By Jensen Toussaint
Facebook: Jensen Toussaint
The first week of the 2016-17 NBA season is now in the books and what a week it has been! We’ve already seen multiple 40 and 50 point games, triple-doubles, numerous clutch buckets, thunderous dunks, overtime games, and even a trade. The good news is we are just getting started!
The season began with the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers receiving their championship rings and then picking up right where they left off last season. Beginning the season with a convincing win against the New York Knicks on opening night, the Cavs remain undefeated, with additional wins over the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, and Houston Rockets, leaving them at 4-0.
The Cavs are one of five teams who has survived the first week of the regular season without suffering a loss. The Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Los Angeles Clippers were the four others. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, and Dallas Mavericks are still searching for their first wins of the season.
With just a single week of basketball played, there’s no telling whether what we’ve seen so far are just glimpses of what will happen throughout the season or if they’re simply anomalies. However, it is always fun to speculate. A lot can still be taken from the first week’s worth of basketball and here are five big takeaways:
Russell Westbrook is (still) a triple-double machine
We started learning this a couple seasons ago when Kevin Durant was out due to an injury for most of the season, and were given a big reminder last season with Durant back. Russell Westbrook is a triple-double machine! Now with Durant gone for good, Westbrook will be given full reign over the team, and he is clearly rising up to the challenge.
Through the first three games of the Thunder’s season, Westbrook has already recorded two triple-doubles, including a 51 point, 13 rebound, 10 assist game against the Phoenix Suns. The team is also 3-0 with Westbrook currently sporting insane averages of 38.7 points per game, 12.3 rebounds per game, and 11.7 assists per game. Westbrook will be on a mission this year to show that he can lead the Thunder as the alpha dog of the team and so far, so good.
Damian Lillard is always on “Dame Time”
Earlier last month, Damian Lillard made it clear what his goals were for the upcoming season. “I want to be the MVP,” Lillard proclaimed.
Despite a current record that sits at only 2-2, Lillard is already making a case for his MVP aspirations, highlighted by a game-winning floater in overtime against the Denver Nuggets. That put a punctuation on a 37-point night, which followed a 39-point game just four days prior.
The Trail Blazers is a team that brought back most of their free agents from last season, and they reloaded their bench, bringing in Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli. That should allow the team to simply continue building off of the chemistry the team built last season; a luxury not every team can afford. However, with Lillard leading this team, and always playing like he has something to prove, the sky’s the limit and maybe his MVP hopes can become a reality.
Perhaps many of us were wrong about the Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls were very active this off-season. Trading away hometown hero Derrick Rose to the Knicks, giving the reigns to Jimmy Butler, signing Rajon Rondo, and Dwyane Wade. However, the big critique that surrounded the team leading up to the regular season was, “Where are they going to get their three-point shooting from?” In an NBA where stretching the floor and shooting from the outside has become more of a necessity from each team, that was a legitimate question.
Through the first week of the season, the Bulls sit atop the NBA in three-point shooting percentage, at a scorching 42.5 percent. For good measure, they also sit second to the Golden State Warriors in average points per game. Very few teams have connected on more than 40 percent of their three-point attempts for an entire season, so maybe the Bulls will cool down as the season progresses. However, they should still be commended for shooting at such a high percentage with no real, consistent threat from outside in their starting lineup.
Anthony Davis needs help… badly
Through the Pelicans’ first four games, the team sits with an 0-4 record. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis has been playing out of his mind. He’s currently averaging 37 points per game, 13 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists and steals per game, and 3 blocks per game. With reports coming from weeks before the start of the season that Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans would both be unavailable during the earlier portions of the season, we knew this team wouldn’t be at full force. However, that’s no excuse for the team to be unable to register a single win through the team’s first four games, especially with Davis playing this well.
Playing in the first year of a 5-year, $145 million contract, Davis is performing like a player who deserves to be paid that massive amount of money. The Pelicans’ front office needs to surround Davis with the supporting cast necessary to compete in the Western Conference.
The Spurs Machine just keeps on running
When NBA legend Tim Duncan announced his retirement this off-season, it was the end of an era. Duncan had been the epitome of what the San Antonio Spurs’ culture was all about since he was drafted by the team in 1997. With all the roster turnover that occurred throughout the past 19 years, Duncan, along with Coach Gregg Popovich, had remained the one constant. Duncan’s retirement meant Kawhi Leonard would have to take on more responsibility as a leader, especially with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker likely not too far away from their own retirements as well.
He’s done exactly that, averaging an impressive 28.4 points per game, leading the team to a 4-1 record. He has been a terror on the defensive end for nearly his entire career, however, this season he’s showing things in his offensive game that, quite frankly, not many of us knew he had.
Pau Gasol, David Lee, and Dewayne Dedmon each look like solid free agent acquisitions. Lamarcus Aldridge has looked more comfortable finding his spots within the offense, and Jonathan Simmons is looking more and more like a key component of the Spurs’ future. The Spurs continue to find the right players to draft and sign, and they run an offense that continues to help them win. The machine doesn’t die.
The first week of the NBA season has already been lots of fun, but it’s only the beginning. There’s no telling what’s left in store for the next seven and a half months of the season. Sit back, relax, and enjoy. The NBA is back and it’s going to be a fun, exciting few months!