3 Things We’ve Learned from the NBA Season Already
The NBA season is still in its infancy, but that doesn’t mean that trends haven’t already started to set and identities have been made. With a full week under our belt, let’s take a look at some initial major thoughts on the young season.
1) The old guys aren’t done yet
One of the biggest subjects in question entering this season was Kobe Bryant. Would he only be a shell of himself after a rough past 16 months of injury? Would he ever return to being a premier scorer? And would he stay healthy? So far Kobe has quieted any naysayers. Through 5 games, Bryant has put up a league high 27.6 PPG including a 39 point outing last Tuesday against Phoenix. However, it’s not just the 36 year old Bryant that appears to be staving off father time. 36 year old Dirk Nowitzki is also out to a blazing start, putting up just under 22 points a game while shooting almost 60% from the field that has also included clutch 4th quarter performances against San Antonio and New Orleans. Next we have Tim Duncan who has once again proved while he’s one of the greatest of all time. As he closes in on age 39 he has managed to put up about 15 PPG and 11 RPG in this short season. He still looks every bit the part of being a key member of a championship caliber team. Meanwhile, we’ve also enjoyed some throwback games from a few other older players such as Kevin Garnett (18 point-11 rebound outing Saturday in Detroit) and Manu Ginobli (a vintage 20 point game on opening night against the Mavs). Indeed, the older class of players clearly have gas left in the tank.
2) This class of rookies aren’t exempt from growing pains
Just because this is one of the most hyped rookie classes of all time doesn’t mean they won’t struggle out of the gates like many classes before them. Number one overall pick Andrew Wiggins has been given the starting job right out of the gate for the Minnesota Timberwolves but has yet to produce consistently in the box score. Wiggins through six contests has managed to score only 9 points per game on 42% shooting while also having about twice as many turnovers as assists in that span. The pick after Wiggins, Jabari Parker has also struggled to find his shots in the first few games. Despite playing the most of any rookies thus far, Parker is only averaging 11 points on 41% field goal percentage including a gruesome 25% on his 3’s and 50% on free throws. Those numbers don’t exactly scream efficiency. Does that mean that these rookies haven’t shown flashes? Of course not, Wiggins went into Brooklyn Wednesday night and had a team high 17 points on 7-12 shooting while Parker two nights later had a game high 19 points against the Pistons. Expect as the season progresses for the rookies to find their niche and establish some consistency.
3) Continuity still matters
In the NBA, it revolves so much around building a better team each year to compete for a title. This off season was no exception. However, as we see year after year to start a season, the ones with the best starts are the teams that have been together the longest. We’ve seen so far the Cavaliers are clearly unfamiliar with one another which has produced obvious frustration from everyone involved. The same can be seen with free agent signings in Charlotte (Lance Stephenson) and Dallas (Chandler Parsons) that have each struggled to get going on a consistent basis. Even the Chicago Bulls, with so many new faces, have looked sloppy in their first few games also. However, we look at the other end of the spectrum and see teams that are familiar with each other are enjoying early success. The Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, and even the Houston Rockets all brought back relatively the same core from last year and it’s evident in their play. Even a team like the Heat, who really only lost LeBron and Ray Allen, have shown they are still comfortable with their system and have come out looking like a legitimate contender in the East. Still, that isn’t to say that the new look teams won’t eventually get over the hump and pick up their play when it really matter: the playoffs.
It will certainly be interesting to see how these story lines continue to develop as the season progresses. The NBA season will be two weeks old on Wednesday, November 12th.