The 2017-18 NBA season is well underway. There will be scores of articles about questioning good teams, declaring individual award races over, and the bickering over true shooting percentage and defensive rating. There is also a feeling surrounding this season that we're headed towards the inevitability of a Golden State Warriors championship. Thus, some of the fun is met with a bit of gloom. Cheer up, lover of hoops. Basketball is a sport in which the journey of the season is just as important as its destination in the Finals. Here at TSFJ, we're going to highlight some things and people the basketball realm can be excited for between now and June.
Song of The Week: Freeway, Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel - "What We Do"
The best thing about basketball is the fact that fans and detailed lovers alike can become enamored the myriad of individual philosophies each player possesses. In the famous slogan, "I love this game," we can love different, personalized games. From post players to dead-eye shooters, players have filled out various archetypes that have existed, especially in the modern NBA, post-Magic and Bird.
One of the most fun types of player is the free-flowing guard. Steph Curry is the sublime example of this, as he entertains with a flare for the spectacular. Whether hypnotic handle or absurdly long threes, Curry puts on a show in a way that's non-traditional for "point guards." Jason Williams, Allen Iverson and Kyrie Irving are other quality representations of the guard who sees basketball like a solo concert, with him as the headlining, showstopper act each offensive possession.
At this juncture of the NBA journey, I'd like to focus on Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams. He is the sixth man, having only started 7 of the team's 37 games as of January 8th. Despite that, he is the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 21.9 points per game. He's also connecting on over 40% of his threes, and is in the top 10 in the Association in makes with 101. For a Doc Rivers team that had a severe scoring void with Chris Paul leaving for Houston and JJ Redick departing to the Sixers, Lou Williams provides much-needed points.
It's not just the raw numbers that make "Lou Will" fun to watch. It's the manner in which he scores. He plays as if he's been given the keys to a sports car, an empty road that runs endlessly and the instruction to, "GO!" He gets buckets in a nearly-instant manner, usually exploding for double digit points in a single quarter.
The best element to this is that Williams is in his twelfth (!) season averaging a career high in scoring. He also tends to take shots that would drive traditionalists crazy, with a hand in his face and early in the shot clock. This is what I mean by free-flowing. Sometimes, the best shot is as soon as a player gets the ball within his range. Not every possession requires the ball to be passed around the three-point line, dumped into the big man on the post and some version of passing and cutting until a team gets an optimal look at the rim. Sometimes, the "heat check" long three is the best option, especially if that player can go on a streak and make many in a row. Williams has carved a niche in the NBA by having a singular goal: buckets.
- Speaking of Steph Curry, he's come back from injury showing no signs of rust. He's scored 30 points in 6 of 7 games, and is already dancing on the competition. As great as Kevin Durant is, Curry makes the Warriors unstoppable because of his free-flowing nature.
- Isaiah Thomas made his Cleveland Cavaliers debut against the Portland Trail Blazers. The challenge for LeBron and the rest of that team is to adjust their team chemistry for a player who'll get a significant number of shots.
- In the Western Conference, we expected Golden State, Houston and San Antonio to be the top three seeds. The rest of the conference was up for grabs, and it appears the Minnesota Timberwolves have finally made that turn towards winning consistently, as they are the currently the fourth seed. Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson seem to be translating head coach Tom Thibadeau's message, and it's resulting in victories.
Twelve weeks in, and our journey continues. Happy NBA, folks.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse's good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.