With one week of play in the books, it is time to take an irrational look around the NBA. Here are some overreactions to the early season action.
The Denver Nuggets are a contender in the Western Conference.
The Nuggets are off to a fast start at 3-0 including a win against the Warriors on Sunday. Denver boasts a solid offense, however their defense is on another level this year. The Nuggets have scored 108.7 points per game while only allowing 95.7 points per game. This is the best defensive mark in the league. They boast the second-best point differential, behind only the Pelicans who are averaging 140.0 points per game. Denver has three starters (Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray) in the top 15 in defensive rating while early MVP candidate, Nikola Jokic, is second in the NBA in PER. It is unclear if they can sustain this pace, but they look all the part of a Western Conference contender.
Zach LaVine will be an All-Star.
We have waited patiently for Zach LaVine’s breakout season since he was drafted out of UCLA. This may finally be the year. Through three games, LaVine is averaging 32 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, while shooting 45% from the three point line. He currently ranks in the top-10 in usage percentage. With both Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn out extended time, LaVine should have plenty of opportunities to get his buckets. If he continues his hot start, he will definitely be in the conversation for an All-Star spot.
Nikola Mirotic is the best player in the NBA.
If I asked you who was leading the league in scoring through the first week, how many guesses would you need before you landed on Nikola Mirotic. Nikola is averaging 33 points, 10 rebounds while shooting a whopping 65% from deep. After dropping 30 points against the Rockets, Jrue Holiday offered to buy Mirotic a bottle of wine every time he dropped 30 points this season. Nikola followed that game up with 36 against the Kings. Mirotic will no doubt come back to Earth but his hot start highlights how exciting the Pelicans could be this season. The frontcourt rotation of Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, and Mirotic has been dynamic leading New Orleans to a 2-0 start.
The Los Angeles Lakers will not make the playoffs this year.
In years past, the goal was to surround LeBron with shooters. There was concern going into the season that the Lakers lacked three-point shooting. Predictably, the Lakers are 28th in league from deep at 29%. They finished the first week of the LeBron era at 0-3 with an ugly loss to Spurs where they gave up 143 points.
We can’t forget that LeBron dragged the Cavs to 50 wins almost every year. However, LeBron is in the Western Conference now. I struggle to see how this team wins 50+ games even when LeBron is good for 20 wins on his own. If the Lakers continue to struggle, it will be fascinating to watch if the Lakers lose patience and make a bold move.