Another week down in the NBA. History was made. First-ever career 3-pointers were taken. Kawhi Leonard hit a soul-crushing last-second shot. James Harden scored a lot of points. And the NBA apparently is on the verge of changing its entire regular-season model.
Never a dull moment in the world of professional basketball.
As we examine what took place over the course of the NBA's fifth week of the season, let's have a look at some of the winners and losers, and what they did to wind up on this list.
Winner: Luka Doncic
If the season ended today, Luka Doncic would be the front-runner for Most Valuable Player and Most Improved Player based on his ridiculous start to this season.
As a rookie, Doncic showed the NBA why he was such a coveted prospect coming out of Europe, and how he was able to dominate grown men in EuroLeague as a teenager. With one year in the league under his belt, Doncic is playing like he has all the secrets of the game already figured out.
This past week, Doncic led his Dallas Mavericks to a 4-0 record capped off with a big road win against the Houston Rockets on Sunday. That alone would be enough to garner consideration for a winning week.
The second-year guard was the best player on the court Sunday in a game that featured two former MVPs and walking triple-doubles in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Doncic finished with 41 points (his second 40-point game of the week), 10 assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. Video game numbers.
In fact, with Doncic's final performance of the week, he joined Michael Jordan, Harden, and Westbrook as the only players since 1983-84 with at least four straight games of 30+ points and 10+ assists.
Not LeBron James. Not Chris Paul. Not Steph Curry. Not Magic Johnson.
Dallas has its next superstar, and he's already setting the pace for a legendary career.
Winner: NBA fans
This past week experienced a bombshell report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarwoski when he revealed that the NBA and its players association were in the middle of discussing massive changes to the league schedule.
By reducing the number of regular-season games from 82 to roughly 78 or 79, the league would look to implement an in-season tournament which European soccer leagues have found successful.
Along with a tournament, proposals for reseeding teams in the semifinal rounds of the playoffs based off of regular-season record appear to be gaining traction as well as an effort to provide an NBA Finals that features the league's two best teams -- regardless of conference.
The final proposal suggests a postseason play-in for the teams in the 7-10 seeds of each conference to find out which final two teams will make the playoffs.
All of these proposals are far enough down the line that Wojnarowski reported they could be implemented in the 2021-22 season.
Should all of these proposals go through, the biggest winners of all are fans of the NBA. Following the Warriors' domination over the last few years, the regular season has lost a bit of its luster. More teams are using load management strategies. Games in November don't feel as important to the bigger picture as they once did. And generally most people aren't tuning in early in the season because football is still on. The ratings reflect all of that.
Props to the NBA for recognizing its product was getting a bit stale and coming up with fun and progressive ways to spice up the action in the league again.
Loser: Portland Trail Blazers
Last week, the Trail Blazers were the talk of the entire league when they decided to sign Carmelo Anthony after his much-publicized absence from the NBA.
After a slow start, injecting Anthony's game into Portland seemed like a promising idea to try and right the ship early on in this season. But after one week, not much has changed.
A winless week, capped off by a fourth straight loss on Saturday -- this time to the Cleveland Cavaliers -- dropped the Trail Blazers to 5-12 on the season. Anthony has been nearly exactly what he was the last time he was on the court with the Houston Rockets -- an inefficient scorer who has negative impact on the defensive side of the ball. Adding that into the mix for a team that already struggled on defense before his arrival, and it would appear after one week that Anthony has compounded Portland's problems -- not solved them.
However, it's only a four-game stretch. The season is long. Anthony still needs to build on-court chemistry with the likes of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. But an early read on the situation provides no new information or prospects that buck the recent narrative about Melo's game.
With three upcoming games this week against opponents under .500, Portland will have its chance to bounce back and add to the win column. But should it flounder again, it might already be time to start asking questions this season about where that franchise -- and specifically the duo of Lillard and McCollum -- is headed.
Winner: Ben Simmons
It happened. It really finally happened.
After 172 career games in the NBA as a point guard, Ben Simmons hit his first 3-pointer in the first quarter of last Wednesday's game against the Knicks.
As imagined, NBA Twitter and media outlets alike overreacted to the situation immensely due to the on-going harping on Simmons' shooting (or lack thereof). The over celebrating and constant conversation that goes along with the whole Simmons 3-pointer narrative is, of course, way over the top. But the one shot in itself represented something larger for Simmons.
In a supersized lineup that features Joel Embiid, Al Horford, and Tobias Harris, having 6-foot-10 Simmons on the court can make things clunky at times for the Philadelphia 76ers. Nobody expects the third-year guard to turn into a 3-point specialist, but even Giannis Antetokounmpo won an MVP award while shooting just 26 percent from beyond the arc.
All Simmons needs to do is let the ball fly from deep just enough to have his defender second-guessing if he'll actually do it or not should he decide to sag off of the guard and cheat into the lane. That slight development could have a massive impact on how the Sixers offense operates around Embiid, giving everyone a bit more breathing room.
It might not seem like much, but that one shot represents a much larger win for Philadelphia than just three points.
So hats off to Simmons, who is shooting 100 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Loser: Houston Rockets
Despite having James Harden in the midst of an absurd stretch of basketball, the Rockets had as rough a week as anybody around the NBA.
Going just 1-3 on the week, losing three straight, and suffering a loss at the hands of a classic Kawhi Leonard mid-range jumper, Houston found itself on the opposite end of last week's undefeated spectrum.
Harden, as mentioned, is still doing Harden things and being a nearly unstoppable bucket. The issue for the Rockets, culminated in Sunday's home loss to the Mavericks is whenever Harden ISN'T on the floor. When Houston traded for Russell Westbrook, his presence was supposed to dispel any pitfalls the team might face when its MVP headed to the bench for a breather.
So far this season, Westbrook's actually done the exact opposite. When both of the star guards are on the court together, Houston has a healthy plus-8.9 net rating. When Westbrook sits and Harden plays, that number elevates slightly to plus-9.7. But when Harden sits and Westbrook is running the show, well, the Rockets' net rating does a complete nosedive, spiraling all the way to a minus-15.3. Just abysmal.
It's no secret that Westbrook's play errs on the side of inefficiency. But the start to his Rockets tenure has not provided the reassurance that he can effectively carry the water for the team should something happen to Harden.
Rough weeks are bound to happen over the course of an 82-game season, but the larger problems for Houston are starting to poke their heads out. It will be interesting to see how the team, Westbrook especially, responds.