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The Rundown w/T-Money

The Rundown – 12/3/19: First Quarter Grades are in, Atlanta ends 10-game skid, and Bucks Extend Win Streak to 12

The Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers are the best in the NBA after the first quarter of the season.

First Quarter Grades

A quarter of the way through the season already. Time flies when you’re having fun, and with the moves last summer, some of these new teammates a flat out having fun playing together and it shows. 

Injuries have beset a team or two, and wasn’t Zion Williamson supposed to be out six weeks? Well, we’ve capped that mark and passed it, so let’s take a brief look at all 30 teams a quarter of the way into the 2019-20 season.

Atlanta Hawks
(5-16, 14th in the East)D+
The team started off stronger than anyone thought they would. Promising, even. But an early ankle injury to Trae Young, followed by the 25 game suspension of John Collins seems to have thrown a monkey wrench into things. The silver lining is the resurgent play of Jabari Parker. But the recent 10 game slide didn’t help at all.
Boston Celtics
(14-5, 4th in the East)A-
Boston ran out to the best record in the league for a small moment in time, showing great perseverance in the face of adversity, the injury to Gordon Hayward and a scare with Kemba Walker’s neck. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have held it down, and don’t dismiss what Marcus Smart brings to the table.
Brooklyn Nets
(10-10, 7th in the East)C-
The absence of Kyrie Irving (and we knew Kevin Durant would be out) is making the Nets look like they paid a couple of guys big bucks to be spectators at Brooklyn’s games. What’s been nice is the play of recruiter extraordinaire, Spencer Dinwiddie, who’s been playing well above his pay grade at 20.7 ppg, 2.8 rebounds, and 5.9 assists.
Charlotte Hornets
(8-14, 9th in the East)C-
The Hornets lost Kemba Walker, and replaced him with Terry Rozier. It looks like they have to justify Rozier to someone’s bottom line, because they keep waiting for him to flourish, while they have a star in waiting in Devonte’ Graham. What will it take to fill the seats in the Spectrum Center? It isn’t Rozier.
Chicago Bulls
(7-14, 11th in the East)D-
Until the Reinsdorf family realize that the dumpster fire that is Gar Forman and John Paxson is what’s holding this team back, they’ll forever be stuck in purgatory. Hell, mediocrity would be a step up from what we’ve seen this season, despite a couple of surprise wins against quality teams. 
Cleveland Cavaliers
(5-14, 13th in the East)C
John Beilein hasn’t obviously been given enough time to mold this team from the raw material roster he inherited. Love what he’s gotten out of Darius Garland on a couple of occasions, and Collin Sexton. But it’s time to shop Kevin Love (to Portland for Rodney Hood, Zach Collins and picks) and Tristan Thompson (to Orlando for Aaron Gordon) so that Beilien can have a more malleable roster.
Dallas Mavericks
(13-6, 4th in the West)A
Luka Doncic is carrying the mantle that Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki hoped he would. Kristaps Porzingis still seems to be finding his way as a second fiddle. But the dominance and confidence that Doncic plays with against playoff bound teams is damned impressive. NBA’s Most Improved thus far.
Denver Nuggets
(13-4, 2nd in the West)A
The Nuggets didn’t change much of their mix over the summer, unless you count the addition of Jerami Grant as the Oklahoma City started throwing pieces out to the league in their rebuild. The Nuggets haven’t deviated much from their success of 2018-19, unless you count Will Barton’s improvements, which have been great for Denver. I’m still excited for the potential of Bol Bol and Michael Porter, Jr.
Detroit Pistons
(7-13, 10th in the East)D+
Dwane Casey hasn’t been the same since he was dismissed by the Toronto Raptors. It’s reflected in the up and down way the Detroit Pistons play, despite having stars like Blake Griffin (who seems out of place here) and Derrick Rose (who doesn’t). I feel bad for Casey, but even more so for Andre Drummond, who may express a desire to move to a contender if this keeps up.
Golden State Warriors
(4-18, 15th in the West, last in the NBA)D+
Give ‘em an ‘A’ for effort night in and night out, but we’re seeing what Steve Kerr can(‘t) do with marginal talent. The Warriors have done nothing more than perennially poor performing teams do year in and year out – just play things out and see where the ping pong balls bounce. Can’t wait to see a healthy lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, LaMelo Ball, Draymond Green and the Center du Jour in 2020-21.
Houston Rockets
(13-6, 5th in the West)B+
When it comes to the assimilation and teamwork of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, I have to give the former Thunder Buddies an ‘A.’ But the team needs to incorporate Eric Gordon into the Justice League and keep getting 20/20 night from Clint Capela to get Mike D’Antoni a new contract at season’s end. Maybe some jewelry, too.
Indiana Pacers
(13-7, 6th in the East)
They started off shaky, but the acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon and the maturation of both Domantas Sabonis and Jeremy Lamb are forming a nice core that will complement Victor Oladipo when he returns. Don’t sleep on Myles Turner, either.
Los Angeles Clippers
(15-6, 3rd in the West)A-
The Clips started the season off right, beating the Lakers to set the tone. That tone lasted one night, as the Clippers started swooning into the mindset of load management. Paul George didn’t come into play until three weeks in, when Kawhi Leonard was taking time off. Only Sunday night did we finally get to see what could happen when the two explode and complement one another’s game. George needs to keep shooting, though. Those 18.6 percent nights are going to kill them.
Los Angeles Lakers
(17-3, 1st in the West)A+
Other than the losses to the Clippers on Opening Night, the Mavericks on Sunday night, and a loss to the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors somewhere in between, the Lakers have been ‘as advertised,’ Showtime resurrected, behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A different special guest star has appeared every other night, but the dynamic duo are bring respect back to the purple and gold.
Memphis Grizzlies
(6-14, 13th in the West)C-
The future belongs to The J’s in Memphis – Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas, Jae Crowder, and of course, head coach Taylor Jenkins. It’s a tough row to hoe, just ask Lionel Hollins, Dave Joerger, David Fizdale, and J.B. Bickerstaff. All have logged time in what has become the hottest seat in the NBA. Let’s hope Jenkins can bring some of that San Antonio/Austin success to Beale Street.
Miami Heat
(14-5, 3rd in the East)A-
The Heat have to be the biggest surprise in the NBA this season, but no one in Miami will say that. The mesh of veteran players like Jimmy Butler, the grooming of Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo, and the youth movement of Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson have the Heat looking good now and the next decade, if they can keep this young core together.
Milwaukee Bucks
(18-3, 1st in the East, 1st in the NBA)A+
The reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokuonmpo, the mindset to make up for missed opportunities of 2018-19, and the ability to rip off 11 in a row – much of it without your second leading scorer – is damned impressive. If the Bucks can keep this up, Mike Budenholzer might just be in line for another Coach of the Year nod. Pairing the Lopez brothers was just for fun at this point.
Minnesota Timberwolves
(10-9, 7th in the West)C+
Sometimes the brightest things on the horizon in Minnesota in the dead of winter are the Northern Lights. Early on, it was the Timberwolves, who got off to a hot start due to the improved play of Andrew Wiggins, who is nipping at Karl-Anthony Towns’ heels for leading scorer honors. The Timberwolves are still a piece away from being legitimate, and it isn’t Robert Covington or Jake Layman. If I’m Ryan Saunders, I look into Otto Porter, Jr. once he’s healthy. 
New Orleans Pelicans
(6-14, 14th in the West)C-
The Pelicans have tried to get along as best as possible without the core of their future – Zion Williamson – on the floor. In fact, six weeks after surgery, Williamson hasn’t even taken to the court in any drills. J.J. Redick has been a nice addition, Brandon Ingram is showing incredible leadership, and Lonzo Ball has a nicer, newer shot. And then there’s Jrue Holiday and Frank Jackson, the mainstays. Personally, I like the upside of rookie Jaxson Hayes. I can wait on Williamson while these boys gel. 
New York Knicks
(4-17, 15th in the East)F
I felt David Fizdale could coach these guys. I was wrong. I thought 13 power forwards might have some formidability. I was wrong. About the only driving force I’ve seen in the New York Knicks was to beat Kristaps Porzingis. Mission accomplished. Twice. One upside is that Knicks fans love a guy they hated last year – Frank Ntilikina. Bye, Dave.
Oklahoma City Thunder
(8-11, 10th in the West)C-
I hope that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder are picking Chris Paul’s brain as much as possible. I hope that Sam Presti quits shopping Steven Adams, but I doubt it. The Thunder are lucky to be where they are, losing close games by the low, single digits. But eventually it will come down to Shai and the Boys. Presti ain’t paying the balance of that $160 million contract. Only then will we see what they’ve learned.
Orlando Magic
(8-11, 8th in the East)C-
Losing Nikola Vucevic will hurt, but hopefully that short term pain will teach the other members of the Orlando Magic to step up in the face of adversity and lead one another. So far, it’s only Evan Fournier. Trade Casper.
Philadelphia 76ers
(15-6, 5th in the East)B+
Joel Embiid’s fight with Karl-Anthony Towns and then his goose egg game last week seem to have motivated the league’s best center to play inspired basketball. One can only hope that it fuels the rest of the 76ers, who were the odds-on favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.
Phoenix Suns
(9-10, 8th in the West)C
The addition of Monty Williams as the team’s head coach and their quick start, and high scoring games, lulled me into a warmth I hadn’t experienced from the Phoenix Suns since I was there with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire. But then it came crashing down, folks figuring out their weak spots and exploiting them. The 25 game suspension of Deandre Ayton didn’t help matters, either. This is a team I know can bounce back and be a factor in the Western Conference. This year.
Portland Trailblazers
(8-12, 11th in the West)D+
Seems like a harsh grade, I know. But this is a team that waved goodbye to Paul George and the Thunder, and then got swept by the Golden State Warriors in their first significant Western Conference Finals since the 1990s. The addition of Carmelo Anthony seemed like a desperate move for both sides at the time. After all, Portland wanted ‘Melo a little over a year ago and he wouldn’t give them the time of day. Now, he’s helping reverse their fortunes and slow start. This team has the most room to improve, and might need to grab Kevin Love and bring him home to do it.
Sacramento Kings
(8-11, 9th in the West)C
The way this team started the season, I am surprised that Luke Walton still had a job. They were going through the same motions and modus operandi as Dave Joerger and this bunch did a year ago, and Vlade Divac and Vivek Ranadive were up Joerger’s ass more than his proctologist. The team has fared well with De’Aaron Fox out with injury. Hoping that’s a good thing.
San Antonio Spurs
(7-14, 12th in the West)D-
Sad that I am comparing this year’s first quarter performance to that of the New York Knicks. How dare the current Spurs play with Gregg Popovich’s legacy the way that they have? I doubt that Pop has lost his edge, but it’s time to get something of value from DeMar DeRozan while you still can. Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington, perhaps?
Toronto Raptors
(15-4, 2nd in the East)A
The 2018-19 Toronto Raptors were 14-4 with Kawhi Leonard a year ago. They all went on to win the NBA Championship last year. The 2019-20 Toronto Raptors are 15-4 without Kawhi Leonard this year. ‘Nuff said.
Utah Jazz
(12-9, 6th in the West)B+
My dark horse pick started out of the gates a little gimpy and unsure of themselves, but have rounded the first turn in much better shape. I love what Bojan Bogdanovic has brought to the Utah Jazz, and I cannot wait for Mike Conley to break out. Sunday night was a nice taste – hopefully – of what is to come the rest of the season.
Washington Wizards
(6-12, 12th in the East)C-
We want John Wall to come back. I don’t think John Wall wants to come back. But if he doesn’t, I don’t think Bradley Beal wants to stay. Not for this. Scott Brooks is a lame duck coach and likely gone by season’s end, if he makes it that far. Love what Rui Hachimura is doing. Thomas Bryant, too. And I’m glad Isaiah Thomas is getting new life in Washington. Now if they could just win some ball games …


Utah Jazz  94
Philadelphia 76ers  103

#VFL Tobias Harris leads the Philadelphia 76ers to their 10th win in a row at home.

Jazz (12-9)Sixers (15-6)
Rudy Gobert: 27 points – 12 rebounds – two assists – three blocks#VFL Tobias Harris: 26 points – nine rebounds – three assists – one steal
Donovan Mitchell: 18 points – two rebounds – one assist – three steals – one blockAl Horford: 17 points – eight rebounds – five assists – one steal – two blocks
Joe Ingles: 13 points – eight rebounds – eight assists – two stealsJoel Embiid: 16 points – 11 rebounds – four assists – one steal – one block

Lakers at Jazz – Wednesday
Sixers at Wizards – Thursday


Phoenix Suns  109
Charlotte Hornets  104

(AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre, Jr. dial up 23 apiece to smoke out the Hornets in Charlotte.

Suns (9-10)Hornets (8-14)
Devin Booker: 23 points – four rebounds – four assists – one steal – one blockMarvin Williams: 22 points – five rebounds – three assists – one steal – two blocks
Kelly Oubre, Jr.: 23 points – three rebounds – 0 assists – two steals – one blockDevonte’ Graham: 15 points – four rebounds – 13 assists
Dario Saric: 16 points – 10 rebounds – two assists – one block Terry Rozier: 13 points – seven rebounds – three assists – one steal

Suns at Magic – Wednesday
Warriors at Hornets – Wednesday


Golden State Warriors  79
Atlanta Hawks  104

The Warriors dressed only nine last night, as Trae Young shot the Atlanta Hawks out of their 10 game losing streak.

Warriors (4-18)Hawks (5-16)
Eric Paschall: 24 points – nine rebounds – six assistsTrae Young: 24 points – one rebound – seven assists
Alec Burks: 15 points – three rebounds – three assistsDe’Andre Hunter: 18 points – four rebounds – one assist – one steal
Omari Spellman: 10 points – nine rebounds – one assist – two steals – one blockDamian Jones: 16 points – eight rebounds – one assist – one steal

Warriors at Hornets – Wednesday
Nets at Hawks – Wednesday


New York Knicks  88
Milwaukee Bucks  132

Giannis Antetokuonmpo hits for 29 and 15, and the Milwaukee Bucks make it a cool dozen in a row, as the New York Knicks fail to show up last night.

Knicks (4-17)Bucks (18-3)
Julius Randle: 19 points – five rebounds – one assist – one stealGiannis Antetokuonmpo: 29 points – 15 rebounds – three assists
Damyean Dotson: 15 points – 0 rebounds – one assist – one stealD.J. Wilson: 19 points – five rebounds – 0 assists
Allonzo Trier: 10 points – one rebound – one assistKhris Middleton: 16 points – seven rebounds – three assists – one steal

Bucks at Pistons – Wednesday
Nuggets at Knicks – Thursday


Indiana Pacers  117
Memphis Grizzlies  104

Seven players for the Indiana Pacers score in double figures, led by Malcolm Brogdon, as the Pacers beat the Memphis Grizzlies by 13 last night.

Pacers (13-7)Grizzlies (6-14)
Malcolm Brogdon: 19 points – six rebounds – nine assistsJaren Jackson Jr.: 31 points – four rebounds – two assists – one steal – two blocks
Domantas Sabonis: 18 points – 14 rebounds – eight assistsSolomon Hill: 22 points – six rebounds – two assists – three steals
Myles Turner: 17 points – six rebounds – two assists – one steal – one blockDillon Brooks: 19 points – seven rebounds – two assists – one steal

Pacers at Thunder – Wednesday
Grizzlies at Bulls – Wednesday


Chicago Bulls  113
Sacramento Kings  106

A 55-44 first half advantage was all the Chicago Bulls needed to beat the Kings in Sacramento last night.

Bulls (7-14)Kings (8-11)
Zach LaVine: 28 points – one rebounds – three assists – one stealBuddy Hield: 26 points – five rebounds – four assists – one steal
Lauri Markkanen: 20 points – seven rebounds – one assistRichaun Holmes: 20 points – nine rebounds – one assist – one steal – one block
Tomas Satoransky: 14 points – two rebounds – five assists – one stealNemanja Bjelica: 18 points – eight rebounds – two assists – one steal – two blocks

Grizzlies at Bulls – Wednesday
Kings at Blazers – Thursday


Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers – 7 p.m. EST – Fox Sports Detroit
Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards – 7 p.m. EST – NBC Sports Washington
Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans – 7:30 p.m. EST – TNT
Miami Heat at Toronto Raptors – 7:30 p.m. EST – SUN
Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs – 8:30 p.m. EST – AT&T SportsNet Southwest
Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets – 9 p.m. EST – Altitude
Portland Trailblazers at Los Angeles Clippers – 10 p.m. EST – TNT 


The Rundown w/T-Money is a daily column “all things NBA” that will run through the entirety of the season, and the playoffs through the NBA Finals
Tracy Graven is a Senior Analyst for
He has written the NBA for the last two decades and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 20 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City.
He currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife and five children.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia 

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