It may be less than a week in to the NBA season, but it’s never too early to lay down some under-research, gut-feel-only observations and predictions; never too soon to anoint champions and relegate teams to the lottery; crown MVPs and end careers. Etc.
Without further ado, let’s make some outrageously-bold calls after three games of the season.
The L.A. Lakers Are in Serious Trouble
Here’s a caveat straight off the bat; you can never, repeat NEVER, write off a team that has Anthony Davis and LeBron James paired together. No matter what the competition, what time of year and what calibre of teammate they have around them, you can guarantee a certain level of competitiveness.
With all that being said, and even though they’ve only played two games so far in 2019 for one win and one loss, we have some serious concerns about the Lakers.
Their loss to the Clippers on opening night – and the manner in which it unfolded – has been well-documented, and the simple truth that emerged is that outside of Davis and James this just isn’t a good roster.
Davis and James are averaging 25 and 23 points respectively, which is fantastic. The two could not have gelled better to start the season, both on the floor and off it. Their chemistry is evident in every clip of the two interacting.
— NBA Daily Clips (@viral_nba) October 26, 2019
After those two perennial All-Stars, though, it’s looking increasingly bleak. Danny Green is the next highest-averaging player on the roster with 18.5 points and Troy Daniels next with 10.5.
Not one of the remaining nine players to have played minutes so far this season is averaging more than 10. Dwight Howard has five points in two games. Quinn Cook has eight.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – earning $8,089,282 this year with a player option for next – has scored one point, hauled in five rebounds and dished out four assists in 48 total minutes of game time.
The Lakers beat Utah in their second game of the season on the back of 53 total points from James and Davis. In six preseason games they lost twice to Brooklyn, which is looking worse by the day, and beat Golden State three times, which is looking less impressive by the day.
They have games against battlers Charlotte, Memphis, Dallas, San Antonio and Chicago to come in the next fortnight. We might know for sure by then whether or not the Lakers will be around at the pointy end of the season.
Luka and KP Might be the Most Formidable Duo in the League
This was something we suspected might be true in the preseason, and it’s only taken three games to confirm; Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis have a claim to be the scariest twosome in basketball.
Through the opening week of the season Porzingis is averaging 26 points, three three-pointers made and nearly three blocks per game, while Doncic is tearing up the NBA en route to scary averages of 29 points, more than 10 rebounds and more than 7 assists per game.
The two have already built a level of chemistry that belies the fact they’ve spent less than a week of NBA basketball on the floor together.
Overall, the Mavericks are 2-1 after taking care of business against the awful Wizards, accounting for the fancied Pelicans on the road and just failing to hold on against last year’s Western Conference finalist Trail Blazers.
In a conference that suddenly looks wide open thanks to the issues of the aforementioned Lakers, the decay of the dynastic Warriors and the failure to launch of the Pelicans, there is every chance that the Mavericks are in the mix for a surprising playoff appearance. If so, it’ll be on the back of KP and Luka.
Coaches Challenges Absolutely Suck
This is hardly going to come as a surprise to anyone, but adding an extra 5-10 minutes of nothing time to an already elongated sport is not proving popular with fans, commentators or players.
Much like coaches challenges in every other sport in the world, the NBA’s version of Video Assisted Refereeing has shown itself to inconsistent, unwieldy, annoying and largely ineffective.
The system was brought in to mitigate against the so-called “howler” refereeing decisions, but instead it is being used by coaches – predictably – to review 50/50 decisions which no one can be sure about either way.
Sometimes technology creates more problems than it solves. This is one of those times.
Without K.D., the Nets Are Still Mediocre
Again, while we’re not exactly surprised to come to this conclusion, we’ve probably reached it a little sooner than anticipated.
Despite Kyrie Irving averaging 37.5 points and 6.5 assists to start the season, the Nets are currently 1-2, with OT losses at home to the Timberwolves and away to the Grizzlies split by a narrow win against the Knicks.
Irving dropped 50 – FIFTY! – points against Minnesota, which still wasn’t enough for his team to get the job done. It has to be worrying for GM Sean Marksthat the highest scoring debut in franchise history – and one of the franchise’s highest scoring games of all time – ended in a demoralising L.
In their only victory so far this season, Brooklyn nearly blew a 19-point lead in the second half and were only saved after Irving took over in the dying minutes.
While no one really thought Brooklyn were a Finals-calibre team without Kevin Durant, there was some expectation that they might be able to make a deep playoff run, with the additions of Irving and Taurean Prince as well as the continued improved of Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie combining to create a roster which looked – on paper at least – competitive.
At the moment, they don’t even look like a .500 team.
Karl Anthony-Towns is a Bona-Fide Monster & an MVP Contender
The talent and unbridled potential of KAT is never something that’s been in question, but it’s fair to say there have been some doubts about his ability to carry a franchise.
After three games of the 2019 season, those doubts haven’t been erased, but they have been assuaged significantly.
To open the season against the Nets, Towns dropped 36 points and 14 rebounds in a crucial road win. On Friday night against the Hornets he exploded for a jaw-dropping 37/15/8 line, and while his 25 points and 6 rebounds against the Heat on Sunday doesn’t exactly leap off the page statistically, it did result in another Timberwolves victory and pushed them to 3-0 on the season.
Currently, Towns is averaging 32/13/5. Oh, he’s also hit 15 threes and is shooting better than 50% from beyond the arc.
This level of grace and shooting touch from a 7-foot centre is something we’ve rarely seen before.
Nobody – repeat NOBODY – has picked the Wolves to make the playoffs in the West, but at 3-0 and with two big wins against solid Eastern Conference teams in the Nets and Heat, they’ve given themselves every opportunity.
And, if they do make a run, Towns might just be a dark horse MVP candidate.