Welcome to my first Triple Double Tuesday column for the 2016-17 year. It has been a weird year to say the least with many teams overachieving (I see you Nets and Lakers) and some high expectation clubs trying to figure out what is going wrong (Pacers anyone?). Excited to bring this weekly column back.
Three Positive Plays
Lakers and Nets are combined for 10-11
Well it appears that none of us saw the Nets and Lakers combining for .500 basketball. Both of these teams have overachieved so far, or maybe we were just wrong. I touched on the Lakers reasons for success on the Hoopscritic Podcast, attributing to the culture change brought on by Luke Walton and the combination of the young talent getting minutes and making the most of them. The Nets on the other hand are being carried by all-star center Brook Lopez. It seems every year we tend to forget about Brook Lopez due to his career of injuries and the Nets lack of success. Jeremy Lin is also better than we remember and the help of some of the younger guys like Sean Kilpatrick, Joe Harris, and Justin Hamilton have made the Nets a more competitive group than one initially thought.
Hawks transitioned roster paying off
Atlanta pulled off one of the better roster roll overs in recent years and haven’t seemed to miss a beat. They saw Al Horford leave in free agency and traded away Jeff Teague. This opened up the door for Dennis Schroder to take over and he has performed as expected if you were monitoring his per 36 numbers (19.5 pts, 7.8 ast, 4.5 reb, 1.6 stl from 2015-16). What has really pushed his game this season is his offensive rating (106 oRTg, 9 point increase) and his efficiency with increased shooting percentages. The subtraction of Al Horford has also opened up the mid-range and three point line for Paul Millsap who works better with space. No one can overlook the addition of Dwight Howard who is having a nice bounce back year and providing solid rim protection and rebounding for the Hawks.
Everyone was right about the Jazz
The one team that most fans hope have an injury free season is the Utah Jazz. This year they started off with Gordon Hayward missing time and they are still without Alec Burks. However, this hasn’t seemed to stop the Jazz who are 7-5 while missing time from Gordon Hayward (6 games), George Hill (5 games), Derrick Favors (1), and Rodney Hood (1). They are beating teams they should like the Heat, Magic, Knicks, Mavericks, and 76ers and have lost a couple hard fought road games (Clippers, Blazers, Hornets). The Jazz have only had one disappointing game in my view and that was last night against a sub .500 team. The Jazz are going to fighting for those 50 wins and we are going to see the first playoff games for this young team, with the help of the improved bench and veteran leadership.
Two Negative Plays
What’s wrong in Indiana
For every prediction the pundits get right, they have to miss on another prediction. I believe this is Newton’s law of the NBA. The Pacers are struggling early on. This team was expecting to solidify themselves in that second tier in the Eastern Conference but have not lived up to their expectations. With some rough defeats from the Nets, 76ers and Mavericks makes it hard to buy this team. Out of their five wins, the only winning team is Chicago, who they beat at home. They currently rank 16th in OFF EFF and 18th in DEF EFF. The Pacers filled up their roster with a lot of quality players like Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, Aaron Brooks, and Al Jefferson to name a few but they haven’t been able to carry the team when needed. Another angle to look at is the drop off in Paul George’s game this year (all stats have dipped but he is shooting at better percentages than he has in his entire career). I will chop this early struggle to getting acclimated to their first year with Nate McMillian.
Time for Dallas to blow it up?
I think it’s time. The Mavericks have been holding on to the Dirk era like a high school relationship where the two lovebirds go away to college. The Mavericks big splash was signing Harrison Barnes in the off season but he alone is not enough to make this team a contender. Filled with aging veterans who are on the downside of their careers, the Mavericks are in need of a rebuild. The likes of Deron Williams, J.J. Barea and Wesley Matthews are your 3rd, 2nd, and 5th leading scorers for your team combing for 44 points. The Mavericks rank 26th in OFF EFF, 12th in DEF EFF and 28th in TS%. The offensive is missing without Dirk and even at his ripe age of 38, he can only be expected to give you so much. I don’t have much hope for the Mavericks this season and I expect them to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
It’s a little early to get too worked up with rookies but it appears that Joel Embiid will be the runaway rookie of the year. This past rookie class didn’t field many starters and with Ben Simmons recovering from injury, Brandon Ingram coming off the bench and the college graduates struggling (Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield) this year will be the year of The Process.
Triple Double Watch
Welcome to our inaugural Triple Double post. Here are all the triple doubles for the season so far. Teams have played anywhere between 8 to 12 games so far.
Interesting Tidbit of the Week
There was a really cool post regarding player contract bonuses posted to Reddit this week. It breaks down some of the contract bonuses each player and team negotiate on from participating in an off season camp to achieving awards in the league. Below are some of my favorite ones:
- Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns earned an extra $50,000 for attending a team-designated skills-and-conditioning camp this summer.
- The Nets have a few bonuses for Jeremy Lin, Luis Scola and Greivis Vasquez. Luis Scola and Greivis Vasquez have bonuses for playing 65 games and Lin can earn extra cash by making All-NBA honors (good luck) and playing 61 games.
- Rajon Rondo has minutes played (at least 30 a night), team wins (55 games) and Bulls reach conference finals.
- Post season awards; Twenty players have incentives for postseason honors. The Pacers’ Thaddeus Young is an unlikely candidate to win league MVP ($500,000 bonus), but the Nuggets’ Will Barton could make a run for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.