THE NBA season is two weeks old, which gives us a big enough sample size to make some assumptions about players and teams. Some things have gone as expected (San Antonio are San Antonio, Giannis and Kristaps are still aliens) and some things have caught us by surprise (Cleveland currently sits 13th in the East). even though we have played under 10% of the season, some topics are quickly becoming consistent new stories, for better or worse.
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I’LL admit I didn’t see this coming. I wasn’t aware that Aaron Gordon was going to become a fusion of Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins in his fourth professional season of basketball. The Magic are bombing away from behind the arc and it’s paying off early with Orlando atop the league leaders in notable three-point stats. That offensive potency has led to a 6-2 record with impressive wins over the Cavs, Spurs and last night the Grizzlies. They might not be able to keep this torrid pace up as one of the leagues best three-point shooting teams, but there is something in Orlando that fans haven’t had for years. Hope.
LaMarcus Aldridge Without Kawhi
*THEY are meant to slide this season, this was finally the one*. Stop me if you’ve heard this before when referring to the San Antonio Spurs. I know they have dropped their last three, but it’s through no fault of LaMarcus Aldridge’s play. Taking out his stinker against the Celtics, Aldridge has started the year on a tear scoring over 24 in every contest and filling in as a temporary superstar in Kawhi Leonard’s absence. Everyone was ready to run him out of town after last year’s playoffs but Aldridge might not be dead weight after all.
Image from miamiherald.com
The Greek MVP
THE hype is real, Giannis is unstoppable. He’s shooting 60% from the field, grabbing over 10 rebounds a game and all the while is putting up just over 31 points a night. It hasn’t translated to a ton of on-court success yet for the Bucks, but it’s clear the Antetokounmpo is the favourite for the MVP in the early season. What’s scary is he’s doing so without a reliable jump shot and if he figures out how to stroke a three then we are all doomed.
CHICAGO got crapped on for taking the ‘Finish Dirk’ in the draft last year and passing on supposed surefire prospects like Malik Monk and Dennis Smith Jr. Through the first six games of his career, Markkanen has shown that the Bulls have got a good one on their hands. Fresh off a new career high 25 points against the Heat, he now averages 17.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG through six games and has hit nearly three shots from behind the arc a game at 39.5%. Damn!
LeBron James’ Assist Crown
SAY what you will about the Cavaliers right now, but ‘Point-LeBron’ might be here to stay. He averaged 6.3 assists through the teams first few games, but after moving to the starting point guard role James has put up 52 dimes in five games. He is currently fourth on the per game assist tally and is a few off of the leader Russell Westbrook. If he keeps chalking up big numbers don’t rule out King James claiming the assist crown for the first time in his career.
The Suns ‘Rebuild’
DON’T be fooled into thinking the Suns are back. They have won four of their last five since firing Earl Watson, but I’m not convinced they are on the right track. We know that Devin Booker can score, but his shooting percentages have been an issue early on and don’t even get me started on his defense. We have no idea who can play in the backcourt next to him (one thing I’m sure of is it won’t be Eric Bledsoe), we have no idea who their center of the future is, and Marquese Chriss still loves to foul. They lack a clear direction and purpose and while there are young with plenty of still guys on the roster that can become good they are still a few years away from being a few years away.
Image from columbian.com
MARK my words Markelle Fultz won’t become the next Anthony Bennett. He is just a fortnight into his NBA career so the kid deserves to be cut some slack. That fortnight, however, has been a pretty woeful one and Fultz now finds himself on the pine trying to heal his busted shoulder. His shoulder and shooting form has been a popular talking point in the seasons early going and as a result many are throwing the bust label his way already. Not exactly how he wanted to start his professional basketball career I’m sure.
Cleveland Cavaliers Defense
IN the words of LeBron James, it’s only October. That doesn’t mean the Cavaliers can avoid their issues though which start and end with defense. I’m sure that come June they will be the team out of the East gunnin’ for the franchises second championship, but they won’t be there for long if they can’t fix their issues on the defensive side of the ball. Alot of the Cavs players have addressed the issue and discussed that it’s a mental thing and they need to switch on. With one of the oldest rosters in the league that mental switch will probably get flipped closer to the playoffs as they rest their bodies early on. Yet, they need to show some signs of progress or this season could spiral out of control.
AS we have seen already, NBA coaches are no longer safe. No one lost their job last season, the first time in 46 years that no coaches were fired from the start of one season to the start of the next. Earl Watson lasted just three games and if current trends continue the likes of Fred Hoiberg, Mike Budenholzer, Alvin Gentry and David Joerger could join Watson in unemployment.