Now that we are in the midst of our second full week of basketball, this is a good opportunity to reflect back upon the first week of action, as it was filled with a lot of drama. Russell Westbrook is now out for at least 4 weeks and the Oklahoma City Thunder now look like they may not make the playoffs. The Indiana Pacers look awful without the presence of Paul George and Lance Stephenson. The Philadelphia Sixers look like they are going to tank once again, and tragically, Nerlens Noel hurt his ankles already. Stan Van Gundy is still wrestling with whether or not to start Greg Monroe and Josh Smith together in the frontcourt for the Detroit Pistons. Goran Dragic, last years 6th Man of the Year, looks like a role player in a crowded backcourt with the health of Eric Bledsoe and newly acquired free agent Isaiah Thomas.
Additionally, it looks like Rajon Rondo only needs one arm to be the league leader in assists. Klay Thompson looks like he was well worth the max contract extension that he received with an average of 27.0 points per game. Tim Duncan still looks like he will never retire with an average of 11.7 rebounds per game and 2.7 blocks per game. Tony Wroten is now the best player on the Philadelphia Sixers and is leading the league in steals per game with an average of 3.4 steals per game. And the San Antonio Spurs still look like the San Antonio Spurs no matter how old they are and no matter who is on the floor.
These are just some of the storylines from Week 1 of the embryonic NBA season, but the very best storylines from Week 1 are in this Top-10 list below. And if you think these storylines are pretty interesting, we still have a whole season of the NBA ahead of us.
10 The Cleveland Cavaliers Look the Same as Last Year
After losing at the buzzer Wednesday evening to the Utah Jazz with Gordon Hayward’s step back jumper over Tristan Thompson, the Cleveland Cavaliers have dropped to a record of 1-3. Most people had the Cleveland Cavaliers penciled in as the unanimous NBA Champions, but it appears as though they may have a hard time even being one of the best teams in the East. LeBron James is quickly realizing that a culture filled with a lot of bad habits and selfish basketball cannot be changed over night. Even his presence alone cannot change a mentality of isolation basketball with pointless dribbles that eat away the shot clock. This much is clear, the Cavs are going to have to go through some growing pains.
9 The Los Angeles Lakers Haven’t Won a Game Yet
As of Thursday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers are 0-5. While Kobe Bryant is leading the league in scoring with an astonishing 27.6 points per game, no one else on the team can score. Rookie power forward, Julius Randle was supposed to be one of the catalysts off the bench, but he broke his leg in the first game of the season and will be out for the rest of the year. This is a team that has been decimated from injuries before the season even started with Steve Nash essentially retiring and Julius Randle out of the year. So, it is not looking so sunny in LA right now. The good news is that the Lakers are fun to watch this year. Watching Kobe chuck 30 shots per game, in order to break the scoring record, is about as entertaining as it gets.
8 Anthony Davis’s Numbers on Opening Night
On opening night, Anthony Davis demonstrated why he is already a MVP candidate. Davis had 26 points, 17 rebounds, 9 blocks, and 3 steals in 36 minutes. And if you think that was an anomaly, he followed up that game with 31 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks in the next game. Davis is the real deal. He may already be the most complete two-way player in the league. Clearly, what he did this past summer with team USA has carried over into the NBA season and he looks poised and ready to make the jump as arguably the best player in the NBA.
7 The Miami Heat Are Still Eastern Conference Contenders
The Miami Heat are 3-2, but they have been competitive in every game they have played. The team will need time to gel without having LeBron on the floor anymore, since he was such a ball-dominating player. The Heat now have Luol Deng at small forward, and Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have to resurrect their careers from the dead. And Bosh has already proven that he is a top-5 fantasy player with his numbers. He is still shooting the 3-ball, but this year, he is averaging double digits in rebounds. So far, Bosh has averaged 24.2 points per game and 11.0 rebounds per game. If Bosh and Wade stay engaged and healthy all season, they will easily be a Top-3 team in the East.
6 Jabari Parker Might Not Be That NBA Ready
Jabari Parker was supposed to be the most NBA ready out of all the rookies in the draft this past season. But so far, Parker has only averaged 10.0 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. If Parker is the most NBA ready out of all of the rookies, this does not bode well for this draft class. However, we are only 5 games into the NBA season and Parker still has a lot of time to prove his value as the number 2 pick. But so far, Parker does not look as NBA ready as many thought. He still looks like he is 2-3 years away from being an 18 point per game scorer.
5 The New York Knicks Are Passing the Ball
The bad news is that the Knicks are still terrible. They are 2-3 and still show signs of resorting to iso-basketball when they abandon the triangle. The good news is that when they are fully committed to the triangle, and are actually passing the ball, they look like a completely different team from last year. The Triangle takes some time to learn, but if the Knicks continue to pass the ball around the perimeter and do more high and low passes from fifteen feet out, it will pay dividends for them in the long run, even if they lose.
4 The Memphis Grizzlies Are 5-0
The Memphis Grizzlies have become the new San Antonio Spurs. They are now the team that gets overlooked each and every year. As of right now, they are undefeated with a record of 5-0. They still have Z-Bo and Marc Gasol banging down low and now they have a legitimate 3-point shooter off the bench in Vince Carter. The Grizzlies have been able to keep their nucleus for years now, and it is paying off dividends for them today.
3 The Sacramento Kings Look For Real
Maybe, just maybe, Boogie Cousins has matured after all. Boogie’s game has always been mature, but it was his personality and emotions that have always been raw. But after a summer with high caliber players and coaches, Cousins appears to be ready to make the leap. As of right now, Boogie is averaging 24.0 points per game, 10.6 rebounds pre game, and 1.2 blocks per game. So, if the Kings are going to go anywhere, they need Boogie, and if Boogie is going to make the All Star Team, he needs the Kings to win more games.
2 J.R. Smith Has Gotten Suspended Five Games Into the Season Instead of One
J.R. Smith has already gotten suspended after hitting Glen Rice Jr. in the groin. For whatever reason, Smith hit Rice in the second half, even though Rice did nothing to warrant such an attack. The surprising part about all of this is that it took 5 games into the season instead of 1 game into the season for Smith to be suspended. Smith is a player that has a history of getting fined and suspended for various illegal substance issues, social media etiquette, and foul play on the court. Sadly, at 29-years of age, the talented shooting guard still has not learned his lesson and the maturation process may never come to someone who had so much potential.
1 The Oklahoma City Thunder Might Not Make the Playoffs
After Kevin Durant injured his foot in the offseason, it put a lot of pressure on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook, in particular, to carry the load until Durant came back some time in January or February. Unfortunately, to add salt to their wound, Russell Westbrook fractured his right hand and will now be out for a minimum of 4-6 weeks. If that is the case, the 1-4 Thunder are in some serious trouble. Without the presence of Durant and Westbrook on the floor, the Thunder are barely better than the Philadelphia Sixers. If they are going to make the playoffs in the saturated Western Conference, the Thunder are going to have be somewhere around .500 mark until either Westbrook or KD return, which is highly unlikely.