Five Talking Points for the NBA Season
It's Opening Night in the NBA.
Since it may have been a while since your thoughts have been in hoops mode, so it'd be good to ease into with an obviosity.
So, the focus here is to dive into five observations that could wind sharing a stage with the favorites.
1. Giannis at the point
It looks like Jason Kidd is really committed to playing Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard, and full marks for his commitment.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Greek Freak’s work, check it out.
- Dude’s 6-11 inches tall, but homer Milwaukee blogs will tell you he’s a legit 7-footer;
- He actually played point for much of last season after the All-Star break; and
- He even flirted with putting up a triple double any given night with sizzling averages of 18.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 7.2 apg.
What’s even more interesting are his assist numbers month by month. Here are his averages:
- November ... 2.6
- December ... 3.0
- January ... 3.0
- February ... 4.9; dude played the PG during the last two weeks
- March ... 7.2
- April ... 7.1
That’s a huge jump since becoming a backcourt fixture.
The Bucks only went 11-17 after the All-Star break, and the team as a whole made a practice of being underwhelming.
If they can get past the albatross of a contract tied to the human that is Gregg Munroe, it's possible a full year of Greekness at point and a possibly improved roster could portend to good things.
They signed Matthew Dellavedova away from the Cavilers, and frankly, his place is at the 2-spot and not the point. The edgy Aussie should be fairly comfortable slotted next to a tall, ball dominating playmaker.
2. The White Hot Fury of Russel Westbrook
Hot take here: Russel Westbrook plays with serious energy and emotion.
Dude finds a way to get angry at anything and everything. He churns it into pure energy he uses to smite other players with his fury. Westbrook probably gets angry when his yogurt doesn’t have enough blueberries in it.
So how do you think he feels about Kevin Durant telling him he wants to see other people?
Remember when the Thunder traded James Harden, and he responded by angrily scoring 37, 45 and 24 in his first three games with the Rockets?
Expect something similar from the 'Brookster to start his year. Not to mention that he’s finally the lone alpha dog on this team. It’s finally his team and only his team. When you think about it, dude hasn’t been the best player on his team since high school; he played teo years at UCLA with Kevin Love and Aaron Afflalo.
But Westbrook still had his moments.
Odds are he'll average a triple-double this year, shooting around 40% from the field. It wouldn't be a shock to see Westbrook putting up 30 shots a game.
If he does this and the Thunder make the playoffs, he’s got a great shot at winning MVP.
But will Oklahoma City make the playoffs? They’re gonna need to win at least 46-48 games, and Bovada has their over/under for the season at 43.5.
We know what Westbrook is, even though we’ve never seen him with a team of his own. What we don’t know is if Adams can be the second-best guy on a playoff team and how Oladipo will play in games that actually matter. Dude had roughly none of those with the Orlando Magic.
3. James Harden, meet Mike D’Antoni
The thought of Harden and the Rockets playing even less defense is just, well, funny.
D’Antoni’s last two stints as a coach haven’t been great. Dude failed to implement his seven-seconds-or-less offense with both the Knicks and the Lakers. But think about the rosters he had on those teams.
Sure, he had Steve Nash on the Lakers, but this was the one-foot-in-the-grave Nash. The Rockets have a roster that's actually conducive to running a successful offense that can score 130 points on any given night.
It sounds like he’s going to mess around with Harden at point, and when thinking about spacing the Rockets can possibly have with new additions Ryan Kelly and Eric Gordon out there, it starts to get interesting.
Houston could legitimately have a Top 5 offense, with the 1-spot being reserved for Golden State. But to really have a team that can compete, they’ll need to have a Top 20 defense. D’Antoni’s best Suns teams were in that range. If you have a team with one of the best offenses in the league, you can get away with being just okay on D.
4. Jojo Embiid
Embiid's stunningly talented. His footwork in the paint is incredible, and even though he’s a monster of a man at a legitimate seven feet tall, he can shoot from mid-range and the arc. He can dribble, block shots, and doesn’t seem to be the foul machine that was Gregg Oden.
Yes, dude’s only played a couple of pre-season games, but if he stays healthy, it’s hard to see how he wouldn't be an absolute star. That’s a big if, though. He hasn’t played a meaningful game in about 2½ years, and not just because of one repeating injury but a number of different ones.
With Ben Simmons out for a few months -- and maybe even the full year -- Embiid will undoubtedly be the focus of the 76ers' season this year.
Quick side note: The 76ers have now had significant injuries to each of their last five major additions from each respective off-season:
- Start with their trade for Andrew Bynum (RIP) who hurt himself bowling;
- Then move to Nerlens Noel, who was injured well before the draft, so they knew what they were getting into;
- Next up is Embiid, and we obviously know what happened there;
- Jahlil Okafor actually started the season but did not finish the season, playing only 53 games; and finally,
- Ben Simmons is down this year.
Wow. Sucks to be the Sixers.
One more quick side note: Check this out ...
5. Timberwolves under new management
Again, Karl-Anthony Towns is the future of the NBA. Andrew Wiggins is much better suited for the No 2 role. Both are under the age of 22 and wildly athletic.
And now, they have one of the best defensive coaches in the country, Tom Thibodeau. Wow.
Some people are projecting this team to make the playoffs this year, and if they did and landed the 8-seed, a certain favorite could be slightly concerned.
Even though Towns was a revelation during his rookie year, he’s still only a sophomore in this league. The Wolves still lack a good deal of shooting, and they're implementing a brand new system with Thibs. They won 29 games last year. How many wins can Thibs and Dunn realistically add?
Playoffs are a long shot for this bunch, but if any club's gonna have an overachieving season, it could be Minnesota.
One last thing. Looks like it's been thwarted for now, but Minnesota can not trade for Jimmy Butler.
Dude's an excellent young player, but at 27, his timeline just doesn’t match the rest of these TimberPups. Plus, adding Butler could stunt the growth of Wiggins and take a little shine off Towns’ star. Ability-wise, Towns needs to be the dude.
Not second dude or even co-dude. He needs to be the dude.