Zion Williamson is healthy and playing like an All-Star. That’s the most important takeaway for the Pelicans, this season and every season. When available, Brandon Ingram has improved as a playmaker and is scoring well inside, while CJ McCollum has shot the ball well and Herbert Jones has been everywhere defensively. When Jose Alvarado, Larry Nance Jr. and Trey Murphy III are all healthy the Pelicans’ bench will take a massive step forward, and this team will likely ascend the rankings accordingly.
It’s hard to know just how much credit to give the Orlando Magic thus far in the season. At face value, they have a 4-2 record and the league’s eighth-best net rating. Their only two losses were on a back-to-back with the Lakers and Clippers in Los Angeles. Otherwise, they clobbered the Lakers in the return game back in Orlando and took care of business against the weaker teams on their schedule. Franz Wagner looks confident, Cole Anthony is stroking the ball off the bench, and Paolo Baanchero is living at the free-throw line.
The Atlanta Hawks lived at .500 for all of last season, but after a relatively quiet offseason it was a real question as to whether an offseason in Quin Snyder’s system would be enough to push them up the standings. Thus far it has, with Trae Young and Dejounte Murray looking more comfortable together and Jalen Johnson taking a leap as an athletic forward leaping around on both ends. It’s not simply that they are 4-2, either; the have notched comfortable wins over the Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans.