The Rockets played an extremely close series in the first round in which they only got out by winning by 2 points. Nevertheless they are here and have to get hotter than they have ever been before. James Harden and Westbrook need to be the superstars we know. Westbrook is not 100% and I think it is showing. He will get more into “basketball shape” in this series and I think he will be a lot better than the 3 games he played last series. Harden needs to be more efficient in my opinion. He is getting his points and assists but can definitely shoot better or try and get to the line more. Their role players are gonna have to step up big as well. Jeff Green and Robert Covington are playing great in the bubble and they need Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker, Daniel House and Austin Rivers to all get hot this series. If Austin or Eric Gordon go off they both can go for 30+ so that could be scary. The most surprising thing has been their defense. They played very good defense vs the Thunder especially at the end of games. This MUST carry over into this series because the Lakers are a lot bigger than the small ball Houston team. They need to rebound and limit second chance shots as much as possible. Tyson Chandler might have to play some minutes for them actually. For the Lakers it is the same keys as always. Lebron and AD will do them, role players knock down shots. Not just that, knock down shots in close game which is something both AD and Lebron will have to do in some games down the stretch this series and for the rest of their run. Luckily for them, they did not play many “down to the wire” games with the Blazers due to Dame’s injury but he is a serious threat to steal a game at the end which I think is the Lakers biggest vulnerability right now. Overall I think it’s going to be an exciting series to watch with 2 of the most entertaining teams in the league. The last time we had 2 players on each that were averaging over 25 points per game (Russ and Harden vs AD and Lebron) matchup up in a series was the 2017 NBA Finals (Kyrie and Lebron vs Curry and KD). Both teams especially the Rockets are hard to predict so I am just hoping for a competitive series. It would be a lot of fun to see James Harden and Russ get hot and duel with the Lakers.
Clippers vs Nuggets WC-Semis Preview
Both of these teams faced tough matchups in round 1. The Nuggets took down the Jazz in a wild 7 game series and Kawhi and the Clips went into a duel with Luka and the Mavs in an eventful 6 game campaign. I think the fact that both these teams have a long tough series under their belts is really going to help them in their respective runs to come. It gives them momentum and confidence as they move on. Kawhi has been playing extremely well in the playoffs and Paul George has shown glimpses of his usual self. He needs to step up even more in this series. Offensively and defensively. The Nuggets main problem has been their defense which I have been preaching. The Clippers offense will come every night but their defense is not a guarantee. They have extremely talented defensive players and are great, but sometimes they have uncharacteristic nights where they are not in sink defensively as a team. The Nuggets need to take advantage of those nights if they want a chance at all. On top of that, they have to play great defense to stop the Clippers automatic offense. It is very hard to see the Nuggets win this series but if Jamal Murray and Jokic can keep coming up big in close games they are not ruled out by any means. Michael porter Jr. needs to have a great series and so does Gary Harris who just returned from injury. Him and Torey Craig will be key guys in trying to stop the Clippers offense. The odds are for sure stacked against the Nuggets, but if they keep playing great basketball in the 4th quarter then they can be a scary team. But the Clippers have the experience and more talented roster on their side.
Raptors vs Celtics ECF-Semis Preview
This series is set up to be a great one. The defending champs are taking on the young and up in coming wing duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Both these teams are great defensively, and match up pretty evenly in terms of size. Both teams have elite NBA coaches in Nick Nurse and Brad Stevens. They both are extremely unique in their subs and defensive play calls it often confuses teams. The bubble has been good for the both of these teams obviosuly as well. They are 2 legit contedners and a scary 2nd round matchup for both sides. The stars will get theirs but the role players need to be there as well. Marcus Smart plays elite defense for the Celtics but is not shooting very well but even with that he still plays extremely valueable defensive minutes. When the Raptors get hot from 3 it is hard to beat them with their tough defense. If the Celtics could defend the 3 well enough, they can for sure keep up with them offensively. With Tatum evolving into a top scorer in the league, surrounded by instant offense from Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, they will be just fine. I hope this series goes 7 games because this is going to be a coaches duel. The Raps need to keep their swagger and momentum going and the Celtics need to play elite defense like we know they can.
The Key for All Contenders in the Upcoming 2020 Playoffs
Now that we are past the all star break, it’s about time to get serious. We are 60 games in for each team, and we now know the identity of every team. In this article I’m gonna be talking about what I think is the most crucial factor for each team. This is going to be a larger list of contenders than I actually think but for sake of the article I am extending my list.
Milwaukee Bucks: Supporting cast
The Bucks have the best record in the NBA and by far deserve it. They are 51-8 and are on pace for record breaking seasons offensively and defensively. Giannis is the front runner to win back to back MVPs and the lose of Malcom Brogdon has not effected them at all. Giannis has improved his game drastically. He is shooting 32% from 3 this year compared to his 26% last year. However, he can’t do everything. He’s going to have to rely on his team to knock down shots in big spots. Khris Middleton is a big part to what this team does. He is having a great season and was rewarded in making his second all star team. He’s averaging 21 points a game and shoots 44% from 3. He is the guy they go to when they need a bucket late in games. If he can establish himself as a closer, then this team will be even harder to beat. Eric Bledsoe needs to be that true point guard the team needs. Giannis is the focal point in the offense most of the time, but every team needs that true point guard to run the half court offense late in games. Last year he had a horrific performance from 3 in the playoffs shooting 17% from 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals. He is a decent 3 point shooter, shooting 35% this year. He just needs to be that guy in the playoffs. George Hill is going to have to continue to play well too. He has been a huge spark off their bench and is leading the NBA in 3 point percentage at 50% attempting almost 3 a game. Those are the main 3 that need to play well but for this team everyone just needs to shoot well. Giannis will drive and kick and he needs his guys to knock down shots like they have this regular season. Donte DiVincenzo, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Ersan İlyasova, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews, and Marvin Williams-who was a great buyout signing-need to play big minutes for this team. I know I just listed like the whole team but these are their established 3 point shooters who they have put around Giannis perfectly. Ultimately Giannis is gonna do him, you just need the guys around him to play well.
Los Angeles Lakers: supporting cast
With the Lakers it’s the same story as the Bucks. They have surrounded Lebron perfectly with shooters. Lebron is playing on the best team he has ever been on and Lebron will be Lebron in the playoffs. Enough said about him. Anthony Davis is looking like the DPOY front runner. He is the true anchor for this team and does a great job protecting the rim. What’s so great about this team though is how bought in they are to what they do. Everyone on the team plays defense and hustles. They look like they have so much fun when they play, and every role player understand their role and defers to Lebron and AD. This team has tons of Finals experience. Danny Green has to be playoff Danny Green. Last year in the playoffs he was a little inconsistent but still alright. Quinn Cook is going to have to knock down big shots. Rondo is a great playoff player as well. JaVale can provide valuable minutes same with Dwight Howard. All of those players have been to the Finals. Other than them, players like Troy Daniels, KCP, Markieff Morris and Kyle Kuzma need to play well.
Toronto Raptors: keep doing you
A “Finals Hangover” is definitely not the identity of this team. They play with a different type of swagger than I’ve ever seen. They play like winners and like they have been their before which they have. Siakim has taking a huge leap this year being named an all star starter. He should be up for most improved again. His scoring has jumped 6.5 points and is filling the void of Kawhi better than anybody’s expectations. Kyle Lowry is still the gritty vet we all love and plays with that Nova dog mentality. Fred VanVleet is going to need to have his big moments like he did last year in the playoffs. OG Anunoby is going to have to step up as well as all of their other role players like Gasol, Ibaka, Boucher, Ronde Hollis-Jefferson and Norman Powell. There isn’t much to say about this team they just need to keep playing with the same swagger and confidence they have played with in the regular season and carry their momentum into the playoffs.
Boston Celtics: young talent step up
The Celtics have been one of my favorite team to watch this year. They have played in so many close games and Jayson Tatum and crew always find a way to make it interesting in the end. Kemba has been the perfect addition for this team and his attitude as well as his play style mesh well with the rest of the squad. The leap that Tatum has made this year has been exponential and a key to this teams success. We saw hints in his rookie year in the playoffs of how great of a prospect he could be when he took Lebron to 7 games in the eastern conference finals with no Kyrie or Gordon Hayward. His scoring averages have gone up by almost 8 points and he is shooting more efficient in every area. At the young age of 21 (March 2nd: turning 22 tomorrow) he has demonstrated all the tools to be a future superstar in the league. Jaylen Brown has also taken a massive leap this year and seems a lot more bought in to what the Celtics are trying to do this year rather than last year. His point averages are up by 7 and he is also shooting more efficient in every category. But the Celtics aren’t as much worried about the success of these guys as they are some of the others. Rookies Grant Williams, Carson Edwards and Romeo Langford are all going to have to step up and play big playoff minutes. After losing Kyrie and Al Horford in free agency, this team is relying a lot on the young talent they used their draft capital on this year for their success. I look forward to seeing this team in the playoffs because as a team everyone is bought in offensively and defensively because all they wanna do is win. Pair that with a coach of the year candidate in Brad Stevens and you could be playing until June.
Denver Nuggets: defense
Denver’s defense this year is so far 18th in the league in points per game. Yes this isn’t bad, but I think it is the peak for this team. This team has few players that make an impact defensively that get lots of minutes. When it comes to the playoffs, hiding players who aren’t great on defense becomes a lot more difficult. Mike Malone has done a great job this year and should be up for coach of the year. Hiding Jokic and Jamal Murray on defense in the playoffs will be an extremely difficult task for him though. The players that really make an impact on the defensive end for this team are not their main scorers. They are Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Mason Plumlee. Torrey Craig and Jerami Grant occasionally will provide some energy as well. My point in saying this is that none of these players are one of the main sources of their offense. Most are bench players and others are role players on offense. The lack of 2-way players on this team may hurt them in the long run because it can get very hard to sub in the heat of the moment in a playoff game. Also, teams will attack your weakness in a 7 game series once they start to figure you out. As much as the game is fun to watch on offense, there is still 2 sides of the ball and you need guys that are going to be difference makers on both sides.
Los Angeles Clippers: stay healthy
When healthy, in terms of talent the Clippers have put together the most talented roster in the league. However, this year they have played only 5 games with their entire team available. Essential pieces to this team have missed time due to injuries such as Paul George, Patrick Beverly and Landry Shamet. Also as we all know Kawhi gets his load management games which doesn’t help. If the playoffs started today they would be a 3 seed and that is solely because of their talent. Multiple players and their coach Doc Rivers have come out and said that they don’t believe that they are playing their best basketball yet they are sitting tied for second in the grueling Western Conference with a 41-19 record. The additions of Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson will only help their chances as well. Marcus Morris gives them not only 3 point shooting but effort and grittiness on defense which only adds to the teams identity. Reggie Jackson also can come in and slow the game down in the half court for the bench when need be. I think this team is in a great spot to win but they need to get healthy towards the end of the season to start gaining some team chemistry before the playoffs. As soon as they can get everyone on the floor they can start to really lock in defensively with all of their talent in not just their stars, but in the rest of the team as well.
Houston Rockets: Get hot
The Rockets are a team that lives and dies by the 3. They lead the league in 3 point attempts by far and their entire offense revolves around it. James Harden is one of the scariest players in the league when he gets hot and after seeing the scoring run he went on last year, it is possible it happens again. Last year he went on the second longest run to only Wilt Chamberlin of consecutive 30+ point games. Although the streak ended at 32 he finished 2019 averaging 36 a game. If he gets hot at the right time this year don’t be surprised if this team makes a run, although getting past a great defensive team like the Clippers in the west might not be so easy. Now that they have proved that they can make the small ball lineup work in the regular season, they need to carry it into the playoffs. In a 7 game series, teams start to scheme more and can find the best way to attack an opposing team. It will be interesting to see if D’antoni’s system works in the playoffs like it has so far in the regular season.
Utah Jazz: Mike Conley
Utah has been atop the West almost all year but recently have dropped to the 5 seed. This teams defense as well as offense is good enough to make them contenders but I don’t know if they have it all figured out quite yet. Mike Conley is struggling this year. His points per game has dropped by almost 7 points and he has yet to find his role on this Jazz team. They recently had to move him to the bench for Royce O’Neal to start. It is unfortunate that Conley is having this type of season because he has always been known as a very solid point guard who plays good defense and can score the ball for you. He has not turned out to be that player this year for the Jazz. The Jazz need to find a way to help Conley find his role with the team behind their young stud Donovan Mitchell who has been exceptional this year and their defensive anchor Rudy Gobert.
Philadelphia 76ers: spacing (duh)
If you are a fan of the blog you know I love to talk sixers. I couldn’t really tell you why I like talking about them so much. Maybe it’s because of how intriguing of a team they are. They have 2 different center pieces on their team which is almost unheard of. You can build a playoff caliber team around Ben Simmons and Joel Embid but maybe you can build a championship caliber team if you pick one of them. Right now both of them are injured and it is not looking good for them which is why I barely put them on this list. However, with their abundance of talent on their team they were too hard not to include. The additions of Alex Burks and Glenn Robinson haven’t been great for them so far. In 8 games Glenn Robinson has failed to make a 3 after shooting 40% from behind the arc for golden state for the first half of the season. Although Alec Burks hasn’t been bad, his numbers have also taken a bit of a dip but one would expect that when you go from the Warriors to a team full of talent. Unfortunately his 3 point percentage is down though to 31% with the sixers compared to his 38% with the Warriors. I’ve talked a lot about Embid and Simmons in prior articles but mainly they either need to figure out a way to play with each other or fire Brett Brown and find a coach who can make a system that fits Embid and Simmons in an offense together because their talents and potential are undeniable.
Like I said, this is a very broad list of contenders. There are certainly tiers of contenders but I think that this is a fair broad list. If there is a team that you think I left out or a team that shouldn’t been on here let me know and I’d love to discuss. I’m always looking for feedback and someone to talk basketball with so feel free to leave your comments. I look forward to the playoffs this year and I think it will be very entertaining.
My first impression after 2 weeks for every NBA team
I am going to keep these all relatively short so there may be players that I don’t mention but still like, but this is just a short immediate reaction to each NBA team.
Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young, Trae Young go off! Trae has been on fire but unfortunately he is dealing with an ankle injury that he suffered in their fourth game. He averaged 34 points to go along with his 9 assists the first 3 games of the year. Cam Reddish has been struggling, but obviously he is still very young and can grow into a stud. This team is set for the future and will only grow from here. When Trae gets healthy, this team can make a serious playoff run.
Boston Celtics: Do NOT sleep on this team! I know this might be a hot take, but seeing Kemba play with some talent around him is very enticing. I think this team has shown a lot this season, but they are still very young. The most pivotal thing for this team is the play of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. These guys need to take a leap, playing it simple. Tatum is shooting the 3 ball like everyone wants him to at 48.3% but his field goal percentage is 37.3%. This is because “his game” is taking midrange shots and creating for himself and those just haven’t been falling for him. The teams offense looks stagnant when he plays iso ball, but he is still playing well. If Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue their hot start to this years season, along with some rookies stepping up, the Celtics could win a lot of games this year.
Brooklyn Nets: I feel for this team. I really do. Starting out at 1-3 is not easy especially when you are playing as well as they are. Kyrie Irving has been unconscious. He dropped 50 in his first career game as a member of his hometown Nets. Yet they still lost the game. But this is not his teammates fault either. His co-star, (for this season) Caris Lavert is picking up right where he left off in the playoffs, averaging 19-4-4 with over a steal a game. This team will get some games in the W column soon, it’s only a matter of time. Don’t panic nets fans, you still have KD next year.
Charlotte Hornets: Excuse my french but wtf Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are 2-3 as of right now including a historic 1st game, draining a franchise record 23 3 pointers. The emergence of P.J. Washington has taken the NBA by storm. I actually talked about him in my article for the goals this season for each team, as a player I liked for the future, but did not expect this immediate of an impact. He started the season off averaging 16 points, shooting 52% from 3. Devonte Graham has also caught fire. The Kansas alumni is averaging 16.4 points, shooting 51.5% from 3. He has also showed off playmaking ability as he is averaging 7.6 assists. This teams young pieces look nice, but I still don’t think they will contend for a playoff spot this year.
Chicago Bulls: I am absolutely appalled by the play of this team. To say the least, they are the most disappointing team in the league for the first couple of weeks. They have gone up in almost all of their games, and have had some of the worst 4th quarter stretches ever. The Knicks ended their game against the Bulls on a 16-0 run in the last 3 minutes. They took their first lead of the game with 2 minutes left! They also let the Cavs come from behind as well. This teams needs to learn how to close out games otherwise it will be a long season.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs are 2-2 this year and the only game I have watched of theirs was the one against the Bulls. Sexton looks impressive as an athlete and a scorer but still has yet to prove that he can be a playmaker in this league. Garland is off to a slow start as well, averaging just 9.5 points and 3.5 assists. This team has won games due to the play of Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love (who probably just wants to gain trade interest).
Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic’s second year so far has not just met the high standards, but exceeded them. Luka is averaging 25 points 9 rebs and 7 assists which are All-Starter type numbers. And that’s even after his last game against the Nuggets in which he only had 12-4-5, but they played great basketball as a team. It is also very exciting to see Kristaps come back as what seems to be the All-Star he once was before his injury. He is averaging 22 points and 8 rebounds to go with his 2.5 blocks. This duo is young and lethal and can make some noise this season and will for a long time in this league.
Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets are all about team basketball and they have showed just that this season. Although nobody has stood out individually, we know Jokic is their guy, and we know what he brings to the table. He’s an elite passer at the center position and a great scorer as well. He hasn’t showed off much of his scoring ability yet, but as the season progresses he will become more aggressive at getting to the rim. Michael Porter Jr. has showed a little promise, and I hope that he continues to, as he dropped 15 points in their last game against the Pelicans. This team will be a tough team to beat once Jokic gets going.
Detroit Pistons: It is not always easy starting the year off without your best player (Blake Griffin) but the Pistons still remain 2-3 with some hope. Andre Drummond looks extremely dominate so far. He is averaging 21 points, 17.4 rebs to go along with 2 blocks a game. Not only this but Derrick Rose is on a mission. He is on a mission to prove that last season was no fluke. He is averaging 20.4 pts and 6.2 assists in his resurgence. Not only that, but the year 3 play of the Duke guard Luke Kennard has been really promising. He is averaging 15 points and shooting 45% from 3 after only averaging 8 points for the first 2 years of his career. When Blake comes back, this team can win some games.
Golden State Warriors: This team has been upsetting for sure. I’m not gonna use the word disappointing because it is an unfortunate situation with all the injuries they have been plagued with. First, losing Klay for most likely the season after the events of their last game is highly likely. In their last game, Steph Curry suffered a broken left hand in their game against the suns the other night. This will probably provoke them to keep Klay on the bench the rest of the season as well because they are no longer a contender. They have announced that they will be preparing for a high draft pick. Prayers out to Steph and Klay.
Houston Rockets: I love this team! This is easily the most fun team in the league to watch. Starting off the season 3-1 looks, the best friend/ duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook have proven to the league that they can make things work. Harden erupted for 59 the other night to go along with his 9 assists. Even with Harden taking 32 shots, Russ was still able to pick up his triple double with 17-10-12. Russ brings a whole new dynamic to their offense that they didn’t have before. They can get out and run now and really score in transition which is something they lacked last year. Often easy buckets like that get the team going and may be the thing that prevents James Harden from having a cold night. This team is a serious contenders!
Indiana Pacers: I talked about the impact of Malcolm Brogdon in my goals article. Brogdon has been nothing short of spectacular. He is averaging 22-5-11 and shooting 38% from 3. This number will only go up. He could be in the conversation for most improved player when it’s all said and done because he is taking on a much newer role at that point guard spot. Sabonis got paid this offseason yeah, but, why does that all of the sudden make him a starter? Let him play the great 6 man role that he played last year. If this team can “stay solid” like I mentioned in my goals article, than when they get Oladipo back in December-February, they may be able to make a little noise. Also prayers out to Myles Turner on his injury.
Los Angeles Clippers: Wow. That’s all I gotta say. This team came out strong with their 4-2 start. They took no prisoners against the Lakers on opening night and beat the Warriors with Steph by 20 2 nights later. Kawhi is averaging 29-7-6 to go along with 2 steals and is looking like an early MVP candidate. That is of course if he plays enough games. The shooters they have around him are knocking down their shots such as Patrick Patterson and Landry Shamet. JaMychal Green and Mo Harkless fit in really nice with that bench unit run by Lou Will and Montrezl Harrell. Every member on this team is bought into the defensive system and plays well as a cohesive unit. By the way, Paul George-an MVP candidate last year- has yet to play a game. When he comes back, I cannot see anybody stopping this team.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers have had a very solid start at 3-1. Some Lakers fans are complaining that Lebron isn’t dominating in the points column(23 ppg) or anything like that but if you think about it in the grand scheme of things it makes sense. Lebron knows this is a marathon and not a sprint. He knows the season is long and that he is getting older, and needs to save some for the playoffs. Not only this, Lebron is playing with a lot of new guys that may not be used to playing with him. He often has found himself passing out of drives to find open shooters when he can probably go up for a contested dunk or layup and make it. The reason I think Lebron is doing this is to instill confidence in the guys around him. Lebron won’t be able to do it all down the stretch and neither will AD and they know that. Lebron is going to need guys like Danny Green, Avery Bradley, KCP, Jared Dudley and Quinn Cook to hit some big shots in the playoffs. Lebron knows what he is in for and he is preparing his team for it better than anyone else can.
Memphis Grizzlies; Some of you guys May know if you read my last article how much I like this young core they have even though they still have a couple of years with lottery picks probably. Ja has been very good. Averaging 17 points and 5 assists to go along with almost 2 steals is great for a rookie. Often rookie point guards struggle to start, but he has gone out their and just simply played his game. Brandon Clarke has been great this year. His 10.5 points 5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game bring a different intensity to this team on the defensive end. He fits really well with Jaren Jackson Jr. who is having a great year himself averaging 15 points and 6.5 rebounds to go along with a block a game. The players on this team need to play their game and let everyone develop in order to be part of something special in the future.
Miami Heat: This team looks real nice. Starting off 4-1 due to the emergence of their 2 rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro. Nunn leads all rookies in points per game with 22 and Herro is not far behind him with 16. Bam Adebayo is playing like the center they need and is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds and showing off a little playmaking with his 5 assists per game. He also has almost 2 blocks a game. Plays the small ball center role perfectly. Now that Jimmy is back, it will only help this team and their route to the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks: This team has had a solid start at 2-2. We all know what Giannis brings to the table but the loss of Brogdon has certainly effected them. His replacement Wesley Matthews has been effective but he is nowhere near what Brogdon is. We all know what this team brings as they brought back almost an identical team. Hopefully Giannis can make a run at his first ring this year.
Minnesota Timberwolves: This is the most surprising team to me. Starting off the season at 3-1, Karl-Anthony Towns looks like an early MVP candidate. He is no longer just a center. Towns has been on the wing taking step back 3s like a guard. He is averaging 27 points, 11.5 rebs, 4 assists to go along with his 2.5 steals a game and 1.8 blocks. He is shooting 54% from the field, and 52% from 3. You can make a serious argument that he has been the best player in the league through the first 2 weeks. Jarrett Culver has been disappointing to start the season. He is only averaging 3 points on 26% shooting. Once he finds his shot he may emerge as one of the better players in his loaded draft class. If this team keeps winning, Karl-Anthony Towns could end up being a serious MVP candidate.
New Orleans Pelicans: Starting off 1-4 may seem upsetting for this team, but they really aren’t playing all that bad. Even without Zion, they are the second highest scoring team in the league. We all know the the scoring impact and the defensive impact that Zion brings to a team. I have been really impressed with the early play of Lonzo Ball averaging 12.4 points and 7.5 assists to go along with 1.6 steals. He is even shooting 37% from 3 which is very good. Most importantly though Brandon Ingram has been an absolute stud. He is averaging 27-8-5 all while shooting 50% from 3. Truly amazing to see how a player can break out in a different setting, as he is playing like an all-star right now. When this team gets Zion back it will only help and maybe they could make a playoff run.
New York Knicks: Man I love me some R.J. Barrett. Averaging 18-6-3 while shooting 42% from 3 is amazing for a rookie. Not to mention a rookie that has already been titled the face of the franchise in New York City. R.J. is embracing all the love and even though the Knicks have started 1-4, he has a real bright future with some help. Elfrid Payton has come in and played very solid basketball at the point guard spot and Mitchell Robinson has also added a very solid year 2 so far. Julius Randle is also playing well averaging 15 ppg and 11 rebounds but is struggling to find his 3 point touch, shooting just 8% from 3. This will definitely improve. I hope the Knicks can continue to develop and become a great team in the future.
Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC has started out 1-4 but that does not matter. They are prepped for the future with draft picks. The play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has exceeded expectations. Taken under the wing of veteran point guard Chris Paul, Shai has become lethal. He is averaging 21.6 ppg, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He is doing this all while shooting the 3 ball at 33% which will only get better. Like I have been preaching, LET SHAI PLAY! as you may have read as my goal for this team this year. He has showed much promise for the future of this team, that little to nobody expected.
Orlando Magic: The 2-2 start for the Magic has been solid. Seeing Markelle Fultz back on the court is amazing. Averaging 11 points and 3 assists at the age of just 21 is great, and now that he is finally healthy (knock on wood), he has many years to develop. The play of Aaron Gordon has definitely held this team back. Like I mentioned in the goals article, he needs to take a leap in order to make this team successful. The fact that they have been still solid even with him averaging 9 points per game and only shooting 35% is promising. I hope that Aaron Gordon can improve and this team can make a playoff run.
Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers look like one of the strongest teams in the league so far. We all know about the play of Joel Embid, but I think that Ben Simmons is learning how to hide his lack of a shooting ability. He is moving more without the ball, cutting to the basket and coming off screens to get the ball in momentum going to the rim. He is also extremely locked in defensively with his 2.8 steals a game. Josh Richardson has also had a solid start to the season for this team providing even more defense and averaging 13-4-3 with almost 2 steals a game. This team is very good but could face spacing problems in the playoffs when teams tend to game plan more and Ben Simmons lack of a jump shot could possibly be exposed.
Phoenix Suns: Like I said in my goals article, I really like what they did with their team this offseason. They have really built a team this year rather than just having pieces which is proven by their 3-2 start. Rubio has taking a lot of the playmaking load off Devin Booker. Devin Booker can go out and do what he does best and that’s just, playing it simple, getting buckets (24 ppg). New head coach Monty Williams has placed every player into a role and it is a whole new look suns team. Cam Johnson and Oubre hitting their shots on the wing as well as the solid play of Rubio and Saric and even Aaron Baynes in the absence of Deandre Ayton has been the key to this team’s success. I still don’t think this team will be a playoff team in the west but seeing this early promise looks great for the future.
Portland Trail Blazers: This is another team I love just like the Rockets. I would love to see Damian Lillard get himself a ring after all he has been though (future article idea?). The 3-2 start of this team is very solid. I think the addition of Hassan Whiteside has been very good for them as he is averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds with over a block a game. Other than that this team is similar to their past years and will be a solid team that probably makes the playoffs. I would like to see Nassir Little get some more minutes and give this team some more defensive grit.
Sacramento Kings: After their breakout season last year, the Kings have taken a bit of a step back. Starting the season off 0-5, has been mainly because of the loss of Marvin Bagley. Bagley looked like a stud in the preseason. This Kings team looked like they would be very solid this year and because of his injury the results have not been there. I hope that when he comes back this team can get back on track because De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are still having solid years themselves.
San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs are again, the solid team they always are. Looking to make the playoffs for a 23rd straight year under head coach Greg Popovich, their 3-1 start is a great start. DeMar Derozan has been playing some of his best basketball. Averaging 24-5-2 with a steal a game is some of Derozan’s best numbers of his career and he is also closing out games for them effectively. The return of Dejounte Murray has been pivotal for this team. He is averaging 13-8-5 on 52% shooting, but it is his defensive impact that truly separates him from other point guards. He is averaging 2.2 steals and just under a block a game. I think this team has a very solid chance to make the playoffs again, but in the West it might be hard.
Toronto Raptors: The defending champs look like… the defending champs with their 4-1 record. The obvious difference is that there is no Kawhi on their team and most of their solid veterans have contracts that are up at the end of the year. Pascal Siakam has a bright future in this league. The most improved player last year, has emerged as more than just that this season. He is averaging 28-9-4 and shooting 44% from 3. Siakam’s excellence is met with the great play of Fred Vanvleet. He is averaging 17-4-7 while shooting 40% from 3 with 1.4 steals a game. I would love to see this team make another run, but although I do see this team being successful, I don’t think that they will be a top seed in the east.
Utah Jazz: I love this Jazz team. I think that they are going to be great. The first 4 games of the season, their new point guard Mike Conley (who has played at an all-star level for so long) struggled badly. The team was still good enough to hold down the fort and remain 3-1. Conley went off in their 5th game, putting up 29 points and 5 assists and I hope that this helps him find his game. The play of Bojan Bogdanovic has been crucial for this team. He has filled the void for the Jazz of a great shooter. He is averaging 21 points and shooting 44% from 3. I really hope this team can make a run this season.
Washington Wizards: There is not much to say about this Wizards team because we didn’t expect them to be all that good. Bradley Beal has been his usual great self averaging 27-6-8. Thomas Bryant is having a very solid season we’ll averaging 14.5 points and 10 rebounds to go along with his 2 blocks a game. The play of rookie Rui Hachimura has also been very promising. He is averaging 18 points per game which amongst the top of the leaderboards for rookies. Although Washington is on the top in the baseball world, it may be a while until they return to contention for basketball.
I hope you enjoyed my first reactions for each team through this point in the season. It has been a very fun season so far and it will only get better. I know I might have left out some players on teams but I tried to point out the guys who are different, and we usually don’t know what to expect from them. Let me know if you have any feedback or just wanna talk hoops.
My name is Victor Coustan. I started this when I was 17 years old, and the beginning of my senior year in high school. I am one of the biggest Chicago Bulls fans you will ever meet. Sometimes a little biased. Over the past year or two, I have become very interested in sports writing. I often find myself with too much to talk about so I decided rather than rambling to my mom about stuff that she knows nothing about, why not share it with the world? My dad was a sports writer for SB Nation and he inspired me to start my own blog. Since I lost my dad in June of 2015, I have tried to make him proud and carry on his legacy by doing the things that we shared and loved most. I hope you enjoy my writing and feel free to leave any feedback or argumentative opinions through the comments.