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Give and Go: Dark-Horse Contenders
5:24 | NBA
Give and Go: Dark-Horse Contenders
Monday October 31st, 2016

(Writer’s note: It’s Halloween. Please just go with it.)

With nearly one week of 2016–17 NBA action in the books and the arrival of Halloween, it’s time for the shameless use of a children’s holiday to recap some of the lowlights (tricks) and highlights (treats) from the first few days of the new season. Who has disappointed? Who has lived up to the hype? Join me as we slightly overreact to three or four games!

Trick: The Pelicans

Can we please get Anthony Davis some help? It’s certainly become en vogue to criticize the Pelicans roster, but woof, it’s hard to watch Davis play out of his mind against the Warriors and realize his best running mate is ... Tim Frazier? It’s not that New Orleans has an awful team, but Davis deserves at the very least one reliable sidekick, or ideally his own squad of multiple All-Stars. When Davis is at the top of his game, he is every bit as unstoppable as any player in the league not named LeBron James. It’s becoming extremely depressing. Davis has played for only one playoff team so far during his career.

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Treat: Russell Westbrook

Between Russ’s epic synergy with Lil Uzi Vert’s “Do What I Want” and the fact that he’s averaging a triple double through three games, the new-look Thunder have become everything we hoped they could be. Not only is Westbrook the first player ever with 100 points, 30 assists and 30 rebounds in his team’s first three games, he’s achieved the feat in his trademark, polarizing style. Russ has two triple doubles in the season’s first week, but he’s also averaging nearly 29(!) field goal attempts per game. What’s going to happen when the Thunder play the Warriors on Thursday? I think Westbrook may actually start melting on the court.

Trick: The Pacers

I never understood why Indiana let go of Frank Vogel, and the move made even less sense when the Pacers promoted Vogel’s assistant Nate McMillan to the head job. Indy struggled in Week 1, losing to the woeful Nets and frisky Bulls. Letting go of George Hill and Ian Mahinmi in the off-season has clearly affected the chemistry of the Pacers defense, which is currently the second-worst in the league. Indiana hung its hat on defense under Vogel, but has been pitiful on that end of the court through three games—and Brooklyn and Chicago shouldn’t exactly have lights-out attacks. The Pacers certainly still have some talent on the roster, but the earliest returns have not been promising.

Treat: Kyrie Irving

The Cavaliers’ Halloween party deserves its own Spotlight investigation one day, but for now, enjoy Kyrie getting down in a Power Ranger costume:

 

A video posted by Kyrie Irving (@kyrieirving) on

Trick: JaVale McGee

So, the Warriors have been slightly less impressive than the elite death squad most of us expected them to be. I thought this team would be mowing down opponents like a whale hunting krill, but instead Golden State is 2–1 with a negative point differential, and Kevin Durant is still acting hella corny. But what’s most annoying here is that JaVale McGee has played only four minutes. Look, I need more McGee. I don’t need to watch David West fire off threes with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. I don’t need to watch Zaza Pachulia make plays that can only charitably be described as “scrappy.” Give me JaVale. Let me see what he can do with the first unit. It’s possible JaVale becomes so frustrating he drives Draymond Green to slap his own teammate in the groin.

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Treat: The Bulls

Dwyane Wade has made more threes than Klay Thompson and Durant entering Monday, and Chicago is undefeated after two home games to start the season. The Bulls' win over the Celtics was particularly impressive, and they knocked off the aforementioned Pacers with relative ease. The 2–0 start is only mildly surprising, but a team with three of the league’s iffiest backcourt shooters (Wade, Rajon Rondo and Michael Carter-Williams) having the NBA’s best offensive rating (sample size!) is hilariously delightful.

Trick: Minutes restrictions

Mike Conley playing only six minutes in the first half of a loss to the Knicks? LaMarcus Aldridge sitting out the fourth game of the season for rest? I understand it, I really do, but resting players during the regular season will never not annoy me. And this early in the season, too! Let players play—at least the good ones. There’s no acceptable reason I’ve seen more minutes from Dion Waiters than Conley and Aldridge so far this season.

Treat: The Spurs

Then again, speaking of Aldridge, the Spurs have been far and away the best team in the NBA through the first 1/20th of the season.

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