Pierce's young Celtics happily pulled out their first win of the season, if one can derive a sense of accomplishment from an overtime victory at home over the Bobcats. It might be a rough year for the C's, especially if GM Danny Ainge decides against going in (ahem) another direction when it comes to head coaching duties. Pierce can't be faulted; he's leading Boston in points (27.3), rebounds (13) and assists (4.8).
Though his Bucks are wildly inconsistent (as horrible defensive teams tend to be) and coach Terry Stotts looks as lost as ever, Redd is keeping Milwaukee in every game. Despite taking the bulk of his shots from the perimeter and having to run through a series of screens just to find an open look, Redd is still showcasing a fabulous touch from all angles: 51.6 percent from the floor, 50 percent from behind the arc and 92.7 percent from the line. No wonder the Bucks' All-Star is averaging 28.4 points per game.
Freed from Hawks coach Mike Woodson's unnecessary insistence at trying to turn him into a point guard, Johnson is piling up big games for an Atlanta team that won three of four to start the season. Though we suspect defenses will learn to slide off Johnson's teammates and pay a bit more attention to the 25-year-old slasher, Johnson is providing the Hawks a go-to guy in crunch time while averaging nearly 28 points. But for someone who is going to the line 7.3 times a game (up from four attempts in 2005-06), Johnson needs to hit better than 69 percent from the stripe.
Nowitzki's Mavs are reeling, having won only one of five, which leaves one feeling Nowitzki is about to start asking for 40 shots a game on a team that looks incapable of scoring 40 points a half. The Mavericks are among the league's worst in overall offensive efficiency despite Nowitzki's 25 points per game. His shooting percentages have risen and he's not turning the ball over much (just 2.6 TOs in 39 minutes a night), yet Nowitzki is taking fewer shots per game than last season. In other words, Dallas needs to get him the ball.
The Jazz might run away with the Northwest Division, and if Boozer stays healthy, he may be in line for an All-Star appearance. Boozer doesn't get half the touches Karl Malone used to get on the low block, as Utah coach Jerry Sloan has his soon-to-be 25-year-old power forward running all over the court, moving without the ball. Seemingly healthy for the first time in two seasons, Boozer is averaging 19.4 points and 12.4 rebounds in just 33.4 minutes.
Duncan's 21 points and 10 rebounds a game are marked improvements over last year's career lows, but he only gets the nod over Milwaukee's Charlie Villanueva and teammate Tony Parker on this list because of his sublime defense. The Spurs have won four of five, ranking eighth in the NBA in overall defensive efficiency, and Duncan's ability to move his (newly healthy) feet and cover the paint is a big reason why.
As with Duncan above, Carter gets the nod over others -- in particular Seattle's Ray Allen -- because of his part in New Jersey's defense, which is second in the NBA in overall efficiency. VC isn't chucking as much as you'd expect early in his contract year, only taking two shots more per game, but he's getting to the line more often. Carter's effort also has translated into crisper shooting and better work off the glass than he produced in '05-06.
Wade is struggling a bit. He's averaging career lows in rebounds, shooting and free-throw percentage. Also, Wade will need to average a point or 10 more than the 23.3 he's putting in now if his Heat want to approach 50 wins. Wade's performance in a win over the SuperSonics on Wednesday night was typical of his season so far: 31 points, seven rebounds and six assists offset by six turnovers and missing 15 of 23 shots.
Phoenix's slow start should come as little surprise. The Suns started '05-06 with a whimper and their first six games this season are against likely playoff teams (the Lakers, two Clippers contests, the Jazz, the Spurs and the Mavs) in the West. Still, Marion needs to steady his stroke a bit. He's shooting six 3-pointers a game but making only 27 percent. The spotty marksmanship hasn't affected other facets of his game, though, as his 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds 1.8 blocks and 1.5 steals per game attest.
The numbers are as depressing as they are telling and expected: Odom averaged 28 points (on 54 percent shooting and 8-of-11 from behind the arc), 8.7 boards and 7.3 assists in the season's first three games, and put together marks of 12.3 points, 7 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the three games since. Wonder what the difference is ... ? Could it be someone named Kobe? Oh well, at least the Lakers have lost two of three, after winning their first three. Nice going, No. 24.
On the cusp: Sam Cassell, Ray Allen, Charlie Villanueva