Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

NBA Starting 5, Dec. 11: Who else is ready to take a big leap in production?

Before a 13-game night, catch up on the top stories from the first seven weeks of the 2023-24 season.

Happy Monday! ☀️

By the time tonight’s over, every NBA team will have played at least 20 games.

What’s your favorite story from the season’s first quarter? Let us know here — we’ll come back with our favorites tomorrow.


  1. 📈  In-Season Tournament Catch-Up
  2. 3️  13 Games, 3 Things To Watch
  3. 📆  Stories From SZN’s 1st Quarter
  4. 🚀  PIE & Players Making The Leap
  5. 📸  Photos Of The 1st Quarter

🏆  In-Season Tournament Hub

📺  Mavs-Grizzlies, 8 ET, NBA TV

📲  12 more games in NBA App


Look how far Bron throws this hat to AD!

Look how far Bron throws this hat to AD!

First, a quick refresher on what just went down in Vegas.

  • The Lakers claimed the first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament championship on Saturday, beating the upstart Pacers 123-109
  • LeBron James was named Tournament MVP, adding yet another trophy to a storied career
  • Tyrese Haliburton went for 20 pts and 11 ast in the loss, ending a run that saw him make a superstar turn and the Pacers ‘shock the world,’ in his words. “The future is amazingly bright for him,” said Indiana coach Rick Carlisle
  • Anthony Davis went off for 41 pts and 20 reb, in his first 40-20 game in more than 4 years
  • Experience the moments from a few feet away as the Lakers get their medals … and lift the first NBA Cup … as Bron gets his MVP trophy … and dances into the locker room … as the Lake Show drink from the NBA Cup … and Austin Reaves gets inspirational

Next, some more hardware will go out to the All-Tournament Team:

What else?


With the In-Season Tournament wrapped, things start to wind down.


Tonight’s got 13 games on the way. Start with these 3 things to watch.

  • Wolves head to New Orleans: The Timberwolves have the best record in all of the NBA. The last time this happened this late (or later) in the season was 2004. Ant Edwards (listed as questionable) and Karl-Anthony Towns have become an elite duo. Awaiting them? Another one, in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram (8 ET, NBA App)
  • Lillard nearing history: Damian Lillard needs just four 3-pointers to pass Kyle Korver for fifth place on the all-time list. Tonight, he’ll get that shot when the Bucks take on the Bulls – winners of four straight. Last time these two matched up, Alex Caruso sent it to OT before Chicago pulled away (8 ET, NBA App)
  • Nets vs. Kings in West: Both conferences are crowded, with the third-place Mavs and ninth-place Clippers within two losses of each other out West … and the second-place Magic & eighth-place Nets separated by the same. The Kings and Nets come into this one hot, winners of 4-of-6 and 6-of-7, respectively (10 ET, NBA App)

Tap in for the full 13-game schedule.


Just like that, every team in the league except one (Houston) has played 20 or more games.

The Rockets, who stand in the 8th spot in the West after a defensive revolution (they’re giving up 11.8 fewer points per game this year, the sixth largest drop ever), will get there tonight.

What are a few of the stories that have defined the season’s first seven weeks?

  • Wolves lead the way: Kevin Garnett. Latrell Sprewell. Ervin Johnson. Sam Cassell. Trenton Hassell. That’s the Wolves’ starting lineup the last time they had the top record this late in the season.
  • The NBA’s best defensive club has Rudy Gobert looking like a candidate for his fourth DPOY, Karl-Anthony Towns playing some of the best ball of his career and Anthony Edwards on the ascent (more on that below
  • Magic in the air: Orlando just matched a franchise record with a nine-game win streak, and pulls into Monday second in the East – the first time since 2010 that they’ve done so this late. At the heart? A jump from 18th in DefRtg last year to second this year

MVP Watch: Reigning MVP Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic are 1 and 2 in Michael C. Wright’s latest rankings, with some familiar (Luka, Giannis) and new (SGA, Haliburton) candidates making waves

  • Joker’s (still) wild: After leading the Playoffs in PTS, REB & AST, the reigning Finals MVP leads the league in boards, ranks third in dimes and top 10 in pts. If he can finish top 10 in PTS & top 5 in REB & AST, he’d be the third player EVER to do so (Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor)
  • Bron 1, Father Time 0: LeBron isn’t just having a great season for a player over 38. He’s having a great season, period

Haliburton leading breakouts: Take away Haliburton and the Pacers’ run to the In-Season Tournament championship, and the fourth-year guard would still be among the league’s best. But Haliburton’s not the only young star making a serious jump right now. Head to Section 4 for more

  • Faces in new places: Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis have leveled up an East-leading Celtics team that was already among the league’s best, while Giannis and Dame have the Bucks at third in the East
  • How are the rooks doing?: Victor Wembanyama leads all rookies in PTS, REB & BLK, along with things you’ve never seen before. But Chet Holmgren, first on the Rookie Ladder, ranks 2nd in PTS & BLK, and first in NetRtg (min 25 mpg)
  • Dereck Lively II, Jaime Jaquez Jr. & Jordan Hawkins have also made a big impact early

What are your favorites? In case you missed the link above, or just don’t feel like scrolling up (it’s Monday, no judgment), tap here to let us know yours.


Among the league's Top 30 players in PIE, which players have made the biggest jumps?

Among the league’s Top 30 players in PIE, which players have made the biggest jumps?

Around here, we’re fans of PIE. And not just during the holidays.

  • Why’s that? Player Impact Estimate bakes out a clear look at the players making the biggest contributions across the league. Because of that, the list of PIE leaders also pretty closely mirrors the MVP race
  • What is it again? In the simplest terms, PIE takes what every player contributes (PTS, REB, AST, etc) and subtracts stuff like misses, fouls and turnovers.
  • Good look at ‘leaps’: When players make ‘the leap,’ stats don’t always tell the full story. But when you do look at the biggest PIE jumps from year to year, it’s a powerful way to see who’s taking their games to new heights

Who’s making that leap? Through the season’s first quarter, these are the players in the PIE Top 30 who’ve made the biggest jumps in the rankings (min 20 mpg)

Biggest Leaps In The Top 10

  • Devin Booker, 9th (13-Spot Jump): Playing opposite Kevin Durant, Booker is having both the best 3-point shooting (42.6%) and distribution (8.1 assists per game) season of his career
  • Tyrese Haliburton, 6th (12 Spots): The NBA’s leader in APG (12.1) and AST/TO ratio (5.43, min 30 mpg) has steadily climbed in PIE, from 60th two years ago to 18th last year to sixth in 2023-24 – between Giannis Antetokounmpo & James
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 3rd (5 spots): One of six players in the league scoring 30+ PPG, the NBA’s leader in steals has ratcheted up his defensive game to become a top two-way force
  • LeBron James, 7th (4 spots): Yup, the In-Season Tournament MVP’s making an even bigger impact – by comparison – in Year 21 than he did in Year 20

From 11 to 20:

  • Alperen Sengun, 15th (46 spots): The third-year center has rocketed up the chart, leading Houston in scoring and rebounds to power the Rockets’ early success, while his distribution game (2nd on the team) has drawn comparisons to Jokic
  • Anthony Edwards, 18th (44 spots): Predicted to be the breakout player of the year by NBA GMs, Edwards has delivered – in a way that he rarely gets credit for: he has the best DefRtg (min 30 mpg) in the NBA. Only Sengun has made a larger leap among players in the Top 20
  • Bam Adebayo, 12th (18 spots): One of the dominant – and most versatile – big men in the game, Adebayo is taking on the largest role of his career in Miami as the team leader in PPG, RPG & BPG
  • Karl-Anthony Towns, 17th (17 spots): In his ninth season, Towns is currently a member of the illustrious 50-40-90 club for the first time

From 21-30:

  • Scottie Barnes, 21 (99 spots): The biggest leap of anyone in the Top 30 belongs to the 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year
  • Tyrese Maxey, 25th (80 spots): But Maxey’s pretty close, after exploding to career-highs in PTS (27.1 per game) and AST (6.7) for the East’s fourth-place Sixers
  • Franz Wagner, 29th (73 spots): While the Magic have made their own leap on the strength of a major defensive improvement, Wagner’s tied for the team lead in scoring, while improving in nearly every major stat category
  • Chet Holmgren, 26th (Rookie): While Chet couldn’t technically make a jump from last year, we had to include him on the list. The Thunder rook currently sits right between Maxey and Jimmy Butler in PIE