The NBA is around the 10 game mark and got some new life over the last few weeks. Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo have returned providing much-needed depth for the Lakers at a time where they will need to focus on health maintenance for a deep playoff run. Paul George made his Clippers debut and Carmelo Anthony is finally back on an NBA roster. Justin Kirkland and Felix John-Baptiste are back to discuss that and more as teams start to find their groove heading into the holidays.
1. The Portland Trail Blazers will get better from the signing of Carmelo Anthony.
Kirkland: Fake News. This is not to say that Carmelo Anthony does not deserve to be in the NBA and cannot help a team. The problem is that he does not fix any of the glaring issues that the Portland Trail Blazers have. Portland is a bad defensive team that has gotten little to nothing from the addition of Hassan Whiteside and CJ McCollum has struggled to start the year. Anthony can still score on an NBA level but this team will continue to underachieve until they get fully healthy and develop an identity defensively.
John-Baptiste: Big Facts. No, Carmelo Anthony doesn’t solve many defensive issues that hamper the Blazers, but he does fill a void at the power forward position. With Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic out due to injury, Melo will have the opportunity to score and take advantage of potential mismatches throughout the course of the season. The ideal Melo fitting would’ve taken place a couple of seasons ago. But, better late than never. Let’s see how this pans out.
2. Pascal Siakam is a top 15 player in the NBA.
Kirkland: Big Facts. I have been on the Pascal bandwagon since well before the season began and saw enough after the first game to realize that Siakam had arrived as a number one option that could keep the Raptors very much relevant even after Kawhi Leonard’s departure.
The degree to which Siakam has essentially just become Kawhi is totally bonkers.
18-19 Leonard: 26.6 pts, 7.3 reb, 3.3 ast on 50-37-85, 30.3 USG, .606 TS%, 11.6 TRB%, 16.4 AST%
19-20 Siakam: 27.2 pts, 9.3 reb, 3.8 ast on 49-37-84, 30.5 USG, .586 TS%, 12.6 TRB%, 19.2 AST% https://t.co/B2UTpaohh8
— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) November 14, 2019
Even the most optimistic of us buying early real estate on Siakam island couldn’t have imagined such a smooth transition into being the lead guy for the defending champs. Siakam is the complete package and added a more steady three-point game to his bag of tricks to punish teams that would back off to contain his length. The Raptors are for real and that is because Pascal Siakam is an NBA superstar.
John-Baptiste: Big Facts. See the following points per game for each year he’s been in the league — 4.2, 7.3, 16.9, 25.7. That last number is good for a top-ten scoring rank in the league this season. Not only do those numbers scream at you, but his play on the court also does as well. Every season he comes back with something new in the arsenal. This season, it’s his pull up three-pointer.
For a team that lost Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, Siakam has kept them afloat and looking like a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Is it possible for him to win Most Improved Player, again?
3. Kristaps Porzingis is at his ceiling.
Kirkland: Big Facts. There is still some time before a final decision is made on Porzingis who is only a month into real NBA action after a major injury. Porzingis will get slightly better as he gets into his natural rhythm, but beyond that, I think the player we see now is who he is. Porzingis is a great talent but serves best as the second-best player on a contending team that has a true alpha. You can not be labeled elite if you are seven feet tall and are effectively guarded by Marcus Smart in the post (1 for 11 shooting). Porzingis has always struggled to punish defenders from the low block and is a rich man’s Ersan Ilyasova (still a nice player) until further notice.
John-Baptiste: Fake News. Porzingis is now getting into a rhythm after missing a full season and a half due to a torn ACL. We’ve seen him already put up huge numbers in his short stint with Dallas, and his three-point range has clearly extended. Once he gets his legs fully under him, that athleticism that he’s shown in flashed will be consistent. He’s already placed himself back in the top five in the league in blocks per game. I see more All-Star selections in his future if Dallas can remain successful.
4. Ja Morant is the current Rookie of the Year.
Kirkland: Fake News. Morant has been impressive this season and has had the type of signature moments early on that begin to write a solid resume for the Rookie of the Year conversation. He went toe to toe with Kyrie Irving early on and took throve through the entire city of Charlotte en route to a game-winner last week. He will be in the conversation but my money right now is still with Kendrick Nunn.
Nunn cooled off for the Miami Heat after a hot start to the season but came back to form with a 23 point 8 assist outing against the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 22 point effort against the Pelicans on Saturday night. The Miami Heat are a better team than Memphis while playing in a weaker conference. It will be an interesting race.
John-Baptiste: Big Facts. Ja Morant is the household name with the high draft selection to go along with it. He’s averaging more points (18.4), assists (6) and rebounds (3.3) than Kendrick Nunn (a close second candidate) and shoots a better percentage from three-point land (42.3 percent). The Memphis Grizzlies won’t have much success when it comes to wins this season, but when was the last time win total counted in the Rookie of the Year race?
5. The Los Angeles Clippers are now a Finals lock.
Kirkland: Big Facts. I know there are legitimate questions about their vulnerabilities when it comes to size particularly with the bench unit, but Paul George has looked like a machine in his first few games back. If Los Angeles manages to get this roster to the playoffs in good health I don’t see anyone being able to keep up with this team on both ends in a 7 game series. The Clippers are too good and too deep and will be a nightmare when they deploy 30+ mins each of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on a nightly basis. Things are going to be creepy.
John-Baptiste: Fake News. They will definitely be one of the favorites, but a lock, no! They still have to go through the big-brother Lakers and I’m not so convinced they will have an answer for Anthony Davis. LeBron James will also have something to prove after missing the playoffs last year. He’s been on a tear leading the league in assists and being determined to prove his critics wrong.
Also, the Rockets have “quietly” won eight games in a row. Who’s to say they won’t be ready to get over the hump this postseason? We know James Harden and Russell Westbrook will go down swinging.