It feels good to be back. It’s been a while since I’ve written for the Star, but since we’re back we’ve got a lot to talk about.
The red hot Raptors, who acquired Kawhi Leonard this offseason in a trade for DeMar DeRozan, have jumped out to a quick start. The Raptors hold the top spot in the East with a 12-2 record as of Tuesday, currently the best in the league. We’ve seen Kawhi in some early-season MVP conversations as well as Raptors’ point guard Kyle Lowry, who is averaging a solid 16.2 points and 11.0 assists. Many of the Raptors’ role players have stepped up immensely including Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam.
This is due partly to the fact that LeBron left the Cavs and packed his bags this offseason to join Magic Johnson and the Lakers. The Cavs, last year finished as the 4th seed in the East, are currently dead last in the conference with a 1-11 record. The Cavs also fired head coach Ty Lue a few weeks back. The collapse of the Cavaliers franchise shows how great of an impact LeBron James had, and helps his case as the greatest player in NBA history.
There’s more drama in the East, as on Saturday Jimmy Butler was traded to the 76ers for Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022-Second Round Pick. NBA fans all over the country woke up to the buzzing of their phones, alerting them of this blockbuster trade. This, of course, will create a substantial big three in Philadelphia, with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and now Jimmy Butler in the competitive Eastern Conference. It wouldn’t be hard for me to imagine the 76ers in the NBA Finals this year, but it is extremely early to tell.
Although the sizzling hot Raptors are dominating the East, the 76ers have slightly more raw talent than the Raptors, but the Raptors have far more experience. There is no doubt in my mind that a 76ers, Raptors rivalry will form this season, and I can’t wait to see the outcome.
One of the more touching stories of the early NBA season is the emergence, again, of Derrick Rose. Rose has proved many doubters wrong, and with Jimmy Butler in Philadelphia, the opportunity for Rose opens up to have a huge season. On Halloween Night, Rose turned back the clock, dropping a career-high 50 points on the Jazz. As the final horn rang and the Timberwolves claimed their victory, Rose broke into tears.
“Words can’t describe how I feel right now. It’s been a while, bro,” Rose said during his post-game interview. Truly a touching night for Rose fans, as he has suffered multiple injuries during his career, seemingly ever since his MVP season in 2011. Rose is back for good, it seems, as he has been extremely consistent this season. Highlighting his best games this season, he recorded a 28-point game, two 21-point games and a 31-point game as well. It feels good to see Rose on the court and helping his team win basketball games.
The Houston Rockets are off to a rather slow start this season themselves, getting off to a 5-7 record. This has been surprising to many, as last year they had the top spot in the Western Conference. There are many reasons for this and most eyes look to the newly acquired Carmelo Anthony who is clearly on the back end of his career. Melo is averaging 13.4 points on a poor 40 percent from the field. It was reported on Saturday that the Rockets informed Anthony that his time with the team is nearly over. His representatives have already begun reaching out to other teams, looking for a landing spot for Carmelo.
As I watch Anthony move from team to team, I wonder if any team could legitimately benefit from him anymore. It seems on whichever team he plays for, they don’t exceed expectations. Melo isn’t necessarily the only one to blame for the Rockets’ slow start, as their two stars, James Harden and Chris Paul have both been shooting relatively inefficient from the field as well. Harden is shooting only 41 percent, and Paul shooting the rock at 40 percent as well as a career low in assists if you exclude his rookie season. Poor performances all around from the Rockets, and if they expect to compete for a championship this season, some major changes will need to be made.
The members of the 2018 Rookie Class have made a name for themselves, as young stars like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Wendell Carter Jr., and DeAndre Ayton have shown out to open the season. Doncic, likely the current front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award, has put up excellent numbers, averaging 20.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 6.5 rebounds. Doncic had many doubters, including me, as European players who come over to the NBA are prone to be slow and sloppy, but Doncic has proven people like me wrong. The Rookie of the Year race will be intriguing all year long, so keep an eye out for young studs like Doncic.