This is my favorite bandwagon, but there are others in the NBA that I ride from time to time.
Three weeks into the season, here are a few that I’m on and some that I’m avoiding.
I’m not on.
The Kyrie Irving for Rookie of the Year Campaign: He’s a very good player, but geez he played only 11 games in college last season. I’d like to see him after the rookie wall hits.
The My, aren’t the Raptors playing great D. Well, yes, the Raptors, a team whose defense in the last two seasons might charitably be described as porous, have improved, but they aren’t as good as their conventional numbers suggest.
The Raptors hired defensive guru Dwane Casey (he was the architect of the Dallas defense last season), but their status as ninth in the NBA in points allowed per game with is misleading. They are allowing only 93 points per contest this year, a big improvement over last season when they allowed 105.4, which ranked them 26th. However, there are two ways to control opponent’s scoring, and defense is only one of them; tempo is the other. Last season the Raptors were an uptempo team who ranked in the top ten of possessions per game. This season they are more downtempo than Thievery Corporation ever was, ranking as one of the slowest teams in the Association, 26th in possessions per contest.
Using Defensive Rating to even out pace, you see a more measured improvement. Last season, Toronto was the worst team in Defensive Rating, allowing 112.7 points per 100 possessions; this season they’ve improved to 20th, allowing 1o4 points per 100 possessions. It is a difference and a big step in the right direction, but let’s not start lauding the Raptors D. They have much more work to do.
I’m on board with the following
Ricky Rubio. He is the real deal. All of his numbers are flukish given his weak performance in Europe, but it really does look like he’s flipped the switch. His court vision and basketball IQ are especially high. I was initially skeptical about his turnovers but he’s in good company in Turnover Rate, so move over, I need space on this crowded vehicle.
The Utah Jazz are better than you thought they were. At 6-4, their record isn’t prepossessing but consider that they are five and one since a slow start which included two routs that have garbled their point differential. The “story” has been the return to prominence of Josh Howard, but the cause of the Jazz’s rise is the solid play of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Millsap is having a career year but even if he tails off a little, there is so much youth behind him in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, who are both playing well that I don’t expect their frontcourt performance to slip much. Point guard Devin Harris is having a miserable season so far. If he returns to form, Utah could be an unexpected playoff contender.