Another night of glorious NBA basketball. I can’t believe the season is finally back. It feels like forever since Kevin Durant lifted up his Finals MVP trophy. So much has happened since then. Seemingly every all-star is now in the Western Conference, the two best teams in the East swapped point guards, the most overhyped rookie in the history of professional sports got drafted second overall and somehow took over all conversation about this amazing rookie class, Phil Jackson left New York (got run out of town might work better here), and Joel Embiid made fun of every player on twitter at some point during the summer. This is going to be one of the most entertaining basketball seasons in a long time, whether or not the Warriors repeat as NBA champions. Anyway, last night’s games…
Chicago Bulls (100) vs Toronto Raptors (117)
- Jonas Valanciunas had a great game last night, finishing with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Unfortunately, I still don’t see how he fits with this team as the playoffs roll around. The league is obviously trending smaller, and he’ll be run off the floor when Cleveland comes knocking.
- Lauri Markkanen had a solid 17 points, but what surprised me most was his very respectable eight rebounds in 33 minutes. If he can rebound like a guy his size should be able to, he’ll be a very solid player for years to come. We’ll see if he keeps it up. I have my doubts.
- The Raptors adding CJ Miles might be the most underrated move of the offseason. Miles gives Toronto something they’ve been lacking for most of their run the past few years: serious outside shooting. 22 points and 6-9 from three in 20 minutes. He’ll be so valuable come playoff time.
New York Knicks (84) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (105)
- I need to start with the Knicks point guard rotation. They started Ramon Sessions tonight. Ron Baker, an undrafted free-agent from Wichita St. last year, played the majority of minutes. And the guy they drafted number eight overall played just seven minutes. Dennis Smith Jr. is on the board and you picked a guy who played eight minutes. Sometimes, I wonder.
- Russell Westbrook needs to cut down on his turnovers (he had seven last night), but he picked up right where he left off with a monster triple-double. He’s still one of the most unstoppable players in the league, and now he has all-star teammates again.
- You know who played the most minutes for the Thunder last night? Paul George with 39. That’s a good sign for Thunder fans that were worried about Westbrook tiring out at the end of the season like he did last year.
Los Angeles Clippers (108) vs Los Angeles Lakers (92)
- If you listened to our season preview podcast, you heard us say that Lonzo Ball was going to struggle to shoot in the NBA. He shot 38% from the field in Summer League, 33% in the preseason, and now 3 points on 16% shooting in his debut. He also only had four assists and two turnovers. Everyone got caught up in the hype. Lonzo will probably be good, but it’s far from certain.
- Two great signs for the Clippers last night beyond the big boxscore numbers (like Blake Griffin’s 29 points and DeAndre Jordan’s 24 rebounds). First, Blake looks like he’s getting his athleticism back, which makes him a far more effective player. Second, DeAndre shot 100% from the line. Granted, it was only four attempts in one game and I wouldn’t get my hopes too high, but if he can hit free throws, DeAndre becomes infinitely more valuable in the playoffs and at the end of games.
- Brandon Ingram shot 20% from the field. He still looks too skinny to match up with real NBA players. The Lakers really need him to develop into a piece for the future, and his play up to this point has to be worrying Laker’s brass at least a little bit.
(feature image from USA Today)