Seven NBA Week 1 observations

November 6, 2012

With the 2012-2013 NBA season officially one week old, it's now time to present our initial musings, observations, and proclamations on all things around the league:

#1 Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti could have used a “Chemistry Consultant” prior to trading away James Harden because the 1-2 Thunder have struggled to replace Harden's production off the bench as a primary scoring option/playmaker.

Harden, an early-season MVP favorite, has demonstrated that his abilities are even greater than the potential he showed as the first option coming off the Thunder's bench.

Exploding for a combined 82 points in his first two games with the Rockets, Harden currently is averaging a league-best 35 points a night. It will be interesting to see if the Arizona State product can sustain this level of offensive explosiveness throughout the grueling 82-game schedule, while still playing starter's minutes.

#2 The key to the Knickerbockers success? Rasheed Wallace, Knicks knock down doubters en route to surprising 3-0 start.

Carmelo Anthony has been doing what 'Melo always does best: bullying and gunning, while scoring (27 ppg on 43% fg) and shooting at a high volume.

But coach Mike Woodson's real secret to the Knicks' first 3-0 start of the New Millenium is that he finally has the right kind of experienced, yet hungry group to buy into his system.

Although New York was considered by most to be the butt of jokes for signing several veteran performers either approaching or already on the wrong side of 40, the starting lineup -- featuring two of the most oft-criticized of GM Glen Grunwald's offseason pickups, Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd -- has thus far been bolstered by several key role players. Those players' contributions have come in the form of the surprisingly steady play of notoriously-erratic JR Smith; the active defensive pressure of underrated Ronnie Brewer; and the efficiency of Rasheed Wallace.

In fact, Roscoe, as he was famously known, has been the team's logic-defying, loosey-goosey jokester whose intelligent post defense, jump shooting, and excellent passing have made him the glue guy that the Knicks so desperately needed at the end of last season.

The eventual return of Iman Shumpert and Amar'e Stoudemire to the rotation could prove to be fortune or foil to this interesting collection in Gotham.

#3 Portland rookie point guard Damian Lillard is a star in the making.

Nothing is as clairvoyant as time immortal, however, there are some that would call Lillard a superstar point guard. Right now.

Starting with his 23-point, 11-assist debut in the season opener against the Lakers (a game in which the Weber State product joined Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players to drop 20 and 10 in their first game), and followed again by impressive outings against OKC's Russell Westbrook and former Knick phenom Jeremy Lin, Lillard has demonstrated that he could give presumptive Rookie of the Year favorite Anthony Davis a run for his money.

Aside from his eye-catching numbers (19 points, 8 assists, and one theft a night), the Bay Area native has shot 40% from the field and 94% from the free throw line, while deftly controlling tempo and showing an assertiveness and unflappable confidence that belies his youth.

If he keeps up his early season production, Portland could be troublesome for more than a few Western Conference contenders.

#4 As currently constituted, the Lakers lack of depth and defensive woes could cost them a championship.

Much has been made already about the Lakers winless start through the season's first 3 games. Although they were finally able to break through and secure their first win over Detroit on Sunday, the Lakers have looked rusty, unfamiliar with one another, and downright shaky thus far.

Their main concern has been lack of athleticism and depth coming off the bench at the perimeter positions, as evidenced by LA having the league's second lowest point per game output from their reserves. That problem has now been compounded by the addition of Steve Nash.

Although the two-time former League MVP remains one of the game's pre-eminent playmakers, he is quite possibly the worst perimeter defender in the Association.

Moreover, one area that has yet to be addressed by the mainstream media creationists is that in years past, Kobe's defensive prowess was always augmented by the presence of a Trevor Ariza, Shannon Brown, and even a Jordan Farmar, all of whom used to help do much of the heavy lifting in guarding the opposing team's guards and wings. The newly-added Antawn Jamison, although a proven commodity as a scorer, will not likely help in this regard, as the veteran Tarheel was never a noted defensive stopper, nor is he particularly adept as a ballhandler.

With the Canadian quarterback currently out with a slight leg fracture, look for the increased burden on Metta World Peace and Kobe to be problematic in the long run, as they are all simply too slow afoot to disrupt the plethora of elite young greyhounds running throughout the Western Conference.

Don't be surprised if Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak makes a play for another proven veteran performer willing to come off the bench for this title contender.

#5 Is Portland, Denver, Minnesota, Golden State, Dallas, Houston, and/or Sacramento ready to separate themselves from the pack and earn one of the final two Western Conference playoff spots?

Assuming that San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Utah, Memphis, and both Los Angeles-based teams will have straightened things out and sown up the top 6 seeds in the conference, the question then becomes who will grab spots 7 and 8?

My money is on Portland and either Dallas or Houston to round out the teams qualifying for the postseason out West. Why Portland? See #6 below and #3 above.

#6 Is LaMarcus Aldridge finally ready to breakout into superstardom?

Currently averaging 22 points and 9 boards, Aldridge has upped his production considerably this year compared to his career marks of 17.9 and 7.6.

Aldridge's performance actually has some of the Rip City faithful worried that the man affectionately called "LA" just might be the next in a long line of Blazers big men -- Rasheed Wallace, Jermaine O’Neal, and Zach Randolph, among them -- to be groomed to the cusp of stardom, only to then relocate and enjoy greater success elsewhere.

#7 Are Michael Jordan’s Bobcats finally heading in the right direction after a historically dismal season?

Believe it or not, the future could be brighter this year for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Jordan has assembled a decent, yet unspectacular core featuring a good nucleus of young and experienced mid-level type players.

The Charlotte front office and coaching staff has shrewdly paired promising youngsters such as Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist alongside solid vets Ben Gordon, Brendan Haywood, and Gerald Henderson. If new Coach Dunlap can get any significant production from wild cards Ramon Sessions and Tyrus Thomas, the Bobcats could be a step closer to respectability.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for The Daily Sports Herald

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