We’re almost a month into the NBA season and the excitement is already building. We have the Golden State Warriors out here making sure no one makes excuses that anybody is injured. Today the Houston Rockets fired Kevin McHale – after starting the season 4-7 – and handed the team over to 36 year old interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. At the top of the Eastern Conference you’ll find the teams we all expected to see (Cleveland, Chicago, and Atlanta). Surprisingly the East has been quite competitive. It’s still very early so we could see things change up.
The Detroit Pistons have been a nice surprise so far this season. The Pistons have gotten outstanding play from Andre Drummond (averaging 19.1 points/game and 18.9 reb/game) who has already posted three 20-20 games. He fell two rebounds short (25 points and 18 rebounds) last night after Detroit battled back to defeat Cleveland. Other key contributors include Reggie Jackson (leads team in scoring), Marcus Morris, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. In order to make a bigger they’ll need Ersan Illyasova and rookie Stanley Johnson to pick up their games with shooting guard Jodie Meeks out. Meeks is expected to be out 3 more months after having foot surgery. They’re also waiting for Brandon Jennings to return from his Achilles injury that occurred last season.
Three teams from the Western Conference have been a nice surprise – Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, and Minnesota Timberwolves – to most NBA fans. Each team is in the top 10 of the “too early to be reading” conference standings. According to Hollinger’s NBA Team Stats, each team is in the top 15 for PACE (number of possessions a team uses per game). This comes as no surprise due to the talented young players that each team has. Danilo Gallinari leads the Nuggets but is helped out by a number of players. Will Barton who came over from Portland is 2nd on the team in scoring. Rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has shown flashes that he can run the show but he’ll need to cut down on his 4.5 turnovers/game if Denver wants to remain relevant in the West.
Phoenix is led by guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight who both are averaging 20 plus points and 5 assists through the team’s first 10 games. Markieff Morris seems to have gotten over his twin brother no longer being Phoenix and Tyson Chandler is providing a solid force on the defensive end.
Finally the Minnesota Timberwolves round out the surprising teams. 2nd year wing player Andrew Wiggins leads the team in scoring at 20.9 points/game. Four other Timberwolves are averaging double figures so far this season. One of those four is rookie big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. The youngster has been under the guidance of veteran power forward Kevin Garnett.
Three playoff teams from last season – New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, and Milwaukee Bucks – pop up in this category so far in the early season. The common theme amongst the 3 teams is no effort or urgency, which has led to the trio being terrible defensively. All 3 teams are in the bottom of the league for Rebound Rate and Defensive Efficiency. The Pelicans have been hit by injuries but that’s still no excuse for the poor performances they’ve put out this season. The Pelicans are 1-10 at the moment and could end up 1-19 after the first 20 games!!
Houston’s trade for Ty Lawson isn’t going as planned. The Rockets haven’t seen the point guard look comfortable yet. His 5.8 assist/game average is well below his career numbers. James Harden’s need to have the basketball in his hands could be one of the problems but a change may be needed seeing how he’s averaging 4.8 turnovers/game. Dwight Howard has played in only 7 of the 11 games so far since he’s resting because of injuries. Remember Trevor Ariza’s 3-point shooting ability? The small forward is only shooting 31.5% from long range and a dismal 33.6% overall. For what is worth, James Harden is only shooting 37.2% overall and an ugly 26.2% on 9.4 attempts/game from 3-point range (luckily he seems to shoot 35 free throws every night). Terrible defense and poor shooting numbers as a team (42.3% FG and 29.0% 3-point FG) are a couple reasons why Kevin McHale is already “Gone Fishing”.
Milwaukee’s defensive struggles are most surprising because they were 2nd in Defensive Efficiency last season only behind the Golden State Warriors. They’re also last in PACE. Those factors along with what appears to be a stronger Eastern Conference and trying to mix in new players and guys returning from injury could continue to cause problems. But I expect the Bucks to turn things around as they’ve only played 11 games.
How long before the triangle runs through Kristaps Porzingis and not Melo? Porzingis matched up very well against Anthony Davis on Sunday. AD dropped 36 but KP was able to bother him at times & moved well on both ends of the court. He’s constantly making an impact by blocking or altering shots. Once he finds his game offensively that will give Melo more room to operate.
On Twitter, the homie QB asked “Sixers win or GS lose…Which one happens first?” I went with GS loses first. Clippers will beat them Thursday. As for the Sixers, they play the Pacers tonight and then have a 6 game road trip. They’ll beat the Lakers on December 1st to get their first win.
I mentioned the New Orleans Pelicans injuries earlier and sadly, one of the players is Anthony Davis. So far in his young career AD has yet to play a full 82 game season. Last season he was able to play 72 total games – 68 in the regular season and 4 in the postseason – for the Pelicans.
STEPH CURRY…I think that’s all that is needed.
All stats via: