The first week of the 2016-17 NBA season is in the books, and there are still seven teams without victories, including some surprises. Many were picking the Minnesota Timberwolves to make the playoffs — some people were projecting them to win 50 games — and after blowing double-digit leads in their first two games they have yet to earn win No. 1.
Under new head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Thibowolves are only two games in. It seems the players are still adjusting to the difference between Sam Mitchell and Thibs, and “got to be tougher.” So this isn’t to say the season is over. Far from it. Minnesota is young and without Kevin Garnett to player-speak to them, so learning a veteran coach’s new scheme will take time. They should pick up steam as the season goes on.
In comparison, the New Orleans Pelicans have yet to win a game despite unfreakingbelievable performances from Anthony Davis, and the reloaded Dallas Mavericks are out to a stumbling 0-3 start.
Win-loss records after one week don’t mean much, but we can start to gather intel on what we’ve seen thus far. Here’s how the winless teams stack up.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves (0-2)
Minnesota’s net rating is even; they’re scoring and giving up 108.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s pretty remarkable for a team that hasn’t won a game. That puts the Timberwolves in the top five in offense and near the bottom of the league in defense. We know a Thibs-led team won’t give up 108 points per 100 possessions all season, so it’s only a matter of time before this young team gets their sea legs.
2. Dallas Mavericks (0-3)
It’s been a tough start for the Mavericks as Dirk Nowitzki battles a stomach bug that’s sidelined him for the last two games. They also lost to their rival Houston Rockets twice already this season, including a one-point loss thanks to a late James Harden free throw.
At least Harrison Barnes has looked good, averaging 20 points in the first three games, including 31 points in the team’s home opener.
Wesley Matthews is already feeling the urgency. “We need a damn win,” Matthews told ESPN.com. “We can’t fall behind. We’ve already slipped enough. We can’t slip anymore. Whatever the hell it takes, that’s what we’ve got to do.”
It’s hard to pin everything on Nowitzki’s absence, who likely isn’t the best player on the team anymore and may not even be involved in the team’s best lineup, which will probably be a smaller unit with Barnes at the 4 and three guards. A Carlisle team isn’t one to bet against, though, and I’ll still pick the Mavs over plenty of teams with a win this season.
3. Phoenix Suns (0-3)
Does leading the Golden State Warriors 30-17 at one point in the first quarter count for a fourth of a win? It should.
Even though they haven’t won a game, the Suns look promising despite an opening-night loss to the Sacramento Kings (who are 2-1…what the heck?!).
Phoenix’s other two losses came against Russell Westbrook’s 51 points and aforementioned close game against the Warriors. They lost by a combined nine points to a possible playoff team and a possible all-time team. Not bad.
4. New Orleans Pelicans (0-3)
Can we put Anthony Davis on a good team? Or get him someone good to play with?
Wait, I got it!
5. Washington Wizards (0-2)
Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a Scott Brooks offense looks completely disjointed. The Wizards are scoring just 95.3 points per 100 possessions through two games against the Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies, and they are near the bottom of the league in true shooting percentage.
Bradley Beal isn’t helping things, as he’s shooting just 2-of-10 from beyond the arc after getting paid in large part for his three-point potential.
John Wall is averaging 17 points and 11 assists and looks well on his way to another All-Star Game, but he’s been the only silver lining (Well, Otto Porter Jr. scored in double digits in the first two games, too, so there’s that.) for the Wizards so far.
6. Orlando Magic (0-3)
A team that spent heavily on rim protection and size this summer gave up 74 points in the paint to the Miami Heat. So how’s that rim protection going, Frank Vogel?
The Serge Ibaka-for-Victor Oladipo trade looks like a big whiff early, with Oladipo scoring at least 20 points in two of the Thunder’s first three games while Ibaka has looked slow and has been a liability on defense (with a Defensive Box Plus-Minus of -3.3).
7. Philadelphia 76ers (0-2)
The 76ers still aren’t good, but Joel Embiid sure is! After scoring 20 points in 22 minutes in his NBA debut, Embiid looks like the real deal. That doesn’t cover up for the fact that the team’s three best (healthy) players all play the same position, and top overall pick Ben Simmons is injured.
But, hey, this is a squad that has had to wait until December for its first win in each of the past two seasons. 76ers fans know what patience is, and the excitement is enough of a win for now. This team won’t be good this season, but Sam Hinkie’s process chugs along — even without him — as the 76ers will likely add another lottery pick to a promising group.