November 5, 2014: Five Things to Know in the NBA
#1 – Biweekly NBA Power Rankings
Team [record] (last week’s ranking)
Through November 3, 2014
1.) Golden State Warriors [3-0] (7)
2.) Memphis Grizzlies [4-0] (16)
3.) Dallas Mavericks [3-1] (6)
4.) San Antonio Spurs [1-1] (1)
5.) Chicago Bulls [2-1] (4)
6.) Houston Rockets [4-0] (14)
7.) Cleveland Cavaliers [1-1] (3)
8.) Los Angeles Clippers [3-1] (2)
9.) Miami Heat [3-0] (11)
10.) Phoenix Suns [2-1] (10)
11.) Toronto Raptors [2-1] (12)
12.) Sacramento Kings [3-1] (24)
13.) Washington Wizards [2-1] (9)
14.) Atlanta Hawks [1-1] (17)
15.) New York Knicks [2-1] (19)
16.) Charlotte Hornets [1-2] (13)
17.) Portland Trail Blazers [1-2] (8)
18.) Brooklyn Nets [2-1] (20)
19.) New Orleans Pelicans [1-2] (15)
20.) Denver Nuggets [1-2] (18)
21.) Minnesota Timberwolves [1-2] (22)
22.) Oklahoma City Thunder [1-3] (5)
23.) Utah Jazz [1-3] (28)
24.) Indiana Pacers [1-2] (21)
25.) Milwaukee Bucks [1-2] (29)
26.) Boston Celtics [1-2] (25)
27.) Detroit Pistons [0-3] (27)
28.) Orlando Magic [0-3] (23)
29.) Los Angeles Lakers [0-4] (26)
30.) Philadelphia 76ers [0-4] (30)
Biggest Jumps: Memphis Grizzlies (14 spots), Sacramento Kings (12 spots)
Biggest Drops: Oklahoma City Thunder (17 spots), Portland Trail Blazers (9 spots)
#2 – Standout Players
DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings are on a roll. The talented big man has shown his ability to score inside, make open jump shots, find cutting teammates with accurate passes, rebound the basketball, and defend elite post players at a high level. Many people saw a potential All-Star season for Cousins this year after watching him in the FIBA World Cup, and I must say that I am sold too. I am not confident that the Kings can keep winning like this, but I am confident that Boogie can put up these numbers every night. He looks like a man on a mission. So far this year, through four games, he is averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds per game, including a 36 point, 17 rebound, 5 assist, and 3 block performance in a huge win against the Clippers in Los Angeles. He’s off to a great start.
This summer, no one player received more hype than Anthony Davis. He was ranked the third best player in the NBA by ESPN NBARank, he was talked about in MVP conversations, and he was the best player and leader of Team USA this summer at the World Cup. Davis has not only met those expectations, but exceeded them. On opening night, he narrowly missed having a triple-double with 26 points, 17 rebounds, and 9 blocks. That wasn’t a misprint. Since then he has maintained averages of 24 points and 13 rebounds per game, and continued to live up to his hype.
Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, since signing his contract extension, has scored 70 points in two games, including a 41-point performance in which he connected on 14 of 18 shots. You won’t see more efficient scoring than that anywhere. His True Shooting percentage (a measure of shooting percentage which accounts and weighs for three-pointers and free throws) is just shy of 70 percent, which is extremely high. I am anxious to see if he can continue to put up numbers like this.
#3 – Injury Report
Things just get worse for Oklahoma City every time they step out on the court. The Russell Westbrook experiment has ended after just two games, as Westbrook suffered a small break in the second metacarpal of his right hand going for a rebound. He has since had surgery and will be sidelined at least four weeks for recovery. With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Morrow, Jeremy Lamb, Andre Roberson, and Reggie Jackson going down, the Thunder have had an awful run of bad luck. Hopefully they can bounce back when everyone is healthy and still contend for a playoff spot, but I have my doubts. It really couldn’t be much worse.
Los Angeles Lakers rookie big man Julius Randle, the seventh overall pick out of the University of Kentucky, has been declared out for the season after suffering a broken leg in his NBA debut against the Houston Rockets. It was already going to be a tough season for Kobe and company, but it just looks worse by the day as Los Angeles has started 0-4 for the first time since the 1957-58 season, when they were still playing in Minneapolis.
#4 – Contract Extension Deadline
Last week marked the deadline for teams to extend contracts for their standout rookies drafted in the 2011 NBA draft. Teams who had not already extended those rookie deals had until October 31st at 11:59 PM to reach agreements with them. The penalty for not reaching a deal now is restricted free agency at the conclusion of this 2014-2015 season, meaning the unsigned third-year players will be able to seek offers from other teams, able to be matched by the team with which they are currently under contract. For big name third-year players, this deadline usually helps them to put their teams under the gun and get a large raise. With the new TV deal coming along soon, teams were a bit more willing this year to pay these future stars large sums (by the standards of the current cap). Here are some of the key deals that were reached.
Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State Warriors, 4 years/$70 million (max)
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets, 4 years/$48 million
Alec Burks, SG, Utah Jazz, 4 years/$42 million
Nikola Vucevic, PF/C, Orlando Magic, 4 years, $53 million
I was pretty surprised to see that Golden State gave Klay Thompson the max deal we all knew he was looking for. I thought trading him for an All-Star would have been a smart move this summer, but Golden State has shown time and time again that they are in love with Thompson and want him to stay in a Warriors uniform for a long time. I think it’s going to work out for them as long as the salary cap expands like experts predict it will.
(Homer alert) Kemba Walker is an important signing for the Charlotte Hornets. Seeing the front office preserve the current core of talent is important for Hornets fans; they can see that Charlotte is done with rebuilding, and is ready to start contending in the East. 4 years at $48 million may have been a bit of an overpay for Walker’s talent, but it was worthwhile to go ahead and lock up this deal now instead of having him test the market later on.
The exact same situation applies to Utah. After spending big on Gordon Hayward this summer, locking up Burks helps Jazz fans believe that their core talent is staying. And in Orlando, Vucevic is just a really, really promising young center. If you’re the Magic front office, why not take a chance on him? I like all three of these non-max contract deals.
I was not very surprised to see that the Cavaliers missed out on signing Tristan Thompson, because I think the front office needs to see how this team works together before they spend on other pieces. If this season works out and they make the conference finals or better, I think they will allocate some money to Thompson. They need to make sure that this roster built around three superstars that can get the job done before they spend this much on a guy like Thompson, which makes sense.
I was a little surprised to see that the Spurs did not sign reigning NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, to a deal by the deadline, particularly since they have some financial flexibility. It was not that important to get this deal done by the deadline, though, because the whole organization is in agreement that Leonard is the future of the franchise and I can’t imagine a scenario in which he does not re-sign with San Antonio in the summer.
#5 – Highlights of the week
(Homer alert again) On an emotional opening night in Charlotte; the long-awaited return of the Hornets, a 25 point comeback and these two huge shots by Kemba Walker were enough to give Charlotte an overtime win. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiBckwv0RWQ
And for those who don’t appreciate homer-ism, here is Deandre Jordan putting Rudy Gobert on a poster. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_m98qLtzRw