2 Weeks have passed, and we have more takeaways, and we're still in SMALL. SAMPLE. SIZE. SEASON.
Another week has gone by in the NBA season, and just as we expected. The Pistons and Magic are tied with the Celtics atop the Eastern Conference and The Grizzlies are first in the West #SmallSampleSize.
Let's see what has happened to this point.
The Orlando Magic...actually sorry... *ahem* THE OFFENSIVE JUGGERNAUT ORLANDO MAGIC
Ever since Dwight Howard was traded way back when, I can't remember the last time I put other teams to the side to watch the Orlando Magic. Usually, they were on the lower end of my "games I'll watch on replay later" list.
So far this year, the Magic have played a fun brand of basketball, and on top of that, they have some of its young talented players playing in the right positions for their skill-set to grow.
The Magic are 5-2 with impressive wins over the Cavs, and a complete dismantling of the Spurs and they have done so with fun OFFENSIVE basketball posting the 2nd best offensive rating (110.9 points per 100 possessions) and the 2nd best Assist-to-turnover ratio (1.65). They are also fourth in three-pointers made (12.7) and lead the NBA in three-point percentage (44.1% !!!!). There are legitimate questions as to whether or not this is sustainable. Aaron Gordon, who is beginning the year starting at his natural power forward position, is shooting a ridiculous 59% from three on 4.4 attempts. The three-point shot --along with not being forced to play small forward like last year-- has always been one of the main keys to tapping into his potential, but 59% from three for a career 30% three point shooter is not sustainable.
The Magic have 2 players (Gordon, and Evan Fournier) shooting over 55% from three, and Nikola Vucevic is shooting 40.6% from deep. The shooting will cool off but at least head coach Frank Vogel has moved towards a modern offense. Rookie Jonathan Issac has shown flashes as a defensive monster with his length, quickness, and athleticism for a 6'10 rangy power forward. The Magic are fun and have fun players playing well!
With the departure of Carmelo Anthony the keys to the Knicks were handed down to Kristaps Porzingis, and he has run away with the opportunity.
Porzingis to this point has averaged 29.3 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 48% from the field and 36% from three. The first three games were about what many expected from the Knicks this year, but they have strung together a nice win streak thanks in large part to Porzingis doing crazy things like shooting the ball from the Hamptons.
By the way, I'd recommend re-watching the Knicks/Nuggets game. Or at least watch highlights of it. The Jokic/Zinger match-up was awesome and is an NBA Twitter debate projected to real life.
Side note: Knicks' Rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina has been pleasant to watch defensively.
Enough of the Otto Porter "Max Contract" Jokes
Seriously, what were the Wizards suppose to do? The team was $8 million dollars over the cap last year and had to retain its young talent somehow with very limited options in free agency. The Wizards matched a $104 Million dollar offer sheet from the Nets and so far Otto Porter has proved to be worth every penny of that max extension. He won't sustain his 51% shooting from 3, but it does prove that the jump he made in his three-point percentage in 2015-16 to last season --36.7% to 43.4% -- wasn't a fluke and it's here to stay. His rebounding has taken another jump so far, as well as his game overall.
The reason I loved Porter when he was drafted in 2013 was that he seemed to be the perfect small forward to play off of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wizards were smart to match the offer sheet, he has made strides every season since he's been in the league.
The majority of NBA fans need to stop gawking and questioning the money "good" NBA players make now. Quit taking the number at face value. Don't forget, it's a new league, with more money than ever thanks to a salary cap jump, and teams like the Wizards or Grizzlies in the case of Mike Conley signing a fat contract extension in 2016, need to shell out money to keep the players they developed.
It's frustrating to no end, I had a recent bout with NBA Twitter about Gary Harris' contract extension.
The Cavs defense
I know what you're going to say. The Cavs have LeBron (fact.) and the defense was bad last season until the playoffs. That's true, but this year feels different, and the rumors of LeBron leaving magnify the issues even more.
Who would've thought adding Derrick Rose, a 35-year-old Dwyane Wade, and Jeff Green, wouldn't improve the defense? A surprise I tell you! Well...not really. Couple that with the fact that Jae Crowder has been overrated as a defensive player since his 2015-16 season, where the praise was actually warranted, you have a defense that is in the bottom four in defensive rating. Which by the way, is keeping cozy company with the Mavericks, Nets, and Timberwolves.
But, I shouldn't be the one to tell you the story. Check out the twitter feed of some of my fellow Hashtag writers who happen to be Cavs fans.
Yeah... I have my doubts that the Cavs will turn their defense around this time. LeBron has a -5.4 +/- rating, which is the first time since his 2nd stint in Cleveland that he has had that in his first 6 games. That will change but man, the Cavs are not looking good.
I was one of the people who was high on the Clippers before the season started, granted everyone stays healthy --as a Sixer fan, I've couched expectations with health 10,000 times-- because Blake Griffin would finally have control of the offense after CP3 was traded to Houston. I've always referenced the month Griffin produced when CP3 was out with an injury in the 2013-14 season. That year from January 4th to February 9th he put up 27.4ppg/8.3rpg/4.5apg/ on 56.4% shooting. He's been getting close to that production averaging 23.3/8.5/4.3 on 47% shooting, but there is a key difference, THE THREE BALL! Blake started to dip his toe in that range last season, but so far this year he has shot 42.4% from three on 5.5 attempts per game. I'm so ready for Point Blake, this roster was a good fit on paper and seems to ring true so far in the young season.
The Timberwolves defense stinks
They rank dead last in defensive rating allowing 113.3 points per 100 possessions. Karl-Anthony Towns for all his worldly talents on offense, has once again began the year playing some really terrible defense. Out of all NBA starterss who have played in more than 5 games this season, he ranks 2nd to last in defensive rating at 115.6 per NBA.com. Last year he was dead last in Defensive real-plus minus among centers, keep in mind Jahlil Okafor exists. His poor defensive stats matches up with the tape, lack of awareness, poor rotations etc. He is incredible offensively, and he has the tools to be an above average defender, he showed against Thunder on Oct 27th that he can be just that. His rookie year against the Warriors in Oakland on national TV he showed flashes of being a swithcy type of big. At some point he needs to put it all together on defense. I'm still Timberwolves skeptic.
Despite only returning 4 players from last year, are first in defensive rating and 6th in both rebounds per game, and rebounding percentage. The rebounding is surprising considering that I still thought it would be a weakness, but the Celtics have wings 6-7 or above attacking the glass and Al Horford is putting in work on the boards too. We'll see if it keeps up but Brad Stevens is a special coach. Anything is possible.
The Sixers are making this list for 2nd straight week, mainly because Ben Simmons is somehow really freaking good already. I was high on Ben Simmons and quite frankly, anyone who didn't have him number 1 in the 2016 draft was fooling themselves. With that said, I must admit I did not expect him to average 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists on 53% shooting to start the year. Forget Rookie of the Year this guy could be in the All-star game if he keeps this up. Scary part is he said he feels like he could be playing better. As a Process Truster, this tweet beautifully sums up everything from the last four years.
In case you're wondering, no, I'm not worried about The Warriors.