The NBA season is still young, but here are 10 observations and what we have learned in the NBA so far this season.
1-The Lakers are waaaay better without Kobe. Kobe shot 35.6% from the floor last season, the Lakers as a team are shooting 47.3%. The Lakers are averaging 110 points per game, good for 2nd best in the league to only the Warriors (after scoring 97.3 points per game last season, good for dead last). That’s quite the turn-around. Amazing what the Lakers can do without deferring to an over-the-hill legend.
2-DeMar DeRozan is really, really good. After a breakout season last year averaging 23.5 PPG, he is averaging a league-leading 33.3 PPG. He topped 30 points 14 times last season. He has topped 30 points in 9 of the first 11 games of the season including two 40+ games. Have we ever seen an All-Star win Most Improved Player?
3-Joel Embiid is the real deal. While still on a minutes restriction and averaging just 22.3 minutes per game, Embiid is averaging 17 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. His PER is an astonishing 21.3. Last year’s rookie of the year, Karl-Anthony Towns’, who enjoyed the best rookie season of any big man since Tim Duncan, PER was 22.6. Assuming Embiid gets better throughout his rookie season, like most rookies do, and he gets better with more playing time, Embiid could best Towns rookie averages and efficiency numbers. His 2.3 blocks per game would rank him 3rd in the league, again this from playing just 22.3 minutes per game.
4-James Harden may be better at running Mike D’Antoni’s system than even Steve Nash. In Steve Nash’s MVP seasons he averaged 15.5 and 18.8 points and 11.5 and 10.5 assists and never averaged more than 4.2 rebounds. So far this season Harden is averaging 28.5 points, 12.8 assists, and 8.2 rebounds. Harden’s 30.8 PER this season ranks him in the top 20 seasons of all-time. Nash’s career-best PER was 23.8.
5-For how good James Harden has been, Harden’s old teammate, has been even better. Westbrook is averaging 31.8/9.8/9.6. His PER is 31.2 which would be the best season by anyone not named Wilt, MJ, Lebron, and Curry. Westbrook is just rounded-numbers away from averaging a triple-double. He’d be the first since the great Oscar Robertson to accomplish that.
6-The Hawks gamble on Dwight Howard appears to be paying off. Howard is averaging 14.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks and a team-leading 23.4 PER. Howard clearly has something left in the tank and the Hawks’ balance is going to make them tough to beat.
7-This might just be the Clippers’ year that they throw off everyone’s predictions that the Cavs will be meeting the Warriors again in the Finals. The Clippers are off to an 11-2 start by winning by an average of 14.2 points per game. The Clippers are averaging 109.6 points, but it is the Clippers’ defensive rating that tops the league. They have a Championship coach, a top 5 all-time point guard, a future Hall of Famer at Forward, an All-NBA and All-Defensive Team Center, 3-point shooting, and depth. Smells like a delicious recipe to me.
8-The Warriors have an historically good offense, but a really bad defense. The Warriors rank 1st in Offensive Rating and just 22nd in Defensive Rating. They are also 29th in Rebounding. They need a player like…like…Andrew Bogut. Oops. Only time will tell how the Warriors can match up against bigger teams like the Clippers and if their shooting, which is spectacular, can overcome their lack of defense and rebounding.
9-Steph Curry is just as good as he was last year. We have all noticed that Kevin Durant is taking away some of Steph Curry’s shots, but what many are missing is that Steph Curry’s actually more efficient this year than he was last year. In his historically good season last year Curry shot 50.4/45.4/90.8 and this year he is shooting 50.8/46.4/90.3 and is still on pace to hit 369 3’s and average 28 points per game.
10-There is nobody in the East good enough to challenge the Cavs. The Cavs are 2-0 against the Raptors and 10-1 with Lebron in the line-up. Lebron is telling people he is just getting better. That’s scary when the defending champs are getting better and it’s leading scorer is now someone other than their MVP. Nobody in the East is going to knock off the Cavs.