With almost two weeks of the young NBA season in the books, theres already been tons of headline stories from all around the league. James Harden looks as though he’s in position to challenge for MVP, the Zen-Master Phil Jackson may make his return to Lakerland, and rookie sensation Damian Lillard is setting defenses on fire. But rather than write large articles on a bunch of things I’ve noticed, I decided to take it to my NBA notebook, and give you my observations in shorter fashion.
If I told you only 1 big man was top-5 in the league in both blocks and field goal percentage who would you guess? Dwight Howard? Roy Hibbert? I bet you wouldn’t guess Larry Sanders. The 6-11 VCU product is showing massive improvement this season averaging 12 points, 9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, and shooting 66% from the field in just 27 minutes off the bench for Milwaukee. In his first two seasons he looked absolutely lost on the court, and now he’s thriving on the defensive end. His current offensive rating is 27 points higher than his career average, and with Ilyasova struggling, he’s getting plenty of time with the first unit. I hope Sanders can keep this up, ‘cause he’s a heck of an athlete standing a 6’11”, and his twitter name is LarryLuv, so what’s not to like.
After 6 games, Jrue Holiday is averaging 18 points and 9.5 assists. Is it a renaissance, or an inevitability finally occurring? Jrue, at the young age of just 22, has always shown glimpses of immense talent in Philadelphia, even in his teenage days when he was playing as a rookie. He always took the backseat to point-forward Iguodala offensively, but now with keys to the Doug Collins cruiser in his hands, he’s showing everyone his capabilities. His turnovers are a little outrageous right now standing at 5.7 (!), but that will drop as he adjusts to being the focal point of this offense. Jrue is showing what he can do as the main option, and when Bynum does eventually play, I don’t expect that to hinder Jrue’s progression one bit.
O.J. Mayo is currently shooting 61% from downtown, making 4 threes per game. Wow. Clearly that won’t hold up, but his added offense along with speedy point guard Darren Collison, is making this Mavs team pretty interesting when Dirk comes back. They have the chance to be a pretty good team, and I have great faith that Rick Carlisle can make that happen.
In what was supposed to be the season in which DeMarcus Cousins makes his leap to stardom, he is still struggling to progress mentally. He picks up stupid fouls, mopes after them, and worst of all his shot selection is still terrible. There’s no question Cousins is physically fit to dominate in the NBA, and even with a lack of maturity he still manages to put up around 18 points and 10 rebounds every game. But there’s no reason that a third of his shots should be long-twos, where he shoots just 27%. Cousins immaturity recently showed in his confrontation with Spurs announcer Sean Elliot, that earned him a two game suspension. Supposedly Cousins didn’t like what the announcer was saying about him, and waited for Elliot to wrap up his post game show and confronted him on the court in a schoolyard bully-like fashion. Well played DeMarcus. The Kings desperately need their best player to evolve into a leader, but I don’t see that day coming anytime soon.
The Los Angeles Clippers are the newest team to enter the conversation as possible title contenders with their dominant play. I don’t really understand them. They beat the Grizzlies, Lakers, Spurs and Trailblazers all VERY convincingly, but suffered two loses to the Warriors and Cavaliers. What? Well, whatever is going on, the Clippers are looking dangerous right now. They join Miami as the only two teams to be shooting over 50% from the field thus far, and it’s worth acknowledging that DeAndre Jordan’s field goal percentage is 75. I wrote in our Pacific Division Person of Interest that if Jordan’s jump-hook falls this year it will add a new dimension to their offense, and boy was I right. He’s playing the best ball of his career, and so is his fellow teammate Jamal Crawford. Right now, Jamal is putting up a shade shy of 22 points per game for the Clippers bench, and shooting 52% from the field. Matt Barnes is playing well for them, Eric Bledsoe is the best backup point guard in the league, and though Ryan Hollins is terrible he works hard and provides reasonable defense off the bench. This team is playing outstanding, while Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill haven’t even joined the party yet.