBA games again.

His shooting has been a mess so far, with just a 33.0 field goal percentage in six games. And while the Bulls flopped in a highly-anticipated matchup with the streaking Pacers last Wednesday, they showed they're still a well-rounded club with subsequent wins over Utah (by 24) and Cleveland. When Rose gets back to being Rose, Chicago will look like the title contender they're supposed to be.

Shoutout to: Indiana. Who else? We covered last week how dominant they'd been so far, and they continued the form this week by extending their perfect start to 8-0. Paul George might be one of the five best players in the league right now, Roy Hibbert leads the league in blocks and the Pacers look like the toughest team physically in the NBA.

Southeast Division:

What's exactly gone wrong with Washington? Well, if you go merely by their record (2-5) they appear to be an early disappointment after their off-season was focused entirely on patching together a team around young stars John Wall and Bradley Beal that could make it into the play-offs this season.

But if you're in a more generous mood, you could chalk up their back-to-back-to-back losses to open the season to a couple off nights from Bradley Beal, running into a Heat team that wasn't going to lose three straight either and the random fluctuations that simply happen during a season and wound up biting Washington right as things began.

Because the Wizards won their next two with a convincing defeat of Philadelphia to avenge their second loss of the year and a hard-fought overtime victory over Brooklyn.

Then they took a very good Oklahoma City team to overtime and lost by only a point. Beal combined for 55 points against the Nets and Thunder on 24-of-43 shooting, but Wall went 7-of-27 in those two games. In the win over Philly, Wall was 8-of-16 while Beal was just 7-of-20. And in a dud against Dallas last night, Beal went just 2-for-10 while Wall shot 50 percent at 5-for-10.

When the two get on the same page, Washington will start winning more consistently. The talent is there, but over the course of an 82-game season, sometimes it'll be hard to see.

Shoutout to: Jeff Teague. The 25 year old has been a quality player almost since his arrival in the NBA four years ago out of Wake Forest, but this year he's been possibly the key cog on a pleasantly surprising Atlanta squad. Chris Paul leads the league easily with 12.4 assist per game (APG), but Teague is the best of the rest, the only other player in double digits with 10.1 APG.

Northwest Division:

Since it was only the third game of the season, it was hard to know quite what to make of Portland's 115-105 triumph over the Spurs on November 2. They went out and fell hard to Houston three nights later. But three wins in a row by a combined 24 points over teams a contender should beat – Sacramento twice and Detroit – indicate this is, probably at the very least, a team destined for a play-off spot.

LaMarcus Aldridge (22.6 points per game) and Damian Lillard (21.1 PPG) form a genuine star pairing that can rival most other teams' 1-2, with both in the top-15 in scoring so far.

Portland face off with Phoenix tonight in an especially interesting game between teams on the rise led by a young point guard in the middle of a breakout season.

Shoutout to: Kevin Love. The NBA's second-leading scorer (26.4 PPG), leading rebounder (15.0 rebounds per game) and, by many of the advanced statistical measures, league's best player through the first two weeks of the season. Minnesota nearly beat the Clippers on the road on Monday, Kevin Martin is in the top-10 in scoring and there's an argument to be made that with Love playing this well, the Timberwolves could be a top-4 team in the West.

Pacific Division:

The Warriors are a funny team so far. Stephen Curry is undoubtedly a true star, Klay Thompson gives them a backcourt with both guards in the top-20 in scoring, Andre Iguodala and David Lee combine for a very good front court and they've got the league's third-best point differential so far, at plus-7.8 PPG.

And yet, they've had three chances to deliver a win over a top opponent and they've failed all three times. A two-point loss to San Antonio on the road is nothing to be ashamed about, but two losses by a combined 29 points to Memphis and Los Angeles make you wonder just how good this team really is. Granted, their 13-point win over Minnesota looks better and better.

It's a weird question to pose for Golden State, a team that were mired in misery for so long, but: Are the Warriors really good enough to get to the Western Conference Finals, or, perhaps, beyond? That's the bar that's been set, fairly or not.

Shoutout to: DeMarcus Cousins. It's a true testament to how bad the rest of the Kings are that while Cousins is probably the best center in the league so far, Sacramento have just a solitary win to show for it at 1-5. Dude even leads his team in steals.

Southwest Division:

That's it. The Spurs are never, ever, ever going to get bad. They're not going to get old. They're not going to slow down. San Antonio will be awesome forever.

It was six years ago now that the Spurs beat LeBron James and Cleveland in James' first NBA Finals appearance, and people were wondering then if it might be one of the last great runs for the Popovich/Duncan/Parker/Ginobili Spurs. In 2013/2014, though, they still look every bit the force they were then, rattling off a 7-1 start and leaving behind opponents like Memphis, Golden State and the Knicks.

Even though Duncan and Parker and Ginobili – and even Popovich – will eventually ride off into the sunset, players like Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter are laying the foundation for the next strong Spurs squad in San Antonio (there's your alliteration for the day).

Shoutout to: Dirk Nowitzki. On Tuesday night the German forward passed Jerry West – the man on the NBA logo – for 16th on the league's all-time scoring list. Before long he'll catch Reggie Miller for 15th. Dallas may or may not be a play-off team this year (5-3 isn't a bad start though), but Dirk is definitely a future Hall-of-Famer.

The All-NBA first team, right now:

Guard: Chris Paul, LAC; Guard: Eric Bledsoe, PHX; Forward: Kevin Love, MIN; Forward: Kevin Durant, OKC; Center: DeMarcus Cousins, SAC

The All-NBA second team, right now:

Guard: James Harden, HOU; Guard: Stephen Curry, GSW; Forward: Paul George, IND; Forward: Anthony Davis, NOP; Center: Brook Lopez, BKN

The All-NBA third team, right now:

Guard: Kevin Martin, MIN; Guard: Tony Parker, SAS; Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge, POR; Forward: Markieff Morris, PHX; Center: Nikola Vucevic, ORL

Standings screenshot:

There was a debate for a long while there about how Eric Bledsoe, a standout at the University of Kentucky and the 18th pick in the 2010 draft, would do once he was unshackled as Chris Paul's backup in Los Angeles. Just about everyone agreed the 23 year old had a lot of talent, but whether he could raise his offensive game to match his defensive abilities and be a top starting point guard in the NBA instead of just a really good one off the bench was in question.

We appear to have our answer now: Eric Bledsoe is awesome. By advanced measures, he's probably a top-10 player in the NBA so far. Phoenix, a team people were pegging as a lottery contender, are 5-2, and against all odds, at the top of the Pacific Division.

The Suns haven't engineered a true statement win just yet, though they lost to Oklahoma City and San Antonio on the road by only 10 points combined, and they're probably not on the same level as the Clippers or Golden State in this division – but with Gerald Green and Goran Dragic looking like a competent backcourt pairing with Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee looking like a decent starting center and Markieff Morris playing like a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Phoenix might just be for real.

Coolant contenders:

The Miami Heat are the presumptive favourite to win their third straight NBA title, but here are the five teams that look like their most serious threat to achieving that so far.

1. Indiana Pacers 2. San Antonio Spurs 3. Oklahoma City Thunder 4. Los Angeles Clippers 5. Phoenix Suns (for now, anyway)

Around the world in 30 words (give or take a hundred):

Real Madrid, Fenerbahce Ulker and Olympiacos all held firm as undefeated teams in Euroleague group play, as all three clubs moved to 4-0 last week. Malcolm Delaney, a former Virginia Tech University standout in the United States, is fourth in the league in scoring for Bayern Munich with 17.25 PPG while leading its cumulative Index Rating stat at 23.50.

Bojan Bogdanovic of Fenerbahce has come into a tie with Alexis Ajinca for the overall scoring lead at 20.25 PPG.

Bayern, Bonn and Artland lead the Basket Bundesliga at 7-1 each, with Lithuanian Benas Veikalas leading the league in scoring at 18 points a game.

Siena, at 4-1, have taken hold of the top of the table in Italy's Lega A and in Spain, Madrid are now 5-0 after a commanding 111-63 win over La Bruixa d'Or on Sunday.

Banvitspor top the Turkish League as well at 5-0, led by 30 year old American Earl Rowland, who played his college ball at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The league's leading scorer is Darius Washington with Olin Edirne at 23.80 PPG. Washington had 33 points, six rebounds and six assists in an 88-83 win over Royal Hali. Fenerbahce suffered their first loss of the domestic season, an 89-81 defeat to 3-2 Tofas.

Some recognisable names around Europe making noise right now also include Keith Langford with Emporio Armanio Milano, leading the Italian league with 21.6 PPG. Langford was a star at the University of Kansas in the first half of the last decade. Will Thomas, who featured on George Mason's 2005/2006 NCAA Final Four team, is second in Italy in rebounding with 8.2 boards a game with Sidigas (2-3). That's still well behind former Siena University standout OD Anosike, who has 13.2 a game for bottom-of-the-table Vanoli (1-4).

Jon Brockman, who went to the University of Washington, is second in France in rebounding with 9.7 boards a game for Chalon (1-5). 6-1 Nanterre are at the top of the French table. And Patrick Ewing, Jr is plying his trade in Greece with Trikalla, where he's fifth in the league in rebounding with 8.2 RPG.

Also this nonsense happened in Spain