There were many surprises and a few clues to the future sprinkled throughout the opening weekend of the NBA season. Much like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this will serve as your keys for the rest of the 2013-2014 NBA Season.
1. Miami is vulnerable, looking for rebound(s)
The two-time defending champions are off to a 2-2 start. This isn’t to say they are no longer the favorite to claim yet another title. This is to say the Miami Heat look beatable. Why? They refuse to rebound the basketball. They’re last in the league in rebounds per game.
This has long been a weakness of the Heat, and I believed with the addition of Michael Beasley would help. But Beasley has yet to log a minute this season. And with Chris Bosh being feeble rebounder Chris Bosh, the weakness remains.
It will also be interesting to see how the knees of an aging Dwayne Wade hold up throughout the season.
2. We could live without ‘Officials’ points of emphasis’
There have been many telecasts talking of new “points of emphasis for the officials.” This in itself is an idiotic idea. Why not just call the game like an actual game of basketball is supposed to be officiated? But hey, I’m not paid to make executive decisions.
These highlighted points of emphasis are as follows: delay of game, traveling, and illegal screens. Traveling has been highlighted before, and continues to resurface, so it hardly requires more emphasis.
However, delay of game and the illegal screens are being over-called. It’s getting to the point where if you are on defense, just run into the screener and fall down. The officials have called an offensive foul numerous times for a completely legal screen.
In addition to these questionable screen calls, the refs are cracking down on touching the ball once it comes through the net. This had to happen. That said, it is severe overkill if the ball falls onto the shoulder of a retreating player. Discretion with these calls is needed.
3. Maybe Andrew Wiggins is not as much a lure as everyone thinks
Do I really think the Sixers, Suns, and Magic good starts will continue throughout the season? No. Not even close. It is very hard to draw conclusions from the first three to four games, but this is as close to a certainty as you can get.
The NBA season is a long and grueling 82 games. The best talent usually finds its way to the top by the end, and talent is not something these three teams have in excess. The Sixers start James Anderson for Heaven’s sake (most of you probably said, “James who?” My point exactly.)
This does not mean these teams should be thrown in the Utah Jazz pile of the irrelevant and boring. They have already proven they can beat some of the best, and they are stacked with young guns who can do their best Michael Jordan impression on any given night.
4. Pacers, Wolves, and Rockets will be hard to beat
These three teams are atop the power rankings so far this season, with a combined record of 9-1.
The Rockets look like they have decided to maintain The Flash like pace of last season, and it doesn’t seem to have created a problem for Mr. Howard. He is doing even better at what he does best: 17 rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, the best beard in basketball continues to cause Oklahoma City to add more and more money to the swear jar after every game he plays.
The Pacers are undefeated. They are still without former all-star Danny Granger, as they were for the entirety of last year’s playoffs. But he will come back and add to a team that has Paul George, early dark horse in the MVP race.
If you have not been impressed by George’s start to this season, then I give you Kevin Love. Mr. Double-Double is carrying his team to wins over solid competition.
As for the Minnesota Timberwolves, they have a needed offensive helper in Kevin Martin. It is fun to watch the Wolves play; just hoping injuries don’t strike like they have in recent years.
5. Denver misses George Karl, already
Denver has looked like a team with no all-stars on its roster. Oh wait, they were and still are a team with no all-stars. What is missing? One of the best coaches in basketball is no longer traipsing the sidelines of the Pepsi Center.
The squad does not even play like the former 3-seed in the Western Conference. I think this Mighty Ducks-esk fairy tale run of a rag-tag players with hearts of lions has run its course. Playoffs are not in the future for the Nuggets. The West is just too deep.
6. No surprise here: The West is far deeper than the East
I do not say this because the teams in the West have mauled everyone who has stood in their way, because they simply haven’t.
What has happened, however, is the East looks weaker on all levels. The Bulls and Knicks, who are teams that were supposed to be legitimate threats to contend for a title, are merely above average teams that will be in tight battles with the Detroit Pistons for a middle of the road seed in the East.
The same middle tier in the West, which would likely consist of Golden State, Houston and a healthy Minnesota, is a far better trio.
The Bulls and Knicks have shown they are not as good as advertised at the beginning of the season.
7. I see your Kwame Brown, and raise you Anthony Bennett
If you were not among the few drawn to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers and surprise first overall pick Anthony Bennett, you did not miss much.
The UNLV product has been one notch below woeful. He has a Player Efficiency Rating of -3.3 (yes, that is a negative number). The league average for this stat is around 15.0. Understandably, his minutes have been low.
His play may validate a Stephen A. Smith rant about how the man is one of the most overrated first overall picks ever.