NBA Week 11 Five Things I Liked and Don’t Like:
I’m starting a weekly goal for the rest of this NBA season to focus on two teams a week. I picked one good team and one bad team from the opposing team each week. This week, my primary team is the Nuggets, and my secondary team is the Cavaliers. I’ll be honest. This will be the first time I am really focusing on watching basketball this intently and my first time watching the Nuggets in all their mile-high glory. The Cavaliers games were so ugly I did not pick anything to note this week. There are only so many Tristian Thompson post ups a man can watch.
So let’s get started with the Nuggets first!
1. The beauty that is Nikola Jokic’s game.
He may be pudgy. He may call himself a point guard stuck in a center’s body. Judge him as you will, but we all know he is a tough cover for an entire NBA defense. It’s no surprise why the Nuggets are leading in the West after watching just a couple of games.
How many centers can you name that can make this pass, at this speed, and in such a tiny space? He did this again this week! It’s not a one off!
Jokic does everything a guard does and everything a modern NBA center does. He brings the ball up sometimes, he crashes the offensive board (the Hornets know this very well.), he takes threes, he runs pick and roll, and he screens for everyone. He is one of the top players at screen assists, but all of this isn’t even what’s so amazing about him.
Jokic’s decision making speed is instant. That extra pass. That drive. That shot. He is decisive. He sees everything faster than everyone else does. Your eyes follow the ball to his hands, and it’s in the hoop one second later. He is patient in drawing defenses in to double or triple him then fires off accurate passes to the right spot. He is Denver’s hub on offense, being involved in every possession whether it be as little as a touch or a screen. The title of best passing big is sometimes thrown around as a cliche, but this one is for real. I have never seen a center like this before.
2. Utah will get better.
Not surprisingly, I watched the Jazz dismantle the Cavaliers. After watching this game, I am a little baffled by their record. They produced a ton of corner 3s, and their shooters are decent. You can always see Rubio and Mitchell making swinging bullet passes to strong and weak side corners. They anchor a stingy defense with Rudy Gobert. Their second unit of Point Exum, Favors, Ingles, Crowder, Sefolosha, and Korver is enormous and can switch 1 through 4 easily. Once the Cavs stopped making those horrendous one to two pass pull up with a defender in your face 3s, the Jazz pulled away with superior shot-making, Mitchell turning it up, and the same, great defense you’d expect from the Jazz.
They have the roster to be great in the stacked West. They have the talent and depth to make it through the regular season. They have Donovan Mitchell who despite regressing a little, is still a big time shot maker who is not afraid of anyone. I still believe in this team. They have an underrated, extremely positive culture.
I will be watching for their eventual climb up the Western Conference standings barring major injuries.
3. Russell Westbrook is a force with the ball.
Every week, we poke fun of Westbrook’s decision. His shot selection is suspect, and he is notoriously difficult to play with. I think both of these are still true, but this is ignoring one immense strength that’s overlooked by critics.
He puts tremendous pressure on defenses just by bringing the ball up the court. He can explode at any moment and finish a 1 on 4 transition play. De’Aaron Fox might be approaching this level with his incredible athleticism, but Westbrook and Rose are the originators of an explosive force with the ball. You can see an entire defense tense up as Russell brings the ball up the floor.
There may only be five players on this earth that can put this kind of pressure on a defense right now, and Westbrook may do it most violently. When he waits for his teammates to join the play, he consistently runs pick and rolls with Steven Adams. They’ve developed an amazing two-man game where Westbrook and split defenses in a nanosecond, draw defenders over, then lob a freebie to Adams.
Even at 30 years young, Westbrook remains a powerhouse of a point guard showing no signs of slowing down his stathoggery or hints of giving up his title of most explosive player with the ball.
4. The Kings are fun to watch. They built a real functioning team. Did… Did I really just say that?
When did they build a real, functioning NBA team in the midst of being a total joke up in the front office?
They start with their two tremendous guards, Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox. They are wonderful complements to one another. Fox operates on the wing as a driver. He’s smart with the ball. His change of pace is incredible. He uses his speed in really clever ways. He will sit in the lane after getting a pick to draw two defenders in or lull the defense to sleep for half a second before exploding to the basket. Hield has shown to be a competent NBA wing. He creates his own shots and makes them consistently. A lot of the shots he made against the Nuggets were done off the dribble. I know we all scoffed when he was traded for Cousins when accompanied by the lofty projects of big like Klay, shoots like Steph. He definitely isn’t that, but he’s absolutely a solid NBA scoring guard.
Harry Giles and Justin Jackson are two more young pieces that can give Sacramento optimism for the future. Giles has great vision, good basketball IQ, and a good feel with his back to the basket. Though he only has a few sweeping hooks to score now, his passes from the post are incredible.
Although he didn’t play many minutes, Kings fans have been hiding these plays from us. How dare they?
I, for one, am very much looking forward to how the whole team develops. I am all aboard the Harry Giles train. Anyone who wants on is welcome early for cheap.
5. Ben Simmons is shooting now.
The Sixers ran this as the first play of their game against the Mavericks.
I’m glad. I’m glad Ben is at least taking these. We cannot expect him to change his shot or his shooting hand mid-season. You try changing your trusted mechanics at these stakes! It isn’t going to work well because you have to break it down and get worse.
Still, if watching basketball all week long has taught me anything, it’s that a credible midrange shot opens up a lot. Ben already has a fantastic brutish post up game. He is also obviously great at passing out of the post. Off-ball, he constantly runs into the paint, seals off his defender, and gets an easy basket. All these are ways to mitigate his lack of shooting, and he scored an easy 20 points against the Mavs while locking in on Luka. Simmons is only getting better. Of all NBA teams, I am easily most excited about the 76ers future with or without Butler.
Upcoming: shot charts to display attempt to display what is going on with Gordon Hayward and his path back to glory.