The NBA got underway last Tuesday and the first week of basketball was a wild one to watch. A few weeks will need to pass before evidenced assessments can be made of teams, but there is still plenty to make of the first five days of NBA action.
There is a ton of getting to know each other going on across the league, and it will take time for teams to mesh
Back in 2010 everybody panicked as the Big 3 in Miami struggled to start the year. This year, with more Allstars changing teams last offseason than ever before, there will be lots of road bumps for teams picked to contend in the postseason. Teams like the Thunder, Rockets, Nuggets, T-Wolves, Celtics and Cavs will have their rough outings to begin the year as the new faces get acquainted with things. The first week treated some teams kinder than others, and new-look teams will face various challenges over the coming weeks. The Celtics lost Gordon Hayward on opening night, the Cavs dropped a strange one to the Magic and the Rockets went on the road and knocked out the defending champion Warriors on ring night. Things can be a bit crazy and unpredictable as everyone gets back into the swing of things, so let’s not over read into any early blunders we may see.
The MVP race this year is going to be a thrill of a ride
Last year’s quest for the NBA’s top individual award was a two man race between James Harden and eventual winner Russell Westbrook. With the two guards both putting up ridiculous scoring totals and posting triple doubles at a furious rate, last year’s MVP race was an amazing one to watch for any basketball fan. This year things could be much closer with many players having serious candidacies. Westbrook’s numbers should come down now that he has more starpower to help him, and Harden will have the ball in his hands less with the addition of Chris Paul. Players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Steph Curry will all hear their names mentioned in the MVP talks this year, and Westbrook’s throne is available for the taking in a new season. Perhaps most the most intriguing player of all in the MVP race though is last year’s Most Improved Player Award winner Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is averaging over 38 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists per contest through three games, and for what it is worth, looks to be the way-too-early front runner. The starpower in the NBA right now may be the best it has ever been, and it is sure to make for a tight MVP race.
A Warriors vs Cavs rematch is not inevitable
NBA pessimists have complained for years that the NBA is not competitive enough, and last year’s playoffs only backed up their point. The Warriors nearly ran the table to go 16-0 if not for the Cavs one game eruption in the NBA Finals. This season the Warriors are favorites to defend their title, and many expect LeBron and the Cavs to make their way through the East yet again, but things could be tougher this year than in any of the previous three seasons which led to Cavs vs Warriors Finals matchups.
The West is absolutely loaded: The Spurs are always good, and led by Kawhi and Coach Pop they are sure to give any team fits come playoff time. The Rockets added one of the league’s best two way players in Chris Paul, giving them the potential to take things to the next level. The Thunder went from being carried by Russ all year last year to suddenly having three legitimate superstars – they will be a tough team to beat when things come together. Finally for the West, the T-Wolves have young stars in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins who, now partnered with Allstar Jimmy Butler, will be a fun team to watch and a difficult team to defend.
As for the East, things may be a bit easier than in the West, but there are still some great teams in Cleveland’s path. The Celtics’ Gordon Hayward could miss the entire season, but if not, Boston poses a real threat to the Cavs with the addition of Kyrie Irving. The Wizards looked great at times last season but struggled to put things together in the playoffs. If John Wall and company continue to elevate their game this season, Washington is no joke. The Bucks are on the rise, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like one of the NBA’s best. If Milwaukee can build on last season’s success, and Jabari Parker comes back playing like his healthy self at some point, the Cavs will have to take notice.
To start the season, both Cleveland and Golden State have already shown they are not invincible. The Warriors are 1-2 and could easily be winless, and the Cavs almost blew a home lead to the Celtics and then later on lost badly to the lowly Magic. A fourth straight Cavs Warriors rematch is certainly not out of the question, but it is far from a forgone conclusion in this year’s NBA.
With one week down, there have already been some fantastic games with amazing performances, but with so many to go, there is still much to learn about the NBA this season. Basketball fans rejoice, it’s going to be a great year.