The NBA is back! Four nights into the season and we have managed to see most teams new look rosters in action so of course that means that it’s time to make a few snap judgements! Lets be frank though, two or three games are obviously not a big enough sample size to come to any definitive conclusions, but it should give us a look of what is to come for most teams this season. Here are 6 talking points from the season’s opening matches.
- Lonzo Ball is going to struggle (but it’s OK!)
Lonzo Ball was the most hyped prospect from this year’s draft class. The general consensus is that Ball is an exciting playmaker, whose creativity will make for must see TV. He has all the tools at his disposal but there are two things he’ll need to get over if he wants to be an all-time NBA great:
- He needs to work his jump shot. Even when he was in college, it was an established fact that Lonzo was a streaky shooter. An example of this can be the fact that he could sometimes shot better from 3 point territory than midrange. Weird but true.
- Lonzo is going to have to cash cheques he didn’t necessary sign. His father Lavar has been hyping him up for the better part of a year and that means that Lonzo now has a giant target on his back while playing in the most difficult position in the league.
In his NBA debut, Ball had nine rebounds, four assists and three points on 1-of-6 shooting in 29 minutes in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 108-92 season-opening loss to the Clippers. Patrick Beverly, Ball’s primary defender, hounded him all night and he’ll have to get used to that because that’s the treatment he’ll get most of this season.
Lonzo rebounded from that disappointing performance with an impressive near triple double, as he scored 29 points in a victory over the Phoenix Suns, while he had another near triple double with 8 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Lonzo will be good, but not franchise changing good this season. Look away Laker fans, this is not the year your team becomes great.
- The Spurs system is supreme
There were plenty of reasons for San Antonio fans to be nervous about the start of this season. They didn’t make any significant off season acquisitions and two key components of their last title winning side were missing through injury. Tony Parker is still weeks away from returning to the court, while Kawhi Leonard remains doubtful for the next few games. But you know what? None of that matters when you are the Spurs.
LaMarcus Aldridge had meeting with Spurs coach Greg Popovich where they discussed how best he could fit into the Spurs system. It apears to have paid off because Aldridge finally looked like he wants to play basket again as his double-double led the Spurs to a victory over the much changed Minnesota Timberwolves and the Chicago Bulls. The Spurs will always figure things out, so expect them to win 55 – 60 games this season.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder Still Have To Figure Things Out
Russell Westbrook recorded yet another triple double and Paul George and Carmelo Anthony looked comfortable in the new look OKC offence during the Thunder’s season opening victory over the New York Knicks. However the Thunder have since lost 2 straight game since then against the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves, showing they still need to figure things out. This in of itself isn’t necessary a bad thing, because talented players always figure out how to play with each other.
In today’s NBA, you need capable stars to win titles and the Thunder seemingly have found a star trio that could easily be the second or third best team in the NBA (for now at least.) However we cant forget the fact that both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will be free agents in 2019, which means that this season is do or die in terms of whether they stay together in the long run.
One thing that is abundantly clear is that Russell Westbrook needs to take a step back and stop doing everything himself. He still looks like he wants to grab every rebound and make every play which wont work when you have two other players who are isolation specialist on the team.
Time will tell whether or not the Thunder can hold up to title aspirations, particularly since they play in the western conference, but if Wednesday’s game showed us anything, it’s that the Thunder theoretically at least have as good a chance as any contender to beat the Warriors.
- Injuries Remain A Problem For The NBA
This year’s NBA season started about 2 weeks earlier than normal. This was part of the NBA on-going efforts to lessen the amount of back to back games to allow players to rest more and curb the number of injuries. I guess the basketball gods didn’t get the memo because we’ve seen a number of season ending injuries already.
First of all, Gordon Hayward broke his ankle on this play:
Jeremy Lin, now playing for the Brooklyn Nets sent out this tweet in support:
Wow…thats horrific…feel awful for Hayward
— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) October 18, 2017
A night later, Lin met a similar fate. He’s done for the season with a ruptured tendon. There are still other players dealing with injuries. The Warriors sent Draymond Green to get an MRI on an aching left knee, which sidelined him before the end of their season opener and has him listed as doubtful for Golden State’s game at New Orleans on Friday. Houston’s Chris Paul missed a game at Sacramento on Wednesday with knee pain.
Basically injuries can and will happen no matter what the league does to prevent them. Hopefully we won’t see anymore season ending injuries from this point going forward.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo Is Ready To Become A Superstar
Milwaukee have a good team and its shown plenty of promise in recent seasons. Giannis had a 37-point game to open the season and his performances thus far have been sensational. He followed that up with a 34 point game in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers before he scored a career high 44 points against Portland. Hi certainly lives up to his “Greek Freak” moniker, just look at him dunking with ease in the video below:
Giannis stands at 6”11 (about 2.11 metres) tall and he has massive wingspan that easily makes him one of the most intimidating defenders in the league. Last season served as a preview of what is to come because every indicators points to him achieving superstar status this season. Yes ladies and gents, the Greek Freak is for real!
- Warriors Are Suffering From A Championship Hangover
As is the case in any sport, when you become the champion you’ll have a big target painted on you back. Teams will be more motivated to play the champs and its proving to be true for the Golden State Warriors. Obviously it’s too early to hit the panic button, but the Warriors will need to quickly get up to speed if they are to match the highs of last season. The Western Conference is an unforgiving marathon and if you aren’t careful, you can quickly get stuck in a rut and find yourself falling behind other competitors even if you are the Warriors.
The Dubs only had themselves to blame for their opening day loss to the Houstan Rockets, and then they imploded as both Kevin Durant and Steph Curry got ejected late in their game against the Memphis Grizzlies. It won’t take too long for them to find their footing, be they need to be wary of complacency. Getting the number one seed should be a top priority for them, even if they are the favourites to win it all this season. Finishing as the second or third see could mean a much tougher post season schedule.
All in all, it has been a pretty enthralling start to the season, with plenty of talking points.