The NBA season is still a little early, but there are some very interesting developments.
What a difference a 7-1 start makes
The New York Knicks were mocked and made fun of when they decided to go with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd as their new backcourt. Well, well, well. Nobody is laughing now.
Felton was clearly out of shape last season with the potential lockout having many NBA’ers playing at less than their usual level. He didn’t seem comfortable in Portland and the losing that was going on in the City of Roses, but he is playing lights out for NY (15.5 points per game and 6.5 assists per game).
Jason Kidd has played more of a marksman role next to Felton in a smaller backcourt. But, it has paid huge dividends for them. Kidd is shooting 54.3% and 52% on 3-pointers. He isn’t going to maintain that obviously, but he has come a long way from the days when he was called Ason Kidd because he didn’t have a J.
Ronnie Brewer has also been a solid player as the third guard/small forward with Melo playing power forward. He’s a very good defender and a hustle guy.
The Knicks were also mocked when they brought in Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and convinced Rasheed Wallace to come out of retirement. Wallace has slowly worked his way into playing shape and contributed some valuable minutes off the bench. Sheed has had three games where he scored at least 10 points and is shooting 46.5%.
A new contender out West
The Los Angeles Clippers went out and added a whole new bench. Last year, they had Randy Foye and this year their sixth man is Jamal Crawford. The difference is like night and day.
Foye averaged 9.8 points off the bench and so far Crawford is scoring 20.7 points (52.2% and 44%). But, that isn’t the only difference. Crawford brings some swag, also known as confidence down the stretch. Crawford will take the big shots someone else on the Clippers likes to take. “Mr Big Shot” himself, Chauncey Billups.
Crawford is a cold-blooded assassin who is not afraid to take big shots.
A healthy Eric Bledsoe also gives them a great 1-2 punch at point guard along with All-Star Chris Paul. Bledsoe has been playing extremely well (10.6 points and 2.8 assists) and has to strike fear in the opposing coaches’ gameplan.
Once Billups and Grant Hill get healthy, the Clippers will have a team that can go 10 deep.
There was some outrage over Jeremy Lin being given a poison-pill contract when he was offered a back-loaded deal that all but killed his chances of re-signing with the New York Knicks.
Many said it was crazy because he doesn’t have the traditional strengths of most point guards. Lin is off to a slow start offensively, averaging just under 11 points per game, but he hasn’t found his shot just yet this season. However, he is averaging 6.7 assists per game and 2.3 steals per game. More surprising is he has shown he can rebound better than he did last year in Gotham (he is averaging 4.7 rebounds). He should be able to bring up his 35.5% shooting percentage.
Omer Asik was a career backup with the Chicago Bulls and he was given a surprisingly rich contract for a player that hadn’t shown much. But, he has turned into a rebounding beast, averaging 13.2 boards. He’s also averaging 11 points and 1.2 blocks.
Both players are looking promising and James Harden has turned into a scoring machine.
Houston still has a max contract to offer next summer and could be a playoff team quicker than a lot of people thought after losing out on the major free agents last summer.
A team to watch out for
The Memphis Grizzlies are playing like they are a team that have something to prove. They seem to lack a superstar or a go-to player, but they are just winning games. As their 7-1 start and leading the Southwest division shows.
They have an excellent frontcourt with Rudy Gay (19.8 points), Zach Randolph (17.2 points and 13.9 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (15 points and 7.3 rebounds), but their backcourt is just average.
A good friend of mine says they lack a star in the backcourt, but Mike Conley (14 points, six assists and two steals per game) is a poor man’s Tony Parker. And their shooting guard is Tony Allen. He provides some intangibles that this team needs, a defender with championship experience. And they added Jerryd Bayless in the offseason to back up Conley and play some shooting guard.
The Grizzlies took the Clippers to seven games in playoffs last year and knocked off the Spurs in the first round a couple years ago. This is a squad no team wants to face in the postseason, and just one reason why the Western Conference is deeper than the East.
AK47 spent his entire career in Utah until last season when he decided to return to Russia when the NBA was on the verge of a lockout.
Returning this season, he has been an excellent pickup for Minnesota who is without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. AK47 is averaging 14.1 points (59.7% on FGAs and 53.3% of his 3s), 8.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.4 steals.
Kirilenko’s versatility is his best asset, He does a little bit of everything, and he is having an effect on the Wolves. They are allowing just 90 points (second best in the NBA), opponents are shooting just 42.4% (fourth best) from the field and 33.3% on 3s (tied for 10th).
AK47 is my early candidate for comeback player of the year.
Darren Jacks is a regular contributor to OneManFastBreak.net. Send him an email to: djroxalot@hotmailcom.