At Homestand Sports, we're pleased to introduce our weekly 4-for-Four to all of our readers. The goal of the 4-for-Four is to answer four questions weekly, with the goal of recapping the most notable storylines and trends from the past week of NBA action. Enjoy!
Q: Players catch our attention in unexpected ways. Who’s one player locally or nationally who you're watching especially closely of late?
While there’s been plenty of incredible talent around the NBA since the 2017-18 season tipped off, I’d have to single out Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell as someone I’ve been watching closely. The rookie has taken the league by storm in first season, averaging 18.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists to lead the Jazz offence. Mitchell’s shooting percentages haven’t been exceptional so far, but that’s to be expected of a rook still trying to find comfort in the league. It’s less than halfway through the season and we aren’t even at the all-star break, so expect Mitchell to only get better with every passing game. He’s been the steal of the draft so far and is a star in the making.
Q: It’s never too early to start looking for trends when it comes to players, general managers, coaches, teams or even the league as a whole. What’s one trend that’s standing out to you so far in 2016?
The trend that’s grasped my attention most has to be how, at least record wise, Eastern Conference teams have actually held their own in comparison to Western Conference squads. Traditionally, the West has had significantly stronger playoff teams than the teams out East. This season, though, the talent level is almost identical. As of today, the top-eight seeds in the Eastern Conference own a combined record of 201-127 (63% win percentage), which is nearly identical to the 202-130 (64% win percentage) record belonging to the West’s playoff teams. I’m interested to see if this trend continues so that by season’s end, each conference’s respective playoff teams collectively own a similar win-loss record. If I had to bet on it, I’d say the West teams pull away as the season progresses, given how the conference’s playoff teams haven’t had a worse win percentage than the East’s playoff bunch in over 15 years.
Q: There are surprise teams every year, and while most end up fading away, some contend all year. Are there any legitimate contenders among this year’s surprise clubs?
After losing Gordon Hayward just five minutes into their season, the Boston Celtics have rallied together and rattled off a 34-10 record so far in 2017-18. It’s incredible how much success this group has achieved, considering Hayward was supposed to be the second offensive option for the C’s this season. Young guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have shown poise beyond their years, while Kyrie Irving has buckled down on both ends of the floor and evolved into the Celtics leader on and off the floor. Credit to Brad Stevens’ coaching job as well. Not many coaches would be able to adjust so quickly, let alone thrive, after losing a talent of Hayward’s caliber so suddenly. What makes Boston’s dominance even more impressive is how quickly the team’s new-look roster has come together after significant personnel turnover this past offseason. There are other teams that stand out, but of all of the surprise clubs this season, the Celtics extraordinary success has to be the most shocking.
Q: What’s something smart or interesting you read recently and why did it stand out?
Jackie McMullan’s piece on Kyrie Irving’s fallout with the Cavaliers and LeBron James plus his first season in Boston is an exceptional read. The article really takes you inside the star point guard’s mindset and helps explain why Irving’s thrived in his first season as the Celtics go-to option.
Also, if you're into podcasts, Adrian Wojnarowski recently sat down with Raptors star DeMar DeRozan for an in-depth conversation on a variety of topics, including his relationship with Kyle Lowry, why it's important for him to stay with the Raptors, and much more.
Both pieces of content really give you a deeper insight and fresh perspective on the life of NBA players that you can’t get anywhere else.