Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Random Opening Night Impressions

Despite watching real NBA basketball for the first time until June, I tried not to conclude too much from the 4 games that were on Opening Night. Many teams are still searching for their identity, and the bottom line is, what really matters is the form teams hit right around mid-April. However, here some things that I did find worth writing about from the two games I focused on (I got some action from the other two, but not enough to make extreme observations) - take them lightly, as it is still very, very early:

Boston 95, Cleveland 89

  • Cleveland: After a very strong 1st quarter, Cleveland's offense collapsed, regressing back to that dreadful Lebron-vs-5 stage that we know all too well. If Mike Brown can't figure out a way to get the rest of the team involved, the Cavs will be in trouble.
  • The Cavs really missed Delonte West last night. Daniel Gibson just isn't much more than a streaky spot-up shooter, leaving the Cavs with a very thing backcourt rotation, not to mention West being their best defensive guard. I don't know if and when West recovers from personal issues and comes back, and I truly hope that he does that only after regaining full mental health, but the Cavs probably need another guard even if he does return (Antonio Daniels has been mentioned).
  • Anthony Parker too way too many bad, forced shots. Though he is fully capable of scoring at a high clip, this isn't the role he should fill for the Cavs.
  • Shaquille O'neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas can not play together under any circumstances. Each one of them is a defensive liability on their own, the two of them together is too much.
  • Speaking of Z, he seemed incredibly uncomfortable coming off the bench. I don't think Shaq will agree to playing as a 6th man, but after years of establishing Z early in the game, the Cavs need to find a new way of keeping him effective. Shaq, on the other hand, struggled offensively in the second half (1 of 5 from the field) after a decent first one - he still has plenty of time to find his rythem, but if he can't score consistently in the post against big teams, his acquasition is kind of moot.

  • Boston: Boston played great defense throughout the game, but I still have my concerns. The Celts couldn't do anything about Lebron, who torched them for 38 points on 22 shots. Admitedly, if Lebron wants to torch a team he will, but in my eyes Boston still lacks that Posey-type defensive presence at the wing positions that was so crucial for their 2008 title.
  • Free Agent signee Rasheed Wallace looke awfully trigger happy, attempting six 3 pointers. It's too late in his career to move Sheed back in the post, but against teams with better defenders at the 4 spot he can't shoot that much.
  • Kevin Garnett seemed healthy, but not spectacular, with 13 points (5 of 10 from the field), 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. However, he did botch a wide open dunk. Lets not forget that the NBA season is very long, and it's KG's April form that will matter, eventually.
  • Ray Allen had a very good first half, and a very bad second one. Allen has always been a very productive player, but I just can't shake off the feeling that he is mostly just a shooter at this stage of his career (one of the reasons I have Boston pegged as #3 in the East).

Portland 96, Houston 87

  • Portland: Greg Oden was absolutely terrible offensivly, scoring only 2 points, and putting up 7 turnovers (many of them on offensive fouls - don't have the exact numbers with me). However, Oden produced a defensive display of the highest quality, grabbing 12 rebounds, blocking 5 shots, and altering many more. The Blazers are so stacked offensively, that they can afford to give Greg's offensive game time to evolve. If he continues defending like last night, it could be enough to make Portland an elite squad.
  • Martell Webster started in place of the injured Nicolas Batum, and had a very efficient 14 points on 7 shots. Webster missed last season due to injury, but is a gifted scorer, with great athleticism. If Webster can start fulfilling the promise he has shown at time, the Blazers will benifit greatly, whether via a strengthed rotation, or by adding yet another trade asset to a seemingly infinite collection.
  • Andre Miller showed no sign of his reported unhappiness after signing with the Blazers in the offseason, coming off the bench for 9 points and seven assists. I actually think Miller fits better with the Blazers second unit then the first, as starter Steve Blake's outside shooting better complements superstar Brandon Roy. It was nice to see Miller doing his best to fit in, since he has always been a player who has played well below his abilities due to a bad attitude.
  • Travis Outlaw led all scorers with 23 points. The Blazers have reportedly been very open to trading Outlaw and his expiring contract, but the guy can just plain shoot. I don't really like seeing him at the 4 - he is a small forward in every way - but he can contribute regardless of position.

  • Houston: David Andersen had 11 points and 5 rebounds in his NBA debut. I really like Andersen's offensive game - he was amongst the Euroleagues top big men for years - and he could prove to be a very valuable scorer for a Houston team that will struggle to put points up. Very underrated offseason pickup for the wonderful Daryl Morey.
  • Chase Budinger could be another potential scorer for this team. The second round draft pick was once considered a lottery lock, but fell due to concerns about him being one dimensional - a scorer and not much else. With a team desperate for scoring, however, he could be huge.
  • Aaron Brooks broke out last postseason when he carried the Rockets to a 7th game against the eventual champions, but I'm not sold. Brooks is way to small to guard shooting guards (he can barely guard point guards), but he plays like a 2. If Brooks doesn't develop a passing game, I don't think he can handle the ball. Brooks scored 19 last night, but he used the ball mainly for dribbling aimlessly in all directions. Not the guy you want distributing the ball to the rest of your team.
  • I love Trevor Ariza. The Lakers wouldn't have won the title without him last year. But he's a role player - a perfect role player, but a role player nontheless. If this Houston squad turns to him as a leading scorer, they're in trouble.

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