With the NBA kicking off in the last few weeks, we recap some major storylines that are already emerging.
1. Milwaukee is the most confusing team in the league.
After looking terrible in their first three games, the Bucks bounced back to win three straight, before faltering to the Mavericks in overtime, sputtering to 75 points for the night, and just one point in OT.
Coming into the season, the team’s clear weakness was perimeter shooting and it’s been apparent in the team’s losses, with the Bucks shooting just 21% from beyond the arc. In wins, that number jumps to 38.6%, and if the Bucks shot like that all the time, they’d rank 4th in the league.
Interestingly, the team has also struggled mightily on the boards in their losses. Teams that have beaten the Bucks have averaged over 50 rebounds against Milwaukee. For a team that features athleticism and a gluttony of big men, that’s simply not acceptable. Shooting can come and go, but rebounding is primarily about effort.
“No rebounds, no rings,” said Pat Riley. The Bucks need to remember that if they want to make some noise this year.
2. Ball Movement is back in Los Angeles.
The Baby Lakers have been one of the most exciting teams in the league this year. With the Lakers mired in mediocrity the last few years, the team was able to pick up some exciting young pieces through the draft. Luke Walton has brought a free flowing offense to the Los Angeles, and it’s quite possible that the Baby Lakers turn into the Showtime Lakers 2.0 very soon.
The Lakers are the 5th highest scoring offense in the league, averaging 108.8 points per game. If the Lakers continue to play .500 basketball, they’ll be forfeiting their first round pick to Philadelphia (Top-3 protected), which only adds to the intrigue of the direction the team will go the rest of the year.
3. Westbrook might actually do it.
Russell Westbrook is currently averaging 33.2 points, 9 rebounds, and 9.7 assists through six games. It is quite actually possible that he averages a triple-double this season, and the craziest part is that he’s doing all of this somewhat efficiently.
Westbrook is shooting over 44% from the field, and the Thunder are 5-1, good enough for first place in the Western Conference. Russ is also shooting over 40% from beyond the arc, which is even more impressive when you take into consideration that his career average is 30.1%.
Still, there’s no crazier stat than this one: Westbrook is doing all of this while only averaging 34.2 minutes a night. That number is right in line with his career average and pretty much disrupts the theories that his workload will cause him to break down. His development will be a major story to watch over the rest of the season.
4. DeMar DeRozan is enjoying the Olympic Honeymoon.
There have been plenty of examples of NBA stars making leaps after playing with Team USA, and it seems like this year DeRozan has been the biggest beneficiary.
DeRozan has been averaging a league-leading 33.7 points per game, an impressive feat considering that he’s only made two three-pointers the whole season. A huge part of his game has been getting to the line, racking up nearly 9 free throw attempts per game.
He will need to evolve a little bit if he wants to get past Cleveland in the Playoffs, though. DeRozan is currently averaging just 2.7 assists and will have to get his teammates a little more involved.
5. LeBron is still King.
Do you think LeBron cares that the 73-9 Warriors added Kevin Durant? James has been quick to remind the world that the Larry O’Brien trophy resides in Cleveland by leading the Cavaliers to a perfect 6-0 start.
If LeBron keeps this pace up, he’ll average the fewest points per game since his rookie season, but hit career highs for rebounding and assists. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in hand, it’s probably in the Cavaliers’ best interest to keep LeBron’s usage down and let the other stars carry the offensive load.
LeBron just reached 10th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and is even looking to add a fifth MVP trophy to his accolades, as well. King James may be chasing a ghost in Chicago, but the rest of the league is chasing James’ throne.