Chris Paul has gracefully stepped into a bench role for the first time in his career and absolutely unlocked this team’s depth. The young players are ascending, Stephen Curry is playing yet again at an MVP level, and this looks like a team that can make another run in the playoffs. Head coach Steve Kerr has some difficult decisions to make each night about who will close games, but a number of close games to start the season has given him plenty of data with different groups. Even the rookies have contributed when they have seen the court, and this looks like one of the deeper teams in the league — a scary proposition when they also have a star like Curry.
The defending champions made an interesting bet this season: their bench was so bad last year that they let key pieces walk this summer, replacing them with veteran castoffs and second-round picks. Somehow that bet has paid off beautifully for Denver, which is cruising through the early part of the season with the best regular-season defense of the Nikola Jokic era.
Speaking of Jokic, he has been effortlessly brilliant to start the year, averaging 27.3 points, 12.2 rebounds, 7.7 assists and all on a whopping 68.7 effective field goal percentage, the best of his career. Other than a single blip against the Minnesota Timberwolves this group looks ready for a title defense.
The Boston Celtics had the league’s best net rating a season ago, and undoubtedly got better this summer adding Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. That’s why it’s no surprise that the Celtics have clobbered the competition and look like the league’s best team through two weeks; they are the last undefeated team, have the best net rating and SRS in the NBA, and their offense is comfortably the best in the league as well. Jayson Tatum looks like an MVP candidate, if not the front-runner, and both Holiday and Porzingis have fit right in and are having stellar two-way seasons.
There are still some depth questions and any injury absences will stretch this team, but thus far they have been unstoppable. This looks like a group on track for 60 wins and it will be fascinating to see if another team in the East can challenge them, either in the standings or when the playoffs circle around.