by S.A. Prince
NBA Observations Week 1: Winter Has Come
Winter has come to the NBA. No, not like the White Walkers in the Game of Thrones, but more like winter in the ‘first snowfall sense.’
People are up in arms about the crazy injuries befallen on some of our favorite players. The season has already been cut short for athletes we expected to make some noise, or at least contribute significantly to their teams. Chris Paul, Jeremy Lin, and Gordon Hayward to name a few.
While some see this injuries as awful, and they certainly are for the particular players and teams, these injuries are not at all surprising.
Let me explain.
If you live in places where it snows (and if you don’t then LISTEN UP), you know a lot car crashes happen in an abundance every year when the snow first falls. Now, one would think that to be weird seeing that a majority of the people who are crashing their cars are used to driving in the snow.
But, it isn’t weird. Your driving habits don’t really adjust until you are actually driving on the road while it is snowing. It takes time to adjust, and everybody gets the first wake-up call when they are going too fast and feel the car start to give, or they try to stop too quickly and casually slide a short 100 feet.
The same thing happens to NBA players. No matter how much they work in the off-season, and no matter how many pick-up games they play, there’s nothing that compares to actual in-season game speed. Despite all the drills they do, game speed cannot be created. It is an experience enhanced by the moment, the atmosphere, the crowd, and the stakes associated with each game.
So, when you see a player get injured, a lot of it, in my opinion, has a lot to do with adjusting to in-season game speed and physicality which takes time.
This doesn’t only apply to injuries. It applies to a player’s game in general. Like it takes time to adjust to driving in winter, it takes time for an NBA player to adjust to in-season game speed, and some of them unfortunately get hurt, and others have a tough time adjusting their playing style at first.
1-1: Beat the Mavericks, Lost to the Hornets
The team revolves around Schroeder. Surprising win against the Dallas Mavericks. It was more of Dallas losing the game as oppose to the Hawks winning. Dallas played terrible defense against the pick and roll, and Schroeder shredded them. Tough assignment for the rookie Dennis Smith Jr. To Smith’s credit though, Schroeder couldn’t check Smith either. John Collins had some nice plays and dunks rolling to the rim in this game. He fills that role well.
Two days later, the Hawks showed their true colors against the Hornets. They were outclassed. The inability for Schroeder to plays defense and lock down elite point guard means opposing team’s offenses are going to open up in a big way. In the first quarter of the Charlotte game alone, Kemba Walker had two open threes, and a nice dish to Dwight Howard off the drive.
With no defensive stopper at the rim, and no point guard anchor, it’s going to be a long year for the Hawks.
1-2: Lose to Cavaliers, Lose to Milwaukee, Beat 76ers.
Tough week for the Boston faithful. Lose Hayward. Lose to the Cavs with a chance to win late. Lose to Milwaukee. This is definitely not the way Ainge envisioned this season going. With games this week against the Knicks, Milwaukee again, and Miami, they could very possibly be 1-5 by the time I put out next week’s assessment.
Point guards dictate tempo, but there are very few who have the “IT” factor to carry a team, especially by themselves. Right now, Kyrie is the only star Boston has, and he’s not really a leader, not like Isaiah Thomas. Boston, at least for now, is a lead by committee team.
Losing Hayward has significantly hurt the team already. Their offense has shrunk. In the first game against the Cavs, Kyrie had 10 assists. He hasn’t come anywhere near that total in the other two games. That has to deal with the offense shrinking due to the loss of Hayward.
Ainge really likes Rozier, and I finally get why. The kid not only plays D, but he can put the ball in the rim, and he’s a good rebound for a point guard on the shorter side. Since Hayward has been hurt, Rozier has put up 16 and 14 in the following two games.
Jaylen Brown or Jason Tatum. With the loss of Hayward, I’ve got the feeling one of them is going to get the boot. I think as soon as Hayward got hurt, Ainge started to think about getting Boogie or AD. I’m not sure of the numbers, but it’s possible that he could package a deal with Baynes or Horford, and definitely Brown or Tatum.
1-1: Lose to Paces. Beat Orlando.
It’s hard seeing Jeremy Lin go down. Say what you want about the dude, but he can play. He was putting in work before he got hurt. He’s also just a nice guy in general.
Brooklyn is allergic to defense. In just two games they’ve given up 261 points, and that’s against two teams I expect to be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
This team isn’t going to win a ton of games, but D-Lo is going to put up All-Start level numbers. He’s not going to make the game, but he’s definitely going to fill it up.
Hollis-Jefferson is coming along nicely, and Carrol is giving them a jolt. Both guys have scored over 10 points in both games. Levert and Crabbe can go offensively. They’ll need all of these guys to keep giving them about 10 plus points per game.
Mozgov is a throwaway. He can’t play, not that he’s a terrible player per se. He just can’t play. His 14 and 16 minutes in the 2 games were pretty much pointless.
1-1: Lost to Detroit, Beat Atlanta
Kemba Walker is one of the most animated and exciting players to watch in the NBA. I loved him at UConn, and have thoroughly enjoyed watching him in the NBA thus far.
Dwight Howard may have finally found a good home. He’s going to dominate most of his matchups. And, contrary to popular belief he’s still very effective, and even last year for the Hawks he was near the top of the league in touches per game. Now, take that to a team and a star in Kemba Walker that is used to playing with a talented big. Remember, just two seasons ago, they had Al Jefferson. In his first two seasons with the team he went for 21.8, and 16.6 points per game.
They went down big against to the Hawks early. Lazy defensive switches and rotation were the cause of that. This cannot happen against better teams, because they won’t be able to dig themselves out the hole. I mean, guys, you have to close out on shooters, seriously.
The same lazy defense that got them into a hole against Atlanta caused them to lose against Detroit. Tobias Harris went off for 27, 12 of which came from behind the arc. He was playing lights out. By the time Charlotte defenders began to close out on Harris he was already hot. His play opened opportunities from other players.
0-2: Lost to Toronto and the Spurs
Robin Lopez is the leading scorer on the Bulls. Robin Lopez. That’s not a joke. It’s a fact. That’s how bad they are. Just let that sink in. Robin Lopez is the Bulls’ leading scorer. No offense against him, he’s a solid player, but a leading scorer? Psh, not on a winning team…
Is Laurie Mark really good, or is he just a good player on a bad team? He had a double-double against the Spurs, and almost had one against Toronto. I’m not sure what the answer is, but the kid is lights out from behind the three point line.
Mark, Holiday, and Valentine are the three young bright spots for this team. Chicago should try to build around them and Lavine when he gets back.
Why is Porter punching teammates? Is he on his way out? Hmm…if you had to pick between Porter and Mirotic, who would you trade? I’m trading Mirotic personally. Laurie Mark does what he does, but better.
2-1: Beat Boston, Beat Milwaukee, Lost to Orlando
America runs on Dunkin’ and the Cavs run on LeBron. Wade, Rose, and Green are all good additions. They can’t lead a team at this point in their careers, but they can all force the issue, create shots, and get to the bucket.
Yeah, they lost to Orlando, but that doesn’t matter. They played them on a back-to-back after a tough game against Milwaukee. That game was a gift to Orlando.
When it came down the stretch against a pesky Milwaukee team, LeBron did what he does best. He ran the point from the top of the key, and absolutely destroyed the Bucks. The guys is so in control and so calm. He makes the game look easy.
A lineup that is really enticing is Korver, Love, LeBron, Crowder, and Smith. We saw a little bit of that late in the game against the Bucks and that’s when the Cavs began to pull away. LeBron drives and kicks to dudes who are ready to launch it from deep. I mean, Korver was absolutely on fire.
I expect Coach Lue to go to this lineup when he needs points. All they have to do is run backscreens and floppy actions to get open threes.
I expect Love to have an incredible season. Kyrie leaving helps him the most.
0-3: Lost to Atlanta, Sacramento, and Houston
Defense it their issue. They don’t have a defensive anchor at the point guard position, and even Barnes gets blown by. In the Atlanta game, Barnes had an opportunity to shut Schroeder down and help close out the game. Both times he guarded DS, Barnes got beat badly. It’s not that he can’t make the stops, he’s just lazy.
Go look at the best defenders like Patrick Beverly. They are down low to the ground in a squat position, hands out, and square to their man. Then go look at Barnes who plays defense flat footed and standing. Defense is about effort. Similar to football, when you have to square up and make a tackle, the man lowest to the ground typically wins.
Dennis Smith Jr. is the real deal. It’ll come down to him, Ball, and Simmons for ROY. But, of course, Ball, if he plays half as well as Simmons and Smith will take the award. A, because of the popularity surrounding him. B, because he plays for the Lakers.
Going back to Barnes quickly. He didn’t score in the Atlanta game until late in the second quarter, and I think Matthews didn’t get it going until the third. That can’t happen if they want to win games. Barnes and Matthews have to get going early. Some of that is on Smith, some of it is on Carlisle, but a chunk of that is on Matthews and Barnes for not creating opportunities to score. They got those nice contracts to come in and create their own shots. Like, come on guys.
Mejri and Noel have been nice surprises so far. Love the energy they both bring. Merji has a knack for the block and could develop into the rim protector they haven’t had since Tyson Chandler. Both of those guys had bad games against Houston though, no doubt outclassed by the likes of Nene and Capella.
1-1: Lost to Utah, Beat Sacramento
Who the heck is Will Barton!? In some of the circles I run in, people are iffy on him. Then I talked to one of my buddies who was in the Denver front office, and he said gave Barton a nod, and said just watch how he comes out this year. Whelp, I have to admit it, he was right. Well, at least that’s the case thus far. They are getting some great play out of him and I hope he keeps it up.
Gary Harris is solid. Probably their best guard. Murray is getting better.
Jokic nearly had a triple-double against Utah. Dude is a great passer, and makes the right plays.
Defensively, the Nuggets look good. They look like they’ll shut down the lesser teams like Sacramento and make it tough for better teams like the Jazz. For the next two weeks they take an East coast tour and play against Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta, Brooklyn, and New York. So, by next week we’ll have a good idea if that inference is accurate.
2-1: Beat Hornets, Lost to Wizards, Beat the Knicks
Stanley Johnson and Andre Drummond can’t play together. Avery Bradley is their best player. Jackson needs to have a much better season than last year. Tobias Harris must play well consistently. Langston Galloway is solid off the bench.
Ellenson gives them some good minutes off the bench. He has a smooth game, and can score. He’s not going to light it up, but he’s definitely comfortable with the ball in his hands.
The Hornets game was a good win, but Tobias Harris was on fire that game. He couldn’t be stopped. They played the Wizards tough, and of course, they outclassed the Knicks.
Detroit will be a tough out against tier 2 teams (playoff teams in the 4, 5, and 6 range), but I don’t expect them to really challenge the better teams in the league. They play Minnesota next week, so that could be a challenge, but Minnesota needs to find their identity still.
Golden State Warriors:
1-2: Lost to Houston, Beat Pelicans, Lost to Memphis
The Warriors will be fine. I expected them to lose to Houston honestly. I just felt like they were due for an opening night letdown.
Memphis is a team that’s gritty, just like their coach, and they will get into your head, and that’s what happened last night. GSW has to realize that every team is coming after them on every night. They can’t allow themselves to get unraveled.
Against the Pelicans, they were down big early. But, you can always count on Boogie to play horrible defense, and the tide began to shift in the second quarter when he gave West two back-to-back open threes, which West easily hit. By half-time, the Warriors were back in the game, and they took the lead back from the Pelicans by the 10:18 point in the third.
3-0: Beat GSW, Sacramento and Dallas
I felt like GSW was set up for the loss on opening night. It just felt like the right situation for them to be upset. I don’t think the Rockets could beat them consistently. Mark your calendar. They play again on January 4th. GSW will be out for revenge, and will want to send a message. That will show us what the Rockets are really made of.
They beat Sac and Dallas, two games they should win. Houston and OKC may be the teams battling it out for a 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The loss of CP3 shouldn’t hurt them much. They need him for the playoffs. Harden can do it by himself at this point. He’ll run the point and be awesome until CP3 returns in about a month.
I love the rotation of Nene and Capella. That has to be one of the best Center rotations in the league. They are so different, but are great at what they do.
1-2: Beat Brooklyn, Lose to Portland, Lose to Miami
They may not make the playoffs, but at least they’ll be exciting. I have enjoyed watching them this week. They are scrappy on D, even though they’re bad. That being said, they get out and run, and they’re going to score over 100 points every game.
Oladipo and Collison get the ball up the court quickly. It’s nice to see Oladipo get loose and play free.
Here’s what separates a team like Pacers from the likes of Portland and other better teams. In the Trailblazer game on Friday, there was about a 4 play series in the second quarter where Evan Turner…I repeat…Evan Turner…took Oladipo into the block and owned him. That’s when Portland really began to separate from the Pacers. The Pacers had no answer for sets like that, and to Terry Stotts’ credit, he just kept going back to those sets over and over and over again.
Good teams have an identity. They find things that work and stick with them until the opposing team makes an adjustment to stop it.
To the Pacers’ credit, we can’t completely form an opinion about them. Their best player, Myles Turner, was out for their games against Portland and Miami because he got a concussion against Brooklyn.
Los Angeles Clippers:
2-0: Beat LAL and Phoenix
They will be better than they were last year. I don’t want to knock CP3, because he is a great guard, but you can see there’s a fog that’s been lifted over the team now that he’s gone.
Blake is going to put up HUGE numbers, and he finally gets to be the leader he’s always wanted to be. Well, kind of. Patrick Beverly is the true leader and tone setter, but Blake will be the face and get the credit.
The sign-and-trade with the Rockets was a fantastic move. Sometimes teams just need a fresh start.
All that being said, I could be getting ahead of myself. They played the Lakers and Phoenix. I don’t expect either of those teams to make the playoffs or to be over .500 by the end of the year. But, this week they have Utah, Portland, and Detroit.
As much as I hate to admit it, Austin Rivers is really good defensively. I mean, like he’s one of the best on-ball guard defenders in the league. Ugh, it makes me feel yucky to say. He made a few eye-popping defensive plays over the course of the week that I thoroughly enjoyed. With him and Beverly anchoring the point guard, and Jordan at the rim, it looks like they’ll be a tough out every night. I’ll be watching Tuesday’s game against Utah closely. That should shed a lot of light on them.
Los Angeles Lakers:
1-1: Lost to Clippers, Beat the Suns
Walton is still figuring out his lineups, but the Lakers will go as Ball and Ingram go. Both those guys had tough games against the Clippers, but they offensively exploded against the Suns. Being so young, I think they’ll have trouble with good defensive teams like LAC, but will take advantage in games against equal and lesser talent. I think they’ll win the games they’re supposed to win, which is a good sign for their future.
Trading D-Lo was the right move. I am kind of wishing they traded Randle instead of Mozgov, not that Mozgov would play for LAL, but at least they could bury him on the bench. Randle’s minutes are pretty much ALL bad. Walton may as well give it to Kuzma. Their impact of the team is night and day.
Kuzma is always on the move. He reminds me of a Rip Hamilton. He just knows how to get into the right spaces.
Randle, his shot is still flat, so he shoots it short often. He bulldozes his way to the rim and it often ends in a bad shot. He thinks he’s an expert ball-handler and he isn’t. And defensively, he’s abysmal. I don’t want to pile on the guy. I think he actually has a lot of potential, but he hasn’t figured out how to play yet. Until he figures it out though, his minutes should keep decreasing.
They have to figure out their back-up point guard situation. It either needs to be Caruso or Ennis. It looks like Walton is leaning towards Caruso right now. The spot could be Vander Blue’s if he can get his act together.
There are times where Ingram just doesn’t get the ball. He just disappears. He scores in bunches, when he should be steadily scoring all game. So, Walton understanding this, is forcing the ball to Ingram on the first three plays of the game and the half.
The Lakers have turned into a really unselfish team in just a year. By getting rid of D-Lo and Nick Young, who suffocated the development of Ingram, and by bringing in Ball, the Lakers have put themselves in a good position.
Lopez closed the game out from them against the Suns. He is their steady vet. Still very capable, the offense is running through him when they need a bucket.
Don’t go underneath the screen against Lonzo Ball. It gives him too many options. I can see that already. Phoenix dared him to shoot the ball, and Zo torched them from 3. Anybody who plays that kid needs to get up into him like Beverly did. Going underneath the screen is going to get you a three ball in the face.
2-0: Beat Pelicans and GSW
I can’t stress the importance of having a solid point guard anchor and defensive stopper enough. Conley and Gasol do a very good job on defense. That hides so many inefficiencies.
They ran the Pelicans out the gym earlier in the week, and later in the week, they punched GSW right in the mouth. Fizdale has an attitude about him, and thinks they can beat anyone, and he’s got them believing that.
Weirdly, they play both Houston and Dallas twice next week. Not sure why they NBA did that, but both of those mini-series should be interesting. I think they lose two of those game though. The play Dallas on a back-to-back and I think Dallas takes one of those games. I also think they beat Houston on Monday, but lose to them on Saturday.
1-1: Lost to Magic, Beat Indiana
Both of those games were close, too close. That tells me that Miami doesn’t have a huge margin for error this year.
In the loss to the Magic they shot horribly from behind the arc. I mean, come on do you keep taking threes even when they aren’t falling. Dion Waiters was the most egregious offender going 1-6 from behind the arc. They are going to lose a lot of games playing like that.
Indiana played without their best player in Turner. If they had him, they may have won, and Miami may be 0-2. Goodness, Indiana is an exciting team. Love how they get out and run.
They play Atlanta on Monday so we’ll get to see if this margin for error thing holds true. After Atlanta, their next three games are the Spurs, Boston, and Minnesota. All of those will be tough games that should test them.
If they lose to Atlanta, then I expect them to drop all three of the next games. Could be a tough 1-5 start for the Heat.
2-1: Beat Boston, Lost to the Cavs, Beat Portland
This is the tale of 2 teams. The first team moves the ball and gets open shots. The second team watched the Greek Freak do freaky things.
That’s why they lost to the Cavs. Giannis, as good as he is, has to force his teammates to get involved. He can go and get a bucket whenever they need him to. It’s good to have him. He is an MVP level player. The issue with that is, his teammates begin to watch his greatness as oppose to playing with and off him.
The main person is Middleton. He missed a few shots against the Cavs, and you can see it got to him. He went gun-shy. Instead of attacking the rim and creating shots, he deferred way too much. Same thing with Brogdon. Brogdon wants to create, and that’s good, but he makes ill-advised passes at times when he should be taking the shot or finishing a layup.
Those things that separate the good teams from the great teams.
1-1: Lose to Spurs, Beat Utah
They are finding their identity. The game tonight against OKC should be a good test. They’d have been better off keeping Rubio than signing Teague honestly. At least Rubio plays defense and passes well.
The good shooting continues for Wiggins surprisingly. He’s really, really good. If I had to pick two players from that team who’d make the All-Star game, it would be Wiggins and Towns.
Minnesota barely beat Utah, but thankfully Crawford still has some magic left in the tank. He single-handedly won that game. If you ask me, they should be 0-2. I think they’ll be looking for Crawford to be the veteran that closes games down the stretch, much like Johnson does for Utah.
That was an excellent pick-up for them.
They play Indiana, Detroit, and OKC a second time on Friday. They could easily be 2-4.
New Orleans Pelicans:
0-2: Lost to Memphis and GSW
No defense. Boogie is just lazy, and their guards can’t stop anybody. Yes, I am looking at you Holiday. Until that changes, I expect them to not make the playoffs again.
I could be wrong though. Very excited to see their game versus LAL tonight. You’d think they’d beat the Lakers, but I think Zo, Ingram, and the boys are going to give the Pels a run for the money.
I think New Orleans and their faithful fans are in for a rude awakening that they just aren’t a good team. They won’t be competitive against top teams, and they’ll struggle against the lower half.
I think the front office is going to have to make an in-season move. Yes, that means bye-bye Boogie. They need help at the forward position badly.
After the LAL game, they play Portland, Sacramento, and Cleveland. All could be losses. We’re talking about a possible 0-6 start here.
New York Knicks:
0-2: Lost to OKC and Detroit.
Porzingis is putting up All-Star numbers this year, and will continue to. I doubt he makes the All-Star game though. He needs help. Teams and fronting and backing him in the post. He won’t be able to bang with the likes of Andre Drummond, who muscled his way to 21 points and 12 rebounds. And, that’s the issue. Porzingis is going to struggle against the stronger players in the league. He only had 5 rebounds against Detroit. He’s got to get stronger.
Kanter is a solid edition. He’s going to give them a double-double every night.
At the very least, the Knicks will compete and their games will be interesting. That’s good news for Knicks fans. Enjoy the growth of Porzingis.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
1-1: Beat the Knicks, Lost to the Jazz
Everybody was so excited for OKC after they manhandled the Knicks. I’ll admit it, I was hype too. But, we got to see a different side of the new team against the Jazz.
Now, granted, they may been looking forward to Sunday’s game against Minnesota, but that’s no excuse.
Offensively, the Jazz are good, but they’ve got to play defense. It was way too easy to get for the Jazz to get into the paint. Mitchell and Rubio were driving and dishing with ease. The driving and dishing opened up the 3 for Ingles. Ingles was on fire. Burks had some great shots on a curling action in the paint.
OKC also got down early to Utah, and Utah is a defensive and methodical team that likes to dictate the pace. If they are up, it’s going to be really hard to get back into the game unless you play solid defense, and um….the Thunder did not play good defense.
To further illustrate my point, on how the Jazz dictate the pace, the score was in the 40s in the third quarter. Iso-ball is not going to work well against the Jazz.
Side Note: Raymond Felton looks like he’s eating a lot of Oklahoma beef…pause…
2-1: Beat Miami, Lost to Brooklyn, Beat Cleveland
This team could easily be 0-3. Miami and Cleveland basically gave them wins.
The Magic snapped a 17 game skid against the Cavaliers on Saturday night. Slow clap. No, it is not because they are better. That win had everything to do with catching the Cavalier on a back-to-back.
Simmons is a solid edition. This is going to be his breakout year. Very happy he got paid. He deserves it.
Herzonja seems to be improving. Isaac is raw. They both won’t be ready for another couple of years.
Vucevic is really good. Too bad he’s playing in the wrong era. That being said, he could make a huge impact on other teams.
The play Brooklyn, the Spurs, Charlotte, and New Orleans, and should lose all of those games next week.
0-3: Lost to Washington, Boston, and Toronto
I’ll give them a break. They played three guaranteed playoff teams (even though I think Boston will be in a 6,7, or 8 seed). They did their best to hang in there with Washington and Boston, but it’s tough with Embiid on minute restrictions.
Plus, it appears as though he’s not going to play on back-to-backs, so expect them to get torched on nights they have to play good teams on a back-to-back. That’s what happened with Toronto. They got their doors blown off by the Hornets.
So, we really can’t judge them completely until we see Embiid giving us 36 to 40 minutes per game, because I think they may beat Boston and Washington if Embiid is out there.
Ben Simmons is…cough, cough… unstoppable. Well, at least he is right now. Thank God the Sixers have J.J. Reddick and Covington, two people who can stretch the defense. So, it doesn’t matter if his defender gives him the shot. Simmons is so big and strong, he can back down any guard or forward into the post who is checking him, and if somebody rotates to help, Simmons is going to find Reddick, Covington, Embiid, or Bayless.
I don’t know what the Sixers are going to do for the back-up center. Neither Amir Johnson, nor Okafor are worth the minutes they play. It must hurt to see Noel playing so good right now in Dallas. Oh, I could just see him and Simmons hooking up on alley-oops off of the pick and roll. Ah well, no reason crying over our Exes, right?
Not a good week for Fultz. Put it behind you and get out of your own head buddy.
0-3: Lost to Portland, the Lakers, and the Clippers
Earl Watson hasn’t figured out who he’s going to play yet. The Suns don’t have an identity, and I’m thinking they are looking at moving one of their guards.
Booker is untouchable. Ulis is solid, but he gets beat way too much. Bledsoe their second best guard, but Watson will go through long stretched without playing him, like on Friday against the Lakers. And, they needed him. As soon as he put Bledsoe back in against the Lakers, their play picked up. Mike James is actually a great floor general, and you can see his overseas experience shining through. He’s probably their second best defender at the guard position. But yeah, one of these guys isn’t making it to the end of the season.
Their defense is abysmal. In three games they’ve given up 386 points. That has to be the worse in the league. The issue is in pick and roll. I can’t tell you how many times Tyson Chandler is getting roasted because the guard isn’t fighting over the screen hard enough, or because Chandler isn’t hedging it off. The effort just isn’t even there.
Jackson is shooting better than I thought he would be at this point. He’s hit some corner 3s. He’s solid on defense, as we expected.
Dragan Bender is the surprise player for me. He’s giving them solid minutes. He comes in and rebounds well. He’s a solid screener. He can hit the three when he’s open on the roll, and unlike many of his teammates, he plays HELP DEFENSE.
Booker and Len don’t play well together. Len gets called for an offensive foul on screens way too often. Booker has looked Len off on plays where Len could have an easy bucket. It just doesn’t seem to be working out with those two.
Need more out of T.J. Warren. He plays lights out against the bad teams, and disappears against the good. What kind of player do you want to be T.J.?
2-1: Beat Phoenix, Beat Indiana, Lose to Milwaukee
Stotts has given his team an identity. They beat the teams they’re supposed to, and they give themselves a chance to win every night against the best teams in the league.
Lillard and C.J. are great shooters. Stotts doesn’t run a ton of sets with the two of them out there. They love the pick and roll with Nurkic at the top of the key, and one of them typically will shoot off of it. Nurkic is a decent passer, so if it’s just one of them and Nurkic on the court, they let Nurk initiate the offensive set from the top of the key. He’s given them about 6 assists in their last two outings.
1-2: Lost to Houston, Beat Dallas, Lost to Denver
Better than I expected. Too young and too old to be good on bac-to-backs against rested teams. That’s why Denver ran them off the court Saturday.
Sacramento has a good future with Stein, Fox, and Buddy. Buddy spent some time in the gym, and he’s hitting this really quick step-back three with ease. He has a stretch against Houston where he hit three in a row. Fox is a one man fastbreak, and Stein, or well, Cauley-Stein, is attacking the defensive glass and finishing strong on the roll to the rim. He still has a lot to learn about being a rim protector.
It’s good to have vets like Hill. He singlehandedly closed out the Dallas game. Harrison Barnes had Dallas storming back, and honestly, I know this is about the Kings, but that was one of the best stretches of play I’ve ever seen out of Barnes. Anyways, they will need Hill to continue to close games.
They play Phoenix on Monday. That should be a good barometer test for both teams who are kind of at the same place. My guess, the Suns will win, because both teams play bad defense, but at least the Suns can score. In Sacramento’s three games, they have only hit 100 once, and the other two times they didn’t even come close.
San Antonio Spurs:
2-0: Beat Minnesota and Chicago
Pop is a basketball deity. How are the Spurs even winning? How did they even cover the players on the Timberwolves?
I’ll tell you how.
The Spurs are one of the few teams that plays together. Now, the verdict is obviously still out on them. Chicago is a game they should have won, and Minnesota, although they have added some great pieces, are still searching for an identity.
Dejounte Murray is not the ‘deer in the headlights’ rookie that took over the starting role when Tony Parker got hurt in last year’s playoffs. In just a short amount of time, he’s started to blossom, and we can see that in how comfortable he looks leading the team. Tony Parker will play when he returns from his injury, but it’s looking like his starting days are over.
LA is out to prove something. That’s clear after two straight nights of double-double performances. He wants to show that he can put the team on is back in the absence of Leonard. I’ll be the first to admit, I do not think the 3 year/ $72.3M contract extension they signed him to is a good deal, especially considering how he performed down the stretch in last year’s playoffs.
But, I will give R.C. Buford the benefit of the doubt. I just wish they could have kept Simmons, who began to come into his own during last year’s playoffs. A lineup of Simmons, Gay, Leonard, Murray, and LA would have been fantastic.
I still feel like this may be a down year for the Spurs though. They play Toronto on Monday, which should be a good test, and then they travel to Miami on Wednesday, so we’ll get to see how they look against a couple tier 2 teams.
2-0: Beat Chicago and Philly
Masai Ujiri was able to keep their core together. I feel like Norman Powell is more worthy of the Josh Richardson deal than Josh Richardson (4 year/ $42M). That’s the first good thing he did.
Secondly, he didn’t go for the New York Knicks job, even if the Knicks reportedly “decided not to pursue him.”
Thirdly, he added some solid pieces in O.G., a stocky guard from the Hoosiers, and C.J. Miles from the Pacers (in a sign-and-trade with Cory Joseph), who has been lights out from behind the arc so far. The sum of those two additions, I believe will more than make-up for trading Joseph and losing Patterson. They are fresh faces, and I think they’ll fit in better.
Now, Toronto hasn’t been tested yet. They played a weak Bulls team who can’t guard anybody, and a Sixers team that has yet to find their identity. They travel west to play the Spurs on Monday and the Warriors on Thursday, so we’ll see what they’re can do against the NBA’s best defensive teams.
2-1: Beat Denver, Lost to Minnesota, Beat OKC
Lose George Hill. Lose Gordon Hayward. Dare I say that they’re better?
All five starters can give you anything between 15 to 20 points every game. Favors is back and looks like he’s in good form. Rodney Hood has stepped up. It looks like he may average around 20 points per game this season. Here’s the crazy thing though. Hood didn’t even play against OKC.
Defensively, Utah is right at the top of the league. That aspect of their game only got better when they added Rubio, who is without a doubt, one of the best defensive guards in the league. With a point guard anchor and a rim protector in Gobert, the Jazz are going to be a tough out every night.
Another thing on the Jazz’s side is they dribble the air out of the ball. They take their time getting into their sets and like to run a methodical offense. Teams that are bad defensively cannot do that.
Teams that are bad defensively have to try to score to keep up high-powered offenses. The Jazz are good enough to get stops, and run the offense they want. That’s why their games are relatively low scoring, especially the ones they win where they dictate the pace the entire game.
Donovan Mitchell. Guy is already good at driving and dishing. Had 6 assists against OKC.
2-0: Beat Philly and Detroit
They haven’t really been tested yet. They could have easily lost against the Sixers has Embiid not been on minutes restrictions.
Oubre, Porter, Beal, and Wall may be the strongest starting 1-4 in the Eastern Conference.
Gortat is not a rim protector, so they are going to have a hard time stopping people at the rim. That’s going to be their Achilles Heel. Players like Andre Drummond are just going to muscle them around.
As LeBron begins to fad over the next couple of years, the door is going to open for the Washington to make it to the finals. I actually think they will, if not next year, then the following year.
They play Denver, LAL, GSW, and Sacramento next week. I think they lose to Denver and GSW. LAL and Sacramento will be tough, because those teams have physical big men.
It will be exciting to see Fox and Wall go at it. Fox is a young version of Wall.