It’s the first Monday of November and the NBA is starting to get out of the opening portion of the season and into full swing. Teams are starting to jell, players are getting back into a rhythm and the standings are already beginning to take shape.
With October in the rearview mirror and the winter months around the corner, Basketball Insiders will begin an “Areas Of Concern” series, analyzing the issues happening within each division as it stands currently.
To kick things off, we’ll dive into the Central.
Injury Bug In Chi-Town
Dysfunction is usually a big part of the reason why Chicago has been a bottom dweller in the league, but it’s been more of the contagious injury bug that’s had a sharp bite on the team.
We learned before the preseason started that Lauri Markkanen sprained his elbow and would miss the first six-to-eight weeks. Denzel Valentine hurt his ankle around the same time and still hasn’t returned as of yet. Kris Dunn will be sidelined for a while longer after spraining his MCL on a layup attempt in Dallas. Most recently against the Hornets, Bobby Portis suffered almost the same exact injury as Dunn in the other knee.
The Bulls aren’t supposed to “wow” anybody this season, but they’ve definitely been dealt a bad hand to kick off their 2018-19 campaign.
Motor City Shooting Woes
While Blake Griffin is producing MVP-worthy numbers and putting the squad on his back is an awesome story that deserves praise, there is an underlying theme of this ball club so far that is being masked.
The Pistons don’t make threes. Whether it’s the construction of the roster or just a poor start to the season, the numbers are baffling. According to NBA.com, Detroit is a top ten team in wide-open three-point attempts per game, yet it converts only 26.7 percent of those looks.
Losing Luke Kennard to a shoulder injury doesn’t make matters any easier, but there are only two regular rotational Pistons who are shooting above a 40 percent clip from deep other than him—Griffin and Ish Smith. The player taking the most threes per game is Reggie Jackson, and he’s only knocking down 31.5 percent. Usual sharpshooter Reggie Bullock and teammate Stanley Johnson have also struggled, only making a quarter of their three-point attempts.
Something’s got to give with this poor turnout, especially considering Dwane Casey’s offense in Toronto was predicated on terrific shooting last year.
Start Getting To The Line, Indiana
There is little to express when it comes to “concern” with the Pacers, but there’s a specific element of their game that’s consistently been lacking—free throws.
That goes for attempts, makes, the whole nine pretty much. It’s perplexing how a team like Indiana is so effective on the offensive end, yet can’t draw fouls or produce at the charity stripe. It ranks among the bottom three in each free throw category across the board.
Victor Oladipo leads the group in attempts with just over four per game, with the rest of the crew taking less than that. The only other Pacer kind of earning his way to the line is Domantas Sabonis, who is right behind Oladipo with 3.7 attempts per game.
Other than the percentage, Indiana had the same trouble last season. Perhaps it has to do with the scheme offensively, but it seems to suggest that the players aren’t being aggressive enough.
If Bud’s Bucks Take Care Of The Ball, They’ll Be Elite
Milwaukee is one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. In no way, shape or form is there a major issue with this team. Mike Budenholzer has done a magnificent job of putting his players in the best situation to win and they have done that with an 8-1 record to open the year.
Realize that when you play a style as fast as the Bucks do in open space, you’re bound to make mistakes. It’s just the nature of the pace and space style of play. Either some mistakes dribbling the ball, a bad read on a pass or maybe even a travel. That’s exactly what we’ll point out here.
In nine games, Milwaukee is turning the ball over 16 times per game. Its turnover rate is among the bottom seven teams in the NBA. On the flip side, the Bucks’ defense isn’t causing a whole lot of miscues itself as of yet, as their opponent percentage rate is hovering around 13 percent, per Cleaning The Glass.
What On Earth, Cavs?
There are plenty of starting points for the mess going on with the Cleveland Cavaliers, so we’ll just pick one and go from there.
First off, Kevin Love hurt his left toe in a preseason game against the Boston Celtics. By continually playing through the pain over the first four games of the year, he aggravated the injury so much that he ended up having surgery. The All-Star forward is expected to be out at least six weeks before his return to basketball activity can be updated. Translation: It’ll probably be more than six weeks.
There is dissension in the locker room already. Some veterans are voicing their displeasure with younger guys who aren’t playing the right way. While these players have won at the highest level in basketball and earned their spot in this league, they are the same ones getting blown out and showing poor body language the minute things go south. It’s not the best example to set for those trying to learn good habits, and, quite frankly, it is weak to throw teammates under the bus this early. If the rift continues, moves need to be made.
What about the mixed messages from the Cavaliers front office and coaching staff? It is pretty clear that general manager Koby Altman is eager to get his offseason acquisitions and inexperienced talent valuable experience, but at the same time, Tyronn Lue and now Larry Drew haven’t exactly granted that wish. Let’s not forget that Jim Boylan, one of the assistants on last year’s coaching staff with Lue, filed a lawsuit against the team for age discrimination to which Cleveland’s team counsel Jason Hillman retorted was a “shameless cash grab.”
But hey, the city was awarded the 2022 NBA All-Star Game on Thursday afternoon.
As you can see, some organizations have more to worry about than others. That’s just how the league works. Hopefully, everybody can figure out a way to correct these problems and put forth a better product moving forward.
Stay tuned for the rest of Basketball Insiders “Areas Of Concern” series the rest of this week.
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- Deandre Ayton Next Team Odds, Pistons’ Odds Increase by 25%
- Spurs trade Dejounte Murray to Hawks for Gallinari, two first-round picks
- P.J. Tucker signs with 76ers on three-year, $30 million contract
- Collin Sexton Next Team Odds, Pacers’ Odds Increase by 15%
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