Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue:
Two weeks into the season and I feel like I am just starting to get a handle on my roster. The Cavs & Warriors are serving up roughly what I expected, even if I am slightly surprised just how well one is going and how much the other is struggling. As for the Hawks, Pacers, Rockets, Wolves, Knicks, Thunder and Suns; I feel vindicated on a lot of my off season thoughts. But of course, I have already been proven wrong on just as much and there are still plenty of things that are still very much up in the air.
Old – What We Already Knew:
Surprise surprise, the Cleveland Cavaliers (6-1) are very good again! Despite almost losing to the Sixers, the Cavs have accounted easily for Eastern rivals Boston and Toronto early. LeBron was just named Player of the Week and it’s possible his support cast is even better the time around. I particular like the addition of Mike Dunleavy, who has seamlessly fit in and looks like he’s been in Cleveland for years. Add the re-addition of JR Smith late (who was ALWAYS coming back) and the Cavs are going to cruise into the playoffs again.
When it comes to supporting casts, as suspected the Golden State Warriors (5-2) don’t have a lot. Despite boasting an incredible top 5, we are again seeing why a full roster matters when it comes to forming a super team. The Warriors have some early issues at C where Zaza is clearly not Andrew Bogut on either end and the veterans nor the rookies have stabilised the bench unit just yet.
What’s going on in Indiana (3-4)? Myles Turner is good, Jeff Teague is currently bad and the Pacers are struggling fitting all their new pieces into a flowing offence. The starting 5 looks like it could do with a shakeup but it’s certainly no surprise to me that Ellis, George & Teague are all struggling to work things out.
Houston (4-3) are fun, fast and play no D. Harden is putting up unbelievable numbers but it’s not exactly translating to a great record for the Rockets right now. Is it any surprise that Houston are currently 4th in the league for O and 28th for D?
The New York Knicks (2-4) have no depth. The starters are playing major minutes (injuries anyone?) and Hornacek doesn’t seem to trust anyone off the bench not named Jennings.
Devin Booker is good even if Phoenix (2-6) isn’t. Started slow; 77 points in last 2 games.
New – Surprises So Far:
Atlanta (5-2) is off to a pretty good start. Whilst I am still skeptical when it comes to deep playoff success, it seems the Howard/Milsap combo has a chance to eclipse the old partnership with Al Horford. It’s still early days but the Hawks have maintained a 2nd overall defence while improving their offence to above league average. Howard has had a mixed bag of games and for me it still comes to whether they can keep him happy/motivated while limiting his role in the offence. It’s no coincidence to me that their losses so far have come when Howard takes his most shots.
It might be time to pump the brakes on Minnesota (1-5). Perhaps the most surprising early sign is they are much better on offence than they are on D. Having Thibs as your coach is suppose to reverse that. The hype train was rolling early on the Wolves but they haven’t been able to live up to expectations thus far. Perhaps it’s just going to take time but the early signs on a guy like Andrew Wiggins aren’t as mouthwatering as they should be.
Oklahoma City (6-1) are off to a hot start. But who have they beaten? The Clippers look like the only major scalp at this stage and they lost the showdown with the Warriors in disappointing fashion. That game was typical of their season outlook. Westbrook can only do so much and if no other players steps up, the Thunder are deer in the headlights.
Someone was bound to lose shots when you add Kevin Durant but who expected Curry and Klay to shoot 38% and 44% respectively? Ironically Durant has been their only good player. Have they gone too far to fit him in?
Marquese Chriss has flipped pre-season expectations versus Dragan Bender. Bender looked the more ready prospect in Summer League play but Chriss is getting the minutes.
Borrowed – Stats & Contracts:
LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are all having their own little battle to see if someone can become the second player ever (shoutout to Big O!) to average a triple double for an entire season in the NBA. LeBron will have the luxury of resting games rather than hurting his averages but if he could pull it off then no one could accuse him of empty stats on a non-contending team such as HOU or OKC. Having said that, what Westbrook and Harden are doing currently with 30+ points is insane.
Myles Turner didn’t waste any time in his Sophomore season, posting a 30/16/1/2/4 line in the season debut against Dallas. Whilst he hasn’t had another game quite like that since, he is still off to an impressive start. Perhaps the most impressive thing about what he is achieving is maintaining a 55FG% with half of his shot attempts coming outside of the paint.
Oklahoma City chose to extend Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo now rather than wait for restricted free agency later. Committing $182 million to two guys is a pretty sure fire way of moving on from Durant and making the future building blocks obvious to outsiders.
Similarly, the Atlanta Hawks showed they were ready to move on at PG by trading Jeff Teague but then also locking up Dennis Schroder for 4 Years and $70 million.
Perhaps the extension with the least fanfare was Gorgui Dieng, 4 Years $62 million. Smart.
Blue – Insert Sad Emoji Here:
Porzingis and his development are taking a back seat to this faux super team in New York City. It was bound to happen but Kristaps has already been visibly upset when sitting 4th quarters and frustrated with his lack of touches. His touches and usage rate are down on last season and I’m just not sure upsetting the future of your franchise at a fake run at the playoffs is a smart idea. Anyone could see adding Noah, Rose and Lee would hamper KP, as there was no chance Melo’s shots (18) would reduce so the Unicorn’s increase.
Things are eerily similar in the desert. Phoenix are favouring their veterans over the rookies, at least early on to try and generate wins. As a fan I was always worried about the make up of this roster to start the season and it seems shooting for an unlikely low seed in the playoffs is forcing the development of Bender/Chriss/Ulis to take a back seat. At least Booker (23 pts) and Warren (21.7 pts) are seeing 37 minutes a piece.
Seasons change and yet some things stay the same. Ricky Rubio is injured again! A right elbow sprain has Ricky out indefinitely and throws Kris Dunn into the starting fire. All of a sudden the pre season trade rumours get a trial run and the Wolves get to see if Dunn can run the first unit and if Tyus Jones is a serviceable backup. Pssst…Early signs aren’t great!
Not sure if anything bums me out more than the Donatas Motiejunas’ contract situation. Traded, failed medical and sent back to a team who held is RFA rights but didn’t offer a contract. He couldn’t get an offer sheet but recently was offered a deal from the Rockets
Is Andrew Wiggins regressing under a coach who was suppose to propel him into the elite? Early signs suggest his stats remain largely the same but his D could be so much more.
Russ Vs GSW had a huge build up with a lame finish. 26 point loss and 4/15. Sad face.