It’s been a dramatic first two weeks for the NBA with serious injuries, firings and disgruntled players making headlines. The first few weeks can feel a little informal as rosters adjust to new players and leadership, but these early games can often be a make or break for a playoff appearance. There are plenty of players who are getting to work out of the gate, and they will definitely thank themselves come playoff time.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are adjusting to a new roster and while most would consider it to be improved, I remain a skeptic. However, I will refrain from my typical disdain for Carmelo Anthony and give credit to Russell Westbrook for leading the league in the assist category with an average of 12.8 per game. Westbrook finally has a little bit of help on the offensive end, and he’s taking advantage of Anthony and Paul George‘s scoring abilities as these two players bring in a combined average of over 40 points per game. The Thunder are currently 2-2 as they head in to face the Minnesota Timberwolves Oct. 27. The Timberwolves rank just behind the Thunder in the Western Conference so far with a record of 2-3. The real test of Westbrook as a high caliber athlete will be his ability to bring his team together and work to magnify everyone’s skills. Anthony remains the variable in that situation given his tendency to isolate and try to win games on his own, but perhaps Westbrook is the type of strong leader Anthony needs to get that behavior in check.
It’s no surprise who leads the rebound category already this season. DeAndre Jordan has not disappointed with an average of 18.3 rebounds per game in his first 4 games, bringing in 24 in the first game alone. The Clippers lost their point guard, Milos Teodosic, to injury last week but they haven’t missed a beat going 4-0 to start the season. LAC acquired Danilo Gallinari in free agency from the Denver Nuggets adding a huge offensive presence to their roster, and Blake Griffin has clearly been working on his shooting as he’s been performing well in the paint, but also from from distance at 43.5%. The Clippers regularly have five or more players in double figures, and they look to be just as tough on the defensive end with Jordan, Griffin and Gallinari providing a towering presence under the rim. Patrick Beverly also proves crucial on D, although his methods can me somewhat questionable at times. I don’t think anyone expected the Clippers to be great this year, but from the looks of it they’re serious about their position in a very tough Western Conference.
To wrap up our list of leaders so far this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo is impressing early with an average of 36.8 points per game. The Milwaukee Bucks rank 7th in the Eastern Conference with a current record of 3-2 just behind the Boston Celtics. The Greek Freak is shooting an impressive 62.4% from the field while also bringing about 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game. With his incredible start, Antetokounmpo became the first NBA player to average at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game in the first 5 games of the season. Only four other players have been able to do that in any five game stretch in the last 10 NBA seasons. The Bucks are currently among the interested teams for Eric Bledsoe, but they’d likely have to part with Malcom Brogdon in the process. Bledsoe is arguably a top 15 point guard in the NBA so his presence in Milwaukee could be just the thing to take this team to the next level.
It’s exciting to think about a fresh start for each player this season, and this could truly be anyone’s year to contend with the Golden State Warriors. As of now, the Clippers and San Antonio Spurs lead the West so anything is possible.