The Detroit Pistons are shocking the league. The Los Angeles Clippers have just as many players in the hospital as they do on their bench. Lonzo Ball is (fill in the blank).
These are all of the types of NBA articles that have been published since the association tipped off a month-and-a-half ago. The NBA, nowadays, is a top-heavy league. The Golden State Warriors are still -180 favorites to win the title, despite being on track to win just 60 games — almost seven games fewer than what Vegas projected before the season.
The discussion around the league is no different. “NBA Twitter” focuses on the two, or three, biggest storylines of each night’s action. That leaves plenty more that might have slipped through your NBA-fandom lens. Here are three storylines from the NBA’s first quarter that could’ve flown under the radar.
Brooklyn continues to cobble together secretly-good players
There are not enough good things to say about Nets GM Sean Marks‘ ability to acquire talent and head coach Kenny Atkinson‘s knack for developing solid pieces. To say that the cupboard Marks was given was bare would be an understatement. Outside of Brook Lopez, elder-statesman Joe Johnson and 42.4%-career winning percentage Thaddeus Young, the Nets had nothing on their roster.
That was a year-and-a-half ago.
Dinwiddie, in his fourth season, is controlling the Brooklyn offense in a way few outside of Boulder, Colorado, could’ve envisioned. He is the ideal guard for the modern NBA with his length (6’6″), shooting (38.7% 3PFG%), and defense (opponents are shooting just 41% against Dinwiddie, almost four percent lower than Avery Bradley and Tony Allen, per NBA.com Stats). He’s even been Brooklyn’s go-to option in crunch-time:
As for Allen, the 22nd pick in this year’s draft, his scouting report ahead of the draft was a raw, athletic center. And what has he become? He’s a raw, athletic center. But, he’s been fun in his rawness.
On one possession, he can hit defenders with a modern day Kareem sky hook, followed on the other end by getting lost on defense. This is what happens to rookies, but Allen has shown more promise than first thought on draft night.
And let’s not forget, he’s rocking the NBA’s best current style.
John Collins has been a rare bright spot for Atlanta
Atlanta’s season was supposed to be bad. Losing your best player, Paul Millsap, along with a complete front office restructuring, usually doesn’t end in a good outcome. The Hawks 5-17 record proves just that.
John Collins, Atlanta’s 2017 first round pick out of Wake Forest, has proven to be a surprisingly exciting player for the Hawks. (Editor’s note: Collins is currently out 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury).
He’s an energy rebounder, especially on the offensive side, where he’s averaging three offensive rebounds and has a 15.3% offensive rebounding rate. For those, who haven’t watched the Hawks, first of all, I can’t fault you.
But he is having a similar impact to rookie-season Kenneth Faried. His five-minute bursts of injuries have been a fun wrinkle in a disappointing ATL season.
Portland Trail Blazers lead the Northwest Division
Before the season, all four of the other Northwest Division teams had more hype. The Jazz had to deal with losing a star. The Thunder, Timberwolves and Nuggets all gained a star (and in some cases, also a Melo). For the Blazers, they sat out the offseason, for the most part.
But their impact star addition may have arrived at last year’s deadline. Jusuf Nurkic, after making an impact in his 20 games last season, has been the missing piece for Portland. After questions of whether a backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum could survive defensively, coach Terry Stotts found the solution in Nurkic.
Lillard is able to trail behind the shooter and prevent the pull-up three while Nurkic manages both Mario Chalmers and Marc Gasol. Sure, the mid-range is wide open, but the Blazers will bet that their dynamic offense can outscore that type of low-percentage output.
Outside of that, Pat Connaughton is the best player in the division you’ve never heard of. He’s quietly a very solid defender, a solid shooter alongside Dame and CJ and he’s fit in seemlessly in the former-Crabbe role.
Three odd stats
- Milwaukee is shooting 51.5% on corner threes this season.
- Sacramento is shooting the fewest percentage of threes and the second-most mid-range shots in the league. Long live, Dave Joerger‘s archaic offense.
- Opponents are shooting almost 72% on Dallas’ defense at the rim. That paired with tying for the league’s fewest blocks and Dirk Nowitzki‘s age 39 defense gives you the worst record in your conference.
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