Daniel MallipudiComment

The Assist: 5 Things You Should Know About the NBA Season So Far...

Daniel MallipudiComment
The Assist: 5 Things You Should Know About the NBA Season So Far...

The Assist

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Five Things You Should Know About the NBA Season So Far…

While the NBA starts in October, the NBA season starts to become meaningful at Christmas. You’ll notice the following things about the NBA season as soon as Christmas arrives:

  • The pretenders have filtered themselves into the bottom of their respective divisions.

  • Starting lineups plus the first three off the bench(for playoff hopeful teams) have been figured out so their lineup and their rotations are set.

  • The NFL season is starting to enter their playoff mode which means they are in the home stretch of their season and more attention will rest on the NBA’s regular season.

  • Games will start to be nationally televised on the weekends in addition to the national games during the week.

So, if you’re a casual fan or if you’ve been following all the 30+ games of your favorite team so far, here are five things you should know about the NBA season so far:

#1 The Boston Celtics are a great regular season team.

The season ending injury for Gordon Haywood on opening night seems like the distant past. In the moments following the injury, the whole season for the Celtics quickly flashed before our collective eyes and it didn’t look good. We knew the talent of Kyrie Irving and the coaching smarts of Brad Stevens, but I don’t know if anyone saw this type of season unfold for these Boston Celtics. I was skeptical during the off-season that there would be difficulty in creating synergy and a new culture – and yet, here we are with a new (and improved) Boston Celtics team from a year ago.

With an average age of 25 years old, the Celtics have the 6th youngest team while also having the #1 ranked team defensively. These two things don’t usually go together in the NBA. Typically, young teams are bad defensively because they are not (usually) able to focus-in defensively and put the effort and work in on the defensive end, but Brad Stevens has found a way to communicate and coach this young team up. I mean, Kyrie Irving is legitimately playing defense on a consistent basis (which is a departure from his lazy defensive approach last year). We can’t compare this time to last year’s team during the regular season or during the playoffs because the teams are so drastically different. What they will do in the postseason remains to be seen – but they are a great regular season team.

#2 LeBron James is still the best player in the world right now, and (most likely) of all time.

In his 15th year in the league, he is averaging more points, rebounds, assists and higher free throw and field goal percentages than his career averages (at the time of this writing). Take a moment and read that sentence again. We have never seen this from any of our all-time greats – NEVER. What he is doing and the level he is playing at – at this point in his career – is simply remarkable. His play is elevating those of his players as well. The team is averaging 111.1 points a game (3rd in the league) and averaging 24.0 assists per game (4th in the league).

There was some early season struggles on the defensive end for the Cavaliers but that is a distant memory as well. Part of those early struggles have to do with the new nucleus of the team, PLUS – this year’s edition of the Cavaliers is the league’s oldest team. Regardless, LeBron is proven to be in a class by himself. He’s the best in the world right now, and in my opinion, he is daily making the case that he is the greatest of all time. I’ll address why and how I’ve come to this decision in a future article.

#3 The Philadelphia 76ers are entertaining to watch, but aren’t a threat…this year.

Some of the most entertaining games I’ve watched this year have feature the young talent of the Philadelphia 76ers. Their players have incredible length, ridiculous talent and good chemistry. They are young, so they aren’t great defensively and haven’t figured out how to close out games in the last five to seven minutes of regulation, but they are very entertaining. Ben Simmons seems well on his way to a Rookie-of-the-Year award and center Joel Embiid has had people making Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons all year. While those comparisons may be a bit premature, Embiid has shown a combination of confidence, footwork and shooting range that have made him an impossible matchup when he is locked in. He is still operating under a minutes restriction but he is definitely making the most of his opportunities.

Speaking of making the most of his opportunity – Ben Simmons is the future of the NBA. A player his size, playing the point guard position is what this new normal is bound to be in this league. The traditional sizes of the traditional positions on the floor are a thing of the past and this Philadelphia roster is a prime example. This team is hustling well and sharing the ball extremely well for such a young team (2nd youngest team in the league at an average age of 24.2 years): they are averaging 48.8 rebounds (1st in the league) and 26.4 assists (3rd in the league). They aren’t a threat this year, but they will be soon.

#4 Chris Paul and James Harden playing together is working well…exceptionally well.

For some reason this Houston Rocket team is not getting the publicity or headlines that Boston, Cleveland or even the Lakers or the Thunder is getting. All while attaining a league best 25-4 record. In addition, since CP3 has returned from his injury they are undefeated, and the Rockets are on a 14-game winning streak. The team is clicking and the chemistry between Chris Paul & James Harden (along with Eric Gordon) is impressive to work. They are 2nd in the league in scoring (115.1 points per game) and are in the top 13 in the league in both assists (22.6 per game) and in points allowed (104.2 per game).

Chris Paul is the perfect point guard in this Mike D’Antoni led offensive system (Steve Nash who?) and James Harden is averaging 31.5 points per game, 9.1 assists per game and nearly 2 steals per game (that’s an MVP stat line, if I’ve ever seen one). They are seriously good, and seriously entertaining and they just might push Golden State in a seven-game series.

#5 Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George playing together is working horribly…exceptionally horrible.

It’s only a thirty something game sample size but everything points to this experiment not working out at all. They look disinterested and selfish on the offensive end and they look disinterested and lazy on the defensive end. They are averaging a measly 102.1 points per game (24th in the league) and only 20.9 assists per game (also 24th in the league). The most interesting thing about the two star components (Anthony & George) being added to the OKC Thunder is their former teams seem to be moving on quite well. Carmelo Anthony’s former team, the New York Knicks, are in the hunt for the 8th playoff spot in the East and Paul George’s former Indiana team is above .500 for the league – all while Victor Oladipo playing like an All-Star. ‘Victor Oladipo’ and ‘All-Star’ in the same sentence? Yes sir. Remember how bad we thought the Victor Oladipo/Paul George trade was for Indiana? Remember how we ridiculed them for off loading George for seemingly low-value pieces? Remember? Me neither.

As Christmas nears us we will be featuring weekly ‘The Assist’ articles tackling everything from IT4’s return, Lonzo Ball’s horrible shooting percentage and who the top ten players of all time are (spoiler alert: there are five Lakers on the top ten list).

The prime portion of the NBA is upon us. Ball in.

(all statistics used are as of the publishing date of this article)