NBA Tier List: Nets starting to get going, Wizards continue to surprise

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) looks to move the ball as Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) and forward Scottie Barnes (4) defend during second half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (Frank Gunn/CP)

At long last, with most NBA teams around the league having played at least 10 games, we’re beginning to see some clarity, at least at the top.

The middle of the pack around the NBA is still something of a jumbled mess and will likely require more time to sort out, but as things stand right now around the league, there appears to be five teams that have separated themselves from the pack as the best in the league at the moment.

Here’s a look at those five teams and more in the latest edition of the NBA Tier List.

Fab five

This is the quintet of teams that was mentioned off the top.

Within the group, the Golden State Warriors have been the most impressive as Steph Curry has looked every bit the MVP front-runner most expected him to be in the pre-season.

Most scary among these five teams, though, have been the Brooklyn Nets who had been sluggish out of the gates, but have now racked off five wins in a row, and it looks like they’re just starting to get their engine warm.

Beal finally has the help he’s needed for years

One of the most pleasant surprises of the young season has been the play of the Washington Wizards. Thanks to new roster additions like Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Spencer Dinwiddie, all of a sudden the Wizards look to have some real depth around star guard Bradley Beal, and it’s not just on the offensive side of the ball.

Washington has never really had a problem scoring the rock, but preventing other teams from scoring on them has been a real issue. So far this season, though, they’ve been rock solid on that end, boasting the fifth-best defensive rating in the league.

Elsewhere around the tier, we would be remiss not to mention the investigation that Phoenix Suns owner Rover Sarver is under now for allegations of racism and sexism in the workplace. His team has played well on the court, but things off it, could get quite ugly.

Good stories and bad

Spread out among these nine teams are some good stories and bad ones.

Starting with the good news: The two early Rookie of the Year frontrunners Evan Mobley of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Scottie Barnes from the Toronto Raptors seem to have helped raise the floor of their respective teams and with the apparent step up the Cavaliers’ Darius Garland has taken and the return of Pascal Siakam in Toronto, both of these teams who weren’t thought of much in the pre-season could suddenly be pretty serious players in the Eastern Conference picture.

And now the bad news: The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks have been devastated by some early injuries and have dropped five of their last six contests. You have to think they’ll figure it out and turn things around, but at 4-6, the Bucks haven’t got out to a very auspicious start.

Even worse than that, though, is what’s happening in Portland, though. The Trail Blazers are on a three-game slide and announced that it had hired an independent firm to investigate concerns about the workplace environment under general manager Neil Olshey.

Hornets coming back down to earth?

The Charlotte Hornets appeared to be one of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA to begin the season, however they’ve dropped four in a row now and sit under .500. Is this a case of them course correcting back into the team most thought they would be?

And speaking of course-correcting, the Los Angeles Clippers have won four straight and with Serge Ibaka returning to the lineup Sunday, things should only get better for the Clippers after a poor start to the season.

Free SGA

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is way too good to be stuck in the kind of rebuilding situation he’s in with the Oklahoma City Thunder. His heroics on Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers is definitive proof of this. Seeing him toy with the Lakers and basically getting where he wanted and scoring at-will down the stretch makes you wonder what he might look like on a team with a real chance this season.

There likely isn’t a scenario that sees him get traded this season to a real contender, but, boy, wouldn’t that be nice if it were to happen.

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