Who Showed Up and Who Didn’t as the NBA Season Gets Under Way
Fear not, for our lives finally have meaning again! The NBA regular season is finally back and the first week of the year is in the books.
And what an opening week it has been! It is safe to say, that it was a wild week around the association – one full of excitement. Some new records were made, quite a few players stood out, upset wins, blow outs, nail biters, buzzer beaters, week one really did have it all!
In week one, we got to see the new-look Golden State Warriors lay a goose egg in their season opener, the Cavs have stormed out of the gates hot, while a few certain stars have exploded onto the NBA scene at the start of their respective seasons.
Which stars impressed? Which ones did not? And which under-the-radar guys have surprisingly shown very promising starts to their season?
Best of the Best
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans:
Let’s get one thing out of the way. The Pelicans truly do suck. They are a very, very bad team and it pains me to see talents like Anthony Davis being put to waste. Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore was the big free agent signings made after Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon ran as far away as humanly possible soon as free agency got under way. You see the problem. Tim Frazier hasn’t been too bad though!
That being said, it takes nothing away from what Anthony Davis has done so far. Currently averaging 38-points and 13 boards per game, Davis got his season started with a 50-point, 16-rebound night, adding an incredible seven steals, five assists, and four blocks.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
It is common knowledge that Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook are the top two point guards in the NBA, but who comes afterwards?
Uncle Drew? Chris Paul? John Wall?
How about Damian Lillard? Fresh off dropping his first rap album just days before the regular season tipped off, Lillard has been balling out of his mind. The Blazers are currently 2-1 and it is all because of Lillard.
Averaging 35-points, eight-boards, and five-assists through the first week of the season, Lillard has already gone for a 37-and a 39-point game, with the latter ending on a buzzer beating floater to seal the win for the Blazers over the stunned Denver Nuggets.
Who hit the game winner you might ask? Boring answer, Damian Lillard did that too.
It is no secret that Lillard is gunning for the most valuable player award. If he keeps this up, it is hard to see a world in which he does not get it. It is most definitely Lillard time.
Russell WestbrookThis dude is just on another level. We knew Westbrook was going to go off now with Kevin Durant long gone, but the only thing we did not know was how? What will a team built around Russell Westbrook look like?
Well, let’s try to understand and pin point how great Westbrook has been to start this season.
He is currently leading the league in scoring, averaging 39-points per game. He also has two triple-doubles in the first three games of the NBA season. How many NBA players past or present can say they have that on their resume? Just one – Magic Johnson. Rather neat company.
What else did Russ do in this first week other than answer questions about Golden State and Durant leaving? He has recorded the first 50-point triple-double since none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The Thunder are 3-0 to start the season, winning three straight nail-biters albeit against some lowly competition, but what we have been seeing from Westbrook has been nothing short of special.
Honourable Mentions: DeMar DeRozan (TOR), Kawhi Leonard (SAN), Kyrie Irving (CLE)
Dwight Howard, Atlanta Hawks
Now I know we are dealing with miniscule sample sizes and Howard did have a pretty nice debut with the hawks, grabbing down 19-boards, but in game two, he reverted back to what many have been seeing far too often from the former superstar big man.
He was only able to muster up just two points and seven boards, against the Philadelphia 76ers – the Philadelphia 76ers. Just let that sink in. Howard is back in Atlanta to replace Al Horford and admitted that he expects to win there. This will definitely not get it done.
Dwight Howard has had all the opportunities to become one of the most dominant big men of all time. The athleticism, the size, the strength, but has consistently lacked the grind and the desire. Now in Atlanta, it seems like it will be the same song and dance with Howard. The same guy we have seen in L.A. and the same one we have seen in Houston.
Howard has always had a ridiculously high ceiling, but unfortunately he has and will never even be able to scratch its surface.
Jeff Teague, Indiana Pacers
Jeff Teague was said to be the guy to elevate the Indiana Pacers into a team that can contend for a shot at being the second last team to get eliminated at the hands of LeBron James and the Cavs in Eastern Conference Finals. While that may still end up the case, Teague has not had a pleasant start to his Pacers tenure.
His assist numbers are still high with eight per game, but through three games, the Pacers did expect far more than the lonely eight points that he has averaged. The Pacers are 1-2 thus far, and after a 20-point performance on opening day in a nail-biting win over the Mavs, Teague has scored four points in game two and matched myself in productivity in game tree with no points at all.
With George Hill and Ty Lawson no longer in Indiana, the Pacers are desperately in need of a guy who can take some of the pressure off Paul George. Jeff Teague was brought into be that guy and so far, he has not provided Larry Bird what he was looking for.
For the Pacers’ sake, Teague better break out of it fast.
Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic
The bench player turned temporary playoff hero, is now a $70-million dollar man in Orlando and it is safe to assume that he nor the Magic origination are pleased with what they see after week one.
After sitting out on opening day due to a suspension, he was only able to score three-points and grab down three boards in his debut. He followed that performance with a three-point and nine-rebound night. Point is, he has not been effective, not nearly worth what he was paid, and has not been the defensive player he was billed as, yet.
Of course the sample size is tiny, but the Toronto Raptors were never going to match nor pay that much for a back-up centre so limited offensively. Biyombo is a high-energy player who will give you a put-back or two on one end and will protect the rim effectively on the other. So far, he has not done either, and if whatever Orlando is trying to accomplish with this roster of random players is going to work, Biz is going to have to step up.
Honourary Mentions: Kyle Lowry (TOR), Jahlil Okafor (PHI), Joakim Noah (NYK)
Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Al Horford was supposed to be the man to watch as the season started for the Boston Celtics yet so far it has been the Avery Bradley show. Bradley set the bar fairly high for himself, stating that his gunning for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Through three games, he has done much more than just defend.
So far this season, Avery Bradley is averaging 21-points, nine boards and five assists per game, having a coming out part in game three against the Charlotte Hornets, a game in which he dropped 31-points and grabbed 11-rebounds.
If there is to be a feeling out process for Al Horford as he works to get into the swing of things with the Celtics, the Boston backcourt will hold the fort with Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley getting the job done.
T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns
T.J. Warren is finally starting to prove why the Suns made him a first round pick back in 2014. Now in his third season, the former Tarheel is doing a ton of damage and is scoring in bunches.
Averaging 23-points and seven-boards per game, Warren dropped 30 and nine on Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in an overtime loss on Friday night. He followed up that performance by scoring 26 against the Golden State Warriors, again in a loss, because at the end of the day, he is still on the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns may continue being bad for the next couple of years, but with T.J. Warren and Devin Booker in the mix, it may make the struggle more bearable for Suns fans.
Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat
The big $100-million deal is proving dividends to the Miami Heat. Through three games, the Heat are 1-2, but Hassan has been a huge bright spot averaging 22-points, 15-boards and nearly four blocks a game.
His best performance came on Sunday night against the San Antonio Spurs. Whiteside went for 27-points, 15-rebounds and blocked four shots, as he continues to very quickly become one of the top rim protectors in the entire league.
With Bosh on the shelf and not cleared to play, Wade gone and a lack of star power, the Heat will continue to rely on Whiteside on both sides of the court, and so far so good as Whiteside has been efficient and effective and will continue being a building block for the future for Pat Riley and the Heat.
Honourable Mentions: Joel Embiid (PHI), Myles Turner (IND), Jeremy Lin (BRK)