MVP of the week: Giannis Antetokounmpo
The week started with Kevin Durant proclaiming that it wouldn’t be long before Giannis Antetokounmpo was the best player in the NBA. Is that time here already? After a week in which he single-handedly carried the Bucks with ludicrous averages of 38.3 points, nine rebounds and five assists – on 67.2% shooting no less – Giannis showed his incredible athletic potential and underscored his superstar status.
He opened the season with a 37-point double-double against the Celtics, in which he scored 16 points in the last quarter. Then it was back to Milwaukee for a duel against LeBron James. Though his Bucks lost, Antetokounmpo went 34/8/8 and was as influential as the King himself, even if he lacked the surrounding talent to orchestrate a win. The week ended with Antetokounmpo stopping Portland at the death by getting a clutch steal and go-ahead dunk, before following it up with a game-saving block on the return defensive possession. That was to cap off a 44-point night.
Milwaukee has had obscene advantages in the paint every game, and that’s largely thanks to Antetokounmpo, whose lengthy frame is now complemented by some handy post moves. In a season where many of last year’s enormous stat hoarders such as Harden and Westbrook will have superstar help, Antetokounmpo might be the only man with the ability (and the freedom) to post an entire season of stats as incredible as he did in the opening week
Team of the week: Houston Rockets
The NBA has developed a taste for super-team matchups on opening night. Hosting Houston probably wasn’t the first choice for a Warriors team who had only just returned from a preseason expedition in China. The Rockets spoiled the ring party by winning 122-121.
On the second night of that back to back, the Rockets did enough to put away Sacramento. Clint Capela showed he could be the inside presence the Rockets need with a 22-point, 17-rebound display, and Eric Gordon also scored 25 points. Later in the week, they cruised past Dallas for an easy win.
Atop the Western Conference standings with a buffer over rivals Golden State and Oklahoma City, it’s the perfect start for a brand new super team that didn’t even have Chris Paul for two of their three games as he recovers from injury.
Rookie of the week: Ben Simmons
As The Process enters its final stage in Philly, 76ers fans finally see their full complement of elite talent on the court. While Markelle Fultz stuttered, Ben Simmons showed that he comes exactly as advertised. Averaging 15.7/10.3/6 in the opening week, Simmons showed off his athletic potential and court vision, as well as displaying much better finishing than expected. While the jump shot has a way to go, the likelihood of his potential scoring struggles look to have been greatly exaggerated.
The Sixers had close losses to three playoff teams in Boston, Washington and Toronto to start the season. These early defeats might be helpful in the long run as it takes the playoff pressure off their shoulders and allows Simmons and Co. to learn to ride out the bumps.
Breakout player of the week: Tobias Harris
The Pistons opened up a new arena in downtown Detroit, and also unveiled a new weapon: Tobias Harris. Harris has seen an enormous jump in his efficiency to start the season and, as a result, leads the Pistons in scoring. Prior to the Pistons’ clash with the Sixers on Monday night, he was averaging 24.3 / 6.3 /1.7, a jump from his career average of 13.9 / 5.7 / 1.6.
Harris’ 24.3-point scoring average has come from increased shooting efficiency, as he has shot 55.8% from the field and 47.8% from 3-point land. The 25-year-old has clearly taken a lead role in a Pistons offense that is on the rise.
Worst of the week: Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are going to have a hard time winning games on the court this year, yet they didn’t need off-court drama as well. Chicago have been amongst the NBA’s most dysfunctional franchises for a long period now, even if All-Star Jimmy Butler papered over their cracks with his exceptional play for a few seasons.
It’s not leaked out yet what started the fight that saw Nikola Mirotic end up in hospital. The power forward will be out for over a month with a concussion and broken bones in his face, and got Bobby Portis suspended for eight games. Whatever it was, it’s not helpful at all for a team that’s already the laughingstock of the NBA, even if Phoenix are doing their best to take that mantle. A long season awaits in the Windy City.
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