A few weeks before the season started, I wrote an article describing just how excited I was for this season of basketball. This year may have been the most anticipated season in NBA history, and for good reason. Never before has there been such an abundance of talent, old, and young. In the article I listed 5 things that I was most looking forward to this season: https://thethreepeat.com/2016/09/19/5-things-to-look-forward-to-this-season/.So far the season has lived up to it’s hype; here are five things that week 1 has taught us.
1. Kawhi Leonard is a Top 3 Player in the NBA
Rumor has it that Kawhi spent the offseason working with Kobe Bryant to further improve the development of his offensive game; it has shown.
Despite Greg Popovich limiting his minutes to just over 30 per game, Kawhi is averaging 28 ppg, looking just as dominant on the offensive end as he is on the defensive end. Leonard, who had his best offensive season last year, ranking 4th in the league in 3 point %, will take an even further leap this season.
If the Spurs can nab that #1 seed this season, don’t be surprised if Kawhi joins Hakeem and Jordan as the only players to win DPOY & MVP in the same season.
2. The Thunder Might be Better Without Durant
I know, this statement may rub some of you the wrong way. How could any team be better off without Kevin Durant?
It’s simple, really.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook never meshed, and the Thunder never had any chemistry. This was a team that went to the Western Conference Finals four times solely on the talent of KD and Russ. Chemistry wins championships, however, which is why they lost three times in the WCF, and got dominated by LeBron in the 2011 Finals.
Without Durant in the picture, Westbrook has been able to play to his full potential, which is very scary for opposing teams. Through three games Westbrook is averaging 38.7 ppg, 11.7 apg, and 12.3 rpg; leading the Thunder to a 3-0 record. Another huge piece to the Thunder’s early success has been newly signed shooting guard Victor Oladipo, who compliments Westbrook nicely. Together, they are arguably the most athletic 1-2 combo in the NBA.
The Thunder also still have their big’s who the Spurs and Warriors struggled so much against in the playoffs last year.
With triple-double machine Russell Westbrook, budding superstar Victor Oladipo, and solid big’s, The Thunder will be a tough team for anyone to face this year.
3. The Bulls are a Huge Threat to the Cav’s
“The Bulls won’t be able to space the floor”. “The Bulls don’t have enough shooters.”
These were common talking points in the off-season; after 3 games those same people are eating their words.
The Bulls have been incredible from behind the arc, as pointed out by sbnation:
“The 2016-17 Rajon Rondo-and-Dwyane Wade-era Chicago Bulls have hit the most three-point shots through the first three games of a season in franchise history. With 11 makes on Monday night, their total rose to 31, and they’ve done it on 42.5 percent shooting, third-best in the league.”
Dwayne Wade, who has never been a three point shooter, is shooting 56% from deep, needing only 3 more makes to pass up his total last year. Yes, thats right. In just 3 games Dwayne Wade has nearly passed his 3 point totals from last year’s season in which he played 74 games.
Jimmy Butler is a huge part of their success as well. Jimmy is easily the best two-way guard in the NBA, and next to Kawhi Leonard, has the best chances of shutting down LeBron. This gives them the ability to compete with the Cav’s on any given night.
The Bulls have been the highest scoring team in the NBA in week one, showing us that they have what it takes to be a major force in the East.
4. The Warriors Will Not Make the Finals…
No, I am not a Golden State Warriors hater.
The proof is in the pudding…
The Warriors had to give up a lot to obtain Durant, and I think what they gave is more than what they got in return. It is very clear that Andrew Bogut’s presence down low is missed, as the Warriors interior defense has looked nothing more than average. Average, is something that a championship team cannot have in this day an age.
No matter how good Durant, Thompson, Curry, and Draymond are, they are still going to need breaks during games, and from what we’ve seen from the Warriors bench the talent level falls off a cliff with their second unit.
Despite all the star power on this team, I don’t believe that they have all the right pieces in place to win the Championship, or to even get there.
5. LeBron James has Passed the Torch…
LeBron James, to me, is still the best player in the world. The effect that he has on the team he plays for is astronomical, as he makes any team an instant competitor. LeBron does it all, comparable to “Magic Johnson on steroids”. However, this could be the first season that we see LeBron get outscored by a teammate. Kyrie looks like he’s prepared to do just that for the Cavaliers this season.
Coming off a historic NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving will be the go-to-guy on the offensive end, and LeBron James will take on the facilitator role more than he ever has before. Reguardless, the Cav’s are the early favorites to win the 2017 NBA Finals.