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The Starting 5: Welcome to the Season, Good Kobe

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The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet 

1. “Kobe Bryant looks like an NBA player again, can it last?” – Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll

In a shocking development, the light bulb has come on in Kobe’s head. He’s finally backing up his talk about turning over the team to his much younger teammates, and it’s resulted in generally better play from the Lakers. Faigen offers a fantastic breakdown on how Kobe has improved and whether or not it’s sustainable.

I’d like to pose a question for Lakers fans, though: would you rather have the Kobe of the past five games playing for the remainder of the season, allowing the youngsters the necessary reps to develop, but causing the team to win too many games to keep its protected top three draft pick?

Or would you rather have Kobe go out with a whimper, delaying the growth of the franchise’s future, but then keeping the top three pick?

2. “Grizzlies treating small ball as their new normal” – Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal

Folks, we’re witnessing one of the most surprising developments in the history of the world: the Memphis Grizzlies are playing small-ball.

The Grit ‘n Grind Grizzlies aren’t just going to non-traditional lineups on occasion — they’re starting one. Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Matt Barnes and Marc Gasol have started the past three games, and they’ve accumulated a plus-13.0 net rating in those contests.

Tillery goes in-depth on the change, which could be just what disappointing Memphis needs to regain its mojo.

3. “In Search of Super Mario” – Mark Woods of MVP Ultimate Basketball

Which player selected in the top 11 picks of the 2015 NBA Draft has played the fewest minutes per game this season? If you guessed No. 5 selection Mario Hezonja, you’re correct.

In the Orlando Magic rookie’s 12.2 minutes per contest, he isn’t really doing anything that great. However, Scott Skiles has given Hezonja some run at the point-guard position in his sparse playing time, which could be seen as a surprising move.

Woods gets some really candid quotes from the Croatian sharpshooter here.

4. “Carmelo Anthony Is Among the NBA’s Best Defenders – But Are the Numbers Lying” – Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal

Melo’s offensive numbers this year are down a decent amount. And since he’s obviously a defensive liability, that means rookie Kristaps Porzingis is already the true superstar  in New York.

That’s what many people in the NBA sphere would lead you to believe, but Herring explains here that Melo has actually taken a step forward on the defensive end.

The 31-year-old small forward isn’t quite a lockdown wing as his numbers might suggest, but we need to give him credit for improving a longtime weakness in his game. And Porzingis is great, but I still feel like Melo and the attention he draws offensively is the engine behind that team.

5. “Suns Backcourt Finds Its Balance” – Troy Tauscher of BBALLBREAKDOWN

Besides the Splash Brothers, I’m taking the Eric Bledsoe/Brandon Knight backcourt over any 1-2 combo.

The Goran Dragic-Isaiah Thomas-Bledsoe three-headed monster had plenty of potential, but the trio just never had the chemistry to make it work. As Tauscher details, Knight is willing and has the skills to play off the ball, which fits well next to Bledsoe.

Now that Phoenix’s backcourt is set, it just needs to find some surefire building blocks at the other three positions.

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