Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
VIDEO: Nightly Notable: Kevin Love
Give me something new you’ve seen, from a player or team, that you’re convinced is real.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: It would be hard to find anything more new than Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ top draft pick who won’t turn 19 for another month. He’s a long-term project but with the right tools — 6-foot-9, arms that stretch from Pewaukee to Oconomowoc — and the right demeanor. He’s eager to learn and, naturally, the Greek import needs to learn plenty. But both in preseason and through the first week, he has been up to the many challenges. We can’t run wild with Kevin Durant comparisons — OK, so they’re built alike — but check out “G-Bo” and his early stats (2.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 42.9 FG% in 11.3 mpg) next to No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett‘s (0.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 0.0 FG% in 12.5 mpg) in Cleveland.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: TRD (the real deal) is MCW (Michael Carter-Williams). In the golden age of NBA point guards, the Sixers rookie looks like 21K.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The Warriors and Andre Iguodala. The former All-Star is essentially a fourth scoring option who is shooting 55.3 percent, 10-for-20 behind the arc. On any given night he can go off, as he did Monday at Philly, for 32 points, or for 11 assists as he did against the Clippers. More valuable is the big-time perimeter defense he provides, a real game-changer for the Warriors, especially combined with a healthy Andrew Bogut under the rim. So far, Golden State ranks third in defensive rating (the amount of points allowed per 100 possessions) at 93.0, seven points better than the league average and a nine-point improvement over last season, when they ranked 13th.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I think Minnesota’s start is real, after the much different look last season. Not .750-ball real, but this is a playoff team when Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are going good, when Nikola Pekovic is a factor on the boards and when Kevin Martin is hitting shots. If the defense keeps up — I am not nearly as confident about that aspect — the Timberwolves really have something.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’m convinced the Indiana Pacers are the best team in the Eastern Conference. Paul George (62.9 effective field-goal percentage) and Lance Stephenson (64.3) aren’t going to keep shooting this well, but they are better players than they were in May, and that means a lot to what was a below-average offense last season. More importantly, they have the No. 1 defense in the league, which will win them a lot of games when the offense isn’t there. Even with George Hill missing some early games, the Pacers have hit the ground running. And though there will be highs and lows over the course of 82 games, that defense isn’t going to let up. I don’t know that they can beat the Heat (or Bulls, or Nets) in a seven-game series, but I believe the Pacers will be the No. 1 seed in the East.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Minnesota Timberwolves. I think the playoff movement in the Twin Cities is legit. They’ve got superstar talent in Kevin Love and potentially Ricky Rubio. They have a coach in Rick Adelman, who has been to the postseason promised land before and knows how to get teh most out of the most complete roster Timberwolves fans have seen in years. All that depth in just the right places, coupled with good health from their core group (go ahead Timberwolves fans, cross those fingers) and this hoop dream should become a reality by season’s end. I know they’ve been in this position before, where things appeared to be lined up perfectly for a potential playoff chase, only to see it all come tumbling down in a pile of injuries or miscalculations on the personnel side. I believe those days are over with the group currently assembled. This is the year … I can feel it.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: A larger audience saw it in the playoffs than saw it in the regular season, but Paul George is a beast. He’s currently tied for fourth in the NBA in scoring, and is averaging over eight boards per game. Not to mention he’s one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders, which plays a large part in the Pacers’ early shut-down defense. As I write this, the Pacers currently lead the NBA in opponents points per game allowed. I think everyone suspected that Indy’s improved bench would be a big help this season, but to me their commitment to team defense is going to propel them to the top of the Conference.
Selçuk Aytekin, NBA.com Turkiye: Since being Most Improved Player in 2007, Monta Ellis is set to have his best season in NBA. He is prolific scorer. And I’m sure that Dirk Nowitzki and his friends are going to help him a lot. I knew that he was a good player player, but I wasn’t expecting this much impact from him at the very beginning of the season. With Kobe out, now I’ve got someone else to watch.
Aldo Aviñante, NBA.com Philippines: If the Minnesota Timberwolves stay healthy they will crash the post-season party at the end of the year and actually make some noise. They have the right materials for Rick Adelman’s system and it’s been that way the last couple of years — they just need avoid the injury woes they’ve had to their stars. The core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic is a great trio and to add a proven offensive threat in Kevin Martin makes the T-Wolves poised for something big.
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA.com Deutschland: I’ve become an Evan Turner fan over the past month. He’s a guy that’s always taken too many tough jumpers in the past, but is now making an effort to get to the rim more often. His ballhandling has always been good, and he’s lost some weight and worked on his foot speed. I see him continuing to attack — and I love this version of Evan Turner!