1. Trae Young made a leap this summer. Look at this goddamned shot chart:
I’d like to draw your attention to the solid dot inside the fucking center court logo. This dude is pulling up from 40+ feet and splashing 3s. Given that he’s already one of the ten or so best passers in the league (probably that’s selling him short), his ability to stretch the floor this far is deadly. It’s also encouraging that he attempted 12 free-throws. If you’re rooting for the Hawks, this was about as well as a season-opener could have gone.
2. One of the more endlessly fascinating questions in the league this season—especially in terms of possible end-game scenarios for May & June—is which players, exactly, will end up constituting Milwaukee’s best five-man unit. The only locks are Giannis and Middleton. Everyone else has concerns. The Lopez boys lack some foot-speed. Eric Bledsoe sometimes disappears from the action to a degree approaching spectrality. Wes Matthews and Kyle Korver are washed, but Pat Connaughton and Sterling Brown might not be ready. D.J. Wilson and Donte DiVincenzo loom as even less ready, but nevertheless possible, answers.
Last night, Ersan Ilyasova reminded us that he might be an answer here too. He had 13 points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes, yes; more importantly, he is a heady, intelligent defender. In trying to stay in front of screaming comets like Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Ilyasova has a great habit of getting into position and holding his ground. He’s so ready to take a charge that it has become an innate part of his defensive behavior—not in a shitty, flopping way, but in a predictive, intuitive way. Ultimately, in most playoff matchups, Ilyasova might end up being the best answer the Bucks have at the 5.
Interestingly, last night served as an important reminder of how good Brook Lopez is, too. He’s become so adept at stretching the floor as a shooter, it’s easy to forget that he’s a skilled post-up option as well. When Giannis fouled out down the stretch, the Bucks were able to play the Rockets even over the last five minutes by going to Lopez in the post and letting the offense swirl around him.
Losing Malcolm Brogdon this summer is certainly a problem for this Bucks team, but last night’s win over the Rockets was a good reminder that this team has solutions to all kinds of problems. As far as I’m concerned, they’re still the favorites in the East.
3. Steve Kerr on the Warriors’ blowout loss to the Clippers: “This is not a one-off, this is the reality.” I have some thoughts about this:
- The Clippers are going to send a lot of teams into existential tailspins this season. Game one isn’t the worst time to be forced to think hard about your team.
- The Warriors put up 122 in regulation in a game where Steph Curry was 2-for-11 on 3s. This team is going to score points.
- The Warriors’ defense was an absolute disaster. One advantage to playing a bunch of guys who aren’t ready heavy minutes early in the season: they’re going to get better sooner. There were tons of mistakes out there last night, but that means there was tons of learning. They’ve got a good coach, and they’ve got a superstar defender in Draymond Green to teach them.
- During the brief moment in the first half in which the Warriors got cooking, you could start to see the outlines of how this might work. Steph’s gravity is as omnipresent as ever. D’Angelo Russell is a really damn good passer. This team is going to have some great moments this year.
TL;DR: I’ve still got them in the playoffs in the West.