NBA Winners and Losers: Carmelo Anthony is back; James Harden continues scoring tear; 76ers keep disappointing
It's been a good week for Melo, Harden and LeBron, but not for the Pistons and Warriors
What a week it's been across the NBA landscape. From old faces getting new opportunities, to mainstays dominating as they always have, to teams failing to live up to early season expectations, it's been a wild ride in such a short span of time.
Here is our chance to examine some of the players, teams, coaches, etc. that made the best of their week in the NBA. It also is an opportunity to point out who might have had a rough seven-day stretch. So without further ado, let's dive in.
Winner: Carmelo Anthony
That's right, after a year's hiatus from playing the NBA, Carmelo Anthony is finally getting another opportunity to prove he can still play at a caliber that is sufficient enough for The Association.
The Portland Trail Blazers became the team to after losing the likes of Zach Collins to injury, getting off to a slow start in the standings and ultimately missing an extra piece in the rotation that packs a scoring punch.
What will soon be uncovered is if Anthony is still capable of positively contributing to an NBA team. During his short stint with the Rockets last season, Anthony managed 13.4 points in just under 30 minutes per game. However, the forward took 12 shots a night to reach that figure, and on top of that posted a robust 112 defensive rating. Not exactly an efficient recipe for success.
Time will tell if Anthony is long for a positive restart to his career, but despite the questions, just getting another NBA contract is enough to make 10-time All-Star a winner this week.
Winner: James Harden
How James Harden effortlessly continues to improve on the offensive end of the basketball court is mind-boggling.
Since 2013-14, when Harden averaged 25.4 points per game during his second season in Houston, the All-Star guard has managed to increase his per game scoring output every season since. The culmination of this led to Harden leading the entire NBA in that category over the last two years, and now taking his production to even new heights.
Through 13 games this season, Harden leads the league by scoring 39.5 points PER GAME. If that sounds absurd, that's because it is. If Harden kept that pace up for an entire season, it would rank third all-time in NBA history behind two different Wilt Chamberlain seasons and in front of another two.
Aside from Harden's blistering 13-game stretch to start the season, this particular week has been even more impressive from The Beard. In four games this week, Harden has averaged 44.8 points, 6.8 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals. As you can imagine, the Rockets are 4-0 in that stretch.
Despite adding one of the league's most dominating ball-handlers in Russell Westbrook, Harden has still found a way to not only be himself, but take his game to another level once again.
Loser: Philadelphia 76ers
After Kawhi Leonard Jimmy Butler was swapped for Al Horford and Josh Richardson, and Ben Simmons turned into Steph Curry via , which made the Sixers one of the league's top title contenders entering the 2019-20 season., the 76ers went through offseason changes.
However, 13 games in and the new-look Sixers are producing anything but championship-level hopes.
This week alone, Philadelphia is 2-2 after narrowly defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 98-97 and then following up a disappointing victory with even more disappointing back-to-back losses to the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder.
A Sunday blowout of Cleveland on the road salvaged a bit of Philadelphia's disappointing week, but the overarching issues still very much remain.
The Sixers' starters of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Joel Embiid have played just five games together this season. Due to scheduled rest games for the big men, Embiid's scuffle suspension and a two-game injury absence for Simmons, the new unit in Philadelphia isn't getting many opportunities to jell early on in this campaign.
With 70 games remaining, the Sixers will almost certainly have its fair share of opportunities to turn things around. But for a team that was expected to set the world on fire this season, an 8-5 start is trending in the direction of massive disappointment.
Winner: Boston Celtics
After losing Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency and Atlantic Division opponents, the Boston Celtics lost on opening night to Horford's new-look Philadelphia 76ers. Despite adding All-Star guard Kemba Walker, it appeared the C's would take a step back in 2019-20.
At least that's what it looked like.
Instead, the Eastern Conference leader at the moment is the 10-2 Boston Celtics, led by Walker, head coach Brad Stevens and a cohesive unit that at many times last season appeared to be more parts than they were a whole.
A 10-1 record since opening night, including three wins this week, has the Celtics sitting in the Eastern Conference driver's seat as November continues to roll on. Instead of a team spearheaded by Irving while everyone else falls in line, this iteration of the Celtics is a much more balanced bunch. Walker still operates at an elite scoring level, managing a team-high 24.5 points per game. After the UConn product, however, both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown -- two of the team's young studs that reportedly butted heads with Irving -- are averaging over 20 points per game for the first time in their respective careers.
On top of the young duo, Gordon Hayward looks much more like the player we became accustomed to seeing in Utah prior to his nasty ankle injury on opening night in 2017-18. With more shots to go around this season, and an offense that's in constant motion, Hayward has upped his scoring from 11.5 points per game last season to 18.9 on an incredibly efficient 63.8 true shooting percentage.
With another undefeated week in the books for the Stevens-led Celtics, it's hard to look past Boston as a power in the East despite losing two of its most important players over the summer.
Loser: Golden State Warriors
Golden State's fall from grace has been quite a sight to see.
Losing Kevin Durant set the wheels in motion for a polar opposite Warriors team than we as basketball fans had become accustomed to. Klay Thompson already figured to miss most -- if not all -- of the season while recovering from a torn ACL. Then, Steph Curry suffered a broken hand four games into the season.
Just when it looked like things couldn't get any tougher for the Warriors, All-Star guard and Bay Area newcomer D'Angelo Russell suffered a sprained right thumb last week and projects to be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks.
Sitting at 2-12 on the season and without a win in two weeks, the Warriors are officially living in a world where tanking for a top draft pick seems like a sensible decision. Three All-Stars are injured and Golden State is in the midst of a seven-game losing streak while experimenting with ideas like starting Draymond Green at point guard.
Suffice to say a season with already low expectations has fallen on even harder times. The silver lining for the Warriors and their fans, however, is that even in uncharted territory of obscene losing there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
James Wiseman in Golden State, anyone?
Winner: LeBron James
It must feel good to be the king.
After 17 years, three championships, four MVP awards and countless jaw-dropping moments, LeBron James is still here and still dominating.
Following a disappointing first season in Los Angeles, James restocked the Lakers superstar cupboard and added good pal Anthony Davis to the fold. Sprinkle in a rejuvenated Dwight Howard, sharpshooting Danny Green and an always energetic JaVale McGee and you have a 11-2 Western Conference-leading Lakers squad. All captained by James.
With Davis now at James' disposal, the brunt of the scoring doesn't need to fall on the 17-year veteran's shoulders. After transitioning from de facto point guard to actual point guard, James has managed to lead the entire NBA in assists per game with 11.1.
Over the past week, James has posted double-digit assists numbers while in the process of leading the Lakers to a 3-0 record. While Davis might be getting the most buckets on a nightly basis, the offense still very much flows through the fingertips of LeBron.
Despite being on the back end of a career -- at least for any normal player -- James has found a way to defy Father Time and re-tool his game to best suit his surroundings.
Though Los Angeles is very much a Lakers town, the shine was taken from the Purple & Gold this offseason when L.A.'s other team, the Clippers, managed to land both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Following those events the question begged: Which team really held supremacy in Los Angeles for the 2019-20 season?
Through the early stages of the season, the answer has been simple. Riding another spotless week, LeBron James continues to prove that just when you think his reign has come to an end, he is always in position to reach back up and snatch the crown.
Loser: Detroit Pistons
It's been a tough week for the Pistons.
Detroit didn't have expectations to win it all this season, but following a 41-41 season and a playoff appearance, there was some hope to be had for a team anchored by All-Star Blake Griffin.
After Griffin missed the first few weeks of the season, he finally made his debut last week in a 120-114 loss to the Timberwolves. Despite losing, Griffin did just return and played only 24 minutes as he regains his form.
Add in another two losses on the week -- only one with Griffin playing -- and the picture becomes a bit more bleak. Friday night's loss in Charlotte might be considered an early season back-breaker after the Pistons got out to a hot start and held a 65-51 lead, only to lose both the third and fourth quarters. With one second remaining on the clock and the game tied at 106, the Hornets inbounded the ball in a half-court setting. Third-year guard Malik Monk caught the inbounds pass from roughly 30 feet out, turned and heaved the ball towards the hoop.
Nothing but net.
Detroit successfully blew its 14-point halftime lead and dropped to 0-3 on the week. Brutal.
Considering Griffin is back on the court and assimilating into game action again, there is reason to believe Detroit can right its wrongs over the course of a long season. But this will certainly be a week the Pistons want to forget.
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