The Hustle: Week Four – Overreactions

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CSJ >>> Alright, Mitchell, all 30 NBA teams have played at least a couple of games at this point and the narratives are flying. What’s your favorite Week 1 Overreaction?

 

PM>>> HAVEN’T YOU HEARD, ST. JEAN, THE WARRIORS ARE DOOMED!

The pieces obviously don’t fit, Kevin Durant is softer than Benny the Bull, and Klay Thompson is a lock to be traded by Thanksgiving. And that was just after Tuesday’s lopsided loss to the Spurs!

For all of the bloviating, however, there is some reason to pump the brakes on the “74-8” talk, even just three games into the season. The defense looks like it will take some time to gel and adapt to life without Andrew Bogut, and the offense is often a little too reliant on the north-to-south decision making of Draymond Green to run optimally (and which can be stymied by elite defenders such as Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, of late).

The offense will be fine with more collective reps, given the pretty decent collection of shooting in the starting lineup, but the defensive concerns might be a symptom of personnel and the lack of true rim protection on the roster. Zaza Pachulia’s defensive skills differ from that of his predecessor, with a lower contest rate last season while surrendering a higher field goal percentage by Nylon Calculus’ numbers, and doesn’t nearly intimidate opponents at the rim the way Bogut does (through a combination of blocks and cheap shots).

Seeing the ease with which Warriors foes are getting to the basket has to drive head coach Steve Kerr (and the assistant coaching duo of Mike Brown and Ron Adams) insane, especially following T.J. Warren’s 26-point performance in a tight contest Sunday afternoon. Witnessing Jared Dudley’s wide-open layup in a #LeaguePassAlert/close-and-late situation almost drove me insane, which was probably aided by my frustrations in trying to watch the game on the NBA’s truly awful LP interface. Right now players are unafraid to enter the paint against the once-deadly Warriors D, and it’s unsure if a Zaza or David West hard foul will be enough to put the fear back into the rest of the league.

Time could alleviate any Warrior worries, or perhaps Kerr makes up with Draymond and embraces the “Lineup of Death” on a full-time basis. Either way, the lack of rim protection is an issue that needs to be addressed over the next 79 games if the Warriors are to realize their destiny as the league’s greatest villains, because otherwise Golden State appears vulnerable.

(/cue 20-game winning streak)

As far as the flip side of that “overreaction” coin, I have a feeling that the Chicago Bulls won’t be the league’s most efficient offense following the season’s end. Call that a bold take; I’m just going to need Dwyan3 Wad3 to prove his three-point stroke over a longer sample size, not to mention the chemistry concerns with Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler over ball-handling responsibilities. It could all work since, y’know, they’re adults and all, but put me in the “wait and see” camp.

Possibly sustainable trend: the Atlanta Hawks (again) finishing with a top-five defense. The numbers are inflated (deflated? Too soon, says a Patriots fan) due to a dominant home effort Saturday afternoon against the Philadelphia 76ers, but this is a team with two quality bigs and suddenly some wing depth (all praise Coach Budz), which usually translates well in the defensive rankings. If Atlanta’s defense sustains, we’re looking at potentially a top-three team in the Eastern Conference.

How say you, St. Jean? You’re usually the more measured voice; which trends are you buying this early into the season? Any teams/players/stats that strike you as especially fluky, albeit just three games in? And are you worried about the Warriors yet?

 

CSJ >>> I’d say worried is a strong word Mitchell. But the interior defensive concerns are real. As for any concerns with this offense, well, let’s just say I expect that to be short lived.

I’m also reserving my Warriors hot take for Friday morning after Russell Westbrook goes almighty on them on his way to a 5-0 start. He might actually burst into flames on the court on Thursday night. Just saying. Have your fire extinguishers handy folks.

And speaking of the red hot Thunder, who would have pegged this team as a defensive juggernaut to start the season (currently 3rd in Defensive Rating according to NBA.com)? Although I am sensing a theme here. Atlanta and OKC, two of the top three defenses in the league each played Philadelphia already. Ok.

You’re right to jump all over the Chicago Bulls as the NBA’s #1 offense and an elite outside shooting team? Didn’t I just write about how their roster defies the laws of modern basketball two weeks ago? Rondo must have put our piece on the bulletin board of the United Center.

And only slightly less shocking, but also way more enjoyable version of your Bulls observation is with the Minnesota Timberwolves. We’ll be diving into them in more depth soon (and I’ll be observing them in person Thursday night!), but this team is 4th in the NBA in offensive rating at this time. That’s exciting, but also surprising since they are still battling the habits Sam Mitchell instilled in them last season as they are still 28th in the league in 3-point attempts per game.

I think we forgot in our excitement that there are still hardly any 3-point shooters on this roster and that’s not changing with Ricky Rubio now injured and Kris Dunn assumingly taking a larger role earlier than expected. But somehow the Wolves are still humming offensively. It helps that they are a low turnover team (6th best) that is getting to the line 30 times per game (3rd in the league).

The great thing about the NBA though Mitchell, especially early in the season, is that the stories get re-written every night. What’s the story going to be tomorrow?

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