Every team in the NBA is hovering around the 10 game mark and is enough of a sample size to revel in some delightful surprises we were always rooting for, while collectively playing catchup on others.
Predictions becoming a reality:
Golden State finally stinks --
It feels mean to take joy in something that is born out of multiple season-ending injuries, but the Golden State Warriors have been dunking on the NBA for the last five years, and it has all come to a shuttering halt.
Following the injury and departure of Kevin Durant, along with Klay Thompson’s injury, it was understood this team would need to fight to make the post-season. But then Stephen Curry went out, leaving a young team with a depth problem to wallow in a -9.6 net rating (last in the league) as the defense allows an average of 121.2 points per game.
The fall from grace was ugly and fast for the Warriors. Sorry, we all love it so much.
The Rookie of the Year race is boring --
We all saw it coming, just not for this reason. Zion Williamson’s injury should have left the door wide open to a few rookies. Memphis Grizzlies Ja Morant seems to have the belt a month in, but the hope for the race once Williamson went down was that there would be one.
Morant leads all rookies in points per game (17.6) and assists (5.2). For the workload he receives, he is also one of the more efficient rookies. Morant takes the most shots per game (14.7) but has the best shooting percentage (46.2) of rookies shooting over 13 times per game. He is also second in 3-point shooting percentage (43.8).
Players like Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro could make a push with the minute load he is receiving, but for right now, it seems Morant is going away with the trophy.
Load management is a problem again --
The conversation of “Should load management be allowed and is it ruining basketball,” is already infecting the young 2019-2020 season.
The NBA fined the Los Angeles Clippers when news broke that Kawhi Leonard missed a primetime game for load management. I really don’t have a fix I can offer in this column; I want to see the best players play all the time, whether it is a prime time clash or just a Tuesday in Orlando (there is a chance I abuse my League Pass membership), but saving a piece of yourself for the playoffs also makes sense. For some, that means missing a few extra games; for others, it’s scheduled in-game breaks (I’m looking at you, LeBron James). Right now, there is no way to fix it, and no one seems thrilled about it.
Facts no one was predicting:
Miami is the third-best team in the East --
Most had the Heat making the playoffs, but Miami was pegged as a 7th seed when the season began. Now, the team is currently showing fewer problems than both the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, while staying healthier than the Boston Celtics.
The Heat are sixth in the NBA with 25.9 assists per game and in defense, allowing just 105.7 points per game. The most significant stat for Miami: 31.9 points per game from rookies (second to the Grizzlies) this season.
The injection of young talent, combined with one of the best 12 players in the league (Jimmy Butler) have mixed beautifully thus far. The defense is gritty, the offense has a Spurs like quality that keeps the ball from stopping on one player and the squad has been consistent.
The key is keeping the young bucks consistent, continually being able to bank on buckets from the youth on this team, which will keep the ball moving.
These players might be MVP candidates --
Pascal Siakam clearly found some secret sauce left in Leonard’s locker. He is averaging 10 more points per game (26.3) and is snagging nearly 10 boards each outing. Not only is he adding stability after losing Leonard’s departure and Kyle Lowry’s injury, but he is also keeping the Toronto Raptors at the top of the East.
Luka Doncic is just 20 years old but might be one of the best five players in the league this season. Doncic is averaging 28.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game, all while shooting 48% from the field and 84% from the stripe. Each number is a massive jump from last season’s stat line, and are numbers he has reached all while playing as the second most efficient player in the NBA. And did I mention that Kristaps Porzingis has played depressingly average so far this season?