It’s been nine days since the NBA began, and the East is (still) much worse than the West (The East is 3-13 against the West this season). If the playoffs magically began today, Cleveland wouldn’t be playing, and neither would the Los Angeles Clippers. But thankfully the playoffs won’t start until April, so Cleveland should not worry too much. The 76ers and Lakers are still searching for that first win, while Memphis, Houston and Golden State remain undefeated. Here are three things from NBA’s week one:
1. Maybe Sacramento can be good.
It’s been five games, but the Kings have been playing a different brand of basketball. Rudy Gay has been great and efficient. DeMarcus Cousins has an early PER of 30, while playing great on offense and defense. Darren Collison looks like the right guy to start at point guard. Ben Mclemore needs to be more involved, though. I still think they’re too reliant on their point guard, small forward and center. Sacramento is a borderline top-10 defense in terms of rating so far, which I don’t think is maintainable, but it is worth watching. Collison has been able to generate turnovers, and the defense in general has just been more of a focus for the Kings. It has to start with their franchise guys, and that’s Gay and Cousins. If Sacramento wants to make the playoffs, Gay and Cousins have to be totally focused on both sides of the court. But with Oklahoma City dealing with their injuries, Sacramento to the postseason doesn’t look like some impossible feat, especially if you consider Sacramento has beaten Portland and the Clippers already. It’s still really early. Philly started 3-0 last year before finishing 16-66. But the Kings actually have two All-Star-caliber players, and they’re buying into Mike Malone’s defensive principles. And Omri Casspi has been good off the bench! Exciting stuff.
2. James Harden
It’s no secret James Harden is one of my favorite NBA players. It doesn’t hurt that he’s left handed, but he’s also extremely crafty with the ball, a willing passer and nearly automatic from the free throw line (well, at least so far this year). Harden has two double-digit assist games and he has made at least 10 free throws in every game expect one. Houston really hasn’t played anyone besides Miami, but it is nice to see Harden playing so well early after last postseason’s debacle.
3. Golden State: a contender
And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The Grizzlies and Warriors are the only teams with a defensive rating under 94. The Warriors are scary good because of their offensive potential. Mark Jackson instilled a defensive structure in Golden State. They’ve always played hard, and well on that end of the court, but Steve Kerr has made this offense into a lethal one, which is scary for everyone in the NBA. Golden State had 102 points last night through three quarters against the Los Angeles Clippers (who pride themselves off defense). Golden State is second in points per game, and also second in assists per game. They’re sharing the ball and playing an ultra-fun offense with Kerr at the helm. Klay Thompson has been brilliant (He is 10-19 from above the break 3 and 12-15 from the restricted area, according to NBA.com.) and Andrew Bogut has been healthy. There’s still a long ways away but the Warriors have gotten off to an excellent start, and are definitely worthy to be in the discussion of a top-3 team in the West.