Around the League: Ten NBA Thoughts on the First Ten Games

  1. Larry Sanders left his dogs out in 17 degree weather last January in Milwaukee.  Larry Sanders injured his thumb and needs surgery. Maybe that was karma, Larry. The dogs were German Shepherd puppies. This is a shame.  I can no longer use an exclamation point to emphasize my appreciation for Larry’s interior defense.  Zach Lowe’s pre-season interview did not enlighten me about Larry’s animal cruelty.  If Larry lives alone, then he needs two things: 1) To hire a dog trainer and a house sitter to teach those puppies how not to chew on everything in sight at home and 2) Learn how to trust someone to stay at his house and follow through on the puppy training.  If Larry lives with someone, he needs that person to be a dog person. The days of leaving dogs chained up in the backyard (even in perfectly good weather) should be behind us.  We’re lucky to have dogs.  Dogs aren’t always all that lucky to have us.
  2. The Nets are 3-7 and the Brooklyn Bridge is collapsing, according to the New York media. They have missed Andrei Kirilenko, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez lately.  In addition KG and Pierce will be played sparingly throughout the regular season.  Despite the start, the Nets will still win 45+ games and will still finish in the top 6 of the Eastern Conference. Two reasons they’ve gotten off to such a tough start: 1) Deron Williams missed the entire preseason and the last two games; 2) They are elderly; and 3) Jason Kidd has never coached before and has to figure out how to make this whole thing work once the team is actually all on the court together.  They will become the 4th best team in the East by season’s end.
  3. The Boston Celtics won four straight games (one against the worst team in the league and two against the infant Magic) just to confuse Celtics fans and wipe out any claims of tank-age.  The Celtics are now 4-7, but have played the second weakest schedule in the league so far. With a tough upcoming stretch of games, they will likely be 6-13 or worse by the end of November…which means Rondo better not come back until January unless they might win 30 games.  On the plus side, Sullinger and Olynyk have been helpful.
  4. The Phoenix Suns started off 5-2, and are now 5-4, thanks to new point guard Eric Bledsoe (23.9 PER) and Markieff Morris’ best Shawn Marion-circa 2004 impersonation (PER of 24.1).  In addition, Gerald Green is actually knocking down triples, and Miles Plumlee is nabbing over 9 rebounds in 31 mpg.  Bledsoe has been excellent, shooting 50% from the field, despite the expected lackluster shooting from distance (29%).  Is it going to last? No.  Not at all.  Four of the five wins have been at home.  They’ve played well, but they’ll be lucky/unlucky to win 30 games, and they’ll still get a top 6 pick in the draft.
  5. The Philadelphia 76ers jumped out to 3-0 and are now 5-6.  Michael Carter-Williams is intriguing, yet seriously flawed.  The Sixers gave up 135 points in a 48 minute game to the New Orleans Pelicans.  That’s about 25 too many points to be respectable. That early streak will likely be their only three game winning streak this year, which should make their fans happy if they understand the legit potential of this upcoming draft.  They push the pace more than any team not named Minnesota, which is smart, as it gives opponents more opportunities to score on their porous defense (105.5 is 3rd to last in defensive efficiency, but it will become the worst by season’s end).
  6. Strength of schedule: the Golden State Warriors (7-3, 4th toughest schedule), San Antonio Spurs (9-1, 9th toughest), and Indiana Pacers (9-1, but 27th toughest) are the hottest teams in the NBA. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-3) have faced the toughest competition. Considering how well the Warriors, Spurs, and Thunder have played against high-quality opponents, we’re looking at another season of Western Conference dominance.  That may change by January, once two of the East’s best (Chicago and Brooklyn) have had time to knock off the rust and jell, respectively.
  7. By the way, Golden State is currently connecting on 45.3% of their three-pointers.  By comparison, only two teams have shot over 40% for a season in the last decade (Golden State last year: 40.3% and Phoenix in 2009-10 at 41.2%).
  8. Lance Stephenson has been really good against really bad teams.  Most impressive has been his decision making as the backup point guard for Frank Vogel, as detailed here by Zach Lowe.
  9. For a team with playoff aspirations, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been atrocious on offense. Only Charlotte (without its best scoring option Al Jefferson for 7 of its 10 games) and Utah (who are without rookie PG Trey Burke and should currently be playing in the Pac-10 or Mountain West), have worse effective field goal percentages.  In addition, the Cavs are 29th in offensive efficiency (92.7) and have played the fourth weakest schedule.  For a team with Kyrie Irving at the point guard, these numbers are nauseating. The attempt to resurrect Andrew Bynum’s career is dragging down the offense, and Bynum’s 36.1% from the field has got to be demoralizing.
  10. Incredibly, Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack are all shooting less than 40% from the field.  Mike Brown’s offensive coaching abilities remain in serious doubt.  Things could actually be much worse in Cleveland, who have two overtime games, and a third win came in a 1-point victory over Minnesota.  The rest of November is full of tough opponents. Things won’t be getting better soon for the Cavs.

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