The NBA season just kicked off last week and since then, and boy… A LOT has gone down. From crazy individual performances to close games to surprising starts, there seem to be a million different storylines that can be drawn from this young season. I know the media – wow, I’m the media now – has a tendency to overreact and blow things out of proportions, but there are certain events that have occurred that need to be noted. So, that’s what I’m about to do.
LeBron Passing the Torch….I’m Not Buying It
As of today, the Los Angeles Lakers are 3-1 and sit third in the Western Conference. Does this mean anything? Not particularly. They’ve had a relatively easy schedule and they’ve won every game they were “supposed” to win. Still, they’re 1st in Net Rating, which can be attributed to their stellar second halves. More notably, Anthony Davis has been an absolute beast, particularly with his 40-20 game in three quarters against the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s early, but people are believing that LeBron James has handed AD the keys to the Lakers.
Yeah…no. I don’t believe for a second that LeBron is going to keep this up for the whole season. Yes, he will pass the ball to Davis early and often, as he should. But if you think LeBron is just going to dump it down to his co-star nearly every possession, you’re sadly mistaken. In easier games, the hope would be for both stars to get rest and not have to be uber dominant. However, if one player had to show up in terms of scoring, it should be Davis. As far as I’m concerned, he’s just doing what he’s supposed to be doing. Once the schedule gets more difficult as the season progresses, you’ll see more and more games of LeBron truly taking over and showing that he’s no doubt the best player on this roster.
Turn Up the Heat on Spicy P
If you’ve read one of my earliest pieces for Porter Medium, you’ll know I’m not a huge Raptors fan. It’s actually ironic considering I hosted viewings of the NBA Finals for my Engineering Society so more people could watch the games. Not going to lie, it was great being around classmates, friends, and fellow students as Toronto won their first NBA championship. Well, for about 10 minutes. The night was filled with yelling and honking, and I had a midterm the next day. But, I digress. While there was no doubt that Kawhi Leonard was the best player on the title team, it was Pascal Siakam was huge for the Raptors. With Kawhi leaving for the Los Angeles Clippers, many believed that Siakam would step up and be the Raptors’ next superstar. I was very skeptical at first, but after what I’ve seen this season, I’m beyond impressed.
Spicy P has looked nothing less than dominant to start this year. He’s currently averaging 28.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and 3.8 APG on 51.0 FG%, 44.4 3FG%, and 96.3 FT%. The defensive stats aren’t where you’d expect them to be, most would be too impressed to care. He’s improved his ball handling and is beating opponents off the dribble with more consistency. He appears to have gotten stronger, becoming an even better finisher around the rim. And so far, the jumper has been deadly, falling from everywhere on the court. Go ahead and pencil Siakam in as an All-Star this season. Don’t be like me; don’t sleep on Spicy P.
Welcome Home, Warriors…
Everyone knew this NBA season was going to start rough for the Golden State Warriors. Replacing Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, temporarily Klay Thompson tearing with D’Angelo Russell and a host of young, unproven players will cause for some early season growing pains. But no one expected this start out of the Warriors. Allowing 141 points to the Clippers (without Paul George) was, not ideal. Going down by over 40 points to the Oklahoma City Thunder was inexcusable. They did rally to beat the winless New Orleans Pelicans, but tragedy soon struck. In a loss the Phoenix Suns, Stephen Curry broke his hand and will be out for at least 3 months. Oh, the Warriors were also down by over 30 points in that Suns game.
So, now what? Sure, we’re only 4 games into the season for Golden State, but this year is as good as done. I know everyone was looking forward to Steph’s revenge tour, but the Warriors should let him and Klay Thompson fully recover. They should just hope to develop their young players . It’s going to be hard to watch this team in the brand new Chase Center, but…nothing; there’s no hope for this season.
This Rookie Class is DEEP
When it was announced that Zion Williamson would miss the first 6-8 weeks of his rookie campaign, NBA fans worldwide were heavily dismayed. With such an impressive preseason, we were ready to see his play carry on into the regular season. While that was clearly a blow to the NBA’s Opening Night and the first two months of the season as a whole, we’ve had no shortage of standout rookie performances.
RJ Barrett – the Maple Mamba – has showed his scoring prowess for the surprisingly competitive New York Knicks. Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have been lighting it up for the Miami Heat. Ja Morant is looking like a future point “god” down in Memphis. That’s not to mention Coby White, Rui Hachimura, PJ Washington and a handful of others. While we can’t for Zion to play his first NBA game, we have plenty of rookie talent to watch before and after he returns.
I Know it’s Early, But…
In waiting for the season to begin, I made some predictions about the standings in the Eastern and Western conferences. I know it’s very early in the season, but certain teams have been proving me wrong; whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on the team.
I’d be remiss not to begin with the Phoenix Suns. They’re currently above .500, with standout wins over the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State Warriors, as well as a very narrow loss to the Denver Nuggets. Mind you, all but the season opening game have been played without DeAndre Ayton. It’s possible that the Suns are this year’s Kings, more competitive than you’d think.
There’s also the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were undefeated until a literal matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. Karl Anthony Towns has played out of his mind, putting up insane numbers (and helping my fantasy team). This team will need continued contributions from role players as well higher level play from Andrew Wiggins, but maybe it’s time for us to stop sleeping on the Wolves.
Lastly, the Miami Heat have had a very solid start to this year. As mentioned earlier, they’ve had stellar play from their rookies, but have also had great play from Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler (in the two games he’s played) and Goran Dragic coming off the bench. Erik Spolestra’s teams could always defend, but if they’re able to have offense coming from multiple sources, they might finish within the top four of the conference.
Side note, shout-out the San Antonio Spurs for continuing to prove the doubters wrong; they just keep finding ways to get it done.
Let’s begin with the Denver Nuggets, who I said would finish 1st in the West. So far, they look nothing like a conference’s top team should. They’ve shot the ball poorly, their defense has returned to “awful” status, and there just seems to be a lack of effort from the players – as coach Mike Malone so kindly pointed out. Again, it’s early and they’re still over .500 so there’s time to figure this out. But as Paul Pierce said on “The Jump”, the Nuggets aren’t sneaking up on anybody this year. They’re going to have to play much harder and much better if they want to be a true contender.
Next, there’s the Sacramento Kings. Now, no one was expecting the Kings to be a top seed in the West, but after a great last season, many thought they’d at least maintain that level of competitiveness. However, they lost Marvin Bagley III in the first game of the season and the once fast-paced team has played considerably slower. This start has some people questioning Luke Walton’s coaching ability. All I know is that something is going to have to change before Bagley gets back before this season is totally lost.
Finally, we have the Indiana Pacers. I projected them to finish 3rd in the East, thinking their new acquisitions as well as improved play from Myles Turner would propel them towards the top of the conference. So far, Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis have been the team’s best players, but Turner has seen minimal improvement. Interestingly enough, he was injured in their first win of the year. This win came after two losses to the Detroit Pistons and a disappointing loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. We still don’t know exactly when Victor Oladipo will return, but I think it’s safe to say that even if he comes back in January, it’s unlikely Indiana will prove me right.