I didn’t think that I would make it, but lo and behold, the first week of the NBA season has come and gone, in all of its glory. All of the intrigue that built throughout the summer, with the pettiness on Twitter and Instagram, rampant trade rumors involving top stars, and speculation involving 2019 Free Agency (already), it finally came to a head. If you’ve gotten overwhelmed by all of the glorious basketball that has returned into our lives, do not worry. I am here to help you unpack the biggest stories from the NBA’s inaugural week. Let’s get started.
Steph Curry never left.
I think the luxury that the stars on the Golden State Warriors have is that they can sometimes take nights “off.” It’s a product of having four All-NBA Team members in your starting lineup. If you’re Klay Thompson, and you’re having an off game, you shan’t worry, because you have Steph Curry and Kevin freaking Durant to pick up the proverbial slack.
The flip side of this is that you can get overlooked by the performance of your fellow superstars. This is what happened to Steph Curry in the past two years with the arrival of Kevin Durant. People often forget that Steph was not only won back to back MVPs, but was a UNANIMOUS MVP decision. Not long ago, we were talking about Steph Curry being up there with LeBron for the throne of best player in the NBA. But with KD winning consecutive Finals MVPs, our representative bias has led us to believe that Durant has carried the Warriors as Curry has taken a back seat.
Steph has promptly reminded everyone who the hell he is during this first week, currently averaging 34.6 ppg, with 6.8 assists per game to boot. This five game stretch was highlighted by an absolutely ridiculous 51 point showing, a game in which he only played 3 quarters, draining 11 threes. The thing with Steph Curry is that, for maybe 4 minutes a game, he makes the opponent question why they ever picked up a basketball, destroying their will to carry on. And honestly that’s so dope.
Who’s team is it anyway?
There were multiple instances this summer were Kyrie Irving expressed how important it was for him to escape Cleveland in order for him to grow. As if he needed to get out of LeBron’s shadow in order to fully realize his potential. What seems to have occurred is that he has jumped right into another player’s shadow, in the form of 20 year old cold-blooded killer Jayson Tatum. With Irving missing much of last season, Tatum arose as a potential offensive superstar, one that could lead the Celtics into victory.
With Tatum working out Kobe Bryant during the offseason, noted member of the Anti-Sharing Association, it’s hard to imagine that the two can realistically coexist on the same offensive space, with both getting the number of touches that they need to be successful. This struggle has been reflective in Irving’s performance through the first 5 games, as he’s only averaging 16 ppg with 5 assists. Yeah, not good. Irving will need to pick it up if he wants to hold the mantle as the leader of the Celtics, and they will need him to help run the offense. Al Horford can’t be your number 1 option, the Atlanta Hawks will tell you that.
The Best Actor award goes to…Kawhi Leonard.
So…Kawhi looks SUPER healthy. Remember when he looked SUPER not healthy on the Spurs last season. Well that guy is gone. The man has look liked the player that we all were considering as the best two-way player in the game. Last game, he literally made a no-look steal, using his superior defensive instincts to snag a bounce pass from the clutches of the offense. On top of his normal defensive prowess, he’s averaging 28 points with 7 rebounds, spearheading the team’s offense, as well as their defense. The Raptors may have completed one of the best trades in recent history. Last year’s #1 seed made distinct improvements in acquiring Kawhi and Danny Green. They haven’t dropped a game yet, and are one of the few undefeated teams left in the League, up there with the Bucks, the Pelicans and the Pistons. Kings of the North indeed.
Contract Year Kemba!
I feel like every year we are reminded about how good Kemba Walker is. We’re mostly reminded each year because we remember how bad the Hornets have been. I think Kemba realizes this as well.
The leading scorer in Hornets history has been balling out of control, through the first week, putting up a stat line of 31/5/4. His superior ability of creating space not only in the mid-range, but around the basket as well, has allowed him to create buckets for himself. He’s shooting 3-pointers at a higher rate than usual, at 44.4%, which may or may not be sustainable. But if he continues to play anywhere close to this level, he should be able to earn himself a big contract at the end of this season.
The revitalization of the Lakers is now officially underway. It’s no surprise that Los Angeles would improve significantly with the arrival of LeBron James. The team’s talented youth was without a leader for the past couple of years, causing them to wander around aimlessly at the bottom of the conference. But this year, the presence of LeBron will undoubtedly bring everyone’s playing level up multiple notches.
The team is not without their faults, as they give up a ton of points on defense. But the move to get back to the “Showtime Lakers” way of play, fast-paced transition opportunities and increased possessions throughout the game, will be conducive to success for the rest of the season. Sitting at 2-3, the Lakers have shown flashes of high-powered excitement and will look to continue to improve throughout the season. With LeBron slashing at 26/9/8, and consistent play from center Javale McGee and young guns Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers should continue to move their way up the conference.