20. San Antonio Spurs, (11-13)
Trades, retirement and free agency decisions have sent former San Antonio staples like Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili away from the team. And injuries to their young guards Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker have made it hard for them to develop their youth. That’s led to the worst defensive rating (113.4) in the West.
19. Charlotte Hornets, (11-13)
They could be buyers in a trade market if injured veteran Kevin Love returns from his injury and becomes available. While they are below .500 right now, they have a positive net rating (4.0) through 24 games behind the sharp play of point guard Kemba Walker.
18. Utah Jazz, (12-13)
They signaled a desire to improve in trading for veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver, who can help a team that currently has a Bottom 3 offensive rating in the West. For a team that many expected to be one of the best in the NBA, however, their negative point differential has been a major disappointment.
17. New Orleans Pelicans, (13-13)
To no surprise, New Orleans superstar Anthony Davis leads the league in PER. Fortunately for the Pelicans, free agency signing Julius Randle ranks Top 30 in this mark as well. Otherwise, the team lacks both the depth and the consistency to make much noise.
16. Houston Rockets, (11-12)
For the second season in a row, the Rockets have the two players who have scored the most points in a one-on-one offense. Despite the fact that James Harden and Chris Paul are typically dominant when in isolation, they will need to play better on defense to have any chance of succeeding.
15. Dallas Mavericks, (12-11)
With the impressive play of Rookie of the Year favorite Luka Doncic, it’s safe to say the Mavericks are glad to have traded their 2019 first-rounder to the Atlanta Hawks. Earlier this week, we wrote about how their front office will be buyers in the trade market with serious hopes to contend this season.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves, (13-12)
The Timberwolves got impressive value back from Butler in Robert Covington, who has been a defensive stalwart that has also shot well from beyond the arc during his time with the franchise. The team has eight wins and just three losses since the deal, outscoring opponents by 6.4 points per 100 in the process.
13. Portland Trail Blazers, (13-11)
No duo has played more minutes together so far this season than Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. They’ve cooled off after a hot start but still have enough strength from their two stars to carry them to a winning record and a spot within playoff contention.
12. Memphis Grizzlies, (14-9)
The Grizzlies boast a Top 5 defensive rating and veteran Marc Gasol looks like a two-way star. Gasol has the best overall rating for ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus and could be a favorite for Defensive Player of the Year. Plus, rookie forward Jaren Jackson Jr. also has the second-best Player Efficiency Rating (PER) among qualified first-year players.
11. Indiana Pacers, (14-10)
One of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA has been the performance of Domantas Sabonis. Despite coming off the bench in all but one game so far, he is averaging 20.7 points and 14.6 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 63.9 percent from the field. Indiana has an incredibly deep roster and can still play well even while Victor Oladipo recovers from injury.
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