NBA opening week: three observations

Don’t let their first two games fool you; the Los Angeles Lakers are an elite team and will be in the Western Conference playoff mix

Overreacting to the opening week of the NBA season is a yearly ritual.  

While there are certainly some trends worth keeping an eye on, in the case of the Lakers, it’s too early to panic.

If we’ve learned anything during the latter half of LeBron James’ career, it’s that he’s a master at picking his spots during the course of a long regular season.  James has had some exciting moments thus far, but it’s clear the 33-year-old is content with deferring to his teammates, as least through his first two games.

And that’s not meant to be a slight.  James has proven (by making eight straight NBA Finals) that he knows what it takes to get his team ready for April, May, and June. Whether or not this is a calculated attempt to preserve his body, or simply a way to test his new teammates, James knows that the season is an emotional and physical marathon.

During his second-run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James had no problem stirring the pot with passive-aggressive sub-tweets or subtle — but calculated — leaks to the media.  And no matter how bleak their chances looked, James always seemed to unite the team when the playoffs came around.

While the West is far more competitive than the Eastern Conference, still expect James to lead a fairly talented Lakers roster on a deep playoff run.

The Toronto Raptors are lined-up for another impressive season

When the Raptors defeated the Boston Celtics 113-101 in their second game of the season, it was a statement win for the franchise.  Even though they’re a long journey away from toppling the Celtics in the Eastern Conference, it was important for the team to come out of the gate strong.

There were some question marks surrounding Kawhi Leonard heading into the season, but it’s clear the 27-year-old forward is still a top-five talent when healthy.  As good as Demar DeRozan was for the Raptors, it’s clear that Leonard is on a different level.

Toronto was already a deep team with several solid wing defenders, so upgrading from DeRozan to Leonard — although a tough decision — puts them in a great position to contend for the conference title.

Even if he decides to leave at the end of the season, acquiring Leonard was an opportunity the front-office had to take as a last-ditch attempt to make the finals with this core.

As Boston continues to figure out their team, it wouldn’t be a surprising development if the Raptors took control of the East’s top seed during the first couple of weeks of the season.

It’s not too early to anoint Luka Doncic

On draft day, everyone had an opinion on Doncic: you either loved or hated him.

In the Dallas Mavericks 140-136 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves this Saturday, the 20-year-old forward — who finished with 26 points — became the youngest player in franchise history to score 25 or more in a game.

Through his first two games, the Slovenian point forward has done nothing but impress.

Doncic’s athleticism, and whether or not it would hinder his ability create a jump shot, was the main question mark about his transition from Euro League to the NBA. At this point, it seems amusing that was ever a debate.

Doncic has consistently gone to the stepback jumper, a shot he repeatedly utilized during his time with Real Madrid last season. It’s also no surprise that Doncic has showcased his impressive passing ability.

Although his career still extremely young, Mark Cuban and the Mavericks must feel good about trading-up to take Doncic with the third pick.  We may be looking at a generational talent in the making.

 

 

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