As has been the case for several years now, the Western Conference is stronger then the East. As of this writing, the West is 12 games over .500. But it's remarkably bunched up in the middle. And even at the bottom, as there are four teams in the East with worse records then the worst team in the West (New Orleans).
Thought I'd take a look at one of the teams in the West we thought would be terrible, but so far has managed to hang in there at 6-8: the Phoenix Suns. After they lost Steve Nash this summer, and failed in their pursuit of Eric Gordon (for which one imagines they are fairly thankful), the Suns looked to be in tough shape. They still had Marcin Gortat manning the center position, though there was the thought that he wouldn't be nearly as effective without the brilliant PnR play Nash provided. They spent (relatively) big money on Goran Dragic to replace Nash at the point, and on Michael Beasley to, well, do what he does.
They have some problems. So far, they really haven't been able to stop anyone. But on the other hand, despite Beasley being even more Beasley then your average Beasley, they have been scoring. Goran Dragic has shown himself to be worth the money, they don't turn the ball over, and have rebounded fairly well at both ends. Their wing play, on the other hand, has been a disaster. Wes Johnson can't get in the game, and the guys who are playing haven't been that much better. Beasley already mentioned. CH fave Jared Dudley has really struggled so far this year, Shannon Brown is Shannon Brown. We'll see if Gortat and (especially) Dragic cool off more then the wing play improves as the year goes on.
Score one for the old guys in the early going. Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd(!) and Tim Duncan are all in the top five in WS/48 this season. Seems unlikely to last, as aging legs will probably catch up to all of them at some point soon, but it's worth noting. Kidd is there mostly due to his nuts high shooting efficiency. His usage is very low, but as a result, he isn't turning it over, and he's making most of his shots. He has morphed almost entirely into a catch and shoot player along side Raymond Felton, but he's still one of the smartest guys out there. Kobe is leading the league in WS/48, and it also has to do with shot making. He's over 50% on all field goals and 40% on threes, numbers he's never achieved in a full season. He'll regress, but right now he's helping to keep the Lakers afloat as Nash continues to be out and Gasol's numbers continue to deteriorate. Duncan is doing it in large part defensively. Doubt it will continue, but right now he's helping to lead a team that is forcing a heck of a lot of misses by their opponents.
Rookie watch time. 16 rookies have played 200 or more minutes this season. Anthony Davis is not one of them. Currently out with a "stress reaction" in his ankle, Davis has appeared in only six of the Hornets' 12 games. He's been a force when he's been out there, and hopefully he can get and stay healthy, because he looks like a very special player.
Other rookies that are worth mentioning include Jonas Valanciunas who has really begun to find his stride recently. A couple of double doubles and a 22 point outing yesterday against the Spurs. Despite this, the Raptors are not faring well. 3-11 and it seems like the whole is less then the sum of their parts. They desperately need better wing play, and they desperately need Andrea Bargnani not to be leading the team in minutes.
Andre Drummond is killing it on the offensive glass, and making most of his shots. Except free throws, which he cannot convert. He also fouls a bit too much, but that's a fairly nitpicky point for a center his age. Off to a much better start then I anticipated. Brad Beal on the other hand is struggling with his shot, but he's also in a very tough position with an awful Wizards team that really has no point guard at the moment. Once we get a little deeper into the season, we'll look a little more systematically at the rookie class.
Bullet points anyone?
- After starting 0-3, Denver has righted the ship and is now 8-6 overall, in part because they are the best offensive rebounding team in the league, which in turn is because Kenneth Faried is a beast on the O-glass.
- With Derrick Rose out and Indiana struggling, the Central Division is pretty bereft. Milwaukee at 6-5 is the only team with a winning record, and Cleveland and Detroit are awful basketball teams.
- Wizards 0-11. Getting closer, though; last two losses have been overtime games. In truth, as terrible as they are, they've also been unlucky. Eight of the 11 losses have been by single digits. You would think they would stumble into a couple of wins at some point.
- I have to confess, I found it tough to find worthwhile stories this week. Seems like trends are having trouble forming thus far. Not that I'm against an open season and mad scramble all the way through. But it's hard to see the shape of the season yet.