Ball Eyes North’s Bi-Weekly Booms & Bummers
Welcome! This is an ongoing (mostly) bi-weekly recap at the end of weeks throughout the season. I will choose a total of 5 players, teams, or trends that either boomed or bummed me out in the time period. Thanks for following along!
Bummer: Whatever the Los Angeles Lakers Are Doing
I totally understand that LeBron James may have actually been the one to put this roster together instead of the Lakers front office. It is littered with his friends and guys he has wanted to play with. But like, how could they have possibly thought this would be a championship formula?
In their past 2 seasons they were a defensively minded team with a wicked transition attack that was just good enough in half court offense with LeBron James running the controls to be one of the top contenders every year. Instead they jettisoned veteran defensive-minded players like KCP, Kyle Kuzma, and Alex Caruso to bring in terribly-fitting old guys like Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. To top it off they signed Deandre Jordan to be a token starter and brought back Dwight Howard. This team has LeBron James and Anthony Davis! Why are those two supernovas surrounded by Kent Bazemore, Rajon Rondo, and Avery Bradley in 2021?!
Once again, LeBron may have had a heavy hand in deciding to sign these players, and maybe he really just wants to play with his pals at this point in his career. Who am I to tell him he has not earned that right? But if this was their idea of a contending team, (5–4 record with 2 losses to OKC) they need to reevaluate their priorities.
Boom: The Golden State Warriors Present & Future
This one is a personal bummer for me as a certified Warriors hater, but they absolutely meet the criteria for a “boom.” Golden State sits at 6–1 with the top defense in the NBA. The offense has not really gotten going yet as they hover around league average, but Steph Curry is *only* shooting 37% from the 3pt. line. If he decides to go supernova as he did last year, then we really need to watch out.
The biggest reason for optimism with Golden State is probably what has not even happened yet. Klay Thompson has not made his return, and if they are THIS good already they will be able to afford to bring Klay along slowly and ensure 100% readiness for the playoffs.
The Warriors also sport some “high potential” youngsters that are barely seeing the floor. Moses Moody has played sparingly, Jonathan Kuminga even less, and James Wiseman not at all. Those guys are not likely ready to help this year’s team make a championship push, but the franchise is clearly well set up for the future along with the present. *Sigh* The rich continue to get richer.
Bummer: Cade Cunningham’s Rough Start
Before I elaborate, I want to go on record saying this has nothing to do with Cade’s future prospects as a star in the league. He’s played 3 games. But it is a bummer that he ended up with that ankle injury and then immediately has struggled to put the ball in the hoop to begin his career.
After 3 NBA games, Cunningham is 7/39 on field goals. Good for 18% shooting, and he is currently making just 5% of his 3’s. Again, this does not mean his career is going to go poorly. Just a REALLY rough start to the season.
He does have some positive indicators so far however. 6 rebounds per game from a guard is nice to go along with 3 assists. I expect both of those numbers to rise throughout his career, especially the assists as the Pistons overall terrible 3pt. shooting improves.
In no way do I believe the Pistons made an error in selecting Cunningham, but Pistons fans are likely watching a few other rookies start strong and have that little feeling of doubt creep over them. Ignore that. Wolves fans felt the same thing in 2020 as Anthony Edwards started slowly. Now we wouldn’t trade him for the world. Cade will come around.
Boom: Evan Mobley and His Pterodactyl Defense
I love Evan Mobley so much. I loved his game in college, I thought he was the clear #2 prospect heading into the draft, and I love watching him now. As a Wolves fan, I secretly hoped the Wolves actually would end up with the #2 or #3 pick instead of #1 because of how badly I wanted Mobley on my favorite team.
But now I am happy for Cleveland that they get to watch this guy. The raw stats are fine as Mobley averages 13/8/2 on 49% shooting with a little over a steal and a block per game, but it is the flashes of defensive brilliance that should make fans salivate for the future:
Evan Mobley’s ability to stay with jitterbug guards on the perimeter, handle wings driving towards him, and stonewall big men posting up on him is pretty unbelievable for a rookie, and he does it all without fouling too much as he averages only 2.3 fouls per game (for reference Rudy Gobert’s career average is about 2.6 fouls/gm).
The offensive game is only going to get better as he explores his seemingly limitless potential. Keep an eye on this guy. The best is yet to come.
Bummer: The Whole “Zion” Situation Sinking the Pelicans Season
Probably the most disappointing of all of the bummers. Mostly because the hopes of an entire franchise seemed to be hinging on whether he can suit up and play anytime soon.
The whole situation has been a mess. Somehow it was not public knowledge that he had foot surgery during the offseason until training camp where the team and Zion implied that he would be ready for the regular season. Updates have been unclear since then, but recently it was reported that he would be reevaluated in a couple of weeks just to start practicing!
Optimistically this puts him out at least another month. For example if he returns for their game on Dec. 1st then he’ll miss another 14 games. The Pelicans are already 1–8. Could they be 5–18 at best by the time Zion comes back? Then he may have minutes restrictions for another couple of weeks. New Orleans would have to go 36–23 just to end with a .500 record. I really don’t see that happening even with a healthy Zion after December begins.
One can already predict a lost season for New Orleans. Chances are they will be very careful with Zion’s return and “focus on development” (stealth tanking) for the 21–22 season. That stinks for the fans who came into this year with high hopes, but it may be best for the future.