The NBA is back!
It feels like everyone jumped back into the new season head on. Hot takes are getting thrown out like Trae Young lobs, discussion is zinging back-and-forth like the New Orleans Pelicans ball movement, and memes are getting dropped quicker than Russell Westbrook in fantasy leagues. What a week it’s been.
Winners: 2022 Top Rookies
Paolo Banchero is averaging 22.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. Jabari Smith is putting up 15.3 points with 2.8 3-pointers. Jaden Ivey has a 17-5-6 stat line. Keegan Murray has only played two games but he’s already totaled 35 points and seven 3s. Benedict Mathurin is averaging 22.3 points and has scored 26 and 27 points in two of his four games.
These rookies have been on a tear early in the season. They’re not only raking in the numbers, they’re also bringing the highlights to their games. In his first game in the league, Banchero committed a felony.
These kids have been awesome so far, giving the new season a fresh twist.
Winner: Golden State Warriors
It’s amazing that a week into the season and not much has been said about the defending champs. For the team though, that’s a welcome reprieve after the Draymond Green-Jordan Poole incident that happened in the weeks leading up to the season.
That way they can quietly chug along, staying near the top of the West standings. Steph Curry is still doing Steph Curry things. Klay Thompson is still effortlessly cool. Draymond Green is still dropping pods. They’re hoping that the next time everyone will direct their attention to them will be late in the season when championship contenders are being debated on. For now, they’re happy that other things have dominated the headlines like Ja Morant’s highlights, Ben Simmons’ lowlights, and the LA Lakers’ shooting woes. Speaking of…
Loser: Rims in the Crypto.com Arena
In the Lakers’ two home games so far, they’ve attempted 78 3-pointers and missed 63 of those attempts (25 for 118 in three games). The rims in the Crypto.com Arena have been getting quite a workout. It’s only been two games and the rims are already battered and bruised from all those Laker misses. To be fair though, not all of those misses hit the rim.
Peep Nurkic 😬 pic.twitter.com/NKL7pkKgaM— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 23, 2022
That miss by Anthony Davis or the airball by LeBron James in their last game is a welcome reprieve for those rims. If the Lakers don’t get some shooting soon, can the Crypto.com Arena rims take 39 more games of punishment like that?
Loser: Ben Simmons
The refrain from Brooklyn Nets fans in the offseason when talking about Ben Simmons’ return this season and eventual role with this team was that all he needed to do was play defense. Well, that hasn’t been the case so far this season.
Ben Simmons has played 3 games this season.— StatMuse (@statmuse) October 25, 2022
He’s fouled out in two of them.
He has 17 points and 14 fouls this season. pic.twitter.com/XkPuMv8PgX
He was supposed to shore up the Nets defense, giving them a player that can defend the paint and the perimeter. He hasn’t done any of that. Brooklyn is the worst defensive team in the league right now. He’s still not shooting jumpers. He’s not even attempting shots anymore (4.3 FGA per game). It seems like sitting out all of last season has made Simmons forget how to play basketball. All he’s done in three games this season is 83 minutes of cardio.
Winner: Damian Lillard
The Portland Trail Blazers have been a steady, yet boring team since CJ McCollum was paired with Damain Lillard back in 2013. They’ve reached the playoffs eight straight years because that partnership has been so consistent. But they haven’t won anything significant during that same stretch. The Blazers decided to end the monotony and move on from McCollum last season. They believed that the young guys on the team were ready for a bigger role next to Lillard.
"Put your big boy pants on. You got the big contract, you got the game."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 22, 2022
Damian Lillard fully trusted his backcourt running mate Anfernee Simons and he delivered 💯pic.twitter.com/g8qf6e3OQJ
The Blazers are off to a 4-0 start, their best start since 1999. Lillard is still the focal point of the team, averaging 33.3 points in their first four games. But he’s had more help this year. Anfernee Simons is averaging close to 20 points, while offseason addition Jerami Grant is putting up 17.8 points per game. Beyond the numbers, it’s the mindset of the new players that have gotten Portland off to a hot start. They’re bringing their own take on the old, proven Blazer formula.
Winner (maybe a Loser too): Utah Jazz
The Jazz are currently second in the Western Conference with a 3-1 record, beating playoff-hunting teams like the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, and New Orleans Pelicans. Lauri Markkanen is taking off from his impressive Eurobasket stint to lead the team. Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton, and Jarred Vanderbilt have all been playing well, while Mike Conley has been the guiding presence of the team. It’s been an awesome start for the Jazz.
Or has it?
These are all supposedly good things for Utah. Except they’re not supposed to be winning. Every win that they get knocks their chances to get the top pick of the 2023 Draft down. With a talent like Victor Wembanyama as the prize, every loss now feels like a win for their future. So, while the players are celebrating their wins now, they might not be celebrating as much when they miss out on their brand new French superstar next year.