Something Or Nothing: Making Sense Of The NBA's First Week

It's the time of the NBA season where everything is an over-reaction or under-reaction.

One bad quarter can wipe you out of playoff contention.

One good quarter could have a guy become the new favourite for MVP.

Nothing is simple throughout the first two or three weeks of an NBA season. Still, not reacting at all isn't any fun so here are three teams to keep an eye on over the next few weeks. 

RELATED: Check out Stats Insider's full season NBA projections 

Losing Lakers

We know better than to be too worried about the Los Angeles Lakers three games into a season. It's not a surprise to see a new-look team struggle for cohesion. It's even less of a surprise to see the oldest team in the NBA with an average age of 32.1 years old ease their way into a long campaign.

Still, for those sceptical of the Russell Westbrook signing, it has gone about as bad as it possibly could.

He was awful in the season opener for eight points, five rebounds, four assists, four turnovers and a minus-23. While his numbers improved slightly in his second game for 15 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, there was no denying how much he stalled the slightest sign of momentum whenever the Lakers threatened to make a run in a game they fell behind in the first half.

The Lakers finally picked up a win in game three, but relied on Carmelo Anthony scoring 28 points, the team shooting 53.3% from deep (16 from 30) and Ja Morant missing a game-tying free throw late. 

Rather worryingly was once again how ineffective Westbrook was late in the game and the fact none of the Lakers starting five posted a positive plus-minus.


"Should we be worried about the Lakers?" is an inevitable talking point when they're roughly 10-10 and falling behind the top teams in the West.

Just as inevitable is LeBron James and Anthony Davis figuring it out to at least be competitive and part of the championship conversation by April.

Until then, it's going to be interesting to see how and if the Lakers can integrate Westbrook and whether or not they look to make changes to what has been a below-par starting five.

Bulls: Are they good? 

The Chicago Bulls are 4-0 to start the season. 

Most notably, they have the third-best defence in the NBA per Cleaning The Glass.

Caveat: They have played one of the easiest four-game schedules possible in two games against the Pistons, one against Toronto and one against the Zion Williamson-less Pelicans.

Still, a 92.0 defensive rating is a 92.0 defensive rating and something to look out for in the coming weeks.

In Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic, there is plenty of reason for optimism on the offensive side of the ball. LaVine is an elite scoring talent in need of some support around him and finally has it in this group. DeRozan, while typically unwilling to sway too far away from what has seen him average 20.2 points per game over the last nine seasons, keeps the scoring up while LaVine sits. DeRozan's 24.3% usage rate with LaVine on the court is his lowest mark since the 2012-13 season. However, he bumps that all the way up to 35.2% when LaVine is sitting on the bench.

Ball is willing and able to complement any offence. He does everything relatively well and has improved on his three-point shooting every year he has been in the league. Early days, but Ball's current 38.1% on seven three-point attempts per game is serviceable and sustainable.

Depending on how you look at it, Vucevic starting the season so poorly can be considered good or bad.

Good: Bulls are 4-0 and playing with a middling offence despite Vucevic shooting 35.4% from the floor and missing bunnies at the rim. 

Bad: Vucevic is 31-years old, possibly showing his age and needs to have a positive influence on the offence given the relative lack of quality he has displayed defensively.

There is a lot to like about the Bulls at the moment but this is the Bulls. It's going to take playing like this until Christmas to believe it's real. Especially in defence.

Lukewarm Heat

Miami Heat 137 def. Milwaukee Bucks 95.

That's the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks who beat the Brooklyn Nets in their own season opener who the Heat thrashed.

They had already been circled as the team nobody will want to play in a seven-game series and his game backed that up. However, 48 hours later:

Indiana Pacers 102 def. Miami Heat 91.

Humbled quicker than Tyler Herro in his sophomore season, the Heat came back down to earth and are 2-1 to start.

There is only so much you can glean from three games, but right now, the Heat are roughly what a lot of people expected. They can beat anybody on their day and match up well with almost every team in the league. Offence (103.2 - 23rd) and defence (91.9 - 2nd), they're going to be in the top half of the league in both by the end of the season. However, they've always been susceptible to a head-scratching performance. The sort that leaves you wondering how they just lost to a team that shouldn't get close to them.

Herro is the one to watch, though. If he ends up the player he thinks he is (Herro believes he's at the same level as Doncic, Young and Morant) then the Heat will be a team to be reckoned with. Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler can all function at an elite level within an offence, but none are bonafide bucket-getters like Herro. 

He's averaging 28.5 points per game at the moment. Interestingly, Luka Doncic is at 22.5 points per game with Young further behind at 21.5 points per game.

Other Notes

  • The Minnesota Timberwolves are 1st in defensive rating allowing 87.8 points per 100 possessions.
  • Ja Morant is averaging 35 points per game for the Grizzlies to be 2nd in offensive rating scoring 123.2 points per 100 possessions.
  • The Utah Jazz are the only team in the league with a Top 10 offence (111.5 - 9th) and defence (92.6 - 4th).
  • The New York Knicks finished 25th in a three-point attempt rate at 34.7% last season. They currently lead the NBA at 50.2%.
  • Chris Durate leads all rookies in scoring with 20.3 points per game.
  • Seth Curry has connected on 13 of his 17 three-point attempts.
  • The Charlotte Hornets are 3-0 for the first time in franchise history.

Did you enjoy this article? Join our free mailing list to get the best content delivered straight to your inbox, or join the conversation by leaving a comment below or on the Stats Insider Twitter or Facebook page.

Jason Oliver

As far as Jason is concerned, there is no better time of year than March through June. An overlap of the NBA and NRL seasons offer up daily opportunities to find an edge and fund the ever-increasing number of sports streaming services he subscribes to. If there's an underdog worth taking in either code, he'll be on it.

Related Articles
Loading...
See All Articles
A new version of Stats Insider is now available! You'll see it when you next reload the page, or you can click here to go to it now!