Wynton Jackson | Script Staff Writer
After yet another tumultuous offseason full of drama and blockbuster trades, the National Basketball Association is back. The NBA’s 76th season kicked off on October 18 and, in only a week, has provided a multitude of engaging storylines.
For some teams, the opening week has been rough.
As of October 26, the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, and Brooklyn Nets have a combined record of 4-14.
Of those four teams, the Lakers and the Nets are the most disappointing.
L.A. is stuck. Between Russell Westbrook’s albatross contract, Anthony Davis’ frail body, and the ticking clock of LeBron James’ career, the Lakers are under extreme pressure to make a move.
Since last season’s trade deadline, Laker fans have been pleading for a Westbrook trade. Everything he does is the opposite of what the Lakers need: he can’t shoot, he makes poor decisions with the ball, and he is totally uninterested on defense.
Raymond Beasley, Hampton University sophomore and California native, is among the many fans disgusted with the lackluster play.
“The Lakers are a rough watch,” Beasley said. “With or without Westbrook, they continue to struggle shooting the basketball and can’t withstand constant scoring droughts in games.”
The offense could not be worse. L.A is shooting 41.6 percent from the floor and 22 percent from deep. They rank 29th in points scored per game and last in offensive rating (points scored per 100 positions), according to basketball-reference.com.
There are some avenues to improve, though not many.
“The Lakers need to make a trade for depth and shooting,” Beasley said. “A package of Buddy Hield and Myles Turner are on the market. The [Charlotte] Hornets are also rumored to give up proven vets including Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, or Kelly Oubre.”
While the Lakers are struggling to score, the Nets can’t stop anyone else from scoring.
The other team in New York ranks 29th in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) and are 25th in total opponent points allowed per game. In just four games, the Nets have allowed opponents to score over 130 points twice.
Despite the trade for Ben Simmons, Royce O’Neale, and their free agent signings, the Nets did not fix any of the issues they had last year. Even with Kyrie Irving back, Durant is forced to shoulder much of the offensive load. His constant usage last year resulted in a knee injury, causing the star to miss over a month.
While Simmons hasn’t looked great, it is his first time playing professional basketball since the 2021 playoffs against Atlanta. The Nets will need his length, size, and versatility on defense if they hope to get back on track.
Meanwhile, Miami and Philadelphia’s situations are not as concerning.
Due to the departure of PJ Tucker, Miami Heat have spent the beginning of the season trying to find a new starting lineup. So far, they have settled on fourth year forward Caleb Martin.
After a rough start, including a one game suspension, Martin found his groove in the Heat’s most recent game against the scorching hot Portland Trailblazers. Martin poured in 16 points, 8 rebounds, and shot 7-8 from the floor, including two three-pointers.
Donovin Cooper, HU sophomore and Heat fan, is not as convinced in Martin’s role.
“Martin is coming into his own, but we’re still trying to figure out the power forward spot. We can’t run small ball every game, especially as we get closer to the playoffs and play guys like Giannis [Antetokounmpo].”
Martin may be the starter now, but the Heat also have their eyes on a reunion with Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder. Before the season started, Crowder demanded a trade from the Suns. While a deal has yet to be completed, Miami has been in talks to acquire the forward who helped them reach the NBA Finals in the Bubble.
The Heat’s lack of activity in the offseason is also a reason for their lineup issues. The rumors of landing Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell ultimately resulted in re-signing veteran Udonis Haslem, making this his 20th season with the team. An admirable signing, but it certainly is not moving the needle closer to a championship.
The Philadelphia 76ers were anything but lazy in the offseason. After a humiliating playoff defeat to the Heat, the Sixers spent their summer re-signing James Harden to an extension, poaching PJ Tucker from Miami, and using the remaining cap space to increase the roster depth.
All that activity has led to a 1-4 record.
The slow start, including a loss to San Antonio Spurs (who are trying to lose), has resulted in calls for the organization to fire head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers was reportedly interested in being the Lakers’ new head coach before they hired Darvin Ham.
The Sixers’ problems are not all on Rivers. Joel Embiid has looked out of shape to start the season, though he suffered from plantar fasciitis, a severe foot injury, over the summer.
Though he and Harden are filling the stat sheet, the 76ers defense has torpedoed due to Embiid’s lack of mobility. Given more time, however, Philly will likely return to a title contending team. The Sixers are simply too deep and talented to continue losing games.
On a more positive note, the 2022 rookie class looks outstanding.
Paolo Banchero, the number one overall pick, is averaging 24 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists for the Orlando Magic. His 27-point debut was the highest scoring outing by a rookie since Allen Iverson in 1996. He has scored at least 20 points in his first five games, and recorded a double-double in his second game against Atlanta.
Continuing his Summer League success is Keegan Murray, the fourth overall pick from Iowa. In his first two games, the new Sacramento Kings forward has averaged 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and is shooting 43.8 percent from three.
Less predictable was the emergence of Indiana Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin who, like Banchero, is solidifying his case as one of the best young scorers in the league. The former Arizona guard is averaging 22.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2 assists, and is also shooting 43 percent from deep.
It is important to note that it has only been one of 19 weeks of NBA basketball. Some teams are underperforming, while some are punching above their weight (Portland, Utah, Washington). For those worrying about a poor record, relax. And for those excited about a hot start, remember that last year, the 10-3 Washington Wizards finished at 35-47.