We are two months and about a quarter of the way into the season and there are many NBA headlines early in the season. The league and teams will have their fair share of discussions concerning both on-and-off court issues.
Early Season NBA Headlines
NBA TV Ratings Being Down
According to Sports Business Daily, NBA TV ratings are down 23 percent on TNT, 20 percent on ESPN, and 13 percent on RSN. These are surprising numbers especially with the league going more global as ever and international players taking over the NBA. The league has globalized as current league MVP and current champions in Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Toronto Raptors coming from outside the USA. The league expected a jump in the viewership especially with multiple online platforms to watch the game today but that has not been the case.
Though the league has been more interesting from a competitive standpoint for hardcore fans, common fans do not seem to see this. Fans now use illegal live streams and avoid the buggy NBA League Pass to watch the games. If they do not have time to watch the whole game, highlights of the different NBA games can be seen on YouTube now. The NBA has been lenient with quick highlight making over the past years but they have been strict with content creators recently.
The landscape of the league has certainly shifted drastically this season with the number of offseason moves that happened. The league’s recent rift with China and the injury of Stephen Curry, one of the NBA’s biggest stars globally, certainly did not help the viewership for the league. LeBron James shifting to the Western Conference as well does not help viewers on the East Coast. They comprise the majority of viewership numbers of the NBA in the USA. As such, the watchability and on-court product of the NBA have been met with mixed reviews. Constant blown calls by referees and the rise of ugly basketball with the traveling, stepbacks, and the challenge calls could be blamed for the decreased ratings.
Surprising Team and Players Performing Well
On a lighter note, this edition of the NBA season has seen its fair share of surprises. The Miami Heat are sitting well near the top of the Eastern Conference after reloading their team by adding Jimmy Butler, rookie Tyler Herro, and undrafted stud Kendrick Nunn. All have been solid contributors on a Heat team which has seen role changes. Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow have moved to the bench as Bam Adebayo takes the starting center spot due to the departure of Hassan Whiteside.
The Toronto Raptors are seen as a surprising potential threat for the NBA championship again this season. Many counted out the Raptors due to the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
The improved play of Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet though has led the Raptors to a top-five record leaguewide. While Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka remain out, the Raptors are 9-1 at home, third in net rating at 7.9, and are holding their opponents to a league-best 41.1 percent according to NBA.com.
In a rare occurrence, the Phoenix Suns might be actually good again. Thanks to the addition of point guard Ricky Rubio and new head coach Monty Williams, the Phoenix Suns are in the playoff picture in the tough Western Conference.
The Suns started the season 5-2 and with the return of Deandre Ayton after serving his 25-game suspension, the Suns might be a dark horse if they get to gel more under the new system.
The Suns are top-10 in assists, points scored, and field goal percentage according to Basketball-Reference. Aron Baynes, Frank Kaminsky, and Dario Saric have been the bright spot while filling in for Ayton. With Devin Booker finally getting help under a good coach, a new era might be rising in Arizona.
Emerging Key Role Players Off the Bench
In other news, the recent emergence of old stars in the current NBA has made nostalgic fans happy. Derrick Rose is continuing to resurrect his career with the Detroit Pistons averaging 16 points and 5.8 assists per game with a 50 percent field-goal percentage.
Dwight Howard meanwhile is enjoying basketball once again. He returns with the Los Angeles Lakers on a bench role helping them to the top of the Western Conference.
Carmelo Anthony has been a great midseason acquisition for the Portland Trailblazers, even winning Western Conference Player of the Week on 16.4 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists per game numbers. One may say he did not deserve the award but that is another story.
Read more: Did Carmelo Anthony Deserve the Western Conference Player of the Week Award?
The Duo Era Has Been a Mixed Bag
The first edition of the duo era in the NBA has been great and bad for some teams. The Los Angeles Lakers are top of the Western Conference thanks to the duo of James and Anthony Davis. The duo has a net rating of +21.0 with both on the court together and the latter leading the Defensive Player of the Year honors as the Lakers’ defense is top of the league at 103.0.
The Dallas Mavericks have been a revelation as well this season as Luka Doncic continues his case for MVP while Kristaps Porzingis returns back to form. The Slovakian is averaging 30.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 1.5 steals per game on 48.4 percent from the field on a 14-6 Mavericks team.
The Los Angeles Clippers have been steady as well with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George fiding their groove back together. The Clippers are undefeated with both Leonard and George playing, second in net rating at 12.3, and boasting key wins over the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, and the Dallas Mavericks.
Struggling With Expectations Though It’s Still Early
On the other hand, the Houston Rockets might have a problem with having James Harden and Russell Westbrook together as the Rockets are 13-7 but with loads of problems. Harden is still being himself with big numbers though Westbrook is shooting just 41 percent and averaging 4.3 turnovers per game.
The Rockets already lack the depth to start the season but they will need to find more production. Eric Gordon is out until mid-January and Danuel House missed six games already. They will need to address their issues fast if want to keep up with their Western Conference rivals.
In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers have struggled this season after starting the season 5-0. Ben Simmons is averaging a career-low in points, Tobias Harris is only shooting 30 percent from three-point range, and the 76ers only average 10.6 threes a game. They are currently 15-6, good for fifth in the East, but with the impending return of Kyrie Irving, Victor Oladipo, and Nikola Vucevic for their rivals, their schedule might be harder come 2020.
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