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article imageOp-Ed: What have we learned in the NBA so far this season?

By Daniel Reynolds     Nov 19, 2014 in Sports
With the 2014-15 NBA season passing the ten game mark, it's time to look back and ask: what have we learned so far? Here are five lessons for the season.
So we're approximately ten games into the NBA's regular season. It's early, but that doesn't mean there aren't some lessons to learn as we drive towards the quarter season mark. Here are just five:
Lesson #1: Cleveland's path to the title is anything but clear.
When Lebron James signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers they immediately became title favourites. Such is the power of King James. When the Cavaliers traded for Kevin Love, championship fever reached an all-time high in Cleveland. When coupled with that pair, the Kyrie Irving-led Cavaliers suddenly seemed invincible.
But after nine games, the Cavaliers sit at 5-4 and have looked quite mortal. They've lost to the moribund New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz. They barely beat the Boston Celtics. They've posted a top five offense that averages 106.7 points per game. But they've given up 104.3 points per game, good for the bottom ten. More concerning however has been the team's overall chemistry - do these guys like Dion Waiters? What's with Lebron's coded messages in the media to Kyrie? - and the strength of the team's bench. Once you get past their big three, the Cavs' talent drops off a cliff. Can you win a title with Lebron James? Absolutely. Can you win one when Tristan Thompson, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller are your sixth, seventh and eighth best players? Unclear.
Lesson #2: Anthony Davis is everything.
We knew this was coming, but it is awe-inspiring nonetheless. After two injury plagued seasons, 21-year-old Anthony Davis is making his case for best basketball player in the world. Peep this: in his third season, Davis is averaging 25.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.9 blocks (!!!), and 2.3 steals. He is also shooting 58 percent from the floor, and 77 percent from the line. The only thing missing is three point shooting, which Davis is working, and the trail of corpses in his wake.
The New Orleans Pelicans hold a 6-4 record in the bar room brawl that is the Western Conference. This despite being a team that "features" Austin Rivers, and 10 minutes per game of Alexis Ajinca. We won't even get to the sad state of affairs regarding Eric Gordon. It seems very fair to say that most of the Pelicans' success can be attributed to Davis. So what happens when he gets a little older, or when his team adds a few more talented players? Look out world.
Lesson #3: Don't sleep on the Sacramento Kings or the Milwaukee Bucks.
The best part about the early NBA season is the teams that get off to optimistic starts. In this case, we have two fun candidates. In the Eastern Conference, it's everyone's favourite group of rapscallions, the Bucks; over in the West, the Boogie-led Sacramento Kings.
For the Bucks, led by coach Jason Kidd, the equation is surprisingly simple (and just plain surprising). Use the team's leading scorer Brandon Knight, who's currently tying his 17.9 points per game career high while averaging 6.6 assists a game, and mix in with the supporting youngsters Jabari Parker (the hopeful future for the team) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (the hopeful future for the team and the world, really). Leaven only sometimes with Larry Sanders (will he ever get back to his 2012-13 level? and Ersan Ilyasova (is he still alive?). And hey, if O.J. Mayo wants to assist, why not (I mean that literally, he's averaging 3.6 assists, second most on the team). Onward to success.
The Kings, on paper, make a lot more sense. They've got DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins. Full stop. And he is setting about to wreck every living man in the post. Through 11 games, Cousins is tossing up 22.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He has been relentless on the offensive glass (2.9 boards there a game) and even got his block numbers up to a healthy 1.5 per game. Not to be outdone, the former Raptors cast-off Rudy Gay is back in many people's good books with a season that, while not overly efficient, is still very productive (21.8 points, 6.5 rebounds per game and 44 percent shooting).
It remains to be seen if the Bucks' young guns can keep it up for an entire season. Likewise everyone on the Kings not named Rudy, Boogie or Darren (Collison). Still, this early in the season I hope their fans are having fun.
Lesson #4: The Philadelphia 76ers are bad at basketball.
OK, this one is pretty obvious. The team is 0-10. It's best player, Michael Carter-Williams, recently got back from injury. Their draft pick from last year, Nerlens Noel, is finally playing but hasn't exactly been good. Their top picks from this year, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid, are both not playing. The rest of the roster (outside of perhaps Tony Wroten and K.J McDaniels) will probably never be heard from again once this Sixers debacle comes to an end.
It does have to come to an end some time, right?
Lesson #5: The leagues historically marquee franchises are in for a long rebuild.
Staying on the trend of losing, here's a sobering reality: the NBA's three most iconic franchises, the Lakers, the Knicks and the Celtics, are all struggling. First the good news: the Celtics have a great coach in Brad Stevens, and a great player in Rajon Rondo. (Whether they opt to keep Rondo is another story.) They've assembled a tough back court with the aforementioned Rondo, Avery Bradley and the sadly injured Marcus Smart. They've got some intriguing young pieces with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Jeff Green is also still hanging on. But the team is 3-6, and still a few years away from competitive relevancy.
The Knicks, similarly, have some bright spots. Carmelo Anthony is still a machine, able to power an offense by himself. Iman Shumpert is playing better, and J.R. Smith is, I don't know - he's still firing away, I guess. But after that, yikes. This team starts Samuel Dalembert and still needs Amare Stoudemire to make plays. With Jose Calderon injured, Shane Larkin is getting tossed into the fire. Hell, Quincy Acy is getting minutes! Team architect Phil Jackson is a basketball mastermind, his vision of the triangle is gradually being put in place. But, the Knicks, at 3-9, still find themselves hopelessly behind. (And whoa, Andrea Bargnani will be back soon.)
Finally, the Lakers. Hoo boy, the Lakers. With a 2-9 record, and Kobe jacking up (and missing) shots at a historic rate, there is no help coming for the Lakers. After Julius Randle broke his leg, it was all down hill from there.
So that's it, now we look forward to the marquee games at Christmas. Happy basketball-ing everyone!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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