The opening week of the NBA had it all: drama, hot takes, upsets, big games, and superstar performances. And we’re in for more. Here are some of the interesting teams you should be watching.
5. LA Lakers
This team reminds me of the 2021 LA Lakers.
It seems like nothing has changed. The Lakers are still bad enough to fall into a big hole against any team in the league. They’ve fallen behind by double digits in all of their first three games. The roster is wonky and the guard rotation that they have can’t seem to make a jump shot.
That being said, they still have the talent to get back into games. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the team, anything can happen. They tried to make things interesting against the Golden State Warriors in the first game and actually took the lead against the LA Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers in their next two games.
The Lakers suck but they’re hella entertaining. They’re like a two-hour fail video that you can’t stop watching. In the five minutes that they do put things together, though, you find yourself reeled back in, hoping for a win. Or a single-made 3-pointer.
4. Utah Jazz
This team reminds me of the 2019 Oklahoma City Thunder.
Mike Conley is doing his best Chris Paul impression as the grizzled veteran leading a young team. Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson are passable Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder. Lauri Markkanen is basically the Danilo Gallinari of the team… if the Thunder version of Gallinari was jacked up on steroids.
The Jazz heard all the talk: about the direction of the team, the inadequacies of the roster, and their new jerseys. And they decided to respond with a 3-0 start, taking down playoff contenders along the way. There’s no telling how sustainable this will be or how long before Ainge trades away Markkanen for five first-round picks. So for now, enjoy the ride and let Utah surprise you.
3. Atlanta Hawks
This team reminds me of the 2002 New Jersey Nets.
Jason Kidd set the table and made sure his finishers, Kenyon Martin, Kieth Van Horn, and Richard Jefferson, were fed a steady diet of lobs and outlet passes.
This season, led by Trae Young (11.7 assists per game), the Hawks are one of the best running teams in the league, ranking third in fastbreak points early in the season - a stark contrast to the plodding team that finished dead last in that category last season. Atlanta’s playing style is built on getting the easiest points possible. In three games so far, Dejounte Murray, John Collins, and Clint Capela have combined for 13 dunks.
Of course, when a tough bucket is needed, Young can always be counted on to ice the game.
Ice Cold Daggers pic.twitter.com/t1FGaB6Whx— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) October 22, 2022
2. New Orleans Pelicans
This team reminds me of the 2017 LA Lakers.
Or, more precisely, what Laker fans envisioned their young core to be. Julius Randle should have been the bulldozer that Zion Williamson is. D’Angelo Russell should have been the floor leader that CJ McCollum is. Brandon Ingram should have been the All-Star that he is today. Larry Nance… is still doing Larry Nance things.
If all those should-haves came true, the Lakers could have had a team playing beautiful basketball like the Pelicans are this season (3rd in points per game, 7th in assists per game, 9th in field goal percentage).
Ball movement on this was ELITE 😤 pic.twitter.com/Dd4m3gugHQ— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 21, 2022
Watching a young team grow and win together is always enjoyable to watch. That’s exactly what the Pelicans are doing this season. They’re done being the small kid left to play on the sides while the big kids partied. They’re out to crash the party and have their own fun.
1. Memphis Grizzlies
This team reminds me of the 2015 Houston Rockets.
The trajectory of Ja Morant’s career is similar to James Harden’s rise. Harden’s career took off when he was traded to the Rockets. He led the team to a winning record, amassing big numbers along the way. The load Harden had to carry was no joke, too. It seemed like Harden had to do everything for the Rockets to win. That’s the same thing Morant is doing to start the new season.
Morant is currently second in points per game this season, averaging 34.3 per game. Just like Harden’s Rockets back in 2015, no other Grizzly is averaging close to 20 points per game (Bane is second in scoring at 14.7 points). With Jaren Jackson Jr. out for the next few weeks, Morant’s usage will probably stay the same, which is a good thing because we’re all going to be treated to plays like this:
Morant is a breathtaking force of nature that deserves to be streamed every time he steps on the court.