Rating the Best Highlights of the 2015-16 NBA Season's 1st Month

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2015

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Brandon Dill/Associated Press

Relative to its 82-game lifespan, the 2015-16 NBA regular season is still young.

Its highlight factory is not.

There have been no shortages of "Did he do really do that?," "Oh my god, that actually happened" and "Stephen Curry has officially taken over the world." And in the spirit of these volume displays, we once again turn to our NBA 2K-style reflection system.

All the usual nuances apply. The best plays from the first month of the season are plucked subjectively from the seemingly unending number of clips the league's 30 teams have produced. Ratings will be handed out to the selected highlights using a five-tier grading system: Difficulty, Clowning the Defender, Importance of the Moment, Jaw-Drop Factor and a play-specific wild card. Scores are weighted on a scale of 0 to 99—perfection doesn't exist—and remain totally subjective.

Enough chit-chat, though. Let's party.

Steph Sees Everything (Oct. 31)

Difficulty: 92

Curry gets turned around in traffic as he's swarmed by three defenders and still manages to fire a perfect one-handed bullet over his shoulder to a waiting Harrison Barnes. To be fair, the New Orleans Pelicans could have made life more difficult by surrounding Curry with all five of their defenders. Half-committed triple-teams ain't no thing to the reigning MVP.

Clowning the Defender: 99

Both Quincy Pondexter and the intergalactic cyborg we call Anthony Davis get clowned by Curry's voodoo handles, but it's Omer Asik who drums up the hilarity. He's not so much a step slow as he is admiring Curry with hopeless confusion.

Importance of the Moment: 93

While the Golden State Warriors pulled away with a 134-120 victory over the Pelicans, they were trailing by three prior to this sequence. Curry's now-you-see-the-ball, now-you-don't trickery helped spark a 41-point third quarter that put the game out of New Orleans' reach for good.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 99

Why a score of 99?

Any more questions?

Sixth-Sense Factor: 99

The Haley Joel Osment of 15 years ago is here to help us out for this one:


Bruce Willis was unavailable for fake comment, so let's just go ahead and assume he agrees.

Overall: 98

Nothing Curry does anymore should amaze us, and yet, almost nightly, he amazes us. That has to change, right? Like, at some point, revealing that he has eyes in the back of his head and telekinetic tendencies won't mean anything unless accompanied by backflips or headstands or pulling gold-plated Jerry West statues out of his jersey.

DeAndre Extinguishes the Suns (Nov. 2)

Difficulty: 91

Talk about airborne awareness. This isn't just some reverse dunk DeAndre Jordan throws down unguarded in transition. He is in the air, his back to the basket, catches the ball and guides it over the rim and through the net while Phoenix's T.J. Warren invades his personal space.

Clowning the Defender: 61

No disrespect for Warren here. He tried. Veterans much older than himself would have gotten the hell out of Lob City. Jordan didn't clown him. He owned him despite the sophomore's admirable efforts.

Importance of the Moment: 79

Second-quarter reverse alley-oops aren't unimportant—especially in a game the Los Angeles Clippers would only win by six. But this wasn't an outcome-changer or momentum-shifter. It was a glorious, most difficult jam that ensured Clippers play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler would leave Staples Center without his voice.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 94

My official count has Jordan floating through the air for around six minutes. That's fairly impressive.

Austin Rivers Bored-Out-of-His-Mind Pass Factor: 99

Either Austin Rivers is attempting to be ironic, or his nonchalance in passing to DJ is a sign that he takes offense to father and head coach Doc Rivers' decision to start Chris Paul over him.

Overall: 93

It's not that I'm over-sensationalizing this monster oop. I'm just saying it's an all-time smash worthy of Jordan receiving an invite to Paul's next international banana boat excursion

Dunking on Festus Ain't Ezeli (Nov. 4)

Difficulty: When Blake Griffin rises for a dunk, the typical, and safe, response entails running the other way. Festus Ezeli's defensive stand took guts and precision and perhaps a dash of recklessness. And we should love him for it.

Clowning the Offender: 88

Can't really fault Griffin for doing anything wrong here—except for overly exposing the ball and then complaining immediately afterward:


No, Blake. You were not fouled.

Importance of the Moment: 81

Sure, Ezeli went full brick wall less than midway through the first quarter. But his blocking chops saved two points in a game the Warriors would end up winning by four. That, at the very least, makes this more important than any other early first-quarter dunk in the history of everything.*


Jaw-Drop Factor: 99

This block seems bonkers. What say you, random and completely shocked lady in the stands?


OK, then.

High-Five Factor: 99

These are the still shots we will remember forever:

Source: YouTube.

If not for the ball wedged between their hands, we'd have no choice other than to declare Ezeli and Griffin best friends for all eternity.

Overall: 95

Blocks such as this are incredibly difficult. This had a very Roy-Hibbert-stuffs-Carmelo-Anthony-in-the-2013-Eastern-Conference-semifinals feel to it. And this early in the season, that's flipping fantastic.

(Ka)Why Run When You Can Soar? (Nov. 11)

Difficulty: 93

Palming the ball for as long as Kawhi Leonard does here should be illegal. It's easy for him, of course, because his hands double as five-fingered tarps. But the Portland Trail Blazers' Mason Plumlee has three to four inches on him, and Leonard still shows no fear as he attacks the rim. That deserves a round or two (or 50) of applause.

Clowning the Defender: 93

Plumlee hesitates at first, almost as if he can't decide whether to contest Leonard's drive or hide behind David West. He inevitably rotates over and—well, let's just say he would have been better off hiding behind West.

Importance of the Moment: 87

The Spurs would win this contest 113-101, but the Blazers were hanging tough all night. Leonard's fourth-quarter poster stretched San Antonio's lead to seven and pretty much sucked the life out of Portland's run.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 96

I mean, this went in:

Source: YouTube.

In other musings, there's a strong chance Leonard could palm a refrigerator.

Could've-Been-Injured-but-I-Wasn't-So-Yeah-I'm-Awesome Factor: 99

That sound you hear on the tail end of Leonard's finish isn't a tree trunk being snapped in half by a giant ogre. It's Leonard's elbow. He leaves the game but returns shortly thereafter, because injuries are for people who don't have Teflon for skin and a lump of iron-carbon alloy where their soul's supposed to be.

Overall: 97

Anyone who thinks this dunk wasn't near-perfection personified is a killjoy and has no business having opinions on anything ever until the end of time.

Steph Wishes for a Four-Point Line (Nov. 11) 

Difficulty: 99

Only Curry's attempt to draw a foul could go wrong in a way that feels so right. He hits a one-handed three-pointer from almost half-court as he's falling down. And to be sure, this happened in an actual game, not during a round of H-O-R-S-E.

Clowning the Defender: 99

This oughta teach Russ Smith that "Stephen Curry has unlimited range" actually does mean that Stephen Curry has unlimited range.

Importance of the Moment: 95

Credit the Memphis Grizzlies for playing the indomitable Warriors tight throughout most of this matchup. They were clearly more engaged after losing by 50 points to Golden State on Nov. 2, and it looked like they were going to give Curry and crew a real scare. But then Curry drilled this off-balance three, stretching the lead to seven and leaving Memphis to become just another footnote in Golden State's march toward history.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 90

So, why not another score of 99?

Curry didn't call glass.

Four-Point-Line Factor: 99

League executives have previously discussed adding a four-point line. This play is why every NBA owner outside Oakland will vote against such a change until Curry retires.

Overall: 97

Golden State's social media explained Curry's third-quarter acrobatics/heroics/ohmygodics best:

And when Steph Stephs, there is nothing anyone—let alone mere mortals like Smith, Tony Allen, LeBron James, a 24-year-old Michael Jordan and anyone else ever to grace the hardwood—can do to stop him.

DeMiracle DeRozan (Nov. 18)

Difficulty: 99

Rudy Gobert is a 7'1", shot-swallowing behemoth. DeMar DeRozan climbed him like a step stool. In no world where gravity exists is that anything but impossible.

Clowning the Defender: 95

Give it to Gobert for trying to get in DeRozan's way. His lone mistake was thinking that DeRozan cares about him ranking as one of the league's five best rim protectors (among qualified players), according to NBA.com.

Importance of the Moment: 87

Although the Toronto Raptors would fall to the Utah Jazz 93-89, the betting community, as documented by the Hardwood Knocks podcast, had the Jazz favored by 4.5 points. DeRozan's dunk allowed the Raptors to just barely cover. And by totally made-up rule, anytime you play a part in throwing Vegas for a whirl, you're important.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 99

Raise your hand if you thought DeRozan would leave this high-flying display better for wear when he first took off.

That's what I thought.

Put-Rudy-Gobert-Trolls-at-Risk-of-Social-Media-Evisceration Factor: 99

As one of the league's best paint-policers, Gobert is clearly never allowed to make a mistake. But because DeRozan doesn't give two brown-tinged bowel movements about Gobert's Twitter mentions, he posterized him anyway.

And that led to this:

Which, in turn, led to Gobert doing this:

DeRozan unofficially put himself in the record books by climbing the "Stifle Tower." This has to be the first time being on the right end of a vicious slam led to the person on the wrong end of said blast defending himself on social media by way of a Dragon Ball Z reference.

Something tells me that record should stand for around, say, forever.

Overall: 96

There are those, like yours truly, who wonder why DeRozan doesn't receive more flak for being incapable of draining threes at an efficient clip. Well, this is why. My lips are henceforth sealed.

Nerlens Knows No "L" (Nov. 21)

Difficulty: 99

It's apparently not enough that Nerlens Noel secures a jump-steal and outruns Chris Bosh. He needs to outmaneuver Goran Dragic with fluid behind-the-back handles. Big men aren't supposed to do that.

Clowning the Defender: 93

Shame on Dragic for thinking Noel isn't the 6'11" version of Stephen Curry, and that he could lunge at the ball without paying the price:

Source: NBA.com.

Importance of the Moment: 99

Noel's two points went a long way in helping the Philadelphia 76ers build a 17-point lead over Miami. They would still lose 96-91, though, so Noel was not subsequently benched for having a winning impact.

Jaw-Drop Factor: 93


That is all.

Maybe-Noel-Should-Play-Point-Guard Factor: 99

Isaiah Canaan and T.J. McConnell are handling point guard duties for what is the NBA's worst offense, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Perhaps head coach Brett Brown should try out Noel as the primary floor general.

Best-case scenario, the Sixers become untouchable favorites to land Ben Simmons in next year's draft and unfathomably complicate their frontcourt depth chart. Worst-case scenario, they win a few games they don't want to.

Overall: 90

This is one of those plays that makes you feel for Noel. He's a legitimate NBA player on a team that traffics in anything but. At some point, hopefully he'll be making these versatility-accentuating, brain-bending plays for a squad that isn't angling to go 0-for-Christmas.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @danfavale.