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The Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and Utah Jazz are the first three teams to hit 10 wins a month into the season. 2 of those names make perfect sense and the third epitomizes just how wild this season has been 4 weeks in. The Portland Trailblazers lead the west, The defending Champs are 3-8 and winless on the road (more on that later), and the OKC Thunder aren’t tanking? All of these things, plus the aforementioned Utah Jazz and their surprise start have fans in flux to start the year. One thing is for certain, picking games has been a minefield, but that’s why we’re here to help (6-1 last week by the way.)
Before we get to the picks, here are 3 major takeaways from the first month of regular season action:
The top 3 reasons the Golden State Warriors are WINLESS on the road:
- The Two-Timeline Experiment is Failing. There’s a chance we look back on this period of time for the Warriors and it’s the reason we don’t look at Steph as a top 5 all-time player. He’s putting up absurd numbers at a ridiculous efficiency (at age 35) and it just doesn’t matter because this team is stuck between timelines when they should be going all in on maximizing the greatest point, arguably, of all time. It almost feels like an attempt at a weird flex by the Lacobs to not bail and try to prove everyone wrong at this point.
- Klay Thompson is washed. And who can really blame him? After an ACL and Achilles in back-to-back seasons, it would be foolish to expect Klay to return to the form he once was. Klay at his peak was a top 3 two-way wing in the game, with arguably the second-best shooting stroke in the league’s history other than his backcourt mate. Things have changed. Klay is playing, but not well. He’s gone from a hyper-efficient score to shooting 35/33/75 splits this year and it doesn’t seem to be turning around.
- Jordan Poole was an overpay. Poole had an incredible run last season. His creativity and the freedom he plays with on the court offensively are a site to behold. He sustained a hot streak in the middle of the year into a great playoff run where he was a key cog in the title-winning machine. Now he’s a less efficient scorer than Andrew Wiggins on fewer shots per game, including from three. Read that again, Jordan Poole is currently less efficient than Andrew Wiggins, from three. There’s time to turn it around but a rough start post-pay-day for the third splash bro.
While none of these points are directly related to losing on the road, these are three factors that definitely contribute to the Dubs slow start, 0-7 on the road is fluky and should turn around soon.
Joel Embiid doesn’t play winning basketball
Joel Embiid is an incredibly talented NBA player who is capable of putting up outrageous stat lines like this.
In spite of this, as things currently stand, I see no path to Embiid and the Sixers becoming anything more than they currently are, a talented team that will continue to underperform, especially come playoff time. And, Embiid just might be the reason why. Yes, he’s an efficient offensive player who puts up incredible stats night in and night out, and unlike some of today’s stars, he’s a force on the defensive end as well. Still, Embiid leaves something to be desired. His game is a bit old school in the sense that he posts up and can at times clog things up in the paint. His usage rate is incredibly high at 37% and he’s been known to check out mentally for lapses in games. And while it’s never fair to bring up injuries, the guy historically can not last a full season and post-season run without getting banged up.
All of this pales in comparison to why Embiid (and his teammate James Harden) may never be more than elite statistical players who fail to come through when it matters. Two words. Free Throws. Embiid is currently third in the NBA for free throw attempts with 2-4 fewer games played than the rest of the top 5. Embiid and Harden are criticized for this portion of their game because it does not carry over to the playoffs. Come April, the whistles tighten up and players are allowed to play more physically, this is the single biggest reason Embiid and the Sixers won’t win as currently constructed.
Shoutout to Tyrese Maxey though, MIP is incoming!
Jayson Tatum is ready for his moment
It feels like Tatum has finally arrived. Sure, that statement can be seen as a bit facetious about a guy who led his team to the finals last year, but it’s felt like Tatum has been on the cusp of true superstardom for a few years now. His numbers have steadily improved and the Celtics have generally improved right alongside him, but he still had a penchant for disappearing at times, and that almost cost the Celtics against Miami in the ECF, and certainly cost them in the Finals against Golden State. Maybe that loss is just the kick he needed to cement himself as a top 5 player in the NBA.
Tatum is currently averaging career highs in scoring, blocks, FG% 3P% and FT%, while being right in line with his career highs for assists, rebounds, and steals. The Celtics are right at the top of the East with the Bucks, and they could be primed for a run to finish the job come June. If he can keep this up, I don’t know how you keep him out of the top 5 and MVP conversation moving forward. Oh, and he’s just 24.
Week 4 Pick Recaps
Picks – Season (8-3)
Celtics – W
Heat – W
Thunder – W (SGA.)
Survivor – Season (5-3)
Warriors – L
Pelicans – W
Survivor Traps (4-4)
Mavericks – W
Lakers – W
6-1 on the week, including nailing two survivor games to avoid.
Week 5 Pool Picks
Thunder @ Washington 11/16 – Maybe this is just another excuse to mention that SGA is playing at an MVP level or maybe this Thunder team is arriving a bit earlier than expected, surprising upset in DC.
Jazz vs Suns 11/18 – Utah’s surprising start continues and they knock off the Suns at home.
Warriors @ Rockets 11/20 – The Dubs get their first road win of the season.
Clippers over Pistons 11/17 – The Clippers were a trendy (and favorited) title pick in the pre-season, and while we await the Klaw’s return, they take down the young Pistons at home.
Grizzlies over Thunder 11/18 – It pains me to pick against SGA and my apparently beloved Thunder, but the Grizzlies are rolling and Ja found his robin in Desmond Bane.
Blazers vs Spurs 11/15 – The Blazers are an incredible story so far, it turns out surrounding Dame with long and athletic wings may be the right formula, but don’t count out this feisty team from Texas, avoid this one.
Cavs vs Hornets 11/18 – The worst team in the East vs a team with Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland? You’re crazy, this is a lock. While you might think that (and may ultimately be right), this Hornets team has spunk, they came back from 15 down in the second half against Miami and forced OT (in Miami), and just got LaMelo back.