The wait is over, and the NBA season is underway, fulfilling everyone’s already anticipated expectations for the upcoming season.
Yet, there’s already stories brewing across the league, from the Lakers suffering an opening night defeat, to a league best record [6-1], to the Heat and Phoenix Suns being the biggest surprise packets in their respective conferences, and the sour news of suspensions and injuries – this season has had it all, in just two weeks.
The Best of the West
The predictions came out early after free agency, with big off-season moves, and the demand for success in an evenly tight NBA landscape.
The Lakers were at the top of those discussions, followed by their cross-town rivals, the Clippers. While the season is still young, these two teams do look the better of the rest, yet still looking like there’s ample room for improvement.
The Clippers are still without their second best player, Paul George, and are already resting Kawhi [will rest tomorrow against Milwaukee] in preparation for what is to come in 2020. Their bench has been outstanding, on the back of Sixth Man of the Year, Lou Williams. Williams, along with the back-up brigade, lead the league in bench points, scoring 55 points a game, on 53% shooting while doing so.
The concern is though, just how long can they sustain this level of efficiency? If they can somehow maintain this, with the addition of Paul George who shall return in the next few weeks, then the sky is the limit for this roster.
For the Lakers, Showtime is back. While they’ve had a few injuries, the devastating effect that they can display in a small burst is worrying for the rest of the competition.
LeBron has reasserted himself as the best in the league, sending a message to his doubters, posting three damaging triple doubles in a row on the road. Anthony Davis is coming off winning Western Conference Player of the Week, averaging 32 points, 13 rebounds and 2.7 blocks during that stretch.
Yet, how can they improve on a league best, 6-1 record? There’s a few facets they need to improve on, with the first quarter the key right now. Too often being asked to chase the game, and while it’s worked so far, it won’t work in the post season, and relying on the ‘flick of the switch’.
Depth also remains a question mark at the moment, but with the surprising rebirthing of Dwight Howard, and Avery Bradley, a bit of consistency may erase the doubt from the media, and we may see the Lakers continue their dominance in the opening season of a new decade [Lakers won the championship in 2000, and 2010].
It’s early, in fact it is very early in the season, but we can still cast a vote over who has been the biggest surprise packets of the season thus far. Two teams have caught the attention of many, with one being tipped to finish as a cellar dwellar, while the other was tipped to be middle of the park, but is at the top of the East.
Phoenix Suns, and the Miami Heat.
Firstly, the Suns have caught everyone’s attention, for the right, and wrong reasons at times. The positive is the change in the morale in the locker room, it’s refreshing and winning games definitely does contribute to that. Aron Baynes has been a healthy addition, adding size and strength, as well as currently sitting in the top 10 for centres in 3P% [48.5%].
Booker has hit the ground running, after an injury-plagued year a season ago, scoring 26.1 points per game as well as five assists a game, including 40 points against the undefeated 76ers.
The negative. In what has been a whirlwind for the franchise, the only negative has been DeAndre Ayton, and his suspension from a drug test. Ayton tested positive for a diuretic, violating the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program.
Ayton will serve 25 games, and should use that time to learn from his mistakes, and hopefully gain the hunger to be back on the floor watching his team continue to play winning basketball, and be apart of that success.
For the Heat, they went into the season with an expectation to be around the mark, but have so far shot out of the gates, winning their way to a 5-2 record. Jimmy Butler missed the first few games due to the birth of his baby, but has since returned to show why he was given a max contract, but he hasn’t been the only shining light for the Heat.
Young rookies, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn have taken the limelight, shooting lights out from beyond the arc, and again proving the importance of Front Office decisions. Herro was drafted at pick 13, while Nunn was an undrafted acquisition, plying his trade in the G-League a season ago, with the Santa Cruz Warriors.
Nunn is averaging 18 points a game [second amongst all rookies], while Herro is averaging 13.7 points, ranking seventh amongst all rookies. It’s only early, and the production level of these two may drop, but if they can sustain some consistency, then the Heat will continue to hang around the top two seeds in the eastern conference.
Injuries? Suspensions? Why?
It was tipped to be a evenly competitive league, and the first fortnight has definitely delivered on that pre-season promise. Yet, while the basketball on the court has been exhilarating and exciting, the problems off the court are a concern.
While mentioning DeAndre Ayton, Atlanta forward, John Collins, was also suspended for violating the same NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program, with Collins’ claiming a legal substance he took was contaminated with an illegal growth hormone.
While it’s only two minor cases, it’s still an issue that overshadowed what a start to the season it has been. Both players were suspended 25 games, and hopefully, it will be the last of violating drug policies, we will hear this season.
On the court, it has been pretty smooth sailing … except for when it came to Embiid and Karl Anthony-Towns. Two of the biggest and baddest centres in the league went hell for leather in their meeting, causing a stop in game to break their ‘scuffle’. There weren’t many major throws in their tussle, but it was significant enough to each receive a two game suspension, and an added beef through their social media channels.
Lastly, injuries are nature when it comes to sport, but it has been hit hard this fortnight, with a few key injuries to some franchises’ major players. Two-time MVP, Steph Curry, the biggest player affected, breaking his left hand after landing awkwardly in the paint, and having Aron Baynes fall on top of him. He has undergone surgery, but will miss three months worth of the season, with doubters all but ruling Golden State’s season over, before it even started. Trae Young went down, after claiming the first Eastern Conference Player of the Week, with a high ankle sprain. The initial injury looked like it could’ve been more severe, but tests revealed it was a two week injury, and has since returned to the Hawks’ lineup.
Detroit Pistons’ starting point guard, Reggie Jackson suffered a back injury, ruling him out for a month, while Zion is still on his way back from his knee injury, projected to be available mid-December. Portland forward, Zach Collins underwent successful shoulder injury, and will work his way back on a four month rehab plan.
It will no doubt get worse, but injuries to some of the league best players will definitely take a toll, and overshadow what has been a blast to the start of the season.
So much has happened in a fortnight of basketball, yet this is only the beginning of what looks to be an exciting NBA season.
Jayden’s Power Rankings
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Miami Heat
- Boston Celtics
- Phoenix Suns
- New York Knicks
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Sacramento Kings
- Chicago Bulls
- New Orleans Pelicans