NBA basketball is back and I couldn’t be happier. Shout out to League Pass for having the annual free week of viewing. I went on a legitimate binge. And after that binge, I would like to toss out some reactions that are both unqualified and way too early. Rookies have been balling, new additions have been struggling, and dynasty’s are falling (and falling hard).
The Warriors are Finished
Everyone stating this when the Warriors started the season 0-2 were overreacting. Sure, they had lost BIG to the Phoenix Suns, but it was way too early to write off the defending champs (regardless of personnel). And then…Steph Curry broke his hand. He’s going to be out for AT LEAST three months. The Warriors won’t make the playoffs. D-Lo will likely still ball out, I’m a fan of his game. But the team has so little depth and Draymond came into the season out of shape for the third straight season. With the loss of Steph and Steve Kerr not expecting Klay Thompson back this season, the Warriors could be a cellar team. When it rains, it pours for the Warriors. In the good times, and the bad. On the plus side, they do keep their pick if it falls in the lottery and the only way this team could improve is through the draft. So that’s interesting.
The Heat are a Top Three Team
In the East. Pat Riley and Spoelstra are the best Coach and GM pairing in the league. Pop and R.C. Buford are a very close second. Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have been good but they have been operating mainly with lottery picks for several years. What Pat and Spo have been able to do with minimal draft picks and a lot of salary on the books has been nothing short of masterful. I could write a whole article about their off-season (hell, I still might) but here’s the highlights.
- They acquired Jimmy Butler (easily the best player on the roster now) for Josh Richardson and a first round pick.
- Took Tyler Herro at the back end of the lottery.
- Signed Kendrick Nunn as an un-drafted rookie.
The Heat are 4-1. Herro is averaging 16 points a game and shooting 35.7% from three. Nunn has been red hot, scoring 22 a game on 48.4% shooting from three. Bam Adebayo is an early front runner for MIP. Jimmy Butler has bonded quickly with his teammates. Justice Winslow appears to be taking another step forward. They are a scary team that honestly resemble a poor man’s Clippers. They will lock you down defensively and have scorching perimeter shooters. Couple that with a brilliant coach and you have a top three seed in the Eastern Conference.
Rookies are More NBA Ready than Ever Before
Last season we saw a number of rookies immediately contribute to their respective teams. Ayton started nearly every game and averaged a double double off the bat. Luka Doncic nearly made the All Star game. Trae Young established himself as the best PG in the class. Marvin Bagley flashed potential as the future of the center position. Even late round guys like Josh Okogie started more than half of his team’s games. Rookies have never been more ready to make the jump from college (or other avenues) to the NBA. That statement has only gotten truer this season.
Ja Morant already has a 30/9 game to his name, along with a block at the buzzer to send a game to OT. RJ Barrett is averaging 18/6/3 and looks like the play-making wing he’s supposed to be. PJ Washington had 7 threes in his debut, breaking the rookie record. About 11 out of first 13 picks have been in the headlines for their impressive play. We already mentioned the Heat rookies. Taking developmental guys may become less and less in vogue as everyone becomes more easily transitioned to the NBA.
The Pacers Slow Start is Only Getting Worse
The Pacers finally got their first win against the Brooklyn Nets after starting 0-3. Despite All Star level play from new addition Malcolm Brogdon and the front-court, the worries I had about them in the preseason have proven to be true. They have no depth. The support structure that was there when Oladipo went down last season is gone and the team has no leadership while he continues his recovery. Having no proven talent in the front-court off the bench and the lead guard position has killed the Pacers thus far. Their bench is last in scoring per game. 28th in rebounds. 25th in blocks. Bottom third in +/-. So far, they have used their bench the 3rd least in the league. That’s not going to work anymore. Myles Turner went down with a nasty injury in that win over the Nets. Fortunately, it seems that he avoided a major injury, being only week-to-week. However, the Pacers will now be starting TJ Leaf. Oof. Their slow start is only going to get worse. The hole they may dig before Oladipo comes back may be too big for him to have an impact on.