Player of the week – Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
That Denver offense that every basketball hipster was excited about before the season is starting to come together. A rough opening patch for the Nuggets has since turned good as they have risen into the top ten in offense. That’s coincided with a rise in production from Nikola Jokic, who exploded last week to average 22.7 points, 13.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.3 steals and 1 block across 3 games, including a triple-double and two double-doubles.
With Jokic on the floor last week, the Nuggets scored an impressive 115 points per 100 possessions while having an equally formidable defensive rating of 89.6. The offensive efficiency is expected when the Serbian is on the floor, particularly due to his passing arsenal that rivals that of any big man in the league. But the defense is a new step, and Paul Millsap’s introduction to Denver’s squad seems to have helped stabilize the Nuggets and Jokic alike.
Team of the week – Boston Celtics
Boston were tipped for a fifth to eighth seed when Gordon Hayward broke down in their season opener, which was followed by an 0-2 start to the campaign. Fast forward 12 matches and they haven’t tasted defeat since. Kyrie Irving has been the primary reason as unchallenged team leader status has given him license to go wild nightly for the Celtics.
Irving did precisely that against Atlanta and the Lakers in Week 4, posting 35p/3r/7a and 19p/6r/5a, respectively. However, Irving suffered a facial fracture in the opening minutes against Charlotte, missing the remainder of that game and not featuring in the subsequent encounter against the Raptors. It didn’t stop the Celtics, though, as the youthful squad improved their record to 12-2 thanks to a 4-0 effort in Week 4.
Defense continued to be the Celtics' strong point as Brad Stevens' side restricted their opponents to 88, 107, 96 and 87 points in Week 4. Their defense looks the real deal on various fronts, including strong defensive rebounding, low foul counts and keeping opponents to the lowest effective field goal percentage in the league.
Breakout player of the week - Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
The Rockets traded away serious depth to acquire Chris Paul, a decision that was immediately questioned once Paul went down with an injury in the opening game of the season. It’s required a mammoth step up from the other scorers in the squad, even as James Harden has eclipsed his enormous usage rate from last season (40.3% this season vs 39.4% last season).
Eric Gordon has been the second scoring option for the league’s second-ranked offense, averaging 122.8 points per 100 shot attempts (an efficiency rivaling Harden’s 125.7). Gordon is creating far more of that for himself now, being less reliant on Harden as he’s been assisted on only 61% of his made shots.
Rookie of the week – Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
The Australian phenom continues to impress and his tandem with Joel Embiid has opponents in a spin. He started off Week 4 with a triple double (his second of the campaign) in a win against Utah before the 76ers fell to Sacramento and Golden State.
Averaging 15.7p/6.7r/6.7a/2.3s/1b for the week, Simmons is starting to run away with the Rookie of the Year award. The mini-LeBron comparisons are a step too far, but Simmons is one of the more complete rookies the NBA has seen in years. His physicality, passing and court vision are miles beyond his contemporaries, even if that pure scoring threat is lacking.