Opening Night Musings

Detroit at Atlanta

  • KCP was the surprise player of the night for me. Last year he was an inefficient shooter and a max 1 to 2 dribble guy without much feel or ball skills. He made two eye-popping developmental plays in the first quarter, attacking a closeout with a hop-step finish in the lane and another read finding Drummond on a dump-off on the move. I figured his three-point shooting would improve by a few percentage points but this newfound aggression and production off the bounce will give Detroit’s offense a needed dynamic on the weak side.  He also did a nice job tracking Korver defensively.
  • The Van-Gundy offense scheme wise is much more evident this season with the Jackson/Drummond middle P&R rub action with spacing on the wings and Drummond diving to suck the defense in to create three-point opportunities. Most of my skepticism was on the wing  for Detroit as Drummond is a monster roll-man finisher and Jackson, despite his deficiencies, has posted solid P&R metrics in his career (defenses should really sag off more, Atlanta pressed his handle far too often tonight). Morris specifically really looked to fit well in the offense despite holding the ball too often at times.   I still have my reservations about the Pistons, namely Jackson as the primary handler and Ilyasova being an enormous minus defensively, but they impressed me tonight.
  • Drummond absolutely destroyed Atlanta on the offensive glass (one of the Hawks’ core weaknesses) but continues to show zero in the post. He couldn’t do anything against Horford on the block creating space with his body, and showed a clear lack of touch finishing. I think it’s evident that unless he gets early seals under the hoop in transition throwing him the ball in the post is a waste. He’s an elite P&R dive finisher, and that’s a supreme offensive weapon to have.
  • Stanley Johnson flashed his NBA ready game, splitting the P&R beautifully and finishing (on a goal tend) in the second quarter. He was also physical on the glass and played plus defense despite sticking too close to non-shooters at times as a help defender. If Johnson’s preseason & SL are more indicative of his finishing ability than his college sample size, I had him too low at #9 in my draft rankings. The fact the he was that low shows how loaded this class was at the top.
  • As for the Hawks, they’re better than they showed tonight. They appeared to miss several of wide-open threes (give credit to the Pistons for playing solid defense), and their offense is obviously dependent on creating drive and kick spot up opportunities. Horford flashed that added above the break three point capability, which should give the Hawks more floor-spacing options as they downgrade spacing wise from Carroll to Bazemore/Sefolosha. Speaking of Sefolosha, he was an absolute monster on defense tonight both on ball and swiping in passing lanes. He’s not nearly the offensive player Carroll is but he’s a damn good defender. I do think the Hawks take a step back this year. They have less lineup versatility without the ability to play Carroll at the 4 and more non-shooters on the court at the same time who can’t create. That being said, they’re still a playoff team.
  • Schroder has always been a blur, but he looked more controlled in this game turning the corner and actually surveying the court. His shot still takes too long to get off but it’s promising that he hit 2 threes.   I called him one of the most overrated players in the league recently because of his questionable decision-making and slow/ineffective release/shot. We’ll see if tonight’s outing is real, or if it can mostly be attributed to exploiting Steve Blake.

Cleveland at Chicago

  • The most obvious takeaway for me in this game is LeBron’s lack of burst and explosion finishing at the rim. Numerous times he had a full head of steam going towards the rim and he got his shot either altered or blocked attempting to finish, the most notable being against a retreating slow-footed Pau down the stretch in the 4th.  Not pressing the panic button, but he normally elevates and dunks those kinds of plays. He’s 30 with a ton of tread on his tires, so this was bound to happen eventually. It’s only one game in though, and it’s notable he looked absolutely gassed at certain parts of the game.
  • Love looked more active and comfortable in the offense in the beginning of the game when he got featured (notably on a duck in where he bulldozed Mirotic). He made two of the best passes as a roll man you’ll ever see from someone his size to accompany his typical outlet pass success. He still looks out of ideal shape, and we’ll see how he integrates when Kyrie returns to his #2 scoring role in the hierarchy. Hard to grade the Cavs at all without Kyrie and Shump because you have guys like J.R. playing out of their respective comfort zones (in J.R.’s case dribbling at all).  They really could have used Shump on Rose tonight.
  • Rose’s outside shot continues to look broken. He’s shooting off-balance and on the way down without any rhythm. He also lost his man several times defending off the ball, most notably Mo Williams on a back cut. Overall, not an especially promising debut for Rose, but this is Butler’s team now.
  • Mirotic is a monster attacking closeouts with a clever off the dribble game and the ability to rise up at any time for pull-ups. He victimized Love several times in space tonight. The Bulls are clearly favoring offense and spacing over defense and rebounding starting Pau and Mirotic, but it will likely have positive results especially if Noah isn’t healthy (Mirotic has to start regardless). The Cavs starters hammered the Bulls on the glass in the first quarter (+8) but Chicago’s reserves countered nicely. Noah was effective helping off of Thompson stifling the Cavs’ spacing until he got banged up.

New Orleans at Golden State

  • Curry was transcendent as per usual. He’s improved as a ball-handler and finisher more than anyone I’ve ever seen.
  • The Draymond at 5 lineup decimates teams who try to roll out a slow-footed 5 man like Ajinca who can’t post up, and that’s exactly what happened here. The Dubs played more two big lineups than I’m used to seeing, and they didn’t appear to have much success. Ezeli played especially well, showing improved hands catching balls and finishing, while playing his typical A+ post defense. The Dubs played starters at home in the 4th quarter which is a damn anomaly.
  • It’s going to be a rough go for the Pelicans with Holiday on a minutes limit when he returns and playing without Reke. Ish Smith played his ass off, but he’s dwarfed even by a player of Curry’s size on the court. Often times he couldn’t even see Davis on the roll because Curry was mirroring him. His lack of size also gets exacerbated with the Warriors’ length in the passing lanes.  It’s no secret why GMs crave tall point guards.
  • Davis probably had his worst game as a pro, and while a lot was on him, some can obviously be attributed to his surroundings. The Dubs just stuck to Davis in every P&R, allowing Smith or Robinson to attack the paint knowing their rim protection would win that battle. The Warriors’ guards were digging down and helping off NO’s guards not named Gordon all night to cramp Davis’ spacing. Davis was still largely miserable in his own right though on both ends. He was either attacking left off of face-up opportunities without a plan and trying to force running right-handed floaters or trying to inadvisably post up Draymond (who leverages way too well) instead of beating him off the dribble with length. Also, he was consistently late rotating as a help defender looking lethargic at times until he finally showed flashes there late in the third quarter on.   Clearly better days ahead for the chosen one.
  • The league really has figured out Ryan Anderson: just put an agile wing on him to take away the quick release on his three-point shot and that trade-off sizably wins out with his defensive deficiencies tracking wings. Anderson has never really developed a post game outside of that incredibly low percentage 15-18 foot fall-away over his right shoulder. The Dubs downsized and put Iggy on him and Anderson couldn’t make him pay in the post. He’s still effective against conventional bigs but smart teams will go smaller with him in and reap the rewards.
  • Don’t know what the entire hell was up with Perkins to start the game, and I wont acknowledge its existence outside of that.