Is it too early to draw any conclusions from this season? Of course it is! Over the years, I’ve tried to tell stories and give examples that show not to overreact to small sample sizes. This year our anecdote takes us back to 2001-02. For those who don’t remember, that season the Atlanta Hawks signed Jacque Vaughn to help stabilize their backcourt. Vaughn’s start was monumentally bad. Through the first four games of that season, Vaughn shot 0-22 and followed that up with a 1-5 showing in game five, which left him at a robust 1-27 (.037% ) from the field. Vaughn looked like his season was about tumble into the abyss. Somehow, he ended up the season with a career-best .470% (206-438 from the field). If you take away that puke start, Vaughn was .499% the rest of the way (by far his best season as a shooter). So, yes….it is too early to start worrying yet. Still, here are a few observations of interest:
-James Harden is putting up ridiculously good offensive numbers (31.6 ppg and 12.7 apg!). As a byproduct of this expanded role, Harden is on a pace to destroy his turnover record. He set the TO record last year with 374 (4.6 per game). So far, he has 5.3 TO/g, which would break 400 TOs. Incidentally, ball-dominant Russell Westbrook has the same TO rate so far. We had written about possibly breakable records a few weeks ago and concluded the TO record was breakable, so keep an eye on this one.
-Somehow, T.J. Warren has morphed from solid prospect to a high volume scorer with Phoenix. Warren is not the Suns’ primary scorer (that’d be Devin Booker) but Warren is getting almost as many shots (18 shots per game) and he is scoring copiously (21.7 ppg). Somehow, Warren has no more assists in the bigger minutes but, in any case, he may have just earned himself a huge contract soon.
-Another shocker is that the Lakers kept Nick Young and are actually getting solid minutes out of him. In 26 mpg, Young is scoring decently (13.7 ppg) and shooting a ton of threes (though not very proficiently). This may not last but it is nice to see Luke Walton trying to play to his player’s strengths instead of focusing on what they can’t do.
-The Nets will be a fascinating experiment on the merits of letting everyone shoot threes. Brook Lopez career three-point shooting before this season: 3-31. In five games this season, he is 7-21. This does come at a cost, as Lopez is down in blocks and boards.
-Given how early it is, good organizations will not panic. Then you have the Knicks…they have a perfectly solid team but panic seems to be setting in. The stats show a slightly above average offense and the worst defense so far in the NBA. Of course, the local tabloids are reporting: (a) that Phil Jackson wants more Triangle on offense and (b) that Kurt Rambis has been brought in to fix the defense. I won’t belabor this but the offense is fine and meddling with a Jeff Hornacek, a new coach, could be counterproductive. As for the defense angle, Rambis was a contender for this job and his presence is also not helpful for Hornacek. Even if his presence isn’t seen as a threat to Hornacek, Rambis has an established history as a poor defensive coach. As we wrote last season, Rambis’ teams have never been better than 28th defensively. It’s not clear how he’ll help on this front. The Knicks could pull out of this bad stretch and be a solid team but how do you fix bad management?