We are just over a week into the 2018-19 NBA season. So far this season, there have been lots of surprise players and teams. In some cases, they have been pleasant surprises. In other cases, they have been disappointments.
Even though sample sizes for most teams are small, it is not too early to check in with the state of the league. In a bid to help bettors with their picks at the offshore USA sportsbooks, this NBA Week 1 review will analyze which teams are in form and which are not. We will focus on three teams that are improving their stock around the league and three other squads that are causing fans to temper their expectations.
NBA Week 1 Risers
Milwaukee Bucks (4-0, No. 2 in the Eastern Conference)
It is amazing what a difference good coaching can make on a talented roster. The Bucks hired Mike Budenholzer in the offseason to replace interim head coach Joe Prunty and the early returns have been amazing.
Milwaukee has increased its three-point attempts per game from 24.7 last season to a sky-high 40.8 this year, and the Bucks are making a good percentage of them. All those outside shots are helping superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo (28.5 points, 16.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game) do what he does bests without having to worry about floor spacing.
On defense, the Bucks are playing in a disciplined manner and dominating the boards, which is a major change from previous years.
New Orleans Pelicans (3-0, No. 1 in the Western Conference)
It’s not too early to get an “Anthony Davis for MVP” campaign going. New Orleans’ superstar big man looks better than ever, with averages of 30.3 points, 13 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2 steals and 3.3 blocks per game on great shooting efficiency.
Davis is getting a whole bunch of help, though, especially from frontcourt teammates Nikola Mirotic and free agent singing Julius Randle. Those two are putting up a combined 46.7 points and 19.3 rebounds per contest and absolutely thriving off the attention that AD draws from defenses.
Shots won’t continue to fall like they are for the Pelicans, but New Orleans does look like an awfully easy choice to make the playoffs right now.
Detroit Pistons (4-0, No. 3 in the Eastern Conference)
Detroit has been masterful so far this season at pulling out close victories. Three of their four victories have come by three points or fewer. The fourth victory came by a mere seven points over the winless Cavaliers.
Also, the Pistons have played three of their four contests at home and have yet to face a squad above .500. So Detroit could definitely be in for some regression very soon.
For now, though, Pistons fans should be thrilled with what the team is getting out of Blake Griffin. Many people treated the 29-year-old power forward as an afterthought heading into the year, but he is putting up monster numbers of 33.8 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists per game. His frontcourt mate, Andre Drummond, is also frustrating opponents to the tune of 18.5 points and 17.8 rebounds per contest.
NBA Week 1 Fallers
Houston Rockets (1-3, No. 13 in the Western Conference)
Houston was a juggernaut last year, winning 65 games in the regular season and coming oh-so-close to upending the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.
Early this season, the Rockets have been grounded, though. They just haven’t had many stretches where they have combined good offense with good defense, which was the norm last season. The losses of three-and-D wings Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute seem to be hurting.
Also, reigning league MVP James Harden is now dealing with a hamstring strain and will be out two games. Considering how shaky the Rockets’ bench looks right now, Houston really needs Harden to get back to full strength right away.
Oklahoma City Thunder (0-4, No. 15 in the Western Conference)
Three-point shooting is the name of the game in today’s NBA. So when a team like the Thunder fares so poorly at taking outside shots, it is a problem. Oklahoma City is fourth-last in the NBA in made threes per game (8.3) and dead last in three-point percentage (24.1) by a huge margin.
Some of that inefficiency is just bad luck, but the Thunder also have a serious dearth of outside shooting punch on their roster outside of Paul George. The defense is very good on paper, but it has trouble putting together a full 48 minutes of consistent effort on that end.
Head coach Billy Donovan may be on the hot seat very early in the season with his team playing so far below its talent level.
Philadelphia 76ers (2-3, No. 10 in the Eastern Conference)
The 76ers certainly haven’t played as poorly as the Rockets or Thunder. But early returns on the Sixers have been pretty lackluster overall. Power forward Dario Saric has been surprisingly poor on both ends of the floor. Second-year guard Markelle Fultz has not yet looked like the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. That is two big-minute guys who Philly hasn’t really gotten much production from.
Philly’s two wins have come against the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic, both two teams lacking in talent and quality experience. The squad got blown out by at least 15 points in its only two games against playoff teams from last year (the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks).
The Sixers aren’t really dominating their opponents in any statistical category. For a team with championship aspirations, that needs to change.