The NBA has finally returned and after the first few days every team is back in action. Bodies are fresh, players are coming back from injuries and almost everyone is optimistic. The state of the NBA is full of hope.
Unfortunately for many, the NBA is a long season and those great aspirations can be quickly turned around due to injury or just misplaced expectations.
Before the season starts predictions are always fun, but there is nothing to base them off of. Now the games are back and we actually have an indicator of how things might go this season.
Realistically there is no way to identify how good a team or player can be after only playing a game or two, but for all those who do it, it’s fun and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. You have to watch closely, but the first few games will reveal something about how the year may end up.
Here are the top five things learned from the first few days of this NBA season.
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Durant will finally grab his first MVP
Kevin Durant dropped 42 points against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, forecasting that another scoring title is in his future. To be fair, the Utah Jazz aren’t exactly the most menacing team to face, even at home, but Durant looks to be in midseason form one game into the year. And without Russell Westbrook active for a few more weeks, Durant will be having a lot more high scoring games in the near future.
The thing that has plagued Durant his whole career is coming up second-best, every time to LeBron James. He made it the Finals but lost to LeBron. He’s finished second on ESPN’s NBA Rank the past two years and he’s been voted second in the MVP voting three three different seasons, behind LeBron each time. This finishing second thing has to be killing him.
So, what does Durant do? Opens up the season with a 42-point performance, trying to prove to everyone that he isn’t going to play second fiddle anymore. He didn’t have the highest shooting efficiency, but seems to be scoring on all different kinds of shots, particularly the one-legged fadeaway. This may not be the year Durant wins his first championship, but it will be the year he grabs the MVP.
Leading an Oklahoma City team that has really improved much in the past couple of years, the 6-9 forward will drive them to the top of the Western Conference. The show he put on during Wednesday night’s opener was just the opening act of what is to come the rest of the season. Even if Westbrook comes back better than he was last year, this will still be Durant’s team as he will lead them to the best record in the West, while winning his fourth scoring title and more importantly getting the coveted MVP trophy.
Dwight Howard is back
The 2012-2013 Dwight Howard is gone and the new and improved superstar center has settled down in Houston. Howard grabbed 26 boards, the most in a season opener since the merger, while scoring 17 points on Wednesday. For most of the game, Howard looked like a man among boys, putting up shots over the defenders with ease and out-hustling everyone for the rebound. Dwight Howard looks better than ever.
There are two possible explanations for this and why this high-level play will be sustained throughout the year. The first being that his injury is gone. Howard looked more mobile Wednesday night and the back pains that bothered him last season look non-existent. The second is the Rockets have opened up more space for Howard to operate. Having shooters on the perimeter and guards who can create plays by themselves will give Howard more freedom inside the paint.
One of the big question marks about Dwight playing in Houston is how well he and Omer Asik can coexist. Both of them started in the opener and no problems seem to have occurred in the game. In fact, Asik and Howard gathered 40 combined rebounds in their first game together. So far, he seems like a great fit for Houston as their style of play allows him to be the dominant center that he should be.