STUDS AND DUDS
Not a great deal will have changed from a team perspective since we last looked at the Hawks, Rockets, Pacers, Wolves, Knicks, Thunder and Suns as well as the Cavs and Warriors; so it’s time to single out individuals who have been both good and bad for their teams fortunes so far.
THE MVP RACE
It seems appropriate to look at the MVP race before delving into each team for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it would be cheating to include the likes of Lebron, Westbrook and Harden in the team sections below as you wouldn’t be reading anything you didn’t already know. They are great, end of discussion. But perhaps even more importantly, with the additions of Cleveland and Golden State to all four of our rosters, the MVP trophy is unlikely to land anywhere else this year but within Roster #1. With the current favoured top three and six of the top ten, it looks like Roster #1 is the real MVP.
ATLANTA HAWKS – Current Record (10-12) / Since Last Time (5-10)
STUD: PAUL MILLSAP
It is no surprise the Hawks slide coincided with Millsap’s health being a concern. Prior to that he was responsible for some of my favourite lines of the NBA season so far; a season debut against Washington putting up 28/7/6 with 3 threes and a block plus a 23/11/5/5 performance against Houston in that win. The big pay day is just around the corner and Mr.Consistency is averaging pretty damn close to his career numbers. The percentages around the bucket are down as are the blocks, two very possible signs of adjusting to life with Howard over Horford.
One To Watch: Dwight Howard – looking rejuvenated, just not sure how long it lasts.
DUD: KYLE KORVER
Is Kyle Korver finally being guarded at the 3 point line by father time? The once unstoppable force from deep (49% just 2 seasons ago) is looking a shell of his former self and is the first casualty from the opening night starting lineup. It might be the point of his career where he adjusts to being a deployed sharpshooter off the bench and extends his career for a few more years. If so, he’d want to put the work in on his straight ahead threes it seems.
On Notice: Kent Bazemore – on a bigger contract, it’s time for bigger production.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – Full Record (14-5) / Since Last Time (8-4)
STUD: KEVIN LOVE
It may have taken some time (and full health!) to find his groove in Cleveland but credit must go to Love and the Cavs coaching staff for getting him there. The only thing missing from Love’s Minnesota arsenal is his passing from the block. Funnily enough, his assists numbers are also down on previous Cavs seasons in exchange for his shooting percentages and offensive rebounds increasing. To me, it all says that Cleveland has found out what Love is and they don’t need you to show them.
One To Watch: Kyrie Irving – flying under the radar with his most efficient year to date.
DUD: J.R SMITH
After holding out and finally getting “his” in free agency, Smith is not currently repaying the faith. It’s hard to find guys not pulling their weight on this team (apologies below Mr.Felder) but JR is suspect number 1. Despite starting and playing very similar minutes to last year (29.3 v 30.7), Smith is currently only contributing 7.8 points a game. Shooting 32% from deep isn’t going to cut it when it’s kind of your job.
On Notice: Kay Felder – a little tough on him, but must take the opportunity there.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – Full Record (18-3) / Since Last Time (13-2)
STUD: KLAY THOMPSON
Hot off the back of his amazing three quarter display against Indiana, I want to talk about Klay. When KD signed in the off season there was a lot of noise about who it would hamper most. General consensus went with Klay and it looked justified early as he struggled with his shot. The Warriors didn’t panic though and Klay has identical per36 FGA (18.7) and PPG (23.9) to last year and an almost identical usage rate (26.1 v 26.3). Oh and there’s this; First 11 games: 18.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 44.4 FG%, 31.3 3P% Last 10 games: 27.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 51.6 FG%, 46.6 3P%.
One To Watch: Draymond Green – other 3 are better but he might be more important.
DUD: JAMES MICHAEL McADOO
It’s hard to find a ‘dud’ on the Warriors right now but special mention needs to go to McAdoo, who signed on with GSW in the summer for just one season. One would think he liked the Warriors fit and a real chance to increase his stock as a backup big in a thin rotation. However, he is doing himself no favours right now losing those minutes to Looney & McGee.
On Notice: David West – playing to his contract value, not his career standards.
HOUSTON ROCKETS – Full Record (14-7) / Since Last Time (10-4)
STUD: CLINT CAPELA
I took an educated guess that Capela would thrive under his new coaches system and so far, so good. He is providing the defensive anchor they need and rim running in order to create the necessary space for the rest of the team to operate in. You could argue his numbers are merely an increase in production in relation to an increase in minutes and you’d be pretty spot on. But the most important thing is he is giving you everything you wanted out of Howard, without all the crap you can do without.
One To Watch: Eric Gordon – fitting in very nicely and will only get better.
DUD: DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS
When you are a professional basketballer and you are not currently being paid by anyone to be one, you’re a dud. Generally you are a dud that doesn’t deserve to be playing anymore but in D-Mo’s case you are just in a dud situation. Previously part of a voided trade and more recently with a signed BKN offer sheet that was matched by HOU, the situation for D-Mo has hit crying Jordan meme status. As it stands, it looks as though he is choosing to not front up for his medical in the hope the Rockets make him a RFA again. If you want to know more, this is your place.
On Notice: Brewer & McDaniels – if D’Antoni can’t get them going, there’s a problem.
INDIANA PACERS – Full Record (10-11) / Since Last Time (7-7)
STUD: MYLES TURNER
Everyone was hoping Myles Turner could continue his rise in his sophomore season and it didn’t take him long to get going, putting up 30/16/4 on opening night. He may have cooled off slightly but the Pacers are a bit of a mess on both ends and with PG13’s injury, there isn’t anyone close to rival Turner for stud status. I am impressed that all of Turner’s %s have gone up despite the increased load (6 extra mins), which could be down to not increasing his usage while on court. His per36 numbers have also increased which suggests definite improvement outside of just increased minutes.
One To Watch: Paul George – injuries slowed him so far but I still believe he’s coming.
DUD: MONTA ELLIS
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, George Hill was not the move this team needed to make in the off season. He was a great fit next to a ball dominant guy like PG13 on one end and they formed a great defensive duo on the other. Adding another ball handler to the team has been bad news for Ellis and Indiana as a whole. If they can’t/won’t trade him, can the Pacers please finally move Monta to 6th man where he can have the ball all he wants and not be picked apart so much on D? Currently they are compounding one mistake by making another.
On Notice: Jeff Teague – if it’s not Monta on the ropes, Jeff should be worried he’s next.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – Full Record (6-15) / Since Last Time (5-10)
STUD: KARL ANTHONY TOWNS
Despite the Wolves not being very good right now, Towns is tracking according to the plan. His numbers aren’t too dissimilar to last year which is not necessarily a bad thing at all when you averaged 18/10/2 in your rookie year. What impresses me is the jump in points production to 22.6 per game is largely due to 4 attempts from deep a game and an increase in his time at the FT line. These facets to his game will be crucial going forward and I’d like to see him challenge himself on D, as the next mini-project.
One To Watch: Andrew Wiggins – started red hot before cooling slightly, needs to lift D.
DUD: KRIS DUNN
I fought a lot of people for real estate on Dunn Island and may be one of the only investors left. After billing him as a Wall/Wade hybrid, Dunn has so far made a liar out of me. That doesn’t mean I’m selling my stake just yet but he has some growing to do before making it viable to ship Rubio out of town. Frustratingly he has shown no improvement yet in his college deficiencies; shooting, taking care of the ball and gambling on D.
On Notice: Jordan Hill – might not be his fault but $4 million for 5 mins a game?
NEW YORK KNICKS – Full Record (12-9) / Since Last Time (10-5)
STUD: KRISTAPS PORZINGIS
The Unicorn is doing a pretty good job of making the most of the hand he was dealt. Whilst I hoped the Knicks would build around him rather than him being an afterthought, he is still putting up very good numbers. Maybe Phil is right and I’m wrong. Perhaps surrounding him with other guys who will get attention is good for his development, rather than over-exposing him. Whichever way you lean, it seems Porzingis will find a way to stand out no matter what. And the internet will swoon over him, for basketball and non basketball related reasons.
One To Watch: Derrick Rose – is learning what his game is now and looks comfortable.
DUD: JOAKIM NOAH
Noah is currently the most overpaid player in the NBA and we all saw it coming. I was skeptical on the Hornacek hiring but one thing I thought it guaranteed was Porzi at the 5 and Melo at the 4. Zen Master Phil Jackson had other ideas. He decided to pay his new starting C $72mil, who has so far missed 4 games and averaged just 22 mins in those he’s played. Oh and he’s averaging 3.9pts, 7.9 reb and 2.9 ast. But he’s there for D right? Current DRtg – 106 (career best 96) and opponents are 4 pts/per 100 better off with him on court.
On Notice: Lance Thomas – pips Vujacic because he is earning much more $ for DNPs.
OKC THUNDER – Full Record (14-8) / Since Last Time (8-7)
STUD: STEVEN ADAMS
The moment Kevin Durant left town, the Thunder needed guys to step up. This is why my pick for MIP was Adams and whilst his current stats probably won’t be enough to get in the conversation, if you watch enough of OKC you know just how important he is. Russ was always going to be Russ (even if we didn’t see Super-Russ coming) and Adams has been exactly what they needed at the other bookend spot. He’s playing 5 more minutes per game of above average D and lifted his FT% to a point of no longer being a liability at the line.
One To Watch: Domantas Sabonis – any rook starting and doing ok is worth watching.
DUD: VICTOR OLADIPO
OK, let me start by saying this is easily my harshest call of ‘dud’ and not 100% justified. However of those contributing regular heavy minutes on the Thunder, ‘Dipo is performing under my expectations the most. But my expectations were high and basically he is putting up exactly what he had done in Orlando previously on a new team. I’d like to give him more time and ultimately I’d like to see him play in a role familiar to Thunder fans.
On Notice: Anthony Morrow – lucky shot is starting to fall, without it he’s unplayable.
PHOENIX SUNS – Full Record (6-15) / Since Last Time (4-9)
STUD: TJ WARREN
Warren might be the best player the average NBA fan doesn’t know about. And who could blame them for not paying attention to Suns games or remembering TJ prior to his season ending injury last year. He didn’t make us wait long this year though, busting out a career high in the second game of the season. A weird head injury has him sidelined again more recently but not before putting up 17.7 points and 1.9 steals a game, which are good enough for top 50 and top 10 standings respectively.
One To Watch: Eric Bledsoe – statistically started well, but the team he runs is poor.
DUD: BRANDON KNIGHT
It’s fair to say Brandon Knight is still adjusting to his 6th man role in Phoenix. At least you hope he is and this isn’t just the player Knight is now. In 20 games this season, the Suns are 16 points per 100 possessions better off with Knight on the bench. All while being the least efficient he has ever been (and that’s saying something – career 41%) and not getting his teammates involved (just 2.8 assists).
On Notice: Tyson Chandler – chances of him holding something in reserve are slim.