Nov 13, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) and guard Andrew Wiggins (22) in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers 125-99. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
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We play buy or sell with five of the biggest early-season tends of the 2016-17 NBA season thus far
The early portion of the NBA season has featured some surprises, disappointments and a whole lot of other interesting developments in between.
From the ice-cold shooting of Klay Thompson to the red-hot start of Kawhi Leonard, there are a number of happenings that we didn’t exact quite expect at the beginning of the season.
While the Golden State Warriors begin to come together as a “team”, there are a number of other storylines that are stealing headlines at the moment.
In an attempt to make sense of the first few weeks of the NBA season, we play fact or fiction with a few of the early season trends. Are they a result of small sample sizes, or are preview to how the rest of the season will unfold?
Nov 17, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) looks on during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Target Center. The Timberwolves defeated the 76ers 110-86. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Will the Minnesota Timberwolves have Two All-Stars even if they are sub .500 at the All-Star break?
The Minnesota Timberwolves have become one of the most exciting teams to watch in The NBA. The Timberwolves have an exciting nucleus of young talent; led by a bonafide star in center Karl-Anthony Towns and forward Andrew Wiggins, who appears to be on his way to stardom.
The Timberwolves currently sit at 12th in the Western Conference with a 4-8 record, but honestly there isn’t much real separation in the West right now, outside of the Clippers, Warriors and Spurs. If the Timberwolves continue to stay around .500 at the All-Star break, will the Timberwolves have a legit shot to have two All-Stars based on the great starts of the season for both Towns and Wiggins?
It’s an interesting question to ponder as selection to the All-Star game also heavily depends on the record of the team just as much as it does individual greatness as a player.
Towns absolutely must make the All-Star team this year, provided he stays healthy. A strong argument could be made that Towns deserved a nod last year as a rookie. Towns is certainly one of the 12 best players in the West. Towns figures to face competition from Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan among others, but no matter what happens Towns should be on the Western Conference All-Star team.
Wiggins is a far more interesting case. Can a guy averaging over 25 points per game actually be left off the All-Star team? In Wiggins case, the answer is yes. While Wiggins is flourishing offensively this year, there are still some marks in his game that are keeping him from reaching an All-Star level right now.
Wiggins is averaging less rebounds per game than Kyle Lowry, his assist to turnover ratio is dreadful, and a closer look at Wiggins stats shows that the value he brings Minnesota on offense, he gives back defensively. Only 21, Wiggins will be an All-Star for a decade, but this year he’ll probably have to settle for being an alternate.
Nov 4, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) drives for a basket past Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) in the second half at Air Canada Centre. DeRozan scored 34 points in a 96-87 win for Toronto. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Will DeMar DeRozan lead the league in scoring while shooting under 30% from three-point range?
Clearly, DeMar DeRozan is on his way to having a career year, and if the Raptors end up with a top 3 seed in the East, he will get plenty of MVP votes. DeRozan is currently third in the NBA in scoring at 31.4 points per game.
What’s remarkable about this is that DeRozan is doing this while shooting less than 30 percent from three-point range. Now on one hand, clearly DeRozan is maturing as a player and his shot selection has improved, but can he really win the scoring title with lack of deep shooting?
No, DeRozan will finish in the top 10, maybe top 5 in scoring, but he’s not winning the scoring title. DeRozan is shooting 49 percent from the field, while getting to the free throw line 10 times a game.
DeRozan understands his strengths as a player and has become adept at penetrating and getting to the rim. The difference between DeRozan and James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis is that DeRozan has an All-Star teammate in Kyle Lowry.
Lowry has been inconsistent to start the season, shooting only 39 percent from the field, but Lowry will get stronger as the season progresses, which means that the scoring will tilt more towards 50-50 than Lowry simply being Robin to DeRozan’s Batman.
Remember, Lowry believes that he’s an alpha and he wants an extension that DeRozan just signed, so there are many factors at play here.
Nov 18, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) tries to get between Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) and Golden State Warriors forward David West (3) during the second half of the Golden State Warriors 104-88 win over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Will Golden State’s Defense improve or will they just rely on outscoring opponents?
There’s no other way to put it; The Warriors are not a good defensive team right now. They’re at the bottom of the league in total defense (20th, specifically) and they continue to win because they simply have superior offensive talent.
The Warriors aren’t going to be this bad all season, and once the players start to build trust and cohesion, Golden State will improve. However, even with those improvements, this is simply not an elite top 5 defense.
Will that matter in May? Perhaps, but maybe the Warriors will be able to use their superior offensive firepower to still win the championship. Regardless, this Warriors team has holes on the defensive end. ZaZa Pachulia is not an upgrade over Andrew Bogut.
Klay Thompson’s shooting woes seem to affect his defense at times, and David West and Andre Iguodala are not as active, could it be that age is starting to show?
Prediction: Buy, but it won’t be as good as last year
Will the Lakers stay in the playoff hunt all season?
Clearly, Luke Walton is the right guy to lead this young Lakers team over Byron Scott. Walton has the Lakers playing with swagger as they currently sit in the top 8 in the Western Conference.
Will the Lakers arrive earlier than expected and return to the playoffs this year? If so, it’s going to come down to defense. The Lakers don’t have a defensive stopper on the roster, but if Walton can get the players to put in energy and effort on defense, the Lakers can stay in the playoff hunt all season long.
The Lakers have shown flashes of great defense this season, but can they defend vigorously for a whole quarter, let alone a full 48 minute game? The talent is there to sneak into the playoffs this season.
November 19, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (11) celebrates with forward Blake Griffin (32) after scoring a basket against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Will the Clippers finish as the #1 seed out West?
The Clippers know that this could be there last chance with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, who both become free agents at the end of the season. So far this season, the Clippers have definitely played like a written off group with a sense of urgency.
With the Spurs and Warriors both trying to figure out how to incorporate new parts into their teams, the opportunity is there for the Clippers to get home court advantage throughout the West, which would be a huge step in their quest to finally break through this season.