Surprises Define NBA Opening Week
We are almost a week into the NBA season and there have been a number of surprises so far. Coaches are already on the hot seat and some teams are showing that they may be better than the experts thought before the season. Let’s get started with the biggest surprise of the season, the 0-3 Lakers (this is being written during the Lakers-Pistons game on Sunday night)
The Lakers problems start with defence, not offence – As Tas Melas on The Basketball Jones podcast on Friday pointed out, the fact that the new Princeton offence being implemented actually has a name allows fans and media to call it out when a team struggles. The problem is the Lakers have scored 91, 106 and 95 points and have the 5th best offensive efficiency in the league. Mike Brown is a defensive first coach and he is having a problem with a defensively weak bench and trying to gel Pau Gasol with Dwight Howard. The Lakers are tied for 28th in defensive efficiency and are being run off the floor. Once Howard is in game shape this should improve and Brown has historically been a good defensive coach so I expect the defence to get better. It is way too early in the season to put Mike Brown on the hot seat. The Heat were a .500 team the first 20 games of the season two years ago and put things together just fine. If this is still a problem around the all star break then a change should be considered.
James Harden is killing it – The main argument for trading for Harden was “you have no idea how good this guy can be because of his shortened minutes”. The believers are being proven right so far as Harden and Jeremy Lin have been electric for the Rockets. Harden destroyed the Pistons and Atlanta before coming down to Earth against Portland with “only” 24 points. He’s shooting 52% from the floor and is adding 6 rebounds and 6 assists per game. He needs to cut down on his turnovers but that will come as he becomes more comfortable with being the focal point of the offence and playing with his new teammates. Harden makes Lin and Asik better and should gel with Chandler Parsons and the group of young players that the Rockets have. If he keeps this level of production up then the Rockets are serious contenders for the 7th or 8th seed in the West.
What the heck is going on in Orlando? – My last team preview basically said that the Magic stink and will be a basement dweller for the next 2 or 3 years. Naturally the Magic defeated the Nuggets by 13 and the Suns by 21 and are 3rd in the offensive efficiency and 9th in defensive efficiency so far. Glen Davis and J.J. Redick are leading the charge so far with Redick even showing a bit of an all-around game. Will this team make the playoffs? Probably not as the Nuggets and Suns have struggled out of the gate, but all the Magic fans can hope for are efforts like this first week and good effort from up and down the roster all season long. This also drives up Redick and Davis’ trade value in case the right offer comes along closer to the trading deadline.
Some shorter observations from watching League Pass:
* The Knicks have started 2-0 with big wins against both Miami and Philadelphia.
* Good on Charlotte for winning their opener against Indiana. Indiana looks like they are going to have a trouble playing down to the talent level of their opponents as they have had tight games with Toronto, Charlotte and let Sacramento hang around.
* Tim Duncan looks like a younger Tim Duncan and the Spurs have ruined Anthony Davis’ debut and beat Oklahoma City on a buzzer beater by Tony Parker.
* Speaking of the Thunder, the pressure is on Russell Westbrook who lost Parker on that final play and forced the ball to the lane too often on offence late. Part of this problem is the fact that Durant does not establish adequate position to receive a pass to initiate offence. The other problem is that Westbrook is so good and is such a freak that people have unrealistic expectations for him.