The Denver Nuggets didn’t spend much of the last offseason in the headlines. Other teams made splashy moves to try and beef up their rosters for a run at an NBA Championship. But the Nuggets aren’t one of the teams that need to make waves by adding another superstar.
Denver grew its roster organically and won a championship led by two home-grown superstars, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, last season. The Nuggets have continued to build on that foundation this season. Denver started the season 4-0, including a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night.
But wins before Halloween won’t determine the story of this season. There are plenty of teams who have their eyes on the championship. Here’s a look at other things about the season’s first week that stood out.
Phoenix Down to a Big One
The Suns made a megadeal in the offseason to add the final piece to the franchise’s first championship in their history. But the trade for guard Bradley Beal has yet to net them any return. Beal has missed the team’s first three games due to injury.
To make matters worse, after Phoenix opened the season with a win over Golden State on the road, guard Devin Booker was injured and forced to sit out. Booker’s absence hurts, especially after he scored 32 points and played 37 minutes in the Suns’ season-opening win. Suns’ coach Frank Vogel said there isn’t a timetable for Beal or Booker to return from injury.
Black sports news shows that Kevin Durant is Phoenix’s last superstar standing. The Suns forward has been injury-prone himself. So the fanbase will be nervous about whether he can stay healthy. Phoenix’s big concern after adding Beal was that the Suns may not have enough depth to win a championship.
The Suns will have that theory put to the test until Booker and Beal are both cleared to return from their respective injuries.
Celtics Exorcise Some Demons
This is a legacy season for many people involved with the Boston Celtics this season. The Celtics landed the first punch in the season series with the Miami Heat, who eliminated the Celtics from the playoffs last season. Boston revamped its roster in the offseason, bringing in Kristaps Porziņģis and Jrue Holiday.
The Celtics have seen an immediate benefit from having both men in the lineup. Porziņģis is third on the team in scoring at 20.7 points per game and is second in rebounding at 7.7 rebounds per game. Holiday has added 12.3 points per game.
A minor concern for the Celtics is that they don’t have much depth beyond their starting five, but they could always make moves later in the season. This is an important season for many in the organization. There was some talk that Joe Mazzulla could be fired as coach after the team flamed out in the Eastern Conference finals last season. Top stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are looking to add their first championships to build their legacy.
Singing the Blues in Memphis
Two seasons ago, the Grizzlies were ascending and seemed like a young team that would contend for years in the Western Conference. But that hasn’t been how things turned out for Memphis. The Grizzlies star player, Ja Morant, had several off-the-court issues that earned him a 25-game suspension.
Memphis then lost Steven Adams to a knee injury. The Grizzlies have opened the season 0-3, and things aren’t going to get any easier for Memphis. The Grizzlies hoped to tread water until Morant returned, but Memphis’ schedule may not make that possible.
Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. have been forced to carry the load for Memphis early in the season. Bane is scoring 25.5 points per game, while Jackson is at 18.8. The Grizzlies will need to get Morant back before they can seriously announce themselves as playoff contenders.
Harden Gets What He Wants
The Philadelphia 76ers and James Harden have been stuck in an unhappy marriage all offseason. Harden was unhappy with the perceived disrespect from the team in negotiating a new contract. During the preseason, Harden sat out practices.
When Harden attended Philadelphia’s first game, the 76ers told him to stay home. But Philadelphia was able to work out a deal to send Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers, his preferred destination. The 76ers traded Harden for Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nic Batu, KJ Martin and some draft picks.
Philadelphia has started 2-1 without Harden and hopes to continue its growth under first-year coach Nick Nurse.
Lakers Trying to Get Consistent
Los Angeles wants to get one more championship with its core of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The latest NBA news has shown the Lakers will still be a work in progress for most of the season. Los Angeles has started the season 2-2.
What the Lakers need to improve on is their outside shooting. Los Angeles is only making 29.2 percent of its 3-point attempts so far this season. James and DeAngelo Russell are both having trouble being more consistent from the perimeter. Both men are attempting 5.8 3-pointers per game but are only averaging 1.8 makes per contest.
Milwaukee’s New-Look Team Shows Quick Rewards
The Bucks added guard Damian Lillard to their lineup this season through a big trade. So far, Lillard has been everything that Milwaukee was looking for. Through three games, Lillard has averaged 23.2 points per game. What the Bucks would like to see is Lillard’s 3-point shooting pick up.
Lillard is only making 29.6 percent of his 3-pointers this season. In addition, Giannis Antetokounmpo has benefited from having more space to operate. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.
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