The NBA is simply the best professional sports league in the world (yes, I checked), and unsurprisingly there’s quite a lot to cover. Although we’re mostly obsessed with the Detroit Pistons here, it never hurts to take a closer look at the competition. Here are some notes from around the NBA.
Second-year players showing positive signs
Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic is a second-year player oozing with potential. Last year Isaac only saw 27 games of action due to mostly injuries and inconsistency. Through the first five games this season, Isaac’s play has certainly began to warrant his selection as the sixth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Four nights ago in a win over Boston, Isaac had 18 points (two treys) and 12 rebounds in 26 minutes. It was his first NBA double-double. In crunch time, Isaac displayed patience and confidence in his emerging jump shot.
ICYMI: Jonathan Isaac knocks down the clutch jumper for a career-high 18 points to fend off the Celtics IN THE BOSTON GARDEN while pulling down 12 rebounds for his FIRST CAREER DOUBLE-DOUBLE!— beyond the RK (@beyondtheRK) October 23, 2018
MAGIC WIN! #MagicWin #PureMagic pic.twitter.com/4SJjdPBhf7
Here against Portland on Thursday night, Isaac shows his raw potential on both sides of the court in this 30-second sequence.
Jonathan Isaac, MAN AMONG BOYS pic.twitter.com/LljzqxY4Fz— beyond the RK (@beyondtheRK) October 25, 2018
The Trail Blazers 7-footer Zach Collins played in 66 games his rookie season, but was mostly a non-factor. Collins has started off his second season in the right direction for the 3-1 Trail Blazers. Thursday night, Collins showed off his offensive skills with a 7-for-7 night, including this slick move against Mo Bamba. Right now though, Collins is probably more gifted on the defensive end, with his quick feet and quick jumping ability and all, having already recorded a six-block game against the Lakers last week.
Really smooth move from Zach Collins here in the post pic.twitter.com/lkyi5cFurj— Liam Doyle (@LiamDoyleNBA) October 26, 2018
The rookies are going to be trouble
Trae Young as been a mix of really good and just really mediocre during his first four NBA games. He’s not shooting it great from the field at 41.8%, but from beyond the long line he’s been solid at 38.7%. Plus, even better — the Hawks have a couple of wins already, despite not having stud second-year forward John Collins in the lineup yet.
Still, the fact is, Young going to be fun to watch either way. He’s good enough by himself to be worth the price of admission. And an added benefit is that there’s no pressure on the Atlanta Hawks to make the playoffs this season. Just enjoy this Hawks team with Young trying to score whenever possible. Fun fact that I didn’t know until just a few seconds ago: Trae’s first name is Rayford. Rayford Trae Young. So there you go.
Luka Doncic won’t be 20 years old until late February, and he already has the poise and fundamental charm of a 30-year-old settling into the last portion of his pro career. Except that Doncic is quickly on his way to being one of the most talented and skilled players you’ll ever see. And, despite what you may think you know, Doncic is actually quite athletic. He’s has great body control, rhythm, foot speed, footwork and shooting range. Sure, it’s definitely part of having a feel for the game of basketball, but some if it is part of Doncic’s overall athleticism, too.
Here’s a very pertinent piece from Mike Prada. it’s long but it is informative. No surprise, though — it’s Mike Prada. Here’s a quick preview:
Yet here Doncic is, dazzling Mavericks fans early in his NBA career. How can someone this unathletic be so successful?
Maybe it’s because he’s been able to overcome his lack of athleticism. Or maybe it’s because we actually define athleticism in an incredibly narrow way.
I will note, however, that Luke has struggled shooting the three ball (9-for-31, just 29%) and not coughing up the ball to the opponent during his first four NBA games. Luke, like Trae and other rookies are, after all... rookies. Their efficiency likely won’t be very high any time soon, but we can see that their raw talent is very much there.
Luka Doncic's feel for the game is remarkable. This third basket is so beautiful: He pump fakes, subtly fakes a step back to create a little extra space, then finishes. @ringer pic.twitter.com/hm9t1cYqlI— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) October 24, 2018
I think Justin Holiday may need to consider retirement after what Doncic did to him here:
This Giannis Antetokounmpo guy is really something
And even the stats fully back it up! The 4-0 Milwaukee Bucks are gelling right out of the gate, working in the new additions of Brook Lopez (despite him still being a total nothing on the boards) and rookie guard Donte DiVincenzo. The Bucks have old friend Ersan Ilyasova back again, too. Some would say that the Greek Freak is so talented and versatile that he’s capable of being a whole different and new player year to year. The Greek Freak’s three point shot hasn’t come around yet (1-for-15), but besides that he’s been fantastic at just about everything else.
This is after the Bucks win over the 76ers Wednesday night:
Giannis had 32 points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks last night.— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) October 25, 2018
With the caveat that our game-by-game stats are incomplete pre-1983 & blocks and steals didn't become official stats till 1973, the only other player w/a game like that in our database is Kareem pic.twitter.com/B83X5bSc51
Those Celtics will be playing in Detroit tomorrow evening against the undefeated Pistons. The Celtics, after having lost to the Magic at home earlier in the week, got a needed win over the Thunder, thanks especially to Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Marcus Morris (21 points on 10 shots).
Question time — how high is Tatum’s ceiling? Maybe this is a premature question in some ways considering Tatum is just 20 years old, but is Tatum a franchise type player? Tatum reminds me a bit of Grant Hill at times.
Let us know what you noticed during this first chunk of the season.