Niko Regalbuto, David Vertsberger, and A.J. Rose, all members of Stoop Sports’ NBA staff discuss some early season topics.
Which player has been the biggest, pleasant suprise?
Niko Regalbuto- Carmelo Anthony has been awesome, specifically on defense. Damian Lillard has been magnificent as well, but I’m going to say Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG was drafted second overall by the Bobcats in an attempt to start changing the culture of the team, but I was convinced he was a bust. He sported a horrific jump shot in college and though he works hard, I wasn’t sure that would make him anything more then a Thabo Sefolosha type player at the pro level. But he’s been awesome. The Bobcats already have three wins, two over playoff teams, largely due to the contributions of MKG. Per 48 minutes, the Bobcats are +11.5 with MKG on the court, but -37.1 with him on the bench. He is already proving to be a great building block for that franchise.
David Vertsberger- Carmelo Anthony. Putting in effort on both sides of the court should be a norm for players making maximum money in this league, but the cruel reality is that this is not the case. So I congratulate Melo for making me fall on my rump in complete disbelief at his terrific effort on defense this year. Well done.
A.J. Rose- While O.J. Mayo, Jrue Holiday, and James Harden have all been excellent through six games, especially on the offensive end, the most pleasant surprise of the season thus far is the Portland Trailblazers’ point guard, Damian Lillard. In my NBA preview article, I predicted that not only would Anthony Davis would run away with the Rookie of the Year award, but that it was “the easiest prediction in sports this year”. That statement was, in retrospect, a gross exaggeration. Davis has been as good as advertised; he’s averaging 17.3 points, 8 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks a game. But those numbers are exactly what NBA critics and fans expected of Anthony Davis. Lillard is filling up the stat sheet as well, averaging 18 points, 6.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds a game, even as his team has lost its last four games. If he continues at this pace, he’ll give Davis a run for his money in the ROY race.
Which player has been the most disappointing?
Niko- Ersan Ilyasova. Last year’s most improved player runner up, I expected big things from Ilyasova this year, but he’s been nothing short of horrible. He’s averaging 6.7 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 28.8% from the field and 41% from the charity stripe. His player efficiency is 3.2 (league average is 15), and he’s allowing his opponents a PER of 23. Not something Milwaukee wanted to see after dropping a new contract on him this summer.
David- Rodney Stuckey. The Pistons practically tossed away their best player just a few years ago because of this guy, hoping he could grow into their point guard of the future. He hasn’t been playing totally awful basketball heading into this season, but in these seven games, yeesh. 17 of 72 from the field as a starter playing 30 minutes a night? Just ouch.
A.J.- It’s difficult to call a player’s season disappointing after six games, but the Indiana Pacers certainly can’t be happy about how Roy Hibbert has started the first season of his new four year, $58 million dollar max contract. Hibbert’s averages so far? 8.7 points and 7.7 rebounds a game, with a PER of 11.96. To put that PER in perspective, Anthony Davis has a PER of 32.49. Davis is getting paid just over $5 million this season. Hibbert’s salary? Nearly $13.7 million.
Which team has been the biggest, pleasant surprise?
Niko- It has to be the Knicks. Their 5-0 beating the Heat, Magic, Mavericks and the Sixers twice. Carmelo is finally showing effort defensively, my only concern is the whole Stoudemire situation. The past two years Carmelo has been significantly better while playing power forward, and so have the Knicks. So they need to figure out a way to make it work with Anthony-Stoudemire-Chandler when Stoudemire returns. And to all the Knick fans that want Stoudemire traded, I don’t see anyone taking on his contract.
David- Am I a biased overreacting homer if I say the New York Knicks? Yes? Too bad I’ll say it anyway. Never would have guessed this team would start out 5-0 against the defending champs, the Magic, and two solid playoff teams from a year ago. It’s just beautiful. The defense has been suffocating, the offense smooth and effective, and also, SHEED, yes, SHEED.
A.J.- The Knicks are 5-0, the last remaining unbeaten team in the NBA. But the Knicks have only beaten three teams: the injured and underachieving 76ers twice, the Dirk-less Dallas Mavericks, and the Miami Heat on a night when the focus was not on the game, but on New York’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy. The Knicks have also been relatively healthy. The real surprise team of the season thus far is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are 5-2 despite the absence of both Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. The T-Wolves are 2nd in the NBA in points allowed at 88.4 PPG, and their big men Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko (particularly Kirilenko) have wreaked havoc in the paint. Once Love and Rubio return, Minnesota will have a great shot at making the playoffs.
Which team has been the most disappointing?
Niko- Is there any other choice? The Los Angeles Lakers. After being widely projected as the favorites to challenge the Heat for NBA supremacy, they started this season terribly. Now, with Mike Brown out, I expect things to turn around. They still need shooters to fit into the D’Antoni system, but a coach with some offensive knowledge and their evident star power should make them fine in the future.
David- The Miami Heatles. They just don’t look as motivated as they were last year, and I’m going to go ahead and guess that they aren’t. That disappoints me. One and done is it Bron? Two blowouts to the Knicks and Grizzlies are evidence enough to me that the Heat are going through a hangover period. That’s bad. I don’t like it.
A.J.- The Lakers are in a class by themselves in this category, so it’s hardly worth talking about them (but we will anyway, of course). Their first five games were difficult to watch. Trying to use the Princeton offense with that roster was like asking Jimmy Johnson to race in a tractor. The Lakers realized this, and they wasted no time in making a drastic change. The firing of Mike Brown and subsequent hiring of Mike D’Antoni was both unfair to Brown and a decision that will propel the Lakers’ offense into the stratosphere.
Who’s sporting the best hair this season?
Niko- None other than frat star, Captain Hawmerica
David- Jeff Van Gundy, by far.
A.J.- The default answer to this question is James Harden, who has rocked the best beard in sports for over a year now (apologies to Brian Wilson). But because he’s now an NBA champion and the King of the league for the foreseeable future, the only thing left to make fun of Lebron for is his hilariously receding hairline, which has forced him to start wearing the double headband the last few years. Lebron has every physical gift an athlete could ever want, so it’s only fair that he be folically impaired. Long live the King’s receding crown.