*Co-Written by Braden Wagle, Austin Wodock and Louis Snyder
The NBA season is underway, and despite only being a week in its time to look at some of the biggest takeaways thus far.
What player has showed the biggest improvement since last year?
Braden: Brandon Ingram looks like a star in the making. Ingram has slowly been improving every year, but it has been slow. There were concerns if he would ever live up to the #2 overall pick hype that he had. This season he is starting to put those questions to bed. He has scored 27.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game on 60% eFG% and 53% from beyond the arc. It is early but he looks every bit the star that was promised and even has looked energized on defense with 1.7 blocks per game. It is just three games, and watching the Pelicans figure out putting Zion back in will be interesting, but this far Ingram has been impressive.
Austin: Kristaps Porzingis – Yes, I’m picking a guy who didn’t play for an entire year and a half, but he looks ridiculous. He beefed up, is hitting circus step backs and still blocks shots.
Louie: Trae Young – he’s leading the league in scoring and can really run an offense. Hopefully, he can continue to grow on a great rookie season.
Which rookie looks the best early this season?
Braden: It’s still very early in the season for these Rookies, but a few guys have already been standouts. Kendrick Nunn was an undrafted free agent who is starting for the 2-1 Miami Heat and leading the team in scoring, but the best rookie for me has been RJ Barrett. There were questions about his shooting, and while it’s very early, he is shooting over 50% from three and looking like a player that could be a great building block for the future in New York. He is scoring 20 points a game and more importantly is surprisingly efficient.
Austin: RJ Barrett – No rookie has really blown me away this season, but RJ had been a consistent contributor for the Knicks. He has continually flashed the potential that rated him as the #1 player coming out of high school and a top 3 draft prospect.
Louie: I’ve got 2. Rui and Ja. Rui looks like a seasoned vet. Obviously has room to grow but it looks effortless. Speaking of effortless, Ja looks like he may live up to all the hype. He’s super athletic and seems like he can grow into a true #1 option once he gets his 3pt shot going.
Honorable mentions: PJ Washington (really surprised me) and RJ
What team has looked the most concerning?
Braden: The Golden State Warriors have looked just awful to start the season. The team has no depth and has struggled to put any offense or defense together. D’Angelo Russell and Steph Curry is a combo that doesn’t seem to work as Russell needs the ball. Steph is a great player, but when defenses can really just focus on him he is struggling to shoot as they are able to pick him up all over the court and bumping him off the ball. The Warriors look like a team that is headed for the lottery.
Austin: Pacers – Surprise! Playing two old-school big men in the 2019 NBA is a bad idea. If the Pacers decide to continue to commit to these bigger lineups they are going to struggle immensely until Victor Oladipo returns from injury in a couple months.
Louie: It hurts my soul to answer this question. The Pacers look stuck in the 2000s thinking they can play 2 centers. Brogdon has looked great but hasn’t mattered. This is looking like it’s going to be a long disappointing season until Vic comes back.
Which team has surprised you the most?
Braden: The Pheonix Suns really lead the NBA in point differential and have a win over the Clippers? Is this 2004? Frank Kaminsky, Aaron Baynes, and Kelly Oubre are all scoring over 11 a game. I don’t think it lasts, but so far they have looked very impressive.
Austin: Mavericks – Kristaps is cooking. Luka is cooking. This pick is 100% biased because I love both of those guys irrationally and I don’t really care. The Mavs have looked like a good NBA team and will continue to have opportunities to prove their competence against a loaded Western Conference.
Louie: Badly surprised me is the Warriors. I obviously knew they were going to take a step back, but it’s been straight embarrassing up to this point (even though they have only played 2 games).
A couple teams that have surprised me positively are the 76ers and Mavs. 76ers may be able to make the 2 big man lineup work with Horford’s ability to stretch the floor and defend on the perimeter and Luka looks electric. His opening night performance was incredible. It will be interesting to see if the euro duo can keep it up all season.