Written by Chris Walker (@cwlkr20)
As we look back on the first month of the NBA season, there has been a lot going on. We are seeing teams that contributed to a wild offseason build and take form with their new parts. They’ve also caused a lot of questions to bubble up from their play.
With that, here are five questions that I’ve been pondering from what I’ve been able to watch this, so far.
Are the Cavaliers Hurt or Injured? — Are their issues short term or long term? Um, Injured. You don’t start your season with a 7–7 record and act like it’s a bump in the road. You don’t have the lowest defensive efficiency rating in the league or allow opponents the third highest field goal percentage, and get to say you’re just hurt. You can’t barely beat the Dallas Mavericks, when you’re considered title favorites. That’s asinine.
That all being said, there is no easy fix. Tristan Thompson, their best rim protector, is injured; they roll out lineups with Kevin Love at center, contributing to their defensive woes; also, let’s not forget Kyrie jumped ship, so LeBron is taking on more work to make up for the fact that there’s been so much roster turnover from last season.
They’re scoring enough, which is great. They haven’t dropped significantly in pace, and they still have LeBron James leading the charge (for now). It’ll be interesting to watch over the rest of the season if they can right the ship before Isaiah Thomas comes back, possibly in January. Maybe his presence takes some pressure off, but he’ll need time to get into the groove of things in a new environment.
So Vince Carter is Basically a Player Coach? — Yes. He definitely isn’t the Vince of old, dunking on everyone and their mommas. He is averaging 2.6 points in 12 minutes per game, so he isn’t even the Vince of recent with Memphis. However, maybe that’s the point. Vince Carter has been a professional basketball player for most of De’Aaron Fox’s life. He’s basically only had one scandalous event in his career and he’s handled that well. In essence, the man is composed and mature. He’s also down to help out the young guys, like building Deyonta Davis a bedroom for last season.
The Kings are loaded with recent picks on their first contracts. Bringing in George Hill was probably meant to tutor Fox on how to be an NBA point guard. Carter is probably around to make sure Fox, and all the other youngins, have the mentorship of someone who’s been a major star at some point. This team has a history of issues, so maybe having a wiser presence amongst the roster will do them some good. And who knows, maybe Vince will rack up some DNPs later this year, say in January/February, save up some energy in those knees and make a final slam dunk run. A guy can dream.
Are the Knicks Trash? — No. Trash is basically having your rookie power forward be the only bright spot at times (examples — the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks). The Knicks have been trash in the past, but at this point, it’s more fair to say they’re developing. For a 7–6 team they aren’t looking terrible, helped by the continued rise of Kristaps Porzingis.
You can throw blame on anyone for the Knicks recent troubles from Phil Jackson to Carmelo Anthony. That being said, the Latvian forward has been making efficient work of teams, as the third leading scorer in the league this year. In accord, the Knicks are the Knicks — they feature a couple of nonsensical contracts and underperforming players, but they’re at least above .500 win mark.
Will this last? Maybe. If it doesn’t, they’re not horrendous; I wouldn’t expect them in the top half of the 2018 NBA Draft lottery. They’re getting closer to figuring it out.
Where Have I Seen These New Rockets Before? — Literally from last year. That’s what happens when your big, expensive acquisition from the summer goes down with injury in the first game. Chris Paul was supposed to return James Harden back to being a shooting guard, or at the very least give him a better ball handler than Patrick Beverley to play with.
Instead, the Houston basketball club is running it back with 4 out of 5 of last year’s starters, with Eric Gordon added for his firepower. The team owns the Western Conference’s top record, and are sporting an improved defensive record, allowing the 7th lowest points from opponents at 102.9 per game, 7 points less than last year. With the addition of some new parts and improvements by others (we see you Clint Capela), they’re definitely going to be interesting through the rest of the year, when Paul returns, whenever that is.
Can the Timberwolves be Better? — Yes. You should be impressed by a team that made smart and simple moves in the offseason. Minnesota has transformed into a playoff team, bringing in Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, as well as the recent step up of Andrew Wiggins.
In accord, they’re kind of also failing. They’re not shooting many 3s, ranked 2nd to last in attempts. They’re giving up 108.8 points per 100 possessions, tied for 26th in the league. At 7–5, they’ve made the necessary team moves to get better, but still need others to step up. They’re still waiting for Karl Anthony Towns to discover his second gear defensively, and that’s going to be a major point if they want to make it to the top of the league. They definitely have the potential, based on just names around them, but it’s another thing to get the results that get you there.