Week 1 Review: 6 takeaways from the NBA’s opening night

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The NBA 2019-20 season opened with a bang, with several upsets and many astounding debuts from its players, stars and nonstars alike. Here are some takeaways from the action we’ve seen so far.

 

Surprising rookie debuts

Despite missing our chance to see Zion Williamson’s regular-season NBA debut, several other rookies exploded right out of the gate. Charlotte’s PJ Washington hit seven 3-pointers en route to 27 points, more than he ever scored in college, while on the other side of the court, Coby White had 17 points and seven assists running Chicago’s offense.

Ja Morant, the No. 2 overall pick, showed off his offensive versatility for the Memphis Grizzlies, while the No. 3 pick, RJ Barrett, hit nine of his 13 shots on his way to 21 points for the New York Knicks. Yet …

 

Experience over youth

A recent trend in the NBA is the gravitation of teams toward younger, more energetic cores. This has led older All-Stars such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Goran Dragić to sign for less than the maximum salary, despite the number of younger players with fewer accolades who are receiving max offers.

And yet, if there’s anything to learn from the first games of the 2019-20 season, it’s that in close games, the veterans are the ones who can be relied upon. The Spurs, an aging led by DeMar DeRozan and the aforementioned Aldridge, went on a 21-2 run with seven minutes left in the game to finish off the rebuilding Knicks. Meanwhile, the more experienced Timberwolves spoiled Kyrie Irving’s 50-point Nets debut, winning by a single point in overtime.

Perhaps the most glaring example of this was the very first game of the season. The Raptors lost one of their best players, Pascal Siakam, in the fourth quarter, yet outscored the upstart Pelicans 13-5 in overtime, thanks to their archaic lineup of Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, who have all been in the league since 2008. And New Orleans’ best player throughout the last two minutes of regulation and overtime? Fourteen-year veteran JJ Redick, whose shot was hotter than Berkeley’s recent October weather.

Injuries suck

Four months after Golden State’s injury crisis robbed NBA fans of the most exciting finals matchup since LeBron James went back to Cleveland, the league is already plagued with injuries. 

Why are so many players injured before the season even begins? 

Williamson, the most anticipated rookie prospect since Anthony Davis eight years ago, underwent surgery on his right knee last week and isn’t expected to be back until December at the earliest. Superstars Paul George, Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler, who were all on All-NBA teams in recent years, missed their respective season openers and our first chance to see them propel their new teams toward success.

 

The Clippers already look like the best team in the Western Conference

We haven’t seen this level of dominance on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court since, well, last season’s Golden State team. 

But before the Warriors’ dynasty, not many championship teams could match the sheer dominance that Jerry West assembled in Los Angeles. Adding both Kawhi Leonard and George, two MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Award candidates, to a playoff team has given the Clippers a ceiling of a dynasty — one which could rival Golden State’s.

Tuesday’s manhandling of the Lakers was proof of their superiority, as the Clippers easily defeated their crosstown rivals, even though George was only watching from the sidelines in a tuxedo. That’s not to say that the Clippers are perfect, their ball movement is a bit lacking and their interior defense leaves much to be desired, but the race for the Western Conference may not be as close as experts predicted.

 

The four best players on opening night were all on the 2019 championship team

The four best players on opening night, Siakam (34 points, 18 rebounds), Fred VanVleet (34 points, seven assists), Leonard (30 points, six rebounds) and Danny Green (28 points, seven 3-pointers), were all part of last season’s championship squad. Coincidence? Probably, but it does speak volumes to the level of undervalued talent and depth Toronto had last season.

Crazy statlines

Two days in, we’ve seen some pretty insane statlines already. Irving had 50 points, along with eight rebounds and seven assists, in his debut with the Brooklyn Nets. Andre Drummond had a 32-point, 23-rebound outing for the Detroit Pistons, while Siakam and Karl-Anthony Towns also came close to the coveted 30-point, 20-rebound statline. It’s always great to see incredible statistical games, but having so many of them so soon brings the worry that they’ll be devalued, similar to how Russell Westbrook and James Harden devalued the triple-double.

Teddy Park writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].