How a lot can you actually study from the beginning of an NBA season? Fairly a bit, really. Efficiency on either side of the ball tends to stabilize in about six weeks, and general group efficiency can look sustainable even earlier, primarily based on research.
The beginning of the 2023-2024 season has stuffed with surprises. The Philadelphia 76ers had been alleged to be in serious trouble after buying and selling James Harden; seems, they’re higher than ever. The Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves had been alleged to be preventing for a low-end playoff spot; as an alternative they seem like convention finals contenders. In the meantime, the Clippers look horrible of their first few video games with Harden, however we’ll select to provide them a little bit extra time earlier than completely panning them.
Now that almost all groups have performed about 10 video games up to now this season, we thought it could be a superb time to verify in on what seems to be actual. Listed below are our 10 greatest takeaways from the early portion of the 2023-2024 NBA season.
The Bucks employed the incorrect coach
Mike Budenholzer was top-of-the-line head coaches within the NBA. The Milwaukee Bucks weren’t incorrect to fireside him, not after one of many greatest playoff collapses in league historical past final season, however doing so additionally got here with inherent danger. Bud’s Bucks got here with a formulation that labored spectacularly in the course of the common season, and their 2021 championship run was proof of idea that it may work within the postseason underneath the appropriate situations. There was all the time an opportunity the Bucks may do method, method worse than Coach Bud, and that seems to be the case with the hiring of Adrian Griffin after an uneven begin to the season.
Heading into Tuesday’s video games, the Bucks have the No. 9 offense, No. 25 protection, and are No. 19 in net-rating. Griffin has already needed to ditch his extra aggressive coverages in favor of Brook Lopez’s trusty rim safety in drop, however the perimeter protection stays a significant work in progress. Damian Lillard is among the many worst defensive gamers within the NBA, and he’s compromising the group construction each time he dies on a display. With Khris Middleton nonetheless on a minutes restriction and Jrue Vacation’s locked point-of-attack means out the door within the Dame commerce, Milwaukee has new personnel and a brand new scheme that also wants time to work itself out.
The Bucks hoped the offense could be unstoppable because the protection took a success, and so they’ve began gradual on that finish, too. Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo aren’t working as a lot pick-and-roll as you’ll assume. Middleton’s restricted availability has sapped Milwaukee of the third scorer it wants, and the shooters have been a bit chilly to start out the 12 months.
May Griffin determine issues out nonetheless? In fact. However the early returns are discouraging. It positive doesn’t really feel like Griffin — employed largely as a result of he was Giannis’ most well-liked teaching candidate — is the improve over Bud this group wanted.
Ime Udoka has turned across the Rockets
The Rockets have been one of many worst groups within the NBA since buying and selling James Harden at the beginning of the 2020-2021 season, averaging underneath 20 wins per season during the last three years. Past simply being dangerous, the Rockets had been additionally one thing of a circus, with younger gamers failing to face penalties for poor play and erratic decision-making underneath former head coach Stephen Silas.
Ime Udoka was introduced in to be the brand new sheriff on the town, and the outcomes are putting up to now. Getting into Monday, the Rockets are …
- No. 11 in offense
- No. 5 in protection
- No. 6 in net-rating
Simply having a reliable coach as an alternative of Silas is a large enchancment, and Udoka is far more than merely competent. Teaching isn’t the one purpose this group has improved, although. Alperen Sengun has made a star leap, and asserted himself as one of the best participant on the group. He ought to be an All-Star this season. Dillon Brooks is taking pictures the lights out and taking part in robust wing protection. Fred VanVleet has added a gradual hand to the backcourt at the same time as he’s struggled to attain contained in the arc. Jabari Smith Jr. is getting a little bit higher, and Jalen Inexperienced has improved his three-point shot whereas lastly beginning to play inside himself.
The Rockets in all probability gained’t hold successful at this fee, partially as a result of Brooks isn’t going to shoot 55 % from three all season. However the progress right here is actual. The Rockets have promise for the primary time post-Harden.
Tyrese Maxey is an All-Star lock, and possibly even All-NBA
The breakout star of the brand new season is Tyrese Maxey. When the Philadelphia 76ers lastly relented to James Harden’s commerce request, it was alleged to set off an organizational downfall and possibly even one other commerce request from Joel Embiid. As an alternative, the Sixers are higher than ever, proudly owning the league’s high report coming into the week, and so they owe most of it to Maxey’s unbelievable leap in manufacturing.
Maxey has shined because the group’s level guard, averaging 28.6 factors per recreation on 50 % taking pictures from the ground, 43.1 % taking pictures from three, and 93 % taking pictures from the foul line. He’s doubled his assists from final 12 months (as much as 7.2 per recreation) by creating a key rapport with Embiid. He may need essentially the most lethal floater within the NBA, and his three-point taking pictures enchancment since his school days at Kentucky is nothing in need of exceptional. He’s additionally one of many quickest gamers alive, a blur within the open court docket and a lightning bolt towards a set protection, offering the Sixers with a much-needed infusion of velocity that serves because the anthesis of Harden’s methodical playmaking.
There are a number of all-in-one stats which have Maxey as a top-five participant in your entire league up to now. Maxey is pure pleasure on the court docket, and the Sixers are once more a power within the East with out Harden dragging them down.
The Timberwolves are a real Western Convention contender
The very best level differential within the Western Convention belongs to … the Minnesota Timberwolves? It’s true, and it doesn’t seem like a fluke, both.
The Timberwolves have a ton going for them. They personal the league’s No. 1 protection, with Rudy Gobert trying nearly as good as ever defending the rim within the center. With 7-footer Karl-Anthony Cities on the 4 and the 6’10 Jaden McDaniels on the three, the Wolves have extra dimension than any group. Minnesota additionally has an emergent offensive famous person in Anthony Edwards, who’s averaging 28.4 factors per recreation on 59 % true taking pictures coming into the week. The depth items are stable, too, with Kyle Anderson and Naz Reid offering much more dimension off the bench.
Edwards goes to be the headliner right here as a result of he appears primed to turn into an MVP candidate within the close to future, however the Wolves’ dimension and protection is simply as a lot of a purpose for why they’re successful proper now. It doesn’t really feel like a stretch to imagine this may very well be the second finest group within the West this season after the defending champion Denver Nuggets.
The Mavs lastly put the appropriate items round Luka Doncic
The Mavericks entered the season with a variety of outcomes in a stacked Western Convention. A minimum of for now, one of the best case situation seems to be taking part in out.
At 8-2, Dallas enters the week tied for the league’s second-best report. The offense ranks No. 2 within the NBA with Luka Doncic on the controls, and the 24-year-old famous person is taking part in at an MVP stage to start the 12 months. Doncic is a real magician with the ball in his palms, and the Mavs have once more put some good items round him after a down 12 months a season in the past following the departure of Jalen Brunson. It begins with Kyrie Irving, who a minimum of up to now is torching the nets as a scorer and staying out of hassle off the court docket. Grant Williams has supplied some robust protection and knockdown taking pictures, making him a seamless match subsequent to Luka and Kyrie. Rookie massive man Dereck Vigorous II is already giving the Mavs good minutes as an excellent lengthy massive man who slams house lobs from Doncic and covers his warts defensively.
The Mavs lead the NBA in three-point makes, three-point makes an attempt, and three-point share by means of 10 video games. That’s a successful formulation when you’ve got Doncic creating nice alternatives off the bounce on each possession. The protection is once more a query mark (at present No. 23), however there’s a minimum of some expertise in place on that finish with Williams and Vigorous. Doncic feels just like the league’s second most unstoppable playoff efficiency after Nikola Jokic. The Mavs have to love their probabilities with a greater supporting solid round him.
The Bulls must blow it up
If it felt a tad early when folks began calling for the Bulls to explode their roster a 12 months in the past, at this level there’s no denying Chicago has a group with a low ceiling and a doomed future. The Bulls simply haven’t been any good since Lonzo Ball’s horribly unhappy damage. With a protected 2025 decide nonetheless owed to the San Antonio Spurs, a full cap sheet, and DeMar DeRozan on an expiring deal, the Bulls don’t have any selection however to face the fact that this group is rarely going to achieve success and get a soar on constructing the subsequent iteration of the roster.
It will be secure to imagine a group led by Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, and DeRozan could be a superb if not nice offensive group. That hasn’t been the case: the three gamers have by no means had a optimistic net-rating in sharing the ground collectively for 3 years, and the group offense is under common once more to start out this 12 months after ending No. 24 final season. Younger gamers like Patrick Williams, Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu, and Dalen Terry haven’t developed sufficient to type the inspiration of Chicago’s subsequent good group. This group has principally been held collectively by Alex Caruso’s brilliance, and he’s the primary participant they need to commerce as a result of he’s positive to start out a bidding conflict as soon as put available on the market.
There’s simply not numerous hope for the Bulls proper now. Given how poorly high govt Arturas Karnisovas has carried out within the draft since being employed, it’s laborious for Bulls followers to have a lot religion he’d nail a rebuild. Chicago ought to simply change entrance workplaces once more and let another person attempt to construct up this as soon as proud franchise.
The Grizzlies are rubbish with out Ja Morant and Steven Adams
It’s already shaping as much as be a misplaced season for the Grizzlies. At 2-8, Memphis has the worst report within the Western Convention by means of 10 video games. The Grizzlies can’t rating in any respect — they’re No. 29 in offensive effectivity. Memphis has taken the second-most two-pointers within the league up to now, and so they’re second-to-last in two-point area objective share. That’s not nice!
Memphis knew it was going to be lacking Ja Morant for 25 video games to start out the 12 months due to his suspension for foolish social media conduct. One other big blow got here simply earlier than the season when Steven Adams was dominated out for the 12 months with a knee damage. Think about Brandon Clarke’s continued restoration from an Achilles tear, and Memphis is simply too banged as much as be good proper now.
If there’s a silver lining for the Grizzlies, it’s Desmond Bane’s growth as a possible All-Star. There’s a world the place Memphis will get everybody again wholesome subsequent season, provides a high decide within the 2024 NBA Draft, and regains its footing as one of many NBA’s most promising franchises. It’s simply not going to occur this 12 months.
The Pacers offense seems to be all-time good
The best offense in NBA historical past belongs to … the 2022-2023 Sacramento Kings, who scored 118.6 factors per 100 possessions, the best mark the league has ever seen. By way of 10 video games up to now this season, the Indiana Pacers are scoring 122 factors per 100 possessions. Even with the league’s No. 27 protection, Indiana’s 6-4 begin at present has them positioned because the No. 3 seed within the East.
There’s nothing flukey in regards to the Pacers’ offensive success. Level guard Tyrese Haliburton is an rising famous person, main the NBA in assists by a mile (12.2 per recreation) whereas additionally taking pictures 41 % from three-point vary. Indiana takes and makes a ton of threes round Haliburton’s playmaking: the group is making an attempt over 40 triples per night time, and knocking them down at a 39 % clip. Myles Turner stays one of many league’s finest stretch fives, free agent signing Bruce Brown has match like a glove, and even Aaron Nesmith is beginning to show he generally is a key bench piece.
With Haliburton on the controls, the Pacers are going to be one of the vital enjoyable groups to observe the remainder of this season. Remember to subscribe to outdated buddy Caitlin Cooper’s Patreon for one of the best Pacers protection round.
Chet Holmgren is a famous person within the making
Chet Holmgren has been well worth the watch for the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder. The No. 2 general decide within the 2022 NBA Draft missed all of final season after injuring his foot defending LeBron James at Jamal Crawford’s summer time pro-am recreation, however his return to the court docket this 12 months has been every little thing OKC may have hoped for therefore far.
Holmgren is big at 7’1 with a 7’6 wingspan, and extremely well-rounded by way of his talent set. He’s already one of many league’s finest rim protectors, blocking 2.3 photographs per recreation (No. 4 within the NBA) by displaying nice anticipation and hand-eye coordination on his his contests. He can shoot everywhere in the ground — 50 % from three-point vary and 90 % from the foul line up to now. Holmgren additionally hardly ever forces the problems offensively and simply appears have have a present for realizing the right way to make the appropriate play.
The Thunder already had a stud in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander main them within the backcourt. Holmgren is a perfect entrance court docket accomplice and long-term constructing block subsequent to him. The Thunder are the long run, and their current is already engaging.
Scottie Barnes is leveling up
Only a few gamers within the NBA can stuff a field rating like Scottie Barnes. The 22-year-old ahead is top-10 within the NBA in blocks and steals per recreation, top-20 in rebounds, and top-25 in assists. Did we point out he’s scoring 20 factors per recreation, too?
Barnes seems to be like a greater participant on each ends of the ground in his third 12 months. With a robust base and a 7’3 wingspan, Barnes can present stout secondary rim safety inside whereas nonetheless being fast sufficient to carry his personal on the perimeter on a change. The Raptors have put him in additional advantageous positions to maximise his versatility on that finish this 12 months, and it’s helped raise the unit to No. 4 within the NBA up to now. Offensively, Barnes has made actual strides as a three-point shooter, upping each his quantity (from 2.9 makes an attempt per recreation and 5.3 makes an attempt per recreation) and accuracy (from 28 % to 34 %) from deep.
The Raptors nonetheless have some massive choices looming with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby heading to free company, however a minimum of Toronto is aware of it has its franchise participant in Barnes.