The first calendar week of the 2015-16 NBA season is in the books and with it plenty of notable developments, surprises and disappointments. We’re only a couple of games in and the sample size is way too small to jump into any type of conclusions. With that in mind let’s explore some first trends.
The Golden State Warriors are legit this season. A lot of talk in the offseason was about their championship run and how much of it was due to luck and injuries of their opponent’s point guards. Social media sentiment suggested the absence or limitations of Mike Conley, Pat Beverly and most importantly Kyrie Irving in the respective playoff rounds was the main reason for Golden State’s success last season. The GM survey didn’t help in bringing a feeling of appreciation to Oakland: a majority has the Cavs as favorites for 2016 and a staggering 82.6% would build their franchise around Anthony Davis. Sure, Davis is a beast with huge improvements to his game every season and an uncharted ceiling to his abilities. But wouldn’t you expect the reigning MVP, at 27 still just entering his prime, to receive at least some share of voice? It seems like the apparent lack of recognition fueled the Warrior’s ambition and Steph Curry’s in particular. He came off the block with 24 points in the first quarter of the season and finished this week up with 53 against the Pelicans, just short of his career high, including four from long range over the aforementioned Anthony Davis. The crisp ball movement, the alert defense and a 3-0 record send a clear message to the rest of the league: don’t sleep on the Dubs!
The Houston Rockets and last year’s MVP runner-up James Harden’s start to the season has been quite the opposite: 0-3 record and all blow-outs with a margin of 20 points. While the Beard’s claim that he was the real MVP last season might not have been completely unjustified, his play so far doesn’t even get him anywhere near an all-star team. Not only has his shooting been extremely poor (a combined 12 of 54 from the field and 3 of 32 from deep), but his lackluster defense has been a major contributor to the Houston’s worst start since 2010. We’ll see how soon coach McHale can get the Rockets back on track. The expected return of Dwight Howard will add a much needed anchor to their defense and as the new backcourt of Harden and Lawson get’s accustomed to playing alongside another dominant ball-handler there’s ample room for improvement. At least it can’t get any worse right now.
The most exiting game of the week came on Friday with a double overtime win for OKC in Orlando. Westbrook and Durant combined for 91 points in the 139-136 thriller. The two superstars had plenty of clutch moments down the stretch, but Russel Westbrook had the biggest play of the night with a 38 foot bank shot sending the game to overtime, while Orlando was still celebrating Oladipo’s go-ahead three. In overtime it was Oladipo again with a beautiful contested step back 3-pointer forcing another extra 5 minutes of play, before the OKC’s star power finally proved too much for the young Magic team. After the game Durant referred to Russel Westbrook as “the big dog”, which should ease any discussions about their apparently strained relationship.