The latest edition of the National Basketball Association (NBA) kicked off last October 16 (the 17th here in the Philippines), and we’ve already witnessed some great action. There are new faces in favorite teams (#LABron), on-court brawls, awards predictions, and so much more. The season’s just started, and here’s what MBody has learned so far.
What’s The Plan, Lakers?
There was a high level of excitement for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, and it wasn’t just the acquisition of arguably the best player in the NBA right now (we could be talking about LeBron or Javale McGee). The Lakers also let go of some veteran players and brought in the likes of Rajon Rondo & Lance Stephenson to team up with the Lakers’ still young core. The result? It took them four games to finally win.
Pressure is not a problem for LeBron as he shot a game high 26 and 24 points in the first two games, took a step back to dish 14 and 10 assists in the next two, then threw down his first triple-double to hand the Denver Nuggets their first loss. An even bigger issue is the mess-up between Rondo (with Brandon Ingram getting involved) and Houston Rockets’ Chris Paul. With so much going on with the purple and gold, Luke Walton has to decide what game plan should they go with: Do they let LeBron go power mode every game, or let him lead from behind? Whether or not they should continue to build around the young core is another question. The definite goal is getting back to the Playoffs, but how can they pull that off without throwing punches?
New Kings of the East
With LeBron’s move to the West, it began a toss-up with which team will dominate the East. There are two teams battling for the crown (three if you want to count the Detroit Pistons). The Toronto Raptors are on a six-game unbeaten streak, with Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry (does he miss DeMar?) leading the charge. Meanwhile Giannis Antetokounmpo has been an absolute for the Milwaukee Bucks as they are undefeated in six games as well, with the Greek Freak already a triple-double in hand.
Both teams’ first four wins were all against the East. Milwaukee’s last game, where Giannis staged the triple-double, was against unlikely favorites Philadelphia 76ers—whose #TrustTheProcess strategy seems to be scattered at the moment. But the fact remains that Giannis’ momentum so far is truly MVP-worthy. Toronto’s second was against the healthy star-studded Boston Celtics. Mind you, Kawhi was also rested for that game. Their new coach Nick Nurse isn’t afraid to change the line-ups against each opponent, and the games have shown the Raptor’s advantageous depth. We can only hope that they continue this form and not erm, choke again.
The Fall of Cleveland
Unfortunately, the Cavaliers are far from joining the toss-up for East dominance. Tristan Thompson must be biting his tongue now after saying “until you take us down, teams ain’t got much to say” because a 0-6 start says a lot. Frail coaching from Tyronn Lue is becoming evident again, before he was finally booted out. It was unclear who he wanted to play first, his proven conference winners or his new stock of young players. In comparison, both J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver did not play in the 133-111 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
There have also been speculations if Kevin Love, who only signed a contract extension last July, will opt out and join a new team when trade seasons come around. There is no doubt about it, the departure of LeBron has left a big hole in the Cavaliers’ playing style, and must find a way to bounce back from this sinkhole. They remain the only winless team in the East. Time to get things moving.
ROTY Race Begins
The Rookie of the Year award was a very hot topic last year with Ben Simmons taking home the award, of course without backlash from NBA fans saying he didn’t fit the bill and Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell deserved it more. Not to mention Celtics’ Jayson Tatum who he stepped up after injury woes to new acquisitions Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. This year’s rookie class also shows some outstanding performances. The most notable of these is the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young when he made history for becoming the first player to posit 35 points/10 assists (against the Cleveland Cavaliers) in his first 10 games.
Another name to look out for is the Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton, who has already figured two double-doubles, one of them coming against the Dallas Mavericks where he faced off fellow rookie Luka Doncic. Doncic himself has also been effective for the Mavericks, currently averaging 18.3 points on a 43.5 FG percentage. Memphis Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. and Charlotte Hornets’ Miles Bridges are good contenders, too.