Biggest Lingering Questions After Week 1 of NBA Season
It would have been nice if the first week of NBA games had provided clear answers to the nagging questions we spent the summer asking.
That way, we could have moved on to considering more pressing issues like, "Will the Boston Celtics ever win a game?" or "How soon is too soon to crown Philadelphia 76ers rookie Michael Carter-Williams MVP?"
But we can't jump to those newer queries until the league provides clarity on the questions that cropped up during the offseason.
We're not totally in the dark, though. At least we're sure that the Minnesota Timberwolves are for real, and Chris Paul is ready to get serious about his MVP contention. We can check those off the list. But we're still in the dark about a number of key conundrums.
Let's take a look at the biggest questions about the 2013-14 NBA season that Week 1 failed to answer.
Does a Healthy Derrick Rose Mean the Bulls Are Elite Again?
The Chicago Bulls won more games than any other NBA team during Derrick Rose's last two healthy regular seasons. Knowing that, everyone assumed that once Chicago's point guard rejoined the rotation this year, the Bulls would be right back at the top of the league.
But the first week of the 2013-14 season certainly hasn't gone that way.
Rose has struggled mightily, shooting just 29 percent from the field, 27 percent from long range and giving the ball away nearly six times per game.
His game-winning floater against the New York Knicks on Oct. 31 got everyone excited, but that critical bucket has been one of Rose's lone bright spots so far. As a result of his rough start, the Bulls are just 1-2 on the year and haven't played particularly well on either end.
Per NBA.com, they currently rank 23rd in the league in offensive efficiency, and right around the middle of the pack on defense.
Look, there's a ton of data from the past few years that says it's only a matter of time until the Bulls rocket back to the top of the standings. But at this juncture, neither Rose nor his team has looked very good. So the question about whether or not they'd return to elite status remains unanswered.
Was Anthony Bennett a Mistake?
You know what's scary about this question? We're actually getting pretty darn close to an answer, and it's looking like bad news for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Anthony Bennett hasn't made a field goal in 15 attempts this year. He looks overweight, overmatched and overwhelmed. Sure, he's managed to stay relatively aggressive despite his lack of success, but we haven't seen so much as a glimpse of the game that enticed the Cavaliers back in June.
Bennett has been trying to learn coach Mike Brown's defense and he has been averaging four rebounds a game, including six on Saturday. But those things are not what made him the No. 1 pick in the draft. His offensive skills were his calling card—and he displayed them during the preseason.
It's unclear what exactly happened to those skills, but they're missing in action right now.
The common refrain heading into the 2013 draft was that there wasn't a transformative player in the pool. That meant the No. 1 pick was pretty much a crapshoot.
But Bennett was a stunner as the first name off the board, and it certainly appears as though the Cavs missed on the pick.
It's still a bit too early to write off a 20-year-old rookie with just four games under his belt, but Bennett hasn't done anything to justify Cleveland's bold move just yet.
Can the Pistons Manage Their Spacing Issues?
Don't let the 2-1 record fool you; the Detroit Pistons are still something of a congested mess on offense.
They've managed to amass a good early record on the strength of their imposing frontcourt. Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have combined to help the Pistons make 69 percent of their shots in the restricted area, per NBA.com.
None of those facts are all that surprising. But just as so many suspected, the perimeter game has yet to come around.
The corpse of Chauncey Billups has been knocking down triples at a 46 percent clip, but beyond that, no wing player has made a significant perimeter contribution. As a result, Detroit is shooting just 31 percent from long distance as a team, a figure that ranks 20th in the league, per NBA.com.
The Pistons have pulled out wins over the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics, with a close loss to the Memphis Grizzlies sandwiched in between. With three of their next four games against teams that made the playoffs last year, the Pistons are about face some seriously tough competition.
So although the jury is still out on the effect of the Pistons' spacing issues, it looks like we'll soon find out just how much a lack of capable perimeter shooting is going to cost them this year.
Is DeMarcus Cousins Worth It?
The Sacramento Kings maxed out DeMarcus Cousins during the offseason, apparently comfortable with putting the future of the franchise in the hands of a man who punched O.J. Mayo in the groin, confronted an opposing announcer and spends more time making faces at officials than he does playing defense.
It was a gamble, to say the least.
So far this year, Cousins has looked just as risky a play as ever. Though his cosmetic stats remain impressive (20.7 points and 10.3 rebounds on the year), the Kings are still just 1-2. More importantly, Cousins has continued to display the kind of emotional immaturity that made him such a controversial signing in the first place.
Andrew Bogut completely took him out of the game in the Golden State Warriors' 98-87 win over the Kings on Nov. 2. After scoring on DMC on each of his first two touches, Bogut played the big man physically, eventually causing Cousins to commit a boneheaded foul on the Aussie center 20 feet from the hoop.
Head coach Mike Malone saw that Cousins was a lost cause and removed him from the game. Sacramento's $60 million man played just 18 minutes in that one.
At some point, Cousins is going to have to grow up. He hasn't yet, which is precisely why nobody can be sure if he's worth the money the Kings paid him.
What Will Greg Oden and Michael Beasley Mean to the Heat?
The Miami Heat pulled Greg Oden and Michael Beasley off the scrap heap this past summer, taking on a pair of reclamation projects that had the potential to make major impacts down the line.
But we haven't seen anything from either of them during the regular season yet.
Oden slammed down a dunk in his preseason return, but it appears as though the Heat are going to continue to proceed with extreme caution when it comes to the oft-injured big man. Beasley, fully healthy, hasn't logged a minute yet either.
Miami acquired both players with the long view in mind. Oden isn't supposed to help the Heat in November; he's supposed to play a few critical possessions in June. And Beasley is going to have to prove he's ready to commit to being a team player before coach Erik Spoelstra is going to entrust him with playing time.
The Heat have lost a couple of surprising games to start the 2013-14 season, a sign of vulnerability that certainly didn't exist last year. Perhaps their offseason gambles will pay dividends eventually.
For now, we just don't know what Oden and Beasley are going to provide the two-time defending champs.
When Will Kobe Bryant Return?
Kobe Bryant's return from a torn Achilles remains on schedule—it's just nobody knows what that schedule is.
Throughout the offseason, Bryant and the Lakers refused to provide a timetable for the star guard's return. There was the occasional glimmer of hope for an early comeback, like when Bryant told Jimmy Kimmel that he was significantly ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation process back in August.
Generally speaking, though, Bryant's rehab has been a quiet affair with only the haziest checkpoints.
Bryant said he spent the past week ramping up his activity, mixing his running on both a weight-bearing treadmill and on flat surfaces. He also considered it part of the first week of his self-required three weeks of conditioning before he feels comfortable returning to the court. Bryant rolled his eyes on whether that he meant he would return as quickly as two weeks from now when the Lakers play Nov. 15 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Bryant is getting closer to taking the floor, but beyond that, there's simply not enough information to even make a guess as to when he'll finally do it. There's nothing wrong with that, mind you. The Lakers have no reason to publicize Bryant's potential return in a way that adds to the pressure he must already be feeling.
But the fact is that we don't know anything more about Bryant's return today than we did shortly after he suffered the injury in April.
Is It Possible for Stephen Curry to Shoot Too Much?
Stephen Curry made 272 three-point shots last year at a 45 percent clip. He attempted 7.7 triples per game, tops in the league by a significant margin.
Those numbers were pretty much unprecedented, and they gave rise to a strange question during the offseason: Is there a shot on the floor that Curry shouldn't take?
So far this year, the Golden State Warriors point guard has only made that query more confounding. Per NBA.com, Curry has continued to excel at shots that by all conventional definitions would qualify as "ill-advised." Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to fire up off-the dribble threes from 27 feet.
But Curry has made 8-of-21 attempts from 25-29 feet this year, and many of them have been off-balance flings as he zips around a screen. For him, those are technically "good" shots.
Overall, Curry is attempting nine threes per game this year, a notable uptick from his prolific 2012-13 campaign. Amazingly, he's converting them at a rate of exactly 50 percent.
As crazy as it sounds, Curry should be shooting even more. Especially when you consider that the whole "passing" thing hasn't been going so well for him this season. One way to cut down those 6.3 turnovers per game would be to simply fire off shots whenever possible.
Maybe if Curry starts routinely pulling up from halfcourt, we'll have a definitive answer to the question of whether he should rein in his perimeter aggression. Until then, though, we'll have to continue wondering if there's a limit to the number of outside shots this guy should be getting off.
Happy shooting, Steph!