Mike Brown in trouble already? - Stephen Dunn
Less than a week into the new season, and you know what that means! Yes, it’s time to draw some completely unwarranted conclusions based on the scantest of evidence! Time for the first Around the League of the regular season.
We'll dispense quickly with the two biggest stories of the opening week: The Lakers' 0-3 start and James Harden going HAM in Houston.
The Lakers have been completely uninspiring against Dallas, Portland the Clippers. Two major issues have emerged, neither of them surprising, and both of which I (along with others) foresaw in last week's preseason Around the League: first, one of their superstars is already injured; Steve Nash has a small fracture of the fibula, and will miss at least another week. Second, their bench has been horrendous. They were outscored 46-16 by the Clipper bench on Friday night. (Though to be fair, Steve Blake was in the starting lineup in place of Nash). I'm confident the Lakers will start winning games at some point soon, but their aging stars and lack of depth aren't going away.
Harden meanwhile has merely scored 106 points in his first three games as a Rocket. Um, yeah. He's pretty good. Regardless of whether he's thinking of it this way, this could be one of the great Eff You seasons in league history. If the Thunder miss out on another trip to the Finals while Harden goes for 25+ efficient points a night and manages to get Houston to the playoffs, Clay Bennett isn't gonna look too good. Or more accurately, he's gonna look worse then he already does.
Other notable stuff around the league:
It was contract extension time for players from the 2009 draft entering their 4th year in the league. Cough, Jonny Flynn, cough. Teams had until the beginning of the season to agree to terms with such players, or they will become restricted free agents next summer. Among the high (or low) lights:
DeMar DeRozan: 4 years, $40 million. Yikes. This is the worst deal of the week, and it isn't even close. DeRozan has done nothing in three years to justify cashing in like this, and I have no idea what Toronto was thinking. Let him actually earn it this year; you still have control in the summer. He's been a consistently below average performer his entire three seasons in the league. Toronto has some interesting pieces, but they keep shooting themselves in the foot by committing significant dollars to flawed players like Bargnani, Fields, and now DeRozan.
On the other hand, Chicago inked Taj Gibson to a 4 year deal that will be worth less than $10M per (specific amounts depend on incentives). That's a good deal, and once again shows the misplaced importance of points per game. In an efficient market, there is no reason for DeRozan to be more highly paid than the excellent defender and emerging offensive player that is Taj Gibson. This will probably lead to the amnestying of Carlos Boozer next summer as the Bulls desperately try to avoid the luxury tax.
Other contracts include a 4/$48 for Ty Lawson in Denver, which seems pretty good for both sides, Steph Curry getting 4/$44 from GSW in a risky deal given his propensity for injury, and James Harden's 5/$80 max deal with the Rockets that seems worth it so far. What contracts caught your eye this week?
On the court, Denver has stumbled to an 0-3 start, though they did just lose what might have been the best game of the season so far in Miami, 119-116, won by a Ray Allen 3 in the last ten seconds. All three losses have been on the road, and incredibly, the Nuggets start the season playing 17 of their first 23 games away from home. That's a tough way to start. They have now managed to lose because they couldn't make a shot and because they couldn't get stops.
- Boston, after losing their first two to Miami and Milwaukee(!) managed to get off the schnied and beat a bad Wizards team in a close one.
- A note about Milwaukee: Tobias Harris, who some of the stats savvy liked as a sleeper pick out of Tennessee a couple of years ago broke into the starting lineup with 18 points on 8-11 shooting in the Bucks win over the Celtics. He's 20 years old.
- The Nets won their (delayed) opener in Brooklyn by beating Toronto; those are the next two Wolves opponents.
- The Spurs are off to a 3-0 start behind Tim Duncan, who looks like he took a ride in the juvenation machine. We'll see how long that lasts, but they were playing the best ball in the NBA at the end of last season.
- Canis Hoopus 2nd round favorite Jae Crowder is in the Mavs rotation (not bad for a 2nd rounder), and notably has now played 63 minutes over 3 games and committed one turnover.
So what's caught your eye?