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The New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and the hottest teams in the league

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After falling to 3-4, the Milwaukee Bucks have forfeited the No. 1 spot this week. The Utah Jazz, who were the league’s final unbeaten team before falling to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, handed Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks their third straight loss on their way to the top of our list.

Another Western Conference team — the Golden State Warriors — is also surging with a 5-1 record entering Week 3. Stephen Curry has averaged 28.7 points per game and is getting a lift from a revived bench. Rookie Jonathan Kuminga made his NBA debut Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, notching his first points with a 3.

In the East, the New York Knicks continue to climb the rankings after a 5-1 start. With the usual contenders off to slow starts, the East is open for the Knicks, Bulls and Washington Wizards to claim.

Will the Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets get back on track? Can the Knicks, Warriors and Jazz maintain this level of play? Our experts break down all 30 teams.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

1. Utah Jazz
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 2

Utah was the league’s last undefeated team before losing to the Bulls on Saturday night, when point guard Mike Conley Jr. rested as a precaution on the front end of a back-to-back. The Jazz’s 5-1 record is the franchise’s best start since 2008-09. Rudy Gobert became the first player in NBA history to record at least 16 points and 14 rebounds in each of the first five games of a season. — MacMahon

This week: SAC, @ATL, @MIA, @ORL


2. Miami Heat
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 6

The Heat went 4-0 over the week and look like the type of Eastern Conference front-runner that they appeared to be before the season started. Jimmy Butler is averaging 25.3 points a game so far and is a major reason why Miami plays with such edge. Erik Spoelstra & Co. have an interesting matchup against the Jazz on Friday before going on their first West Coast swing of the season. — Friedell

This week: @DAL, BOS, UTAH


3. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 record: 4-3
Previous ranking: 4

It’s only seven games, but: James Harden is currently averaging less points per game (18.7) than he has since he was a backup in Oklahoma City a decade ago and he is currently shooting what would be a career-worst 39.8% from the field. Harden’s past two games, however, against Indiana (29 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists) and Detroit (18 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) were steps in the right direction. — Bontemps

This week: ATL, @DET, @TOR


4. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 5

The Warriors finally dropped their first game of the season on Thursday to Ja Morant and the Grizzlies, but everything is looking up for a veteran team on the rise. They have six straight games at home over the next two weeks as they continue to see former All-Star Klay Thompson inching closer to a return. Steve Kerr and his staff are feeling good about the direction of the first month. — Friedell

This week: CHA, NO, HOU


5. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 record: 3-4
Previous ranking: 1

The Bucks are missing significant firepower on offense, which has contributed to their early-season struggles and a three-game losing streak to close the week. Jrue Holiday (ankle) and Brook Lopez (back) were both sidelined all week, although Holiday has started practicing again, while Khris Middleton missed Sunday’s game with an illness. It’s left Antetokounmpo carrying a heavy workload early on while their rotation is depleted. — Collier

This week: @DET, NY, @WAS


6. Denver Nuggets
2021-22 record: 4-2
Previous ranking: 3

The season came to a halt when Nikola Jokic was writhing in pain holding his right knee after knocking knees with Gobert on Tuesday in Utah. Fortunately for the Nuggets, Jokic had nothing more than a bruised right knee that cost him no more than the second half against the Jazz in that 122-110 loss. Jokic returned to action Friday against Dallas and got the Nuggets to turn a two-game slide into what is now a two-game winning streak. Denver is 4-2, despite Jamal Murray‘s absence and Michael Porter Jr. shooting 33.3% from the field. — Youngmisuk

This week: @MEM, @MEM, HOU


7. New York Knicks
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 11

A perfect week has the Knicks sitting in a four-way tie for the best record in the Eastern Conference. A pair of strong games by Kemba Walker against Philadelphia and Chicago were also a reminder of the impact he can have in his timeshare at the point alongside Derrick Rose, a duo that’s playing out exactly as the Knicks hoped. — Bontemps

This week: TOR, @IND, @MIL, CLE


8. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 record: 4-2
Previous ranking: 7

Ben Simmons remains sidelined, and Joel Embiid‘s knee remains a concern. Still, Saturday’s dominant win over Atlanta is a reminder that, even without Simmons, Philadelphia can be an imposing defensive team — and that Matisse Thybulle, who had four steals and three blocks in 23 minutes off the bench, is a terror for opposing guards and wings. — Bontemps

This week: POR, CHI, @DET, @CHI


9. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 10

An up-and-down week for the Bulls could go a long way toward proving that they can be a legit playoff team. After a win in Toronto to start the week, they bounced back from a close loss at home against the Knicks to hand the Jazz their first loss of the season. The Bulls will have their already thin depth tested with Patrick Williams out for 4 to 6 months with a wrist injury and Zach LaVine playing through a thumb injury on his non-shooting hand. And more tests are on the way with matchups against Eastern Conference foes, the Celtics and Sixers, due up this week. — Collier

This week: @BOS, @PHI, PHI


10. Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 record: 4-3
Previous ranking: 8

Let the Carmelo Anthony for Sixth Man of the Year campaign begin. The 19-year gunner has scored 20 points or more off the bench three times so far this season, with L.A. going 3-0 in those games. In the third game against Houston, Anthony registered four blocks and two steals — reaching that stat line for the first time since 2003. “I didn’t expect to see him have a defensive performance like he did tonight,” coach Frank Vogel said of Anthony. — McMenamin

This week: HOU, OKC, @POR


11. Dallas Mavericks
2021-22 record: 4-2
Previous ranking: 13

The optimism about Kristaps Porzingis, who entered the season as healthy and happy as he’s been since arriving in Dallas, has taken a hit. He’s been ineffective and injured so far this season. Porzingis shot 30.2% from the floor in the three games he played and has missed the past three games due to lower back tightness. — MacMahon

This week: MIA, @SA, BOS


12. Washington Wizards
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 16

The Wizards are 5-1 for the first time since 2005-06 and are riding a three-game winning streak. Tommy Sheppard’s offseason moves are looking good early as Kyle Kuzma is off to a good bounce-back start and looking like a rebounding presence with 17 and 17 in a double OT win over Boston. Montrezl Harrell has three straight double-doubles and is looking like the Trez who won Sixth Man of the Year in 2019-20. Spencer Dinwiddie has given the Wizards the scoring punch they envisioned, and Bradley Beal is starting to heat up, averaging 31.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and seven assists in his past two games. — Youngmisuk

This week: @ATL, TOR, MEM, MIL


13. Charlotte Hornets
2021-22 record: 5-2
Previous ranking: 14

Charlotte got a nice lift from LaMelo Ball and Kelly Oubre Jr. during Sunday’s win over the Trail Blazers to finish the week at 2-2. The pair combined for 53 points for a team that loves getting up and down the court. The Hornets have an intriguing matchup on Wednesday against Curry and the Warriors, as Oubre gets to see his old teammates for the first time. Ball also gets to remind Golden State what might have been if it had selected him — not 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman. — Friedell

This week: CLE, @GS, @SAC, @LAC


14. Atlanta Hawks
2021-22 record: 3-3
Previous ranking: 9

In Wednesday’s victory against New Orleans, Trae Young reached 5,000 career points in his 208th career game, the quickest in franchise history to reach that points’ total, ahead of Bob Pettit (212), Pete Maravich (218), Joe Johnson (227) and Dominique Wilkins (230). — Lopez

This week: WAS, @BKN, UTAH, @PHX


15. Phoenix Suns
2021-22 record: 2-3
Previous ranking: 12

Phoenix was in danger of losing its third straight game when the Suns trailed Cleveland by 14 points in the second quarter on Saturday. But then the Suns responded by going on a 50-12 run over the next 16 minutes of play that helped carry them to the victory instead of sliding to 1-4. — Lopez

This week: NO, HOU, ATL


16. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 record: 3-3
Previous ranking: 15

At 6-foot-3, 174 pounds, Morant is dominating around (and above) the rim. According to NBA.com/stats, Morant ranks fourth in the NBA in field goals within five feet of the rim, shooting 36-of-55 (65.5%) from short range. He is averaging 12.2 points per game just off of drives, fueling one of the most prolific scoring binges in Grizzlies’ history. Only Marc Gasol has scored more points in a five-game span in a Memphis uniform than Morant’s 152 over his first five games this season. — MacMahon

This week: DEN, DEN, @WAS


17. Portland Trail Blazers
2021-22 record: 3-3
Previous ranking: 17

The Blazers continue to search for a rhythm under new coach Chauncey Billups. After starting the week with a 30-point loss to the Clippers, the Blazers rebounded by beating Memphis by 20 and routing the Clippers by 19. But then they lost by 12 to the Hornets on Sunday to open a three-game road trip. Damian Lillard has yet to explode this season, but CJ McCollum has been steady, leading the team in scoring in five of its six games this season. — Youngmisuk

This week: @PHI, @CLE, IND, LAL


18. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 record: 4-3
Previous ranking: 22

Toronto is thrilled with what it’s getting from Scottie Barnes. The fourth overall pick in July’s NBA draft is averaging 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, shooting 55% from the field and is the early front-runner in the Rookie of the Year race. — Bontemps

This week: @NYK, @WAS, CLE, BKN


19. Boston Celtics
2021-22 record: 2-4
Previous ranking: 19

After Saturday’s heartbreaking loss in Washington, the Celtics have now dropped two double-overtime games in the first two weeks of the regular season and have already played five overtime periods in their first six contests. For a team dealing with a series of injuries and COVID-19 absences, the extra minutes have been an added strain. — Bontemps

This week: CHI, @ORL, @MIA, @DAL


20. Sacramento Kings
2021-22 record: 3-3
Previous ranking: 23

Sacramento’s unblemished road record took its first hit with a 105-99 loss in Dallas on Sunday. As if the 2018 NBA Draft hasn’t haunted Kings fans enough, the fact that Luka Doncic put up 23 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds, while Marvin Bagley III picked up his fifth DNP-CD out of Sacramento’s six games this season only punctuated the pain. — McMenamin

This week: @UTA, NOP, CHA, IND


21. Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 record: 3-2
Previous ranking: 20

A mid-week victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee helped maintain the positive momentum in Minnesota, even if the Timberwolves dropped the other two of their three games last week. They are off to a promising start thanks to the offensive firepower of their young trio, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, while the Wolves have been a surprising top-five defense early on. — Collier

This week: ORL, LAC, LAC


22. Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-22 record: 3-4
Previous ranking: 25

Evan Mobley returned to Los Angeles, where he played his college ball at USC, and made it quite the homecoming. He put up 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals and helped the Cavs give the Lakers a legitimate scare before L.A. pulled away. “They got a good one,” LeBron James said of Mobley afterward. “Cleveland has a good one. They’ve done a good job over the years in the draft, I’ll say.” — McMenamin

This week: @CHA, POR, @TOR, @NYK


23. LA Clippers
2021-22 record: 1-4
Previous ranking: 18

The Clippers have struggled to rediscover the connectivity they had during last season’s run to the Western Conference finals. With Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka out and Marcus Morris Sr. missing the past three games due to injury, the Clippers are off to a 1-4 start. Paul George continues to do everything he can to carry the load, scoring 42 points in a loss to Portland — the second time this season he has cracked 40 points. But he needs more help. In that 19-point loss at Portland, Luke Kennard was the only other Clipper to score in double figures. Coach Ty Lue isn’t overreacting, but the Clippers have dropped their past two games by an average of 16 points. — Youngmisuk

This week: OKC, @MIN, @MIN, CHA


24. San Antonio Spurs
2021-22 record: 2-4
Previous ranking: 24

For the second time in his career, Dejounte Murray scored at least 20 points in three consecutive games, starting with a 21-point, 15-assist, 12-rebound effort in an overtime loss to the Lakers. While Murray’s usage rate (24.7%) is the highest of his career, his turnover rate is the second-lowest (10.4%), which is in line with his career best he set a season ago (10.2%). — Lopez

This week: @IND, DAL, @ORL, @OKC


25. Indiana Pacers
2021-22 record: 1-6
Previous ranking: 21

The Pacers dropped four straight games this week to fall to 1-6, their worst start since the 2014-15 season. No team has rebounded from such a start to make the playoffs since the 2009-10 Miami Heat. The good news is that Caris LeVert made his season debut Saturday — albeit on a minutes’ restriction — as Indiana (17th in offense, 23rd in defense) needs help on both ends of the floor right now. — Collier

This week: SAS, NYK, @POR, @SAC


26. Houston Rockets
2021-22 record: 1-5
Previous ranking: 26

Christian Wood is an exception on the rebuilding Rockets as a core player who is in his prime. Wood, 26, has been Houston’s most productive player, averaging 19.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. It remains to be determined whether Wood has more value as a long-term fit with the Rockets’ developing young talent or as an attractive trade option. — MacMahon

This week: @LAL, @PHX, @DEN, @GSW


27. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 record: 1-6
Previous ranking: 27

After picking up its first win of the season on Monday against the Timberwolves, New Orleans couldn’t get another in a three-game homestand against Atlanta, Sacramento and New York. The Pelicans lost all three games by a combined 13 points as the team just didn’t have enough down the stretch as they continue to play without Zion Williamson. — Lopez

This week: @PHX, @SAC, @GSW


28. Orlando Magic
2021-22 record: 1-6
Previous ranking: 28

The good news for the Magic is that after Monday’s game on the road against the Timberwolves, they have five straight contests at home. The bad news is that after an impressive win last Sunday night against the Knicks, they’ve dropped four straight with a schedule that isn’t letting up any time soon. On a small positive note, rookie Franz Wagner has scored double figures in each of his first seven games, including 19 in Saturday’s loss to the Pistons. — Friedell

This week: @MIN, BOS, SAS, UTA


29. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 record: 1-5
Previous ranking: 29

The best news for Pistons fans is that Cade Cunningham finally made his season debut Saturday after an ankle injury cost him the first four games of the regular season. His stat line was quiet — two points, seven rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes — and the team rested him for the second half of their back-to-back Sunday. But a new era in Detroit is finally ready to begin and the Pistons are ready to see what their No. 1 overall pick can do. — Collier

This week: MIL, PHI, BKN


30. Oklahoma City Thunder
2021-22 record: 1-5
Previous ranking: 30

Rookie forward Josh Giddey, 19, has displayed the playmaking ability that prompted the Thunder to select him with the No. 6 overall pick. The 6-foot-8 Giddey leads all rookies with 5.7 assists per game. He had 10 assists in the Thunder’s comeback win over the Lakers. The only player younger to record double-figure dimes in a game, per ESPN Stats & Information: a kid named LeBron James. — MacMahon

This week: @LAC, @LAL, SAS

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Sources — John Wall meets with Houston Rockets’ GM and coach about return to roster

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Houston Rockets guard John Wall met with general manager Rafael Stone and coach Stephen Silas on Sunday to reiterate his desire to return to the lineup in a feature role — an idea that team officials continue to be reluctant to accept in a possible return to play, sources told ESPN.

The Rockets have wanted Wall to accept a complementary role to its young players to play on this team, and the five-time All-Star guard’s unwillingness to do so continues to be a hurdle for the sides in a possible return to play this season, sources said.

There is still room for conversation and circumstances to change in this ongoing saga, and the sides will continue to talk as the season unfolds. Wall has wanted to be a starter again, but perhaps a role similar to that of Derrick Rose on the New York Knicks that includes meaningful minutes off the bench could ultimately appeal to him.

The Rockets are building around No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green and third-year guard Kevin Porter Jr., but injuries could dictate a larger opportunity for Wall at some point in the season.

These differences played a part in Wall and the Rockets deciding in the preseason to keep him inactive to start the season — with hope that an eventual trade could free him to play elsewhere, sources said. Wall’s massive contract — two years, $91 million — has made a trade extremely difficult, and Wall approached Stone on Friday about revisiting the idea of him rejoining the lineup, sources said.

Wall, 31, has been working out with the team and would likely need to ramp up his activity significantly over a two-plus week period to be ready to start playing. He played 40 games for the Rockets a year ago after arriving from Washington in a trade for Russell Westbrook. Wall has recovered from an Achilles injury that cost him a season-plus of his career in Washington, but didn’t show he could still play at an All-Star level a season ago.

Numerous contending teams have interest in Wall as a part of a backcourt rotation, but his player option of $47 million for 2022-2023 makes it nearly impossible to incorporate him into a team.

The Rockets (3-16) have won two straight games for the first time this season.

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Source — Boston Celtics’ Enes Kanter to change last name to Freedom

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Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is changing his name to Enes Kanter Freedom, a source confirmed to ESPN.

The decision comes ahead of the Turkish-born Kanter becoming a United States citizen on Monday. News of Kanter’s planned name change was first reported by The Athletic.

Kanter has a long history of social activism. He has been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and was indicted in his home country in 2018 on charges of belonging to an armed terrorist group, which he denies. Turkey, which revoked his passport, is seeking his extradition.

This season, Kanter has expressed support for Tibet, a stance that has led to Celtics games being pulled from Chinese media.

Drafted by Utah with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, Kanter is in his second stint with the Celtics after previous stops with the Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers.

In 11 seasons, Kanter has averaged 11.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Information from Reuters is included in this report.

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Phoenix Suns defeat Brooklyn Nets for 16th consecutive win, 1 win away from tying team mark

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NEW YORK, N.Y. — Moments after winning their 16th straight game, the Phoenix Suns could be heard clapping and shouting in celebration of their latest victory on their way into the visitor’s locker room at Barclays Center.

“We run New York!” one member of the Suns team could be heard shouting in the hallway.

The Suns (17-3) completed a road sweep of the New York teams on back-to-back nights and moved within one win of matching their franchise’s longest winning streak with a 113-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. This win came one night after the Suns beat the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

Now Phoenix will try to match the franchise’s record 17-game winning streak, set in 2006-07, when it hosts Golden State on Tuesday. The Warriors (17-2) currently own the best record in the league.

“I am looking forward to it,” said Suns guard Devin Booker, who scored 30 points. “Obviously [it is] not a make it or break it game. Not a playoff game. But we know it will be a high-energy game. Two best records in the NBA. It is going to be a high intensity fun game.”

The Suns led by as much as 22 points against the Nets, who entered this season with championship expectations. The Nets (14-6) managed to get within seven with 2:31 remaining but Brooklyn missed three straight shots to allow Phoenix to leave with the win.

Kevin Durant scored 39 points and James Harden had a triple-double with 12 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds. But Phoenix’s defensive standout Mikal Bridges helped hold the Nets’ point guard to 4-for-15 shooting, including 0-for-6 shooting from behind the 3-point arc, to go with seven turnovers.

Harden credited Bridges’ physical defense but also admitted that he is still trying to find the balance of when to be more of a scorer and distributor with Kyrie Irving not with the Nets.

“Honestly, I’m trying to figure all that out right now,” Harden said. “I’m trying to figure out when to score, when to be a playmaker, when to run offense, when to do a little bit of everything.

“It’s been a little difficult especially since — from whatever — but it’s been a little difficult but I’m just trying to figure it out.”

It’s early but the Suns look like a team that has figured out how to take the next step after making it to the NBA Finals last postseason.

“It would be nice,” Suns point guard Chris Paul said of matching the franchise’s longest winning streak on Tuesday. “Obviously everybody knows the ultimate goal is to win a championship but if you don’t enjoy the small victories throughout the regular season then what are you doing? We are having fun… We are going to keep taking it one game at a time and enjoy the moments.”

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