About 1/5 of the possible games have been played so far this NBA season, and there have been some pleasant surprises. The Kings aren’t the eyesore of the NBA anymore, the Bucks have become scary under new head coach Mike Budenholzer, and the Kawhi Leonard trade turned out beautiful for Toronto. They all have made big strides this season, and have come out of the gate with something to prove. The question that all the fans of those teams have though, is are they for real? What can we make of some of the NBA’s hottest starts?
A Look At Some Of The NBA’s Hottest Starts
Toronto Raptors (12-3)
Toronto has been absolutely on fire to start the season, getting production from everyone. Paskal Siakam is having himself a breakout season, averaging 14 PPG and 6.5 rebounds while winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Kyle Lowry has been a top 5 point guard in the NBA so far this season, averaging 16.2 PPG and 11 APG. Danny Green is shooting 44% from three-point range and has been exactly what they traded for. Then there’s the other part of that trade. Kawhi Leonard is not even 100 percent yet and he has become a top 10 player once again after only playing nine games last year. He’s averaging 24 PPG with 7.7 RPG on 47 percent shooting. Toronto has been the best team in the Eastern Conference, and their three losses seem to be them having an off night. They lost to Milwaukee when Kawhi sat out, got blown out by the Pelicans and blew a 19-point lead in a revenge game for Dwane Casey.
Are they for real?
Toronto seems to always have a great regular season, but falter in the playoff. They seem to have replaced DeMar DeRozan with Leonard and become even more lethal. With Boston starting off slow, Toronto should use that to gain ground and keep the one seed for as long as possible. From what we’ve seen, Toronto is for real. They have everything a top team needs, and as long as they stay healthy they will be a Finals contender,
Sacramento Kings (8-6)
The Kings don’t suck! They have been great so far this year, beating quality teams: the Thunder, Grizzlies, Heat, T-Wolves and the Spurs are five of their eight wins. They have only scored under 110 points in 2 of their wins, and that juggernaut offense has been led by second-year guard De’Aaron Fox. He is averaging 18.7 PPG and 7.1 APG, shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 44 percent(!) from three-point range. He is tied with Buddy Hield for first in scoring on the team, who is also having a great season. Hield has turned himself into one of the best shooters in the league, shooting 43 percent from three. That two-headed monster has led the Kings to the 8 seed in the West early on. Vlade Divac has finally made his team into something watchable.
Are they for real?
Obviously, the Kings are not championship contenders, now or for the next few years at least. They probably will not even make the playoffs, as the Spurs, T-Wolves, Jazz, Pelicans and Rockets are outside the top eight in the West right now. This Kings team looks like the 16-17 Denver Nuggets team. They are going to be good, but they are also young. Too young to contend for the playoffs as of right now, but they definitely will contend for the postseason in the next few years.
Milwaukee Bucks (10-4)
Man has this team been impressive. Under coach Budenholzer, the Bucks have become the number one offense in the league. They have the best player under 25 in Giannis Antetokounmpo, a crazy efficient Khris Middleton and a completely different Brook Lopez. Giannis is being Giannis, averaging 25.8 PPG and 12.7 RPG, but with all the shooters that he is surrounded with, his shooting does not glare out at all (only shooting 7 percent on threes). Middleton has blossomed the last couple seasons, but this year he is going nuts. He’s averaging 19.4 PPG on 45/45/90 shooting splits and has a legitimate chance at a 50/40/90 season. Lopez started shooting threes a few seasons ago, but this year he has become a THREAT from outside. He is shooting 41.8 percent on threes and has had some huge games from outside: 6/12 from 3 vs the Clippers and 8/13 from 3 vs Denver (6/7 in the third quarter). He is shooting seven (yes seven) threes a game, and it has worked out perfectly for Milwaukee.
Are They For Real?
Watching them play, Milwaukee’s only huge weakness seems to be the shooting ability of Giannis. But that has not affected them at all, and Giannis knows he should not shoot from outside anyway. They are balanced, well coached and they are tired of hearing of Boston and Philly being the next teams to take over. The Bucks might not be the one seed this year, but do not be surprised to see them in the Conference Finals this season.
CHICAGO, USA – OCTOBER 13: Kyle Lowry (7) of Toronto Raptors in action during a preseason NBA game between Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors at the United Center on October 13, 2017 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)