Normally I have a reason for writing a sports article: halfway through the season, playoff preview, etc. Today, I just feel like writing about the NBA. A few things have surprised me and a few things have disappointed me. So, let’s explore these things and see what we find.
Ready, set, go!
The good surprises:
Boston Boys Blossom
Many in the NBA world, including myself, were skeptical of how the Celtics would function sans Kyrie and Al Horford. However, Kemba Walker has silenced many of his critics, showing that his UConn magic is still very much alive and well in his game. Walker has an extremely similar skill set to Kyrie. A master of handles point guard who looks to shoot first. But one of the things that has elevated the Celtics to the top of the East is not just Kemba’s talent on the court, but his willingness to differ. In the 2018 playoffs with Kyrie in street clothes, Jason Taytum and Jaylen Brown blossomed into fantastic NBA starters. After including Irving into the mix, the dynamic was clearly off. This season, Walker has shown the willingness to differ to the young stars and Gordon Hayward, who was resurgant before his hand injury, which has created a culture of ball movement and the drive and kick offense which brought the Warriors 3 championships in the last 5 years. Once Walker, Hayward, Brown and Taytum are all healthy, the dynamic will be interesting, but for now the team is on fire and loving every minute of it.
South Beach… Stars?
Even though Jimmy Butler is an All-NBA player, and was one of the most coveted stars of the offseason, few saw the hot start from the Heat coming. Butler is leading the team in points(18.7), assists(7.2) and a scorching 2.8 steals per game. Anyone who has watched Butler in the past should not be surprised by these statistics, but should be joyfully surprised by Butler’s supporting cast. Behind Butler, all other starters are averaging double digit points per game, as well as rookie Tyler Herro providing a 13 PPG spark off the bench as well as Bam Adebayo becoming a double double machine for points and rebounds. What hindered Butler in Chicago was being in the shadow of hometown hero Derrick Rose. What hindered Butler in Minnesota was being in the shadow of Karl Anthony-Towns, and later Joel Embid and Coach Brown in Philly. Coming to South Beach with Pat Riley and being handed his own team, may just be what Butler needs to grow into a true superstar.
The Bad Surprises:
Philly Falls Flat:
After acquiring Josh Richardson, retaining Tobias Harris and signing Al Horford, the Philly Faithful had high hopes. While an 8-5 start isn’t the worst start in the world, the team looks fairly average. Joel Embid is still his usual dominant self, but his co-star Ben Simmons is last among the starters in PPG, and has shown little to no growth in his willingness to improve his jump shot in game. Yet mainly, the biggest concern lies on their bench. Philly really has no spark off the bench and lacks a leader in their second unit. I see a veteran acquisition throughout the season as a priority for the 76ers, who are still looking for their Nick Young or Shaun Livingston.
Pelicans Poor Performance:
After drafting Zion and Jackson Hayes, adding Lonzo, Josh Hart and breakout leader Brandon Ingram, the Pels seemed primed for an explosion. I do still believe in their team, although I think they are a year away from truly contending. Lonzo has somewhat fixed his shot from 3, but the free throw shot is still… less than desirable. Brandon Ingram has exploded in New Orleans, but Jrue Holiday has seemed lost without Anthony Davis by his side. I think most of the concerns for the Pelicans center around chemistry, which with veterans JJ Reddick and Holiday around will be solved, but for now without Zion and without a winning record, the team is a bit of a disappointment.
The Ugly Surprises:
The Woeful Warriors:
Most people knew that with Klay Thompson out this season, the Warriors would not be the same. But with Steph Curry out indefinitely after breaking his hand, Draymond battling hand issues, and D’Lo fighting his own injury woes, the Warriors look nothing like the Warriors. Starting 5 nobodies on a nightly basis, the Warriors went from first to worst, something that is hard to do. However, this season could be good for the squad, in the long run of course. Allowing younger players like Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall to be thrown into the NBA fire may just provide the future role players the Warriors lacked last season. Think about a new death lineup, featuring Curry, Klay, Russel, Paschall(who can shoot well from all over) and Green at the 5. Then you have Jordan Poole, Ky Bowman and Jacob Evans who have a lot more NBA experience, than they would have had with a “healthy” team, to come off the bench. Add a top 10 draft pick and all of the sudden the Warriors are scary again. Obviously, time will tell, but for all the Warriors fans worried, don’t be. The woes will soon disappear.
The Pitiful Pistons:
One would think that with Andre Drummond averaging almost 20 points and 20 rebounds a game, and Derrick Rose looking more and more like his old self, the Pistons would be winning. Well that would be wrong. Blake Griffin has been hurt most of the season, and besides perimeter threat Luke Kennard, the Pistons are lackluster on offense and their defense is not much better. With an utter lack of scoring off the bench now that Rose is the starter, the Pistons look poised for another basement finish in the East. If Griffin can come back strong and compliement Rose and Drummond, then Detroit has a chance. But given that the Pistons couldn’t win last year with the same duo, the Pistons may want to look to make a move if they want to win anytime soon.
Oh, and by the way! Lebron and AD are really really good. Just in case you weren’t aware.