As humans, we often fall victim to making snap judgements. Like a car? You buy it. Like a shirt? Wear it. Like Batman? Become Batman.
The same tendencies can be said for sports fans, as we almost always go wild with takes just seconds after something happens. If Lebron misses a contested jumper at the end of regulation, he lacks the “clutch-gene”. Chris Paul can’t win a championship and he’s labeled as a guy who can’t win the big one. Derrick Rose has a few freak injuries and suddenly you can’t take him out in public for fear of him going down for 6-8 weeks. None of those things are completely true or fair to the players described, but hey, welcome to the era of social media, where logic gets thrown out the door.
It’s with that in mind that I present to you the 3 things we think we know after the opening night festivities last night. Remember, none of these things are definite for the rest of the season, just things to keep an eye on as the Cavaliers, Bulls, Pelicans, Warriors, Pistons, and Hawks embark on their 82 game journeys.
- Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Rose will be awesome in Fred Hoiberg’s pick-and-pop high paced offense.
- Stan Van Gundy not only takes Gangstah pictures, but also has the Pistons primed to fight for a playoff spot in the East.
- No, Anthony Davis is not as terrible as he looked last night, but he might not be as great as many had predicted.
The Atlanta Hawks Will Take a Major Step Back
I was one of those scoundrels that never quite bought into the Hawks last season. Yes, they won 60 games and had a scalding hot team shooting percentage of 46%. It was a fun team that, without a superstar player, ran one of the most pass-happy offenses in NBA history. They even managed to make it into the Eastern Conference Finals despite their supposed lacking of a star, ultimately running into Lebron and the Cavs, getting swept by The King and Cleveland.
It was an ugly way to end a season that many viewed as a major success for Mike Budenholzer’s squad and sadly, the Hawks’ offseason mirrored that ugliness. Atlanta failed to secure any major free agents and instead said goodbye to lockdown defender and leader Demarre Carrol. The team that already didn’t have any stars had just lost a major piece in what made them so successful, something that will almost never lead to happiness or success.
Last night, the Hawks made it clear that this was not last years team. While the offense was still there (45% shooting on FGA), the loss of Carrol was put front and center as the Hawks allowed just about every Piston to score. Five players in double digits and giving up 41% shooting from behind the arc are issues that simply wouldn’t have happened last season with perimeter defensive specialist Carrole patrolling the 3-point line.
Al Horford and Paul Millsap will allow the Hawks to remain relevant and get them into another Playoff run in the soft East, but this is still a team that will take a large step back this season. Expect 40 wins from Atlantta just a year after they won 60, a massive drop.
Kevin Love Will (Finally) Work In Cleveland
Last years campaign was a difficult one for Kevin Love in Cleveland. Love, the former superstar for the Minnisota Timberwolves, was forced to sit in the backseat for the first time in his career behind Kyrie Irving and Lebron James, while also being scapegoated for many of the Cavs early struggles after a 19-20 start. Just as he began to finally fit into the Cavs up-tempo offense, Love went down with a dislocated shoulder in the first round of the Playoffs, a major factor in why Cleveland failed to secure an NBA Championship.
Last night, Love finally looked like he belonged in Cleveland’s offense.
Gone were the days of him just standing in the corner and waiting to spot up for 3 (Love shot 15% of his total shots out of the corner, with an additional 12% being from the left baseline last season). For the first time in his Cavaliers career, Love was allowed to move around and be a multi-dimensional scoring threat for the Cavs. Yes, he was mostly counted on to hit 3 balls, but Love also had plays drawn up for him to drive inside or work off the screen.
No, it wasn’t his best shooting night (6-17 on FGA, 3-7 on 3 point FGA), but the simple fact that Love was counted on to be a legitimate offensive threat should prove to be a major factor in Year Two of the Cleveland Big Three.
If nothing else, the Cavs can take away that Love was asked to make two 3 pointers with under a minute left in the game and he drained both of them, pulling Cleveland within two points of the Bulls. The Cavs ended up losing after Pau Gasol’s savage block of Lebron, but it could be huge having Love be able to hit outside shots late in the game.
Last Year Was Not A Fluke, The Warriors Are That Good
Yup, the Warriors are still good. And by good, I mean other worldly, obscene, so-good-it’s-disgusting good.
Simply put, this team is on another level right now. The scary thing? Last night wasn’t even a particularly great performance from Golden State.
Yes, Steph Curry legitimized his MVP campaign from last year even more, dropping 40 points in just three quarters of action, 24 of which came in the first quarter. But even with Curry’s insane performance, the Warriors shot just 43% from the field and 30% on 3PA. What made this game so scary was that Golden State didn’t necessarily win it with their shooting, they won it with a defense that proved they have staying power.
In last years 67 win, high flying, action packed season, it was easy to forget that the Warriors not only had the best shooting team in the NBA (and potentially ever), they also had the best defense in the league. With Andrew Bogut patrolling the paint, Draymond Green’s ability to cover stretch 4’s, and Steph Curry’s turnover-making ability, the Warriors defense matched their offense as a high octane bunch that simply wasn’t going to let you score easily.
This year, they might be even better.
In the opening night of what was supposed to be his crowning season, Anthony Davis was held to just 18 points and 6 rebounds on 4-20 shooting, the worst of his career. To add to the beating, Davis posted a +/- of -16, the second worst on a team that has been plagued by injuries and doesn’t have anything close to a secondary star. If Golden State can completely lock down a player that many had deemed unguardable, what’s to stop them from shutting down Kevin Durant, Lebron James, or similarly talented stars?
After last night, one thing is certain- The Golden State Warriors are here to stay.
(Statistics courtesy of shotanalytics.com and ESPN)
Sean Linhares is a Sports Communication student at West Virginia University. He is originally from Pine Bush, New York, but don’t Google that because you might not like him anymore (It wasn’t him). He enjoys 5 Guys, McDonalds, and Chipotle although not in that order (but not-not all at once). You can follow him on Twitter @LINhares_Sean, where he liked to talk about his own name and stuff.