Early trends and storylines from the start of the 2018-19 NBA season
Early trends and storylines from the start of the 2018-19 NBA season
The 2018-19 NBA season is just over a week old, and there have already been a ton of crazy performances as part of an early offensive explosion.
The NBA has been trending toward pace and space for years now, and the beginning of the 2018-19 season [has seen a crazy explosion of points not seen in about 50 years](http://www.nba.com/article/2018/10/24/nba-scoring-across-league) thanks to this play style and new points of emphasis regarding "freedom of movement" that are advantageous for offenses. It has been routine to see regulation scores in the 110s and 120s, and we've almost seen teams get to 150 without going to overtime. Only three teams are scoring under 104 points per game, and nearly a third of the league is over 110 points per game. The overall scoring should dip as the season goes on, but get used to hammering those overs, at least for now. With high-scoring games come insane statistical performances. Blake Griffin scored a season-high 50 points on Tuesday ... only to be surpassed the next day by Stephen Curry, who scored 51 points in three quarters. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis are putting up silly stat lines on a nightly basis. Almost everywhere you look there's a big-time performance going up on the board. It has been a heckuva lot of fun. Let's take a look at some notable trends from the early going of this NBA season. Interestingly enough, though, not all of them have to do with incredible displays of points. Just most of them. ### Zach LaVine's scoring Given this is a Chicago-based website, I'd be remiss not to first mention the scoring exploits of one Zach LaVine. There were some questions about matching LaVine's four-year, $78 million offer sheet after a poor season coming off a torn ACL, but the 23-year-old is already taking the league by storm. With 32 points and the winning free throws against the Charlotte Hornets, LaVine became the only Bull besides Michael Jordan to go for 30 or more points in the first four games of a season. LaVine is third in the league in scoring at 32.3 points per game on an uber-efficient 69.5 true shooting percentage. While LaVine won't keep up that efficiency on such a high usage, he's going to be getting buckets all season long. [BetDSI currently has a prop](https://www.betdsi.eu/sportsbook-betting/nba-odds/nba-props/) for highest points per game average, but LaVine isn't on there. If you're feeling LaVine on a Bulls team that badly needs his scoring, the field at +3200 could be mighty tempting. ### Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard MVP campaigns off to great starts Before the season, [I looked at the MVP race](https://www.betchicago.com/nba-mvp-rookie-year-odds-giannis-antetokounmpo-2018-2019) and pointed at Giannis and Kawhi as intriguing plays. I liked Brow as well but was concerned about how good the New Orleans Pelicans would be. Well, all three of these players, and their respective teams, are off to awesome starts. Davis and co. are out to a 3-0 start while boasting the best offense in the league. The Pelicans put up 149 points in a game and have the league's best offensive rating at 122.2, [per NBA.com.](https://stats.nba.com/teams/advanced/?sort=OFF_RATING&dir=-1) Davis is averaging a 30/13/5/3/2 line and has a PER of over 37. Comical numbers. The Bucks and their new-look offense just moved to 4-0 behind The Greek Freak's dominance. This says it all: <a href="https://twitter.com/malika_andrews/status/1055307860656185344" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/malika_andrews/status/1055307860656185344</a> Meanwhile, Leonard hasn't missed a beat after his bizarre 2017-18 campaign in San Antonio. The new Toronto Raptors star is putting up 28/8/3 to help lead his club to a 5-0 record, matching the franchise record for best start. ### Stephen Curry partying like it's 2015-16 Steph put up one of the best offensive seasons ever when the Golden State Warriors won 73 games. He notched over 30 points per game and hit a record 402 3-pointers. Curry looks determined to match or exceed that incredible campaign this season: <a href="https://twitter.com/NBCSWarriors/status/1055325950777286656" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/NBCSWarriors/status/1055325950777286656</a> Curry is at 34.6 points per game and has made a whopping 33 triples in five games (that's a 541 trey pace over 82 games). Maybe he's mad he was all the way down at +1200 for his third MVP when the season began. ### What's up with the Celtics? With LeBron James out of the Eastern Conference, most people turned to the Boston Celtics as the clear favorite. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward were returning to a lineup full of young studs and Al Horford, and the Celtics looked primed to win 60 games and [hit the over on their win total. ](https://www.betchicago.com/nba-title-odds-win-totals-bulls-2018) It has been a slog, though, to start the season. Boston is 29th in offensive rating as part of a 2-2 start. The last game was an ugly home loss against an Orlando Magic team that's not supposed to be any good. Is there any reason to worry? Not really. It's not a huge surprise there have been bumps in the road with so many mouths to feed and two All-Stars coming back from serious injuries. Brad Stevens is a terrific coach who will figure out how to get this machine working soon, and Jaylen Brown will decide to hit some shots sooner or later. ### Are the Nuggets actually playing defense now? The Denver Nuggets have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league over the past few seasons. In fact, they haven't been in the top 20 since 2012-13. The Nuggets put an emphasis on defense this summer, and it has paid dividends thus far. Denver is second in defensive rating at 97.3 points allowed per 100 possessions, which is just a sliver behind Boston. Thanks to this the Nuggets are 4-0. Is this defensive surge for real? It's hard to imagine Denver is *this* good defensively, and opponents making under 31 percent of their 3-pointers is a sign that regression will be coming. However, a healthy Paul Millsap and team buy-in on that end could be just what the doctor ordered. Even an average defense paired with the Nuggets' explosive offense makes them a dangerous team out West. ### Rookie fun There have been standout rookie performances, and from the expected suspects. Luka Doncic and Deandre Ayton were the Rookie of the Year favorites entering the season, and both players have shown why. Doncic is second in rookie scoring at 19.0 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Ayton is not only averaging a double-double with 16.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, but he's matching Doncic's 3.8 assists per contest while shooting nearly 63 percent from the field. But the best rookie performance thus far belongs to Trae Young. The Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter recorded a scintilliating 35-point, 11-assist performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers, matching a rookie feat last done by Steph Curry. Young is leading rookies in scoring (21.5 PPG) and assists (7.5 PPG). He's going to get plenty of chances on a Hawks team playing at the fastest pace in the league, so he could make the Rookie of the Year race really exciting. ### The Lakers The takes were flying after LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers dropped to 0-3 following a wild 143-142 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Luke Walton was even already [at the top of the odds list of first coach to be fired this season. ](https://www.betchicago.com/bulls-fred-hoiberg-first-nba-coach-fired-prop) The Lakers finally got off the schneid with a victory over the lowly Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, and LeBron's crew is putting up a silly 126.8 points per game thanks to the fourth-best offensive rating and second-fastest pace. Now, LA just needs to figure out how to stop somebody. The Lakers are 25th in defensive rating and will need to get better if they're going to be serious contenders. Though, a LeBron team scoring at will and stopping nobody in the regular season sounds awfully familiar.2018-10-25T12:46:00.642Z2018-10-25T05:30-07:00