ROUNDTABLE: Most Impressive Start
Who has IMPRESSED?
For me, Kristaps Porzingis has had the most impressive start. He has started the year with five 30+ point performances of the six games to date and is third in the league in scoring per game at 29.3 points per game. He dropped a career high 38 points at home against the Nuggets on Monday night and has shown great versatility in his scoring in this early part of the season. Shooting threes, long twos, and even demonstrated the ability to drive strong to the rim. All facets of his offensive game look improved. I have even liked how he has played alongside rookie Knick Frank Ntilikina. The two have linked up for a couple nice pick and rolls that could play a big part in their future together.
Most impressive start to this season? Evan Fournier. Mickaël Piétrus may have been the NBA’s original "Air France,” but the 25-year-old Fournier has come into his own this season and rightfully earned his own moniker from Orlando: le Magicien. The Orlando Magic are 5-2 and tied for first place in the East. Nikola Vučević is hitting threes and Aaron Gordon has had superstar performances, but the steady hand steering this surprisingly dominant ship has been Fournier’s trigger this entire time. The 6’7” Frenchman is averaging 22 points per game on 55% shooting from the field, 56% from three, and 96% from the line while chipping in 4 rebounds and 4 assists. He has scored less than 20 only once this season (in a comfortable win against the Cleveland Cavaliers) and has been dominating for the Magic as an initiator of the offense and a major threat in the pick-and-roll (or -pop in Vučević’s case). The season is young and our sample size is small, but credit is most certainly due to the Magic and specifically Fournier for starting this year of basketball off with some surprisingly professional, even enjoyable bucketeering.
There are two correct answers to who has had the most impressive start: the Orlando Magic or the Memphis Grizzlies. A case could be made for the Celtics who lost one of their cornerstone pieces in the opening game and have still managed to get themselves the top seed, but they still have elite talent with Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, plus young and upcoming talent in Jayson Taytum and Jaylen Brown. The Magic and Grizzlies have made it work with much less talent which is far more impressive.
I’m going with the Grizzlies over the Magic by the smallest of margins. They’ve been able to beat the Warriors and Rockets (twice) on the way to a 5-2 record, the best out West right now. They’ve done it with their trademark Grit ‘n’ Grind which has given them the fifth best defensive rating and best net rating overall. Their bench has been remarkable in supporting stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley; in fact they have the fourth best reserves unit in points per game (42.4), and this is all without their third best player, JaMychal Green, who’s been sidelined with injury. Many tipped Memphis to drop out of the playoff race this year but if they continue their recent rich vein of form they’re every chance to prove those naysayers wrong.
Give me the Orlando Magic! This team had reinvented themselves, and look like a totally different team from last year. Orlando was the second worst offense in the league last year. This year they are second in offensive efficiency. The biggest change has been three point shooting. Last year they couldn’t buy a three pointer and spacing was a constant issue. Now Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic are bombing threes like they play for the Warriors. Evan Fournier has also taken another step forward, and now looks like one of the better two guards in the league. Frank Vogel has done a good job, changing the offense, and getting improvement from within. Jonathan Simmons who was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs in the offseason has also been awesome on both ends. Orlando is also a very impressive 9th in defensive efficiency. Remember they are doing this without Elfrid Payton for the most part, when he get back the Magic will be even better. Before the season, most people thought Orlando would miss the playoffs. I was one of those people; as I put the Magic down for 37 wins, so better than last season, but not good enough for the playoffs. At 5-2 with good numbers across the board, it looks like the Magic may be going to the playoffs
This probably isn’t the actual most impressive start, but it’s one that’s surely surprising. The Pacers came into this season with very little certainty, besides that Myles Turner was the face of the franchise. Well, after losing Turner in the first game of the season due to a concussion the Pacers have not struggled. If anything they’ve flourished. Pacers are third in offensive rating with a 107.5. They are also top 10 in; net rating (3.5), effective field goal percentage (52.6) and true shooting percentage (56.3), they also sit 9th in PACE at 102.89. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis have been a gift despite initial reaction of the Paul George trade. While they sit at 4-3 now, with solid wins over the Spurs and Wolves. When Myles Turner returns, the Pacers may get better.
The most impressive start thus far has to be Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the seven games he’s played, he’s averaging 33.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. Giannis is putting up huge numbers, but more importantly, he’s playing efficiently as he’s shooting 63 percent from the field. Giannis is on a mission to win mvp and if he keeps playing like this, that award surely will be his.
Player: Evan Fournier - Fournier’s start probably is not sustainable but boy has it been impressive. Through seven games, Fournier has a 23.99 PER and has nightly averages of 22 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists. The 25 year old guard is shooting 54.5% from the field, 55.6% from the three point line and 96% from the foul stripe. Fournier has been a big reason why the Magic lead the Eastern Conference in points per game and are off to their 5-2 start.
Team - Memphis Grizzlies - Just when everyone had left Memphis for dead in the stacked Western Conference, the team has went out and won 5 of their first 7 games. Led by Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have now beaten the Warriors, Rockets (twice), Mavericks and Pelicans. Memphis is still out without two projected rotation players in Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden. The Grizzlies currently sit alone on top of the West after the first two weeks of the season.