This post was written by basketball coach and HtD contributor Juan Bernal.
As part of a preview, I like to watch the first week and see whether some of the things that have happened so far this season can continue to happen and at what you can expect to see throughout the rest of the season.
1. The Orlando Magic are 2-0. They have more wins than the Los Angeles Lakers. They have more wins than the Boston Celtics. They are one of four undefeated teams in the NBA going into the second week of play (Milwaukee, New York and San Antonio are the other three for those wondering.) Let’s not get carried away Magic fans, 2 games is a microscopic sample size, especially in the NBA and there is still alot of basketball left to be played. Let’s take a look at how the Magic have won their first two games and what they will need to do going forward to stay on the winning track.
Four keys that will are successful to winning a basketball game no matter what personnel you have on the floor: make shots, take care of the ball, out-rebound your opponents and make the extra pass when necessary. The Magic are third in defensive efficiency 2nd in offensive efficiency, ninth in total shooting percentage, tops in assist to FG ratio and assist/TO ratio and have averaged just 12 TO’s a game (third in the NBA), while forcing 15 TO/game. They are third in TO ratio at just 18/100 posessions. They also lead the league in 3PT FG% and are 5th in FG%. The Magic have 3 games on the road this week against playoff-caliber competition (Chicago, Minnesota and Brooklyn), while playing Brooklyn at home on Friday night. Next week I will evaluate the Magic and how they have performed statistically in these games as a follow-up to this analysis.
2. Many national pundits have criticized (OK, that’s putting it lightly) the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1-3 start as being an issue with the offense. I see it more as a defensive and depth issue. The Lakers have some key issues that aren’t magically going to disappear by beating a Detroit team among the worst in the league. The Lakers are dead last in TO ratio, turning the ball over an alarming 3/10 possessions. There depth is alarming. Besides Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison, the rest of their bench has barely produced above replacement level for most of their career (that includes Jordan Hill also, who has had a decent first 4 games). A championship level team cannot give up 48.6 FG% and be dead last in defensive efficiency, especially when you have 3 First Team defensive caliber players in Dwight, Metta and Kobe. Offensively, things will iron themselves out, but Laker fans will be in for a short playoff run if they cannot get it together on the defensive end of the floor.
3. OKC is feeling the loss of Harden offensively- The biggest loser in the departure of Harden has so far been Russell Westbrook. He has had two horrendous games that have been magnified by the loss of Harden, not to mention the fact that they are 1-2. Late in the 4th quarter of games, so many times Harden was their primary ballhandler that minimized the mistakes that came with Westbrook’s style of play. That is no longer the case. In the fourth quarter of the losses vs. ATL and San Antonio, Westbrook was 2-10 with 4 TO’s. OKC’s issues offensively are stemmed from the fact that they just stand around and watch Durant and Westbrook try to operate. Without Harden, They need to integrate more cutting or screen and rolls so that they can become more creative offensively and make everyone that is on the floor a threat.
4. The San Antonio Spurs are picking up right where they left off. With everyone focused on the Laker and Thunder struggles, it shouldn’t be discounted that the Spurs are 3-0. The story here is the fourth quarter. In each of their first three games, the Spurs have been tied going into the fourth quarter. Their offensive efficiency has been an average of 5 units/game higher than their opponents throughout the season and a 53.2 percent effective field goal % indicates they are executing better than their opponents so far at the offensive end. We can’t discount the fact that this is nothing new for the Spurs. They won 20 games in a row (including 10 in the playoffs) and it’s no coincidence that they lead the league in True shooting %, effective field goal % and Offensive efficiency during the regular season and the postseason in 2011-2012. They are putting the old addage “every possession counts” to work so far this season as well.
ALL NBA Teams:
First: CP 3, Rondo, LeBron, Durant, Dwight
Second: Kobe, Deron Williams, Carmelo, Dirk, Kevin Love
Third: Harden, Westbrook, Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Horford
Fourth: Pierce, Stephen Curry, Wade, Josh Smith, Bosh
East: Al Horford, Carmelo, LeBron, Rondo, Pierce, Josh Smith, Paul George, Bosh, Wade, Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bynum, Deron Williams
Next in line: Joe Johnson, Monta Ellis, Kyle Lowry
West: CP 3, Parker, Westbrook, Durant, Love, Blake, Lamarcus Aldridge, Dirk, Zach Randolph, Harden, Kobe, Dwight.
Next in line: Millsap Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson.
Coach of the Year:
Defensive Player of the Year:
Rookie of the Year:
Must see videos from the early NBA season:
Jamal Crawford putting Metta on World Peace on skates
Jeff Teague yams on Kevin Durant
David Lee tells Blake Griffin to pull out his Hood Pass
Jason Richardson bumps into the cameraman
Zach Randolph and Blake Griffin REALLY LOVE EACH OTHER