As we have had the tip off of yet another NBA season, storylines are beginning to come up left and right. Overreaction is plentiful, as well as undermining of occurrences by the same measure.
With that being said, I would like to reintroduce my bi-weekly “Friday Fives” posts. Here, I will be compiling my thoughts on instances that catch my attention throughout each week of the NBA season, and choosing five specific situations to expand upon.
Now that i’ve properly reintroduced the Friday Fives, let’s get into what has caught my attention this week.
5.) Coaches Challenge
Over the course of the first two weeks of this season, we’ve seen Nick Nurse and Terry Stotts use the new coaches challenge option. Nurse and the Raptors lost their challenge in the seasons inaugural match versus the Pelicans. Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts won his challenge, which came at a turning point of their 121-119 victory over the Mavericks. Damian Lillard was called for a foul with roughly 8 seconds left on the game clock, a play which would have resulted in a chance for the Mavericks to put points on the board with the clock stopped via the free throw line. However, and coach Stotts admits, Lillards demonstrative reaction and adamant insisting for Stotts to use his new tool was the main reason for the coach to even consider using the challenge. It worked in their favor, the referees were able to review and correct their initial call, and the Blazers can now claim the first successful challenging of a call in league history.
The coaches challenge is a great addition to the game in my opinion, however because it is such a new tool there will be plenty of grey areas to work through as it is in the “trial by error” phase. I think that the more meaningful the games get, the more this tool will be tested. Nonetheless, we can all agree that having the game called as fairly as possible is a great thing for the league, and being able to assure that correct calls are made brings a much welcomed dynamic into the evolution of the NBA.
4.) The NBA Social Media Circus is Back
One of the best things about basketball being back is how the NBA community on Twitter (and Instagram) engages at every waking moment of the season. No league has the type of engagements that the NBA can claim on social media. Player to player interactions, indirect instances that become meme sensations, subtweets, and so much more! We are a little over a week into the season and we’ve already gotten new Kawhi Leonard material as well as on-court beef between Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony Towns. All of which (both positive and humorously negative) are great for the league. The entertainment value of the NBA has never been higher, and this comes at a time where the parody regarding the level of competition across the league is as good as it has ever been. On a night to night basis, conversations are being driven across a multitude of topics regarding the Association, which affirms the leagues standing as the best in sports amongst fans.
Teams that were relevant last season who made a flurry of changes over the summer, mainly the Jazz and Sixers, are answering a lot of the questions we already had about them. Each of these two teams boast rosters this season that are more defined and exact to a specific style of play that will be more beneficial for them in meaningful games. For the Jazz, their questions were mostly whether their defense would take a hit with the amount of change as well as the infusion of offensive talent to their roster. The answer so far is no. 10 days into the season, they stand as the best defense in the league. Gobert looks as great as he did as the defensive player of the year last season and they’re moving on the same accord under the coaching of Quin Snyder (my coach of the year pick this season). For the Sixers, size is big for them (no pun intended). They have an average height per position of about 6’5 with Josh Richardson being their shortest starter. They aren’t just big, they are physical and stingy. They currently rank second in the NBA on the defensive end, and seemingly will remain in that top two. Matisse Thybulle is a name to remember as this rookie can DEFEND! Often times, outside of shooting and playmaking, defense is a concept young players struggle to get a grasp of. Whether it is team jargin, system understanding, team defense, or just the physical nature of the league, it is an area that is a common struggle for the rooks. Thybulle is not one of those who struggles their, he flourishes. Expect for him to play himself more and more into the good graces of head coach Brett Brown as the season continues on.
2.) Malcolm Brogdon
As I mentioned in a pre-season blog post (which can be found here), Malcolm Brogdon is in for a breakout season. A highly respected player across the league, Brogdon left Milwaukee this summer for Indiana and a starting role. Needless to say, he made the correct decision. Through four games at about 34.5 minutes per game, Brogdon is averaging 22 ppg, 11.3 apg, 5.3 rpg while shooting 45% from three and 95% from the stripe. He has a solid couple of pick and roll partners (though Myles Turner did sustain an ankle injury), shooters to pass to, and a system under coach Nate McMillan that will surely allow for him to display his playmaking abilities all season. As the status of Victor Oladipo and his return to the Pacers remains up in the air, look for Brogdon to continue to develop chemistry and put his stamp on the Pacers. When Oladipo does come back, it can be implied that these two will make one helluva backcourt pairing. These are two players whose names typically float under the radar, but statistically they have an effective impact on the court in the regular season, crunch time, and in the postseason. Keep an eye on Indiana as a sleeper in the east that will likely end up in the middle of the pack and push one of the heavyweights in a second round series.
1.) Golden State Warriors
When it rains, it pours. Things have changed so abruptly for the Warriors. From being a perennial favorite to win the championship each of the last 7 seasons, to now gauging the draft order heading into next season, the Warriors are redirecting their sights and fast. Not only did they lose both Durant and Thompson in the Finals (then lost the Finals), they then lost Livingston, Iguodala, Durant (free agent decision), but they are also going to be without their daunted backcourt pairing of Curry and Thompson. Late last week Kerr confirmed that Thompson would not play this season, then this week Stephen Curry would break his left hand bracing his fall on a drive to the basket. Having a roster devoid of much experience or viability (a stark contrast to any rendition of their roster in their borderline dynastic reign), they are now going to be challenged in their thinking moving forward. To sell on the players they’ve brought in and truly embrace tanking not unlike the Spurs did in ’95-’96 season when David Robinson got hurt and they stumbled into drafting Tim Duncan, or to try and remain competitive in games and win over 25 games this season. Their decision remains to be seen but it is without question that these are uncharted waters for the Golden State Warriors in the last 10 years. Expect for them to regroup and return to relevancy sooner than later, though.
Derrick Rose’s strong start and Sixth Man of the Year potential
Kawhi Leonard’s league take over
The Growth of Paskal Siakam
Rookie Ascension (Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, RJ Barrett, Rui Hachimura)
Anthony Davis’ 40-20 game
Karl-Anthony Towns dominance 27.3 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 4.0 apg
Durant confesses severed ties from Draymond Green encounter played role in decision to leave as free agent