From Last Word on Pro Basketball, by Thomas Mooney
The NBA opening week is in the books. We may have only seen teams play a few games, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a few observations. Here are five takeaways from the opening week in the NBA.
Takeaways From NBA Opening Week
1. This is the Russell Westbrook We’ve Wanted
When Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder this summer, everyone expected Russell Westbrook to go on a tear. And that’s exactly what has happened to start the season. Through his first three games, Westbrook has averaged 38.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game. He’s the first since Magic Johnson in 1982 to average a triple double in his first three games, and the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 to have a triple double while scoring 50+ points. It is worth noting that Westbrook has gotten these stats against the 76ers, Suns, and Lakers. They have a tough stretch of games coming up including a game at the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
2. Anthony Davis Needs Help
The New Orleans Pelicans have undeniably a superstar in Anthony Davis. In the 2015 GM survey he was voted as the #1 player they would start a franchise with at 85%. In his first three games he’s put up 37 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks per game, including only the 4th ever 50 point game on opening night. But they have nothing to show for it with their 0-3 record. It doesn’t look like Jrue Holiday or Tyreke Evans will be returning anytime soon, so expect the Pelicans to be in a lot of trade talks during the season.
3. Kawhi Leonard is Inserting Himself into the MVP Conversation
The San Antonio Spurs have started off 4-0 this season, and they have Kawhi Leonard to thank. He dominated the Warriors on opening night and since then has gone to average 28 points and over 3 steals per game. He wasn’t a big name in the MVP talk before the season started, but has forced his way in. The Spurs now look like Leonard’s team and won’t miss a beat without Tim Duncan.
4. The Toronto Raptors Aren’t Going Anywhere
The Raptors started the season with a decisive 16 point win over the Detroit Pistons, led by DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas. Then in their first matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, they played sloppy on offense but their gritty defense kept them in it until the end. With the Raptors looking to involve Valanciunas in the offense more, and DeMarre Carroll is finally being close to 100%, they will be near the top of the Eastern Conference once again.
5. Can The Bulls Actually Shoot Threes?
The Chicago Bulls on paper looked like a team that was going to try and defy analytics. Their top three players all had career three point shooting percentages less than 35%. But so far they have even defied that assumption. Dwyane Wade has continued his hot three point shooting from last years playoffs, shooting 66% so far. And Jimmy Butler is shooting 50% from three. It’s an extremely small sample size, but the Bulls have to be encouraged by the shooting of Wade and Butler to start the season.
March 03, 2016: San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks the ball during the NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. (Photograph by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)