By Albert Luna
3 Takeaways and Top 10 Power Rankings
The first few games of the NBA season have gone just as we thought: totally unexpected. The new NBA season has come with so many storylines, surprising scores, and upsets it’s almost become commonplace now. The craziest part of this all is that it has only been seven days.
This week, let’s take a look at three things that have dominated the NBA landscape through the first few games, as well as weekly power rankings. Enjoy!
- Curry and Warriors Were Not A Fluke
Last year, when the Golden State Warriors made their run to the NBA Finals and ultimately knocked off LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, many believed they had lucked out of playing some really hard competition.
In particular, every series they played in the playoffs last year featured the opposing teams’ starting point guard being out or hurt most of the series. Players like Kyrie Irving, Mike Conley, and Jrue Holiday all were not at full strength to matchup against Stephen Curry, who happened to be the Warriors’ best player. Coming into the season, many predicted the Warriors, and Curry especially, to take a step back.
Winning 67 in the NBA is so rare, it almost can never be repeated. Through three games, the Warriors have shown they are up to the challenge. After the reigning league MVP dropped 40 points on opening night versus early MVP favorite Anthony Davis, Curry followed that up with a 25+ point game against Houston two nights later and then dropped 53 points on Saturday night in another Warriors win.
The Warriors, as I predicted, are here to stay in the top tier of the league. It will be interesting to see just how special this season can actually be for the sharpshooting Curry and company.
2) Kevin Durant is Still Good
It sounds so simple and plain, but that really is the case. Durant had many experts expecting some regression or even caution in his game after missing most of last season with foot surgery complications. However, the 2014 MVP has come out this season with clear determination not to let his Oklahoma City Thunder miss the playoffs again.
After an impressive season opening win against the Spurs, the Thunder followed that up with a tough grit-and-grind game against the Magic that went to triple overtime with OKC eventually coming out on top. The biggest takeaway from the entire first week may be this: when players come off injuries, oftentimes it is very difficult to gauge just how good they are compared to pre-injury.
Durant has certainly shown he is capable of being the best player on the planet once again, although some completion for that crown might actually be in his own locker room, with Russel Westbrook, but that’s for a later column.
3) Is LeBron James the Best Player on His Team?
This week LeBron came out with an interesting tidbit of information by saying that Kevin Love should be the focal point of the offense for the Cavs. If you look at the first few games, he might be right. This is a strange era in the NBA landscape, because LeBron is now on the wrong side of 30 and he is dealing with back issues now more than ever.
He is still an all-timer and when he tries the best player in the world, but he’s smart, he knows when to go all out and when to give less effort in order to protect his long-term health. With Love, to his credit, playing very well to start the season, it will be a compelling storyline to keep track off, especially if LeBron continues to slip statistically.
Top 10 Power Rankings
- Golden State Warriors-As noted above, the Warriors are playing better than any other team in the league. The champs are an easy choice here.
- Oklahoma City Thunder-Durant and Westbrook are at it again. Two of the best six players in the league on one team is always trouble for anyone else.
- Chicago Bulls-The Bulls have enjoyed some good wins under new Coach Fred Hoilberg, and Pau Gasol seems never to age as the power forward is at it again.
- Cleveland Cavaliers –After losing on Tuesday night, LeBron and company had two great wins over the Grizzlies and Heat. Kevin Love looks to lead this team on some nights.
- Los Angeles Clippers-The Clippers are stockpiled with talent. So far, they have played pretty well with it. It has not been pretty, but they are still getting adjusted.
- San Antonio Spurs-Besides the loss to the Thunder, the Spurs still seem solid. One does have to wonder just how much Tony Parker has slipped statistically.
- Toronto Raptors-The Canadian team has gotten some good wins versus some playoff teams from last year. A better bench would propel them even further.
- Atlanta Hawks-The Hawks have also proven that last year was no fluke. They seem to be a team that will take care of business when they need to, very similar to the Spurs.
- Miami Heat-Besides the one loss to the Cavs, Miami has done a solid job with the new group they have. A 20-point comeback on Sunday night versus Houston is encouraging.
- Detroit Pistons-The Pistons have shown they are tired of missing out on the playoffs. They have been playing out of their minds defensively. It will be interesting to see if this can be sustained.
Albert Luna may be reached at ALuna32@NMSU.edu
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