It's never too early—or too late, for that matter—to make crazy predictions based on a small sample size. So that's what we're here to do, based on the early NBA action. Your favorite team is anywhere from three to four games deep in an 82 game season, but we're not letting that cloud any conventional notion of what evaluations are premature and which ones aren't. Maybe, just maybe, it's time to let the old ways die. Onward!
5 Completely Premature Takeaways from the NBA Season So Far
Jayson Tatum is a generational Celtic, Caris LeVert is an MVP candidate, the Lakers are DOOMED and more
The Lakers' Future Coach is Already on Their Bench
I take no joy in this observation. I like Walton. But the writing was on the wall.
LeBron not meeting with Luke Walton before signing to a four-year deal—that's an immediate red flag. It's the literal equivalent of not meeting your boss before agreeing to work at their company for four years. At best, it means LeBron didn’t foresee Walton’s role as head coach being impactful enough to matter, and at worst, it means Bron was making plans for someone else to take his spot.
In Cleveland, original head coach David Blatt’s lack of connection to LeBron and team was well-documented. Tyronn Lue capitalized by getting a hold of Bron’s ear and ultimately usurping Blatt. Let’s pay close attention to the bench and huddles to see who LeBron is turning to first.
Trae Young is GOOD
If you asked two random NBA fans their opinion of Trae Young back in May, you would have gotten two totally different responses. Then, after he was traded for Luka Doncic on draft night, only two opinions remained: "Reincarnation of Steph Curry" or "BUST."
But now, after three games against lottery teams, we’ve got our answer—Trae Young is good. He’s averaging 23 PPG and 8 APG while shooting 45 percent from the field and already put up his first monster stat line of 35 points and 11 dimes. Of course, it’s law that we must compare these numbers to Curry’s. In the three first games of Chef’s career, his splits were 11 PPG 6 APG on 55 percent shooting; and it took him fifty-one games before he dropped 35 and 11.
Worth calling out, though, is the fact that Young is two years younger than when Curry entered the league, making Young’s numbers even more impressive. I'm never second-guessing GM Quavo again.
This Is the Best Raptors Team Ever
The notion that the Raptors had peaked has been floated during each of the past five seasons, despite the core of the team never really changing. And now, after the Raptors’ first major roster change in ages, it finally feels real.
The Raptors are 4–0, including wins over both the Wizards and the East favorite by internet-consensus, the Celtics. And in addition to actual hard, four-games-in evidence, they look really good, too! Yep, Kyle Lowry appears to be in the best shape of his life and it shows. He’s averaging 21.5 PPG 10 APG on 60 percent shooting. Kawhi Leonard looks like a better version of DeMar DeRozan in every category and supporting players OG Anunoby, Jonas Valanciunas, Pascal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet all look competent enough to be depended on in key moments.
Guys, this is the best Raptors team ever.
Ayton and Booker are Shaq and Kobe 2018
This is the Gen Z version of one of the NBA's most famous duos, albeit with less rapping. (Booker was reportedly dating model and Kylie Jenner BFF Jordyn Woods, which is sort of like the 2018 equivalent of Kobe and Tyra Banks.) Ayton, it should be said, has a little ways to go to catch Shaq’s comfortability with the spotlight.
Both drafted number one overall, Shaq edges Ayton slightly through their first three games, averaging 19 PPG/15 RPG/55 percent compared to Ayton’s 14 PPG/11 RPG/55 percent FG percentage. However—trigger warning—Booker averaged five more points per game than Kobe in their respective third seasons.
Of course, the comparison ends at team success with the PHX duo having little to offer to the early 2000s Lakers dynasty. But if Ayton and Booker can just get along, they’ll be able to at least outlast Kobe and Shaq’s tenure.
Jayson Tatum Is and Will Be the Best Player of His Draft Class
Predicting Tatum—who is still only 20—will be an All-Star this year isn’t bold enough at this point. He's leading the loaded Celtics in both scoring and rebounding. Given the debate leading up to the 2017 Draft and the 2018 Rookie of the Year voting—let's include Simmons in this—“Tatum is the best player of his class” has a little more spice to it.
Last year, Simmons and Mitchell both deserved their status above Tatum in the regular season. Simmons won ROY, but when Mitchell emerged as the best player on the court in a Western Playoff series vs. OKC, it seemed he had the leg up on his peers.
Four games into year two, however, Mitchell has been quoted describing the increase in defensive attention he’s facing and Ben Simmons hasn’t shown any improvements as a scorer. Tatum, on the other hand, is producing as if he’s the best player on the preseason conference favorite, the Celtics.
If there has been an increase in defensive planning towards sophomore Tatum, it hasn’t been noticeable. Every game is a showcase of dribble moves and face-up jumpers that fans will surely credit to Kobe Bryant. If this offseason is any indication—knowing that Tatum is two years younger than Simmons and Mitchell—not only is he the best player right now, but he’s going to be for the next decade.
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