The WTF Edition:
It was truly an interesting (depressing) experience to be in America when Trump was elected. His win seemed to evoke a huge “What The Fuck?” around the world, or at least my Facebook feed. How did Trump catch fire from out of nowhere and pull it off? What went wrong for Hilary, how did she go so cold from the field? That inspired me to take stock of my roster with a similar view: What’s Hot, What’s Not, and WTF?
Washington Wizards, 4-9 Record
The Washington Wizards have had a pretty uneven start to 2016/17 to put it kindly. Overall, I think they are right where a lot of people would have expected: struggling to play coherent team ball and not winning much.
John Wall is now the all time leader in assists, which is pretty awesome considering he’s only entering his 7th season and has been injured a little bit over his career. Also, Otto ‘Contract Year’ Porter has had a solid start. His 34/14/3/3 line on 75% shooting was pretty awesome, and he is averaging career highs in PER and TS%. More of that and he will enter Harrison Barnes territory for $$$.
Brad Beal being healthy, or playing consistent ball. Maybe the last 3 games are an indication Beal has turned the corner, but prior to getting injured he was missing shots and not offering much else to help the team. Oh, and he’s already missed 3 games to injury. John Wall’s “1A” has struggled from the field and struggled to defend, posting a career worst 112 defensive rating. It’s very early days, but the initial ROI hasn’t been as hoped.
John Wall is taking a ‘get respected, or get ejected trying‘ approach, loosely stolen from the 50 Cent playbook but without the bullets. (I wonder if Fif makes more money than Wall? I digress, back to back ejections) Tossed in the final 5 minutes when winning by 25? Wtf did Scott Brooks have him on the floor for anyway? Wall hasn’t been getting much help from his supporting cast, but taking himself out of games doesn’t seem like a recipe to improve a 4-9 record. Marcin Gortat should be thankful this happened, because calling out your entire bench isn’t ideal either:
Philadelphia 76ers, 4-11 Record
Philly has been predictably feisty and predictably at the bottom of the league standings. However, 4 wins before Thanksgiving? Philly have some seems promising signs from its front court and remain in the hunt to get a blue chipper in the up coming draft, they have a lot to be thankful for.
Winning in November ! #theprocess is ahead of schedule, thanks to the Sixers’ wins over the woefully underachieving Indiana and Washington squads, and fellow cellar dwellers Phoenix and Miami. Brett Brown has even relented on Embiid’s minute restriction to bring him back for winning time when necessary. Bayless has returned to help float the offence, and STAUSKAS! is starting to resemble a rotation NBA player. If The 76ers are getting to a point that they are willing to chase a win at the expense of the long game, that must be music to fan’s ears.
Still no Nerlens Noel on the court this season. And to hear Coach Brown, he has a way to go to get back on the court:
Philly need Noel to return to form so they can flip him for a guard or pick, they need shooting desperately, especially when Simmons returns. Philly were so desperate for shooting that they flipped Jerami Grant for shockingly rejuvenated Ersan Ilyasova. Whilst I think that was a good trade, Philadelphia don’t really need more 4s, and the sooner they can get Noel back to trade or send Okafor on his way, the better.
Joel Embiid is on a per minute tear. At one point he was in the top 5 all time for per 36min scoring for a rookie (#earlydays) and every game he gives you a “holy shit, Philly will be sooooo good in 2 years” play. He leads the Sixers in per game points, rebounds and blocks, 3pt FG%, PER and turnovers. He has been every bit as awesome as his hype suggested, and is likely to finish the year as twitter GOAT.
Detroit, 7-9 Record
The Pistons are doing their best despite getting very little from Stanley Johnson and Reggie Jackson still out with a knee injury. The losses to Toronto, San Antonio, Cleveland and the Clippers can be explained, but Phoenix and Brooklyn? Detroit’s only constant has been their inconsistency.
Stan. Van. Gundy. Never one to shy away from a controversial topic or speaking his mind, SVG spoke on the state of the election with earnestness, empathy and genuine fear. As far as a leader goes, Stan (likely) represented his players, as well as himself and many fans when speaking on Trump’s ascension. Pop is getting a lot of love for his stirring words on the matter, but Van Gundy was first to speak up. And he has this team playing some mean D, ranked 4th in efficiency.
Detroit’s lack of offence. KCP has improved his 3pt shooting to 37%, but is only at 40% overall and has an eFG of 48%. The team is ranked 27th for eFG, 21st for offensive rating and 21st for FT attempts per game (20th in FT made), and dead last for 3s made and attempted per game. About the only thing they do well is take care of the ball. Put simply, the team can’t score, and is wasting it’s excellent work on the defensive end.
Andre Drummond is averaging 3 less free throws per game. Not only that, his offensive value appears to have been dropping for the past 4 years:
Maybe it’s the new Hack-a-Shaq rules, maybe it’s him settling for lesser position, maybe it’s less Reggie Jackson getting him easy looks. But Detroit need Drummond to be a dominant and efficient force in the middle, and right now that is not happening.
Cleveland Cavaliers, 11-2 Record
Cleveland are playing with house money right now. Comfortably sitting on top of the East, there doesn’t appear to be a genuine threat to their supremacy so far. The offence is potent and the D has been solid.
LeBron. Starting his 13th season, you would have forgiven James for sitting in chill mode for a while, but he’s come out swinging. His influence is felt in every facet of Cleveland’s offence. His On/off numbers are crazy:
Where is the drama? Without Coach Blatt around to second guess and coming off a championship, there isn’t a lot of controversy coming from Cleveland. This might be a welcome change from the team, but it’s pretty boring.
Golden State Warriors, 13-2
Curry and KD. Despite having his streak of 20+ point games snapped, KD has fit in quite well to his new surroundings. Curry has allowed him to get his when on a roll, and vice versa. They recently dropped 30+ each in a game, and have generally looked as dynamic as one would expect.
The bench, still. It’s not like they haven’t had their moments, like Ian Clarke having out of body experiences against Portland and LA, going a combined 15/16 from the floor. But overall, they haven’t been great, especially early in the year. They rank 25th in Bench rebounding, 28th in made 3s, 21st in points. As a result, Kerr has them at #19 in minutes per game.
Nothing is more WTF than Steph going 0/10 on 3s in one game,
then 13/17 the very next game.
There have been ridiculous stats already this season, but 0-for to NBA record? Batshit crazy.
New Orleans Pelicans, 6-10 Record
Well thank god for some good news finally! Jrue holiday is back, and thankfully his wife and child are both healthy. NOLA needed him back in the worst way as the playoffs were already looking out of reach after an 0-8 start. Now?
Coach Alvin Gentry should be thankful for Jrue Holiday being healthy and inspiring some wins, because this section was going to his coaching seat. For now, he gets a pass and I’ll go with a scorching hot AD. Davis is averaging career highs in PPG, RPG, Ft%, PER, SPG and TS%. The Brow has had some niggling injuries, but given the weight on his shoulders, are you surprised?
Solomon Hill. Brought in to be a 3&D guy who can play both forward spots, King Solomon has been a huge disappointment. His shooting numbers are way down and he’s already lost his starting spot. Bad first month.
NOLA rank 6th in defensive rating, according to nba.com/stats. They are 8th in steals, 1st in blocks and 7th in defensive rebound %. However, they rank 26th in opponent made 3s and 22nd in opponent points per game
Orlando Magic, 6-9 Record
Orlando still seem to be in denial about their roster. The Aaron Gordon starting small forward experiment lasted 9 games, Ibaka has been feast or famine, and no one looks comfortable in Vogel’s offence.
Vogel has Orlando defending at a pretty good clip. They rank 2nd in opponent made 3s, 7th in blocks, 8th in defensive rating. Thank god for that, as the offence has really let them down.
Everything to do with the offence. Pick a stat, it’s a virtual lock the Magic do it poorly. 24th of points per possession in transition despite being top 5 for transition frequency; 23rd in ppp from post ups, 27th in pop from off ball screens. They are dead last in eFG%, TS% and offensive rating.
Jeff Green is starting at the 3. Mario Hezonja can barely get off the pine. Gordon and Hezonja need minutes, if for no other reason than to see if you want them long term. Green is not the answer to any question the Magic should be asking right now.
L.A Lakers, 8-8 Record
Well isn’t this fun! Even as a Blazer fan, it’s been hard to not enjoy watching the Lakers play hard, fast and with joy. Then you remember it’s the goddam Lakers and they are looking good way ahead of schedule and I go right back to hating them.
Lots of things, but Luke Walton has to take the cake. Getting Swaggilicious to play D, and even pass?
Convincing Jordan Clarkson and #2 draft pick Brandon Ingram to come off the bench? Getting ‘Toronto’ Lou Williams back? Even the #mozgod has made his contract look defendable. All of this starts with the complete culture 180 Walton has installed. And it has lead to a top 2 offence and open shots like these:
I think part of Luke’s strategy in changing the culture was not worrying about the defensive side of the game just yet. LA are lucky to not have the worst defensive rating in the league. They don’t block shots and give up 67% shooting inside 5ft.
Most people expected D’Angelo Russell to be good. Most assumed improvement after being freed from the shackles of coach Scott. But who predicted Steph curry lite? Russell might claim he as ice in his veins (annoying and premature), but his let hand as been extremely flammable from deep. The release is compact and quick, and he has leveraged this to get into the lane more than last year.
Portland Trail Blazers, 8-9 Record
The blazers are capped out and seem stuck right in mediocre purgatory. The beat the bad teams (most of the time) and lose to better ones. Dame and CJ have been as advertised, but that’s about it.
Short of 2 clunkers against the Rockets and Clippers (holy fuck that clips game was ugly), Dame has been spitting hot fire. Besting a franchise record for scoring in the opening 6 games, Lillard has increased his range to virtually mid court and basically needs to be treated the same way Steph Curry is.
All star should be a certainty this year, and if Portland can finish top 4 in the West, expect some MVP consideration.
As has been the case too often for Portland since Stotts took over, the defence has been bad. Part of that is to be expected with Lillard and McCollum starting in the back court, but the front line hasn’t been there to pick up the slack. Of special concern is the rebounding, with Aminu leading the team at 6.6 per game and the team ranking 27h in the league. If Portland expects to do some damage in the post season, then they will need to drastically improve their league worst defence.
The easy one here is to say Portland is still cursed when it comes to centres and knee injuries. Festus Ezeli is desperately needed but nowhere to be found, getting a second opinion on his troublesome knee. But, if ET could phone Boston and ask for his game to be sent to the Rose City on a permanent basis and not just an East Coast jaunt, that would be great.