Too Early Observations of the NBA season through October 28th

Coaching matters in the NBA

There is a misconception that coaching is not a significant factor for performance in the NBA. The thought process is that a player’s skill level overcomes any disadlooks likevantages a team may have in coaching. This is not unprecedented, most would say Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the NBA, if not the best, and his coaching could not overcome Lebron James in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Talent is king in the NBA; however, optimization of that talent relies on the coaching.

There are a few teams this season which have benefited this season with better coaching. The early results of Mike Budenholzer’s addition to the Milwaukee Bucks has been extremely promising. The Bucks have a lot more spacing around Giannis which gives him more room to operate; Khris Middleton in particular has been extremely efficient thus far due to replacing many of his mid-range jump shots with threes. The Bucks as a whole have fully embraced the three ball era and currenly lead the NBA in three point attempts per game thus far.

The Nuggets have adjusted their defense to hedge more on pick and rolls which has lead to positive results early on, they are currently one of the better defensive teams this season. Nikola Jokic continues to play effectively and he is beginning to get the national media attention he deserves while leading the NBA in Box Plus/Minus (BPM). Even the once unheralded Jokic has received more media attention this season.

Hornets look like a quality team with James Borrego under the helm. The team is only 3-4 thus far; however, they have the ninth best Net Rating in the league and, per Cleaningtheglass, have the point- differential of a 54 win team. Borrego has also helped lead to a resurgence of Michael-Kidd Gilchrist (MKG). Instead of trying to play MKG at Small Forward they have moved him up to Power Forward and have even played him at Center at times. Playing MKG as a big has helped diminish many of his weaknesses, especially his jumper, and made his strengths: defense and rebounding that much more valuable. MKG has never had a positive BPM in his career before this season, this year his BPM stands at 5.0. Another example of a player who was not necessarily as bad as previously thought but just wasn’t put in a position for success. Thankfully for MKG he now has a coach maximizing his full potential.

The Celtics are not a lock for the Finals

Many anticipated the Celtics being a virtual lock to make the NBA Finals this year. Considering how far they made it last year without Kyrie and Gordon Hayward, most anticipated them taking another step this year. It was anticipated the 76ers would be their biggest threat; however based on what has happened thus far the 76ers may not even be a top three team in the East. There are a couple of other teams the Celtics should definitely be aware of.

So far there are two undefeated teams in the NBA and both reside in the East. This includes the Raptors, who have already beaten the Celtics this year, and the Bucks who boast the highest Net Rating in the league. Both teams have made huge strides this year to be legitimate contenders: the Bucks hired Mike Budenholzer who has optimized the team’s performance compared to last year as mentioned above, and the Raptors who swapped an All Star in Demar Derozan for a superstar in Kawhi Leonard. As good as the Celtics will be, it’s good they will be receiving some competition in the East for that top spot.