Five Intriguing Storylines from the NBA’s First Quarter
Kemba’s been in his luggage, his go-yard, his whatever. The Charlotte Hornets guard is averaging career highs in points per game (27.9) and assists per game (6.5). Coach James Borrego’s new offense has empowered Kemba, he’s taking the most shots of his career (20.7 FGA, 9.8 3PA), while increasing his efficiency (career high 45% from the field) because of the lanes created.
Charlotte is 6th in the league in three pointers attempted and this new “let it fly” mentality has Charlotte ranked as the league’s fifth best offense (112.6 offensive rating). Kemba’s fourth in Bball Index’s Wins Added metric among point guards, second among PGs in PER, second among PGs in VORP, and fifth among PGs (Harden doesn’t count imo) in ESPN’s RPM. By any metric you choose to use (advanced stats, regular stats, the eye test, highlights you see), Kemba’s been amazing this year. There’s a case to be made that he is the best PG in the East (which I’d argue with much bias as I am a Hornets fan), but I think we can all agree that he’s been a top five PG so far this year.
Luka Doncic, ROY
Luka was a very polarizing player during the draft process (that Euro bias sucks). The fact of the matter is that he played in the world’s second best basketball league and won MVP at the ripe age of 19. There shouldn’t have been anything polarizing about him. I’m of the camp that he should’ve been drafted number one overall (Ayton’s really good though) and boy, is he proving that to be right. I expected him to play well and average around 15/5/5 but he’s far surpassed my expectations. The Dallas Mavericks is officially his team as he’s averaging 19.1 points a game, 6.6 rebounds a game, and 4.3 assists per game. He’s shooting almost 40% from three at over six attempts a game. The kid is legit. He has the only positive net rating in the Mavs’ starting lineup and has led the Mavs to a sparkling 7–2 record in their past nine games to have them right in the playoff mix. The rookie class has shined this year and should be hailed as one of the best in recent years. Luka just might be the cream of the crop.
Los Angeles Clippers, best team in the West
Those Clippers are dangerous, man. I bet we all guessed that they’d be at the top of the Western Conference standings, right? And it isn’t like they’ve beaten up on sorry teams. They’ve recorded wins against the Warriors, Bucks, Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, and the Rockets. They’ve been an elite offensive unit this year, ranking 6th in offensive rating. They’re no slouches on defense either as they rank 11th in defensive rating and hold opponents to a league-best 48.8% effective field goal percentage. They’ve been lauded as a team with no stars and that’s what’s been so surprising about them but they just might have one in Tobias Harris. He’s averaging 21.5 points and 8.7 rebounds a game with shooting splits of 53/43/83. That leads to a dazzling true shooting percentage of 61.8%. The guy has been great this year and could be that secondary star that the Clippers want to match another guy with this offseason. It’s been surprising, but the Clippers have been the King of LA so far this season. Let’s see if it lasts.
The Daunting Western Conference
So yeah, this is crazy. We all know the Western Conference would be difficult but this is a complete bloodbath. Almost every team (No, not you Phoenix) has a chance to make the playoffs this year. When Curry comes back, I expect the Warriors to take the top seed but the rest is up for grabs. Who would’ve thought the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, two teams people perceived as championship contenders, would be the second and third worst teams in the conference so far. The West is ridiculous and who knows how all this will play out.
Bradley Beal trade?
The Washington Wizards have put everyone on the table to be traded for the right price. Bradley Beal is the crown jewel of this team because of his ability to stretch the floor, relative youth, and healthy contract. All signs would point to the Wizards wanting to hang on to him. However, reports came out that Beal demanded to be traded:
Beal denied this but who knows what his real feelings are. Every team in the league could use him so it’d be interesting to see where he would go. The Lakers would be one of the leaders for me as they have the assets for it and he’d be such an excellent fit next to LeBron. The Hornets are another intriguing fit as they’ve reached out and asked about Beal and although they may lack the assets that other teams have, it’d be so fun to finally be able to pair another all-star with Kemba Walker (yes, I am a Hornets fan). Either way, the Wizards saga should be paid attention to and I’m actively rooting for them to fail (Sorry Wizards fans) because I think everyone there deserves a fresh start.