5 Winners and Losers from Week 1 of the NBA Season
In the NBA, as with everything in 2012, a decent sample size just isn't needed for most of us to form snap opinions.
We have had The Association back for only a week, and already fan bases are hitting the panic button (I am guilty of this), while some (Knicks fans) are reserving hotels in L.A., Miami and Oklahoma City for the Finals.
Everything could change in Week 2 of the NBA season, but some conclusions can be drawn from one week of basketball.
There have been winners and losers in the first week of the season. Here are five of each, although there are certainly many more that could be listed.
Winner: James Harden
This is the no-brainer of all no-brainers.
The Rockets are 2-1 through three games, with Harden averaging 35.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Can those numbers last? Probably not. But with the lack of scoring options on the Rockets, and a good passing backcourt mate in Jeremy Lin, Harden could score between 25-30 a night.
Not only is he playing great on the court, he also got paid, in a big way. After rejecting an offer from the Thunder for much less, Harden signed with the Rockets for five years at $80 million.
What a week for The Beard.
Loser: Eric Gordon
After a strange summer that saw Eric Gordon sign an offer sheet with Phoenix and say that is where he wanted to be, only to be matched by New Orleans, things have only gotten worse for the Hornets guard.
Gordon is out indefinitely with a knee issue, which was actually being questioned in a roundabout way by his coach Monty Williams. It seems doctors have cleared Gordon, but he maintains that his knee is not ready. When it will be ready remains in question.
Add that to the fact that the New Orleans fans actually booed Gordon in their first home game.
By already saying he wanted out of New Orleans, along with the emergence of Anthony Davis, Gordon is becoming the fans' favorite pariah in 'Nawlins.
Winner: San Antonio Spurs
Breaking News: The Spurs are really, really good.
San Antonio, again overlooked by many in favor of the Thunder and the new-look Lakers, looks every bit as good as it did last year, and the year before, and the year before, and so on.
Not only is the 4-0 start good news for the Spurs, but Tony Parker and Tim Duncan look young again. Danny Green is an assassin from outside, and Kawhi Leonard is having a great defensive start to the season.
That James Harden trade I talked about earlier? That helps the Spurs too. They match up with the Thunder, who knocked them out of the playoffs last season, and so are much better off with Harden in Houston.
Don't sleep on the old guys in San Antonio.
Loser: Denver Nuggets
Nobody in Denver is panicking yet, I guarantee you that, but they may be a little worried about their Nuggets.
The Nuggets are 0-3, with all three losses coming on the road, and the last one coming in a hard-fought three-point loss in Miami to the defending champion Heat.
No big deal?
Yes and no.
The problem is that the Nuggets were expected to challenge for a top-four seed in the West and perhaps be a deep sleeper NBA champion pick.
Three road losses is not the end of the world, but considering two of them came to Philadelphia and Orlando, it is a bit concerning. Philly has looked terrible since beating Denver, and Orlando, while undefeated, is not a good team.
George Karl is a good coach and Denver is too athletic to not figure it out. It was just a bad week for the Nuggets.
Winner: O.J. Mayo
After a strange offseason, even with no Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks are 3-1, including an opening night win in L.A. against the Lakers.
O.J. Mayo has played a huge role in this fast start.
Mayo is shooting over .500 from the field, is putting up 21.5 points a game, has scored 30 or more in the last two games and appears capable of putting Dallas' offense on his shoulders until Dirk returns.
Mayo was an under-the-radar signing this offseason—especially overlooked considering all the attention was on Dallas whiffing on Deron Williams—but he has been very good.
O.J. Mayo looks more at home in Dallas then he ever did in Memphis, and he just scored 32 points on his birthday. That's a good week.
Loser: Detroit Pistons
Yikes. The Pistons have stunk.
After losing to Houston at home and in Phoenix to the Suns, the Pistons were destroyed by a Lakers team looking to not start 0-4.
Greg Monroe has started slow from a scoring standpoint. Rodney Stuckey has started slower, shooting .043 percent from the field. Tayshaun Prince is leading the team in scoring at just 13.0 PPG.
With a brutal early-season schedule, including their next four on the road during a Western road trip, the Pistons will have to pull an upset, likely in Sacramento, to avoid starting 0-7.
Winner: Surprise Undefeated Teams (Knicks, Bucks, Magic)
Three teams that not many expected to look this good: Milwaukee, New York and Orlando.
The Bucks find themselves at 2-0 after an impressive win on the road in Boston and beating Cleveland at home on Brandon Jennings' game winner. Jennings was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Maybe this backcourt with Jennings and Monta Ellis could work.
The Knicks find themselves at 3-0 after a week. They had a huge win over the Heat, followed by back-to-back blowout wins over Philly. No Amar'e Stoudemire, no problem, so far.
I know it is only two games, but perhaps the most surprising undefeated team is the Orlando Magic. Many expected the Magic to challenge for the worst record in the NBA. Instead, Glen Davis and J.J. Redick have picked up where they left off in the playoffs last year as legitimate scoring options.
Good week for some surprising teams.
Loser: Indiana Pacers
Kind of a strange week for the Pacers.
I wrote about it here.
The Pacers have turned the ball over at a clip of over 20 a game. They lost to Charlotte, got blown out by San Antonio, and took double overtime to beat the Kings at home.
Danny Granger is sorely missed.
Roy Hibbert, making $58 million now, disappeared against the Spurs.
The new guys, D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green and Ian Mahinmi have not looked good.
Miles Plumlee has barely played, proving to be a reach of a draft pick.
And to pour salt on the wound, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo (for whom the Pacers had a trade in place at one point and refused to spend the money to pursue him this summer) have looked great in Dallas under former Pacers coach Rick Carlisle.
With all of that said, after their first 18 games, 12 of which are on the road, the Pacers hope to settle down and get back to playing good basketball as they did almost all of last season.
I'm not worried yet. Well, maybe just a little.
Winner: Damian Lillard
The Blazers sit at 2-2, with wins over the Lakers and Rockets, and Damian Lillard is a huge part of that.
The rookie from Weber State has opened eyes with his play.
Lillard is averaging 19.3 points, 8.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game so far in his young career.
He has shown he is more than capable of running an NBA team and has emerged as the No. 1 contender to Anthony Davis for Rookie of the Year.
It doesn't matter that a certain announcer on NBATV kept calling him "Willard"; Portland fans know who they are cheering for.
Loser: Brooklyn Knight
Umm...what is this?
I am still undecided if this thing is utterly awesome or utterly stupid.
It is a loser. For now.