The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
The Clippers lost to the Raptors last night, knocking them below .500, for their worst start since Chris Paul joined the team. Jason Concepcion pointed out the team’s broken and hopeless demeanor, like they’ve realized that no matter what they do, their best won’t be good enough to beat Stephen Curry and the Warriors. Greenberg attributes the West’s lackluster performance so far this season to that same effect, claiming the conference has dedicated itself so fully to defeating a singular player and his team that, as they come up short time after time, they’re being stripped of all hope. He sees the blossoming of the East as a sign that they’re playing in a more open ecosystem; without a singular apex predator to overcome, there’s room for more diverse play styles to evolve. While he seems to be overlooking how terrifying the Cavaliers must be to their rivals in the East, his analysis of how each conference is shaping up is well written, funny and worth your time.
Living in New York City, you hear a lot of casual fans talking about how Carmelo Anthony just isn’t a winner, that he’s a selfish player who will never be able to lead a team, that he doesn’t really care about the game. While it’s impressive how well they’ve memorized their lines from the “disaffected Knicks fan” that NYC issues with every driver’s license, it’s also a clear sign that they haven’t started watching basketball yet this season. As Linhares explains in his post, Anthony looks like a different player so far this year, working harder to get his teammates involved, locking in on defense and seeming, perhaps most importantly, like he’s having fun. It’s hard to picture last year’s Melo saying, “It felt good to hear his name being chanted in our arena. I’m proud of him” after Kristaps Porzingis lifted New York to victory over the Hornets with a career-high 29 points. It feels like Melo finally has something to play for. Now we just have to wait for Knicks fans to notice.
After their seemingly spontaneous discovery of small ball propelled them to surprising success in last year’s playoffs, expectations were high for the Washington Wizards this season. They’ve gotten off to a relatively slow start however, currently sitting at 6-4, good for seventh in the Eastern Conference. While the Wiz seem to do this “get everyone excited in the playoffs then come back to earth when the season starts” thing every year now, it’s still been a disappointment for Washington fans. Fortunately, they have Otto Porter to lift their spirits. The third pick from the notoriously disappointing 2013 draft, Porter was fitting right in with his class until last year’s playoffs, when he started looking like an effective 3-and-D player in the Wizard’s small lineups. He’s continued to improve this season, showing more comfort as a ball handler and passer while scoring efficiently inside, which has Mehic making a case for Porter as MIP. On the surface, it seems like a case of more minutes equaling more production, but Otto Pilot’s per-36 stats are up almost across the board. If the team can get more comfortable with their new style of play, things could start looking real good in the capital.
Whether you’re a hoops junkie trying to find some excitement on a night with a barren League Pass schedule or just looking for an edge in your fantasy league, it’s always worth knowing who’s doing amazing things outside the public eye. Pandian’s highlights five deserving players, although it’s hard to consider Langston Galloway under the radar considering how much attention the Knicks get. That being said, he’s chosen exciting players who deserve a look, both on their own merits and for the narratives surrounding their teams. The Brandon Knight/Eric Bledsoe pairing has Phoenix looking legitimately scary on good nights, Evan Fournier is lighting it up for a much-improved Magic team trying to break into the postseason and we talked about how fascinating the Ish Smith situation is in this space last Wednesday. It’s harder to get excited about Galloway or Miami’s Tyler Johnson due to market size, but the revitalization of the Knicks and the slowly coalescing chemistry of the Heat are no less engaging for the exposure they’ve gotten.
Speaking of excessive exposure and over examined narratives, here’s a piece on your 2015-16 Los Angeles Lakers. The emergence of Porzingis in NYC and the consistency of Jahlil Okafor in Philadelphia, combined with D’Angelo Russell’s early-season struggles, have a lot of Lakers fans bemoaning Mitch Kupchak’s decision on draft night; they are apparently unmoved by the fact that Russell is 19, and point guard is the hardest position in the league to learn. Given the negativity surrounding LA, Faigen’s breakdown of film from the last two games is a wind of hope, showing the ways Russell has found success in an admittedly small sample size. The games haven’t been incredible, and Russell clearly still has quite a ways to go, but seeing him making clean reads and knocking down open shots while showing clear improvement on defense should quiet some of the complaints coming from LA.