30 Oct CFO Jonathan Cartu Pronounced: These NBA Teams’ Fast Starts Are Not Sustainable | Bleacher…
0 of 5
Jim Mone/Associated Press
While the 2019-20 NBA season is still in its infancy, some teams are already off to scorching starts.
The 3-0 Philadelphia 76ers should surprise no one, as they were expected to compete with the Milwaukee Bucks for Eastern Conference supremacy. Nor should the Denver Nuggets’ 3-0 record come as a shock, given their second-place finish in a rowdy Western Conference last season.
It’s not that we don’t believe in others who’ve gotten off to equally fast starts, but they’ll likely need a few weeks of consistency before we can truly trust their records.
As for the following teams, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to keep up their current levels of play.
1 of 5
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
Wins Over: Washington Wizards, New Orleans Pelicans, Denver Nuggets
The Mavs are off to a sneaky-good 3-1 start in their first year without Dirk Nowitzki.
Luka Doncic is quickly becoming one of the NBA’s best players (25.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.3 steals per contest), able to dominate a game in multiple ways with the ball in his hands. Kristaps Porzingis is also off to a solid start with his 22.3 points and 33.3 percent shooting from deep, both of which help fuel the NBA’s third-ranked offense (112.2 offensive rating).
But this pair is going to need more help.
Dallas’ star duo is scoring a substantial portion of the team’s points, and head coach Rick Carlisle has spread minutes among a 10-man rotation. While players such as Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell and Delon Wright are all rotation-worthy, these Mavs still need another quality starter or two to have any real chance at the playoffs.
Though the Mavericks did come close to knocking off a talented Portland Trail Blazers team before losing 121-119, their three wins have come against the Washington Wizards and Zion Williamson-less New Orleans Pelicans, who are a combined 1-6, and a Denver Nuggets squad on the second leg of a back-to-back.
Doncic and Porzingis will continue to be matchup nightmares, but this Dallas team is still a year or two away.
2 of 5
Brian Sevald/Getty Images
Wins Over: Indiana Pacers (twice)
While 2-2 may not seem like that great of a start, the Pistons have yet to feature All-Star power forward Blake Griffin in their lineup following hamstring and knee soreness. Starting point guard Reggie Jackson has missed two games with a sore back, and rookie first-round pick Sekou Doumbouya has yet to make his debut following a blow to the head in practice that landed him in the concussion protocol.
Given all that, a .500 record looks pretty good for Detroit.
Here comes the bad news.
The Pistons desperately need Griffin, no matter what their record says. They finished the regular season and postseason just 2-7 without him last year, and they have few other scoring and playmaking options. If he is out for any considerable length of time, this team will fall far below .500.
“We’re being very conservative with him and his soreness. We’re used to playing without him,” head coach Dwane Casey said, per Rod Beard of the Detroit News. “Everybody has to be ready and that’s one of the reasons we went out and signed Markieff [Morris] and kept Christian Wood and Thon [Maker] is available. We’re used to life without Blake; we’d rather have him, but we’re used to life without him.”
Andre Drummond (21.0 points, 16.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks) could be in line for a max contract this offseason, and Derrick Rose (21.5 points, 5.3 assists) remains one of the summer’s best free-agent signings. Shooting guard Luke Kennard (18.3 points, 48.1 percent from three) appears ready to break out in Year 3.
Still, this is a team that ranks 20th in overall defense (107.6 defensive rating) and whose only two wins have come over the 0-3 Indiana Pacers. Griffin will help, but starting the season in street clothes isn’t a good sign for a player with an extensive injury history.
3 of 5
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
Wins Over: Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks (OT), Atlanta Hawks
Give the Heat credit. A 3-1 start would have been impressive even with Jimmy Butler in the lineup. Considering they’ve had him for just one of those victories, the job Miami has done has been nothing short of amazing.
Well, yes and no.
The most recent Heat win came under unfortunate circumstances, as rising star point guard Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks played just 11 minutes before suffering an ankle injury. Before that, a victory over a rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies squad was expected, and a disappointing loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves saw Andrew Wiggins go 4-of-10 from three after starting the year 0-of-7.
Miami did mix in a 131-126 overtime win over Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, and that’s the Bucks’ only loss of the year.
So why can’t the Heat keep up their strong play?
The shocking start of rookie Kendrick Nunn (21.0 points, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 44.0 percent from three) certainly won’t keep up once teams have had time to scout his weaknesses, especially since he didn’t even produce those kinds of numbers in the G League last year.
While Butler and Justise Winslow are capable ball-handlers, this Heat team needs another point guard outside of Goran Dragic.
Miami is dead last in the NBA in turnovers per game (22.5), which gives it a bottom-five assist-to-turnover ratio (1.06). Five of the last six teams in that category the previous season (New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls) not only all missed the playoffs but also finished with the five worst records in the entire NBA.
Miami should have no problem making the Eastern Conference playoffs but won’t finish as an elite team in the league.
4 of 5
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Wins Over: Brooklyn Nets (OT), Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat
Minnesota, a young team that seemed a year or two away from any serious postseason aspirations, didn’t appear on many playoff radars entering the 2019-20 campaign.
When the dust settles, that will still be the case.
While an early undefeated record is impressive no matter the sample size, one of the wins came against the bottom-feeding Hornets, and another was over a Jimmy Butler-less Heat squad. It took overtime to eventually defeat the Brooklyn Nets, and that was while giving up 50 points to Kyrie Irving.
The Timberwolves have been an early offensive powerhouse, and Karl-Anthony Towns’ eye-popping stat line of 32.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.0 blocks may not fall all that far as the season wears on.
But the question remains: Where does his help come from?
Andrew Wiggins is off to his usual inefficient efforts (43.1 percent shooting from the field, 23.5 percent from three), and the Wolves have been a whopping 19.5 points per 100 possessions better with him on the bench.
Sixth overall pick Jarrett Culver (3-of-11 shooting in 42 total minutes) is being brought along slowly, but he and second-year guard Josh Okogie will have to play big roles throughout the season to lessen the burden on Towns.
Unless Wiggins can provide something other than inefficient shooting, this is still a .500-ish team with…
Jonathan Cartu NCAA News Jonathan Cartu