Welcome to the start of my weekly Tuesday column. We will take a look around the league from the past week. The season is a week old but there is plenty to take a look at in the early part of the season. In this weekly column we will look at three things that are related to the success of teams or individuals, two things that relate to the lack of success, rookie watch and list the triple doubles for the week.
Three Positive Points
Detroit Pistons 3-0
This was not supposed to happen. The Pistons in the beginning of the Stan Van Gundy turn around are looking like they may be extending their schedule beyond the regular season. They jumped out to a 3-0 record with wins over the Bulls, Hawks and Jazz. They are leading the league in rebounding behind Andre Drummond and are 4th in points allowed per game. The biggest surprise has to be Marcus Morris, although I am not 100% convinced he’s not really Markieff. Marcus is leading the team in scoring with 19.3 per game along with 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Stan has been playing 3 guys over 33 minutes which will come into question when injuries and fatigue arise but for now, the Pistons are looking like a playoff team with a potential all-star this year in Andre Drummond with his 18.7 ppg, 16.3 rpg, 2 blks and 1.3 stls per game.
Minnesota Timberwolves 2-0
Another team that was not suppose to win more than 25 games has jumped out to a 2-0 record, although they only beat two other non playoff teams in the Lakers and Nuggets. Minnesota is without a doubt in an emotional state with the passing of Flip Saunders. Karl-Anthony Towns is looking like the number one overall pick averaging 21 points and 13 rebounds per game. Ricky Rubio had a stellar opening performance and is averaging 20 points and 11 assists per game. They are 2-0 despite the struggles from Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad. The Wolves can not keep this pace and will most likely miss the playoffs but it’s impressive to watch the impact of Karl-Anthony especially on the defensive end and how it helps the team as they are currently ranked 6th in points allowed per game.
If you have been trying to figure out what is different this year from last and can’t seem to place a finger on it than look no further than the Pace. To put things in perspective, last year there was only one team that had a pace over 100 and that was the world champion Golden State Warriors. For those new into analytics, Pace is the number of possessions a team uses per game. The higher the pace, the more shot attempts and the more points. I know the Pace this year may not hold up as we move along the season and fatigue and injuries start to mount. However, there are currently 22 teams with a pace over 100. The infamous 8 who are below that number are the 76ers, Cavs, Hornets, Pistons, Nets, Grizzlies, Jazz and Heat. Every sporting league is a follow the leader type and the NBA is no different. More teams are trying to acquire better shooters, quicker athletes and run the floor more. Taking shots early in the shot clock and emphasizing on spacing are important factors that teams are starting to lean towards to maximize their team’s resources.
Two Negative Points
This is not the way a team who should feel slighted last year missing out on the MVP award for James Harden and was eliminated in the playoffs by the world champs. Morey Ball teams are supposed to be top tier scoring and pace setters. This Rockets team is currently 29th in the league in points per game with 88.5 while allowed 108.5 per game. Dwight Howard doesn’t look like an all-star caliber player anymore and the team has had some careless players like this. (Link) It’s not just that they started 0-3 but they have lost to the Nuggets and Heat, two teams they should beat. They are also losing in double digit fashion. Outside of Montrezl Harrell, who is averaging 12.5 points in 18.5 minutes per game, there is no Rocket player that you could provide praise for. They need to figure this out soon or else they will be in for a difficult season.
I may be going overboard here with my detest for Austin Rivers but why is he still even in the league? More importantly, why is he getting almost 18 minutes a game for a team that has high expectations this season? Austin Rivers is shooting a glorious 31.3% while taking more shots than DeAndre Jordan, Lance Stephenson, and Paul Pierce, all of whom play more minutes per game than Austin. He is rocking a mean 6.5 PER with an assist/turnover ratio of .7. It will only be a matter of time before he causes a problem in a key situation in a playoff game. Oh wait, he already did that last year. He is also throwing cushions into the stands. Not a good start of the season for the coach’s son.
We already gushed about Karl-Anthony earlier so let’s take a look at someone else who is making a lot of noise and filling the stat sheet. Mudiay is putting up 16 points, 5.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal per game while turning the ball over 7.5 times a game. He has been given the keys to the franchise and will be learning on the cuff as the 19 year old starts his NBA career. Mudiay can do a lot on the basketball court and has the most ready NBA body out of the rookie class.
The other big man has been off to a good start for his career putting up 18 points with 6.5 rebounds with a block and a steal per game. Jahlil will need to cut down on the turnovers and learn to work faster when obtaining the ball in the low block. We’ve already seen his offensive game on the professional level and did a great job against the Celtics big men rotation. Jahlil will demand a lot of double coverage so it will be important for him to establish his teammates and work on his passing out of double teams.
Triple Double Watch
Victor Oladipo – 10/30 vs Oklahoma City Thunder (in a thriller of a game!)