janvier 28, 2023

2022-23 NBA season: 10 takeaways at quarter-mark of campaign | NBA News

6 min read

With over 300 games played, and 19 of the 30 teams at the 20-game mark, it’s time to hit the pause button and reflect on proceedings now a quarter of the way through the season.

Sure, there’s no reason for any alarm bells yet. But with the Christmas reset fast approaching, there’ll be plenty of teams – and fans – eyeing up the health of their star players on the path to fame, glory, and perhaps championship status.

So, here are our ten big talking points on the action so far…

1) Tis the season of comebacks

Zion Williamson, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr, Kawhi Leonard…just a few of the big names that were sidelined last season as the Golden State Warriors carved their path to Championship glory (incidentally, without much of Klay Thompson).

Though it may have been a bitter pill to swallow, the very same stars are back, and the game has been so much more fruitful for it. We are seeing record-breaking stats on points-per-game, including already three 50-point performances from players split across both Conferences.

Teams are averaging above 100 points per possession, and as we approach the playoffs, the competitiveness should drive the likes of Thompson and co who sat out of last year’s proceedings to seek out vengeance on the half-court.

2) Boston Celtics bounce back

If there ever was a team to face all the off-season backlash and return from it renewed, it’s the Celtics.

Perhaps only rivalled by the Brooklyn Nets on that front (see point eight), Murphy’s Law has really wreaked havoc on them. From the scandal surrounding their suspended head coach Ime Udoka, to the injury to Robert Williams III, not a single person would’ve batted an eyelid if they had never recovered from last season’s slip in the NBA finals.

But the Celtics have proved able to shed themselves of that drama and are currently holding the best record in the league. They aren’t just edging their way to wins, they’re dominating games.

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Highlights of the Charlotte Hornets against the Boston Celtics in Week 7 of the NBA season.

Jayson Tatum is playing like a man in the MVP running, surrounded with a more than capable support system, in Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and more, the defence is consistently overturning possession – Joe Mazzulla has stumbled onto a pot of gold.

3) Lone-man Lebron

One thing that most NBA fans can agree on is that Lebron James does not have the right system around him at the Los Angeles Lakers for him to flourish and nail down Wilt Chambers’ all-time points record.

The stats proved it in the early weeks of the season – the Lakers hit an all-time record with their poor three-point shooting, languishing at 0-5 – and now, at the quarter-mark, the situation remains the same.

It hasn’t been all bad in his 20th season; indeed, both Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook have adapted well to the new issues, providing points when necessary and doing their all to be recognised as contenders to the Sixth Man award. In that sense, the Lakers should have enough to make it to the playoffs.

Yet, with a weak-supporting cast and a front office that continues to defy explanation in their decision-making, the future for one of NBA’s all-time shooters, remains unclear, whether that’s in LA, or elsewhere.

4) Wemby-mania

He’s all anyone is talking about: Victor Wembanyama, the man, the beast, a freak of nature that even Erling Haaland would gawk at.

With a seven-foot wingspan, and coming in at 7 ft 3, the reviews of all who have been watching him in France play for Metropolitan92 are raving. And just as the reviews, so are the teams in the hunt to snap him up (see point five!).

The best of the bunch may have come from Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, who suggested that calling Wembanyama a unicorn might not fully indicate how unique he is.

Instead, James went with an out-of-this-world comparison.

« Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, but he’s more like an alien, » James said. « No one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor … He’s, for sure, a generational talent. »

Golden State guard Stephen Curry added: « He’s like the (NBA) 2K create-a-player, every point guard that wants to be 7ft. Cheat-code type vibes, man. He’s a solid talent. It’s great to watch. »

If that isn’t a seal of approval, then what is?

5) The great tankathon

This season has thrown us quite a few surprises so far – one of them being the form of teams expected to give up their players and throw out the formbook, all in the hopes of joining in on « Wemby fever ».

The usual suspects have been anything but. For starters, the Utah Jazz, who dumped Donovan Mitchell Cleveland, and Rudy Gobert, are currently 12-11, having won their opening six games. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings are on a mini-winning streak, and have already won against the Warriors & Cavaliers.

There are teams who have made their tactics very clear, the Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs & Houston Rockets to name a few. And then there are teams very obviously walking the line, and perhaps unsure of which way they should swing (please see the Chet Holmgren-less Thunder).

Regardless, it’s going to be very interesting to see which team lands the most talked-about player since Lebron James first started.

6) MVP frontrunners

There already are a few favourites cutting ahead of the others – Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic – the current NBA top-scorer – Joel Embiid who is averaging over 30 points and six assists in his last five games. And that’s all without mentioning Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Donovan Mitchell has been posting the right figures since his move from the Jazz, while the Boston boys, Jaysun Tatum and Jaylen Brown, are ripping it up in the Eastern Conference.

If Doncic can sustain his current numbers, the title is his to lose. Yet, there may be more to be said about the surrounding pack.

7) Controversy galore

It wouldn’t be a normal NBA season if there wasn’t a touch of controversy involved. Fortunately, this season we’ve seen a touch more than a touch.

Even before the season began, there was a lot of drama surrounding the Boston Celtics’ head coach Udoka, who has been suspended for this season due to misconduct and breaching company policies. In stepped Mazzulla, and they never looked back.

The same can’t be said for the Brooklyn Nets, who have dealt with one debacle after the other. From Kevin Durant demanding a trade prior to the season, to the suspension of Kyrie Irving as a result of his antisemitic claims, it was probably fair that they didn’t hire Udoka when Nash decided to clean his hands of the franchise’ mess.

Elsewhere, the Jordan Poole punch is an interesting one, or more, funnily enough, Giannis and « laddergate »… (look it up).

8) Trade Talk

For all the talk surrounding the upcoming trade deadline, it serves to talk about the ones that made it into this season’s proceedings.

The number one pick, Paulo Banchero, was leading the charge, sustaining a 20-point-per-game performance until an ankle injury sidelined him for five weeks.

Chet Holmgren, the number two pick, suffered a far worse fate in a debilitating foot injury that would see him out of the action for the entirety of the season.

Jalen Smith and Jabari Smith Jr. have picked up the pieces, but it’s the Pacer’s Benedict Mathurin and Jazz’s Lauri Markkanen that have impressed the most.

Both could be big picks in this summer’s trade news.

9) Rule changes create chaos

Having said goodbye to last season’s take foul, the new ruling on transition take fouls has had a significant impact on the game action.

Playing is scoring more, and so are teams, and a lot of that has to do with the new method in place of adjudicating and penalties involved.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) shoots against Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Image:
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is the current NBA top-scorer

If you’re an NBA defender, this is probably not the most fun way to acquaint yourself with referees. But surprisingly, there have been some attacking plays that have been damaged by the inconsistency of which this rule is used.

10) Looking to the finals

Though we are only a quarter of the way in, enough basketball has been played to get a good visual on who might be lurking around the playoff finals come next summer.

The Celtics have taken a stronghold at the moment, but as this league has shown time and before, teams can pick up form and swiftly move through any given conference.

Keep an eye out for our coverage on every twist and turn of the upcoming schedule list.

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