The first month of the NBA season is almost over, and there have been story lines on top of story lines. Kyrie Irving has led the Celtics on a TWELVE game winning streak without Gordon Hayward, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have had no problems stepping up to a higher role with Hayward’s absence. Social media loves talking some Lonzo Ball. Go on Twitter during a Lakers game, it is a fun activity that can help kill some time. While Ball hasn’t played that well, he also hasn’t played that poorly. Shooting efficiency is his main issue right now. Even when he plays well as a whole, his shooting numbers are still horrific. Yet, Ball is averaging over seven assists and six rebounds per game while remaining a defensive liability and struggling to find his shot, both of which scouts expected to be problems for Ball as he started his rookie campaign.
But can we also talk about the most impressive rookie thus far, Ben Simmons? As a Sixers fan, I can confidently say that Ben Simmons is THAT DUDE. Simmons is just a flat-out (big) BALLER. He’s averaging 17.4 points, 7.8 assists, and 9.0 rebounds and can’t even shoot beyond 15 feet. The combination of Simmons and Embiid has been fun to watch, and it’s clear that the Sixers are going to be very good, very soon, but I’m biased. Anyways, let’s get to some good, some bad, and some ugly from the first month of NBA action.
The Good (or Great depending on your perspective):
Every night I check Twitter when the Bucks play, I see multiple highlights from Giannis Antetokounmpo, mainly known as the Greek Freak (because his last name is NOT easy to consistently type). The Greek Freak has a 32.8 PER (player efficiency rating) that leads the NBA, and is averaging 31.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.8 blocks. He’s the early front-runner for MVP, or as I like to call it, the “MVP that isn’t LeBron” award. Still, credit to the Greek Freak for expanding his game and becoming a more complete player this year. He’s still struggling with his shot (shooting 30% from three), but he makes up for it with insane efficiency near the paint. Even with a shooting percentage of less than 30% from three, the Greek Freak is still shooting 59.4% from the field. He’s getting buckets when he wants to get buckets, and it’s been fun to watch.
The Cleveland Cavaliers troll job of the NBA this season has been second-to-none. Look, I’m not going to sit here and act like the Cavs don’t have some serious defensive issues. Without Tristan Thompson, they have a serious lack of interior defensive depth. Kevin Love and LeBron James can’t play all 48 minutes. BUT, in the five games they’ve played against legit playoff teams, they’re 4-1 and haven’t look as bad as they have in the rest of their eight games. The Cavs are going to be fine. Last year they coasted in the regular season to get the best possible path to the NBA Finals. LeBron James knows what he’s doing, and he’s going to get to the Finals for an eighth straight year.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s chemistry has, predictably, been a concern. Carmelo Anthony hasn’t fit in that well with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, as Anthony is shooting a career low from the field (42.4%) and 35.4% from three, which is slightly higher than his 34.6% career average. I’m not ready to hit the panic meter on the Thunder’s chemistry issues, but they need Melo to figure out his role. Looking at the numbers can be deceiving, because he is averaging 20.3 points per game, which, in retrospect, is pretty damn good. But adding context is important. The Thunder simply haven’t gelled, and Melo is a part of the problem. We’ve seen early chemistry problems in recent years with teams where multiple star players have joined forces. It’s going to take time.
Don’t watch the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, and the Chicago Bulls. They are BAD basketball teams. Full tank mode: initiated. On a personal and biased note, the Philadelphia 76ers completely botched the start of rookie Markelle Fultz’s career. First, he was injured and resting at the end of the preseason to be ready for the regular season. Then he was playing but completely changed his shot and had the UGLIEST free throw form in NBA history. Then it turned out he was injured and could barely move his shoulder, and the Sixers KNEW about a cortisone shot he had on October 5th, but the Sixers medical staff cleared him to play anyways. There was a lack of clarity on the Sixers behalf regarding Fultz’s injury. He has been out since October 23rd, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing in the near future. But then again, would he really be a Sixers rookie if he didn’t miss significant time due to injury, all while becoming a beast during his rehab? Probably not.