The Small Sample Size Overreaction
Most of us here at Basketball Insiders do a lot of sports radio. By virtue of doing so many shows on many different stations, we get the pulse of what some of the average, non-diehard sports fans are thinking. While one game is one game and every team in the NBA has a long road ahead of them, some things jumped out in the first game that are worth watching as the season gets underway.
Anthony Davis Is Pretty Good
Any player who can kick in 50 points is impressive, but how efficiently Davis notched his 50 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and five steals was breathtaking. The problem for the Pelicans is no one else on the roster seems to be able to play at even half of Davis’ level.
You can win a couple of games in the NBA with a lone superstar – in fact, you can even crack the postseason – but to be anything more than a contestant in the dance, the Pelicans need another guy who can complement Davis.
When Tim Frazier (and no offense to Tim, who has been outstanding for the Pelicans) is the next most productive guy, the Pelicans have a problem. Maybe that gets solved when Tyreke Evans gets back, or maybe when Jrue Holiday returns he can help. But the Pelicans’ season hinges on someone else at least competing at Davis’ level, and that did not happen last night.
Warriors Have Issues
Never buy into the hype. If history on superteams has taught us anything, it’s that it takes time for everyone to figure things out and preseason is hardly the environment for it. The Warriors have the best starting five in the world. That’s almost without question, but what they seem to be missing is the glue. Maybe that was Harrison Barnes, maybe that was Andrew Bogut, maybe that was Marreese Speights. The Warriors have to find the intangibles that made them so good last year.
Here is another thing to consider: The Warriors are no longer the darlings of the NBA. They are now officially the hunted and hated. More nights than not, they are going to get every teams’ best punch. Teams are going to challenge them to be unselfish, and that may not be as easy as it sounds.
There is also another thing to consider– the proverbial elephant in the room. When do the Warriors players want their shine? We have seen this too. In the beginning, it’s special. The friendship, the magic bond that makes it work. But when that goes away and it’s hard, how long before the Draymond Green schtick gets old? When does Klay Thompson start believing the hype, that maybe he is one of the best two-way players in basketball? When does the pressure of being Steph Curry become too much?
The Warriors are the best team in the West, without question. They will figure this out because they have a roster full of great team guys, but it’s clear that some of the special sauce that made the Warriors historically good a year ago is gone. They have some issues on the bench they’ll have to sort out, and this isn’t going to be the magical run to the Finals season that everyone thought it would be. It’s going to be harder and time will tell how long it takes the Warriors to figure it out.
Milwaukee Has A Problem
Outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo (who was a monster last night), which guys in Milwaukee want to step up? Like Anthony Davis, it was glaring how much better Antetokounmpo was than anyone he played with. He seemed to be the only guy playing with bounce and energy, and that’s going to be a problem for a Bucks team that wants to make the playoffs.
Maybe it was the early foul trouble that turned Jabari Parker so passive. Maybe it was putting so many minutes into guys like Michael Beasley and Greg Monroe, or maybe it was missing Khris Middleton that much. The Bucks have some issues to work out, that’s for sure. Maybe in Game 2 they will see more life from the team, and maybe they’ll shoot the ball a little better from the three-point line.
James Harden Could Lead The League In Assists
When you think about James Harden, you think about his offense and that was on full display last night. What most people do not think about is his playmaking. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni made it clear when Patrick Beverley went down to injury that he was not worried at all because Harden would handle the ball. Seventeen assists later, handle the ball he did. The Rockets ultimately lost to a very solid Lakers team that showed off its depth and three-point shooting, but the Rockets showed they could move the ball around at a pace that suits Harden well. Harden struggled with the three in the preseason, and he hasn’t found his range yet in the fast-paced offense Houston is running. If Harden finds the three and continues to dish dimes like this, he could lead the league in scoring and assists. Who would have thought that?
Bitching About The Triangle Already?
It took exactly one game before the primary players on the Knicks had less than flattering things to say about the offense. Now mind you, most quotes are a response to a question, and no question gets asked in New York more than, “How’d you like the Triangle?” So balance any quote given against it being an answer to a leading question, but there is no escaping that Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony would rather see more traditional pick-and-roll basketball than the free flowing Triangle system Knicks president Phil Jackson believes is the key to success. The Knicks hardly looked ready for prime time in their first game. Maybe that turns a little in game two, but Joakim Noah didn’t look very good in his first regular season game. The only guy shooting the ball well was Anthony, and if Courtney Lee is going to run the offense that much, the Knicks are going to have long-term problems.
How About Sergio?
Raise your hand if you thought Sergio Rodriquez would be the third-leading scorer for the Philadelphia 76ers? How about notching nine assists in the opening game? The big question surrounding the 76ers was who could make the offense go. The belief was it would be the top overall pick, Ben Simmons. Then he went down to injury, and many thought it might be Jerryd Bayless. Then he got hurt too. While Rodriquez isn’t going to leap tall buildings or anything like that, he was the calm, steady hand to make plays the 76ers have been missing for a few years. He shot the ball well, contested on defense and posted a surprisingly good game. The 76ers hung around for most of the game against the Thunder and had anyone posted a big game, they might have pulled it out. The 76ers looked a lot better in game one, let’s see what their second contest brings.
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