It may not seem like it, but we're nearly a quarter of the way through the 2020-21 NBA schedule. Postponements and thinning rosters due to health and safety protocols have made it difficult to judge the early returns for many teams, but we're starting to get a sense of how the pieces fit in most situations.
After the flurry of offseason moves, this is a good time to check in with players who have changed teams to see how they're fitting into their new surroundings. Any time a player relocates, particularly a high-usage player, there's going to be an inevitable period of adjustment, both from the player and from his teammates. Some, as you'll see, are making that transition more smoothly than others.
Here's a look at how 13 key NBA offseason acquisitions are faring thus far on their new teams.
If acquiring Westbrook was supposed to help keep Bradley Beal from demanding a trade or eventually leaving in free agency, things aren't off to a great start. Sure, he's nearly averaging a triple-double, but Westbrook's lack of offensive efficiency is alarming -- his 0.718 points per possession rank in the 10th percentile in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Also of concern for the Wizards is Westbrook's inability to finish around the rim so far this season, as both his transition and half-court numbers are way down in the paint.
Westbrook has missed 10 shots at the rim in seven games this season according to Synergy ... and he's gotten blocked on seven of them.
This could just be an early-season anomaly, or it could be an indication that, at age 32, Westbrook's athleticism may be slipping to the point where it affects his finishing ability. And if Westbrook isn't scoring consistently at the rim, chances are he's hurting your offense.
CP3 has gotten off to a slow start in Phoenix, to say the least. His .483 effective field goal percentage is nearly 70 points lower than last season's, and his scoring average has dropped four points. He's such a great passer and playmaker, however, that even with the shooting struggles he's in the 94th percentile in halfcourt offense with 1.468 points per possession when you include assists, according to Synergy.
Paul's most noticeable drop-off has come in the pick-and-roll, where he was in the 90th percentile at 1.104 points per possession including passes last season, according to Synergy. That's fallen to the 42nd percentile, 0.922 points per possession, so far this season. Even his pet 17-foot pull-ups, a virtually automatic shot for Paul his entire career, haven't been falling as often.
He's shooting 49 percent from the midrange, which is still very good, but he led the league last season for players with at least three midrange attempts per game at 54 percent. Paul is 35 years old, coming off a short offseason, and entering a brand new offense, so there's no reason to think his numbers won't improve as the season goes on.
Considering he went nearly two full years without playing NBA basketball, Wall is off to a pretty good start with the Rockets. His explosiveness seems to be back, and while his 3-point shooting is right around his career average of 32 percent, he's gone 9 for 19 on catch-and-shoot 3s. That's a good indicator that he can be an effective release valve when Victor Oladipo and Eric Gordon penetrate and kick, or when Christian Wood gets double-teamed, which may start happening more often with James Harden off the roster.
Wall has only played seven games, so it's hard to draw any concrete conclusions, but his pick-and-roll numbers have been solid and he's finished around the rim at a high clip. He should only continue to improve as he gets his legs underneath him and becomes more familiar with his new teammates.
Holiday's scoring is down from the past few seasons, as expected, but his field goals (49 percent) and 3-point shooting (38 percent) are nearing career-high marks while he's provided stability on both ends for the Bucks. In addition to his other talents, Holiday has done exactly what Eric Bledsoe failed to do so many times in the same position -- knock down open 3s. Holiday is shooting 44 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, which helps space the floor for Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
His versatility and poise have already been on display. In Thursday night's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Holiday scored 22 points and dished out seven assists, making some big plays down the stretch while guarding LeBron James for a good portion of the game. Holiday also gives Milwaukee another ball-handler to utilize Antetokounmpo as a screener, which could become a bigger staple of the offense as the season goes on.
Holiday's versatile skill set will become even more valuable in the postseason, when the Bucks will need him the most.
Many openly mocked new Pistons general manager Troy Weaver for throwing a three-year, $60 million contract at Grant this offseason.
The rationale was that Grant, already a rangy, versatile defender, had untapped offensive potential waiting to be unleashed after being stifled in the Nikola Jokic-Jamal Murray-led Denver offense. It's still early, but it looks like Weaver was right.
As the focal point of Detroit's offense, Grant is averaging 1.116 points per possession according to Synergy, which puts him in the 82nd percentile alongside names like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Gordon Hayward. The Pistons' offensive rating is 9.4 points better with Grant on the court, partly thanks to his excellent isolation scoring ability, particularly his knack for bailing out the offense late in the shot clock by finishing at the rim or drawing fouls, which is exactly what you need from a No. 1 guy.
Grant's catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage has improved from last season on more attempts per game, and he's taking nearly 1.5 off-the-dribble 3-pointers per game, after taking just six all of last season. He's only shooting 30 percent on them so far, but that could improve as he gets more reps, suggesting there might be yet another level to Grant's offensive game.
Shaquille O'Neal Brooklyn Nets. In four games since Harden's departure, Wood looks even better, averaging 25.3 points and 13.3 rebounds on 52 percent 3-point shooting., but Wood appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season given the way he finished last season with the Detroit Pistons. A handful of games into 2020-21, and those predictions are looking good. Wood's numbers have skyrocketed, as his ability to finish at the rim and space to the 3-point line immediately made him the perfect pick-and-roll partner for James Harden before he was traded to the
Wood's ability to shoot from distance is what makes him such an effective modern big man, but you can't overlook how incredible he is at finishing around the rim. He's in the 92nd percentile so far this season with 1.489 points per possession at the rim, and lest you think that's a small sample size anomaly, he was in the 97th percentile last season in Detroit. His length and athleticism allows him to be an effective lob-catcher, but he has also shown tremendous touch and creativity around the basket.
Defensively, Wood has blocked two or more shots in six of his 12 games. He's also been solid in pick-and-roll coverage, quick enough to stay in front of guards and use his length to play the cat-and-mouse game between the ball-handler and the roller, which Anthony Davis has perfected.
Overall, it looks like Wood is likely the front-runner for Most Improved Player this season, and he'll only get more opportunity to thrive with Harden off the roster.
The somewhat expected regression of Schroder's 3-point shooting is coming to fruition early in the season, as his 31 percent mark is much closer to his career number than the 38 percent he shot last season in Oklahoma City. Even with the poor shooting, Schroder has been effective as a pick-and-roll playmaker, and is second on the team with 4.4 assists per game. He's already shown good chemistry with Anthony Davis, an ideal pick-and-roll partner for pretty much any teammate.
Schroder has helped keep the Lakers afloat when LeBron James is off the court. They have a ninus-1.9 net rating in 170 minutes with LeBron off the floor, which is all they really need since they're so dominant when he's playing. As Schroder's shooting improves, that number should get closer to even.
Oubre's catastrophic shooting struggles to begin the season are well documented, but to his credit he has figured out ways to impact the game through one of the worst slumps we've ever seen. He's still firing away from 3-point range and making incremental improvements to his dismal percentage, averaging 15.4 points while shooting 32 percent from deep over his last five games.
Oubre was the last-ditch effort to replace Klay Thompson before the season, and virtually the only commonalities between the two are their height and position. A constant source of energy, sometimes of the chaotic variety, Oubre is averaging a block per game for the first time in his career, while allowing 0.927 points per possession around the rim according to Synergy, good for the 68th percentile. Oubre's rim protection is essential for the Warriors, who are playing a good amount of small-ball with Eric Paschall at center.
Coach Steve Kerr has stressed ad nauseam that defense is the priority for his team this season, and that's why he's stuck with Oubre in the starting lineup despite his offensive issues. We'll have to see if Kerr's faith eventually leads to improvement for the Warriors' starting unit.
Harrell is back to his dominant offensive ways after a disastrous trip to the bubble last summer. He's in the 93rd percentile, averaging 1.214 points per possession on offense, according to Synergy Sports Technology, while his field goal percentage has jumped from 58 percent last season to 64 percent this season. He's also averaging career-highs in rebounds and offensive rebounds (2.8 per game).
One big difference is that Harrell is doing much less of his damage out of the pick-and-roll. Last season 17 percent of his scoring opportunities came as a roll man, while this season that has been more than cut in half. Instead he's displayed an excellent face-up game and has been much more effective out of the dunker spot, taking advantage of the vision and precision of Anthony Davis in the high-low game.
Lineups featuring Harrell and Davis have been devastating this season with a plus-13 net rating in 141 minutes, including a robust offensive rating of 120.5. Harrell has been a consistent bench contributor, scoring nine or more points in all but one game this season, and has helped the Lakers to their impressive start.
The Hornets threw the bank at Hayward with a bulbous four-year, $158 million deal for him to be their offensive engine, and that's exactly what he's been so far. In addition to his efficient scoring, Hayward has taken on a secondary playmaking role, averaging 1.326 points per possession including assists according to Synergy, good for the 73rd percentile in the NBA.
In addition to hitting 44 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, Hayward has been excellent in both scoring and distributing in transition, and has been successful drawing the defense in the paint before finding Bismack Biyombo in the dunker spot for easy buckets.
Hayward is the team's leading scorer and third in assists while being just short of the elite 50/40/90 threshold a quarter of the way through the season, and he looks a lot like pre-injury Hayward from Utah. That's the most the Hornets could have asked.
Bogdanovic played just nine games with the Hawks before being sidelined indefinitely with an avulsion fracture and bone bruise in his right knee, but the early returns weren't good. He's shooting just 39 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range while mostly coming off the bench and playing 24 minutes per game. Atlanta gave Bogdanovic a four-year, $72 million deal partly to help keep the offense afloat while Trae Young was on the bench, and that has not happened so far this season. In 92 minutes with Bogdanovic on the court and Young on the bench, the Hawks have a minus-9.5 net rating, scoring a paltry 102 points per 100 possessions.
Of course that can't all be blamed on Bogdanovic as coach Lloyd Pierce has been tinkering with his rotations quite a bit to begin the season, but it helped cause Atlanta's rough start to the season. We don't want to read too much into nine games, however, so the jury remains out on how Bogdanovic will fare with the Hawks.
Gallo has played a total of 28 minutes with his new team due to injuries, so we're in no position to make any judgments. The Hawks have an offensive rating of 153.2 in those 28 minutes, however, so do with that what you will.
The Blazers traded for Covington this offseason to help bolster their defense, and that has not happened so far. These statistics always come with caveats, but Portland's defense is 5.2 points worse with Covington on the court this season, and the "3" component of Covington's 3-and-D profile has been non-existent.
A career 35 percent 3-point shooter, Covington is making just 30 percent of his 5.2 attempts per game this season and shooting 31 percent overall while averaging 6.6 points per game. Keep in mind that Covington hasn't averaged fewer than 12 points per game since his rookie season. Overall the Blazers have the third-worst defense in the NBA, which assuredly isn't what they pictured when they made the deal for Covington, and it could get worse with Jusuf Nurkic out for an extended period of time due to a broken wrist.