The First Buzzer: 5 Things We Learned During The First Quarter Of The NBA Season

Well NBA Fans, we are currently one-fourth of the way through the 2019-2020 NBA regular season! We know, it’s flying by! So, in order to keep everyone updated on the biggest headlines from around the league thus far, the team here at http://www.thehardwoodtribune.com has decided to compile a list of the five biggest story lines so far this season. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into this thing!

1) James Harden is historically good

Love him or hate him, there’s one thing all NBA fans need to come to terms with: James Harden has been historically good so far this season. Harden has taken his game to another level in the 2019-2020 season and is making a strong case for MVP yet again. The Rockets’ guard is averaging 39.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, and 7.5 apg, which is incredible in and of itself. But its when you taker a closer look at the stat-sheet that Harden’s greatness really shines through. Harden has been able to put up these kinds of stats with good efficiency, as the Arizona State product has been shooting nearly 45% from the field this season. For Harden, this season is a chance at redemption and a chance to show the world that the Rockets are the real deal , and he sure seems determined to do that based off his play thus far. If Harden can sustain this level of play throughout the season, he will not only find himself in contention for the league’s MVP trophy yet again, but also potentially for a Larry O’Brien Trophy as well.

2) The Warriors are bad, like real bad

Going into this season, many fans looked at the Golden State Warriors no longer as a powerhouse dynasty, but as a team that could still potentially make a playoff push late in the season. Well, I’ve got some news for fans who had that opinion going into the season: throw that idea clean out the window. The Warriors have been extremely bad this season, and the stats show this perfectly. The Warriors have been atrocious this season on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. But, to be fair, this season’s shortcomings shouldn’t all be blamed on them.

Early on in the season, the Warriors lost star point guard Stephen Curry for likely the remainder of the season due to a hand injury, which did the team absolutely no favors on the offensive side of the ball. His running mate, D’Angelo Russell has also missed some time this season due to multiple injuries, allowing him to only play 15 games thus far. With Klay Thompson likely sidelined for the team this season, there really hasn’t been any bright spots for this Warriors’ team this season. The best thing the Warriors can do at the moment is to tank-out the remainder of the season and select a good quality pick, might I suggest Memphis center James Wiseman, with a high, first-round draft choice. With a below average roster and an injury plagued bench, there really is no end in sight for the Warriors this season. At this point, Warriors’ fans should turn their attention away from this season’s horrid play and focus on the upcoming draft, which they will likely have a top-3 choice in.

3) Luka Doncic is the real deal

If you didn’t see it before, you absolutely must now: young star guard Luka Doncic is the real deal, and he’s here to stay. The young Slovenian guard is playing at an MVP-type level so far this season, and he’s managed to turn the Dallas Mavericks into contenders in a tough Western Conference. The stats don’t lie: Luka is probably the best 20-year-old we have ever seen in the NBA. Yes, I said it, someone had to. So far this season, Luka is averaging 29.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, and 8.9 apg all while shooting nearly 48% from the field. That’s simply incredible for a second year player, almost unheard of. After watching him play this season, even Luka’s doubters are beginning to change their stance on the young, feisty guard. If Luka can keep playing like this for the remainder of the season, he will likely scoop up the MVP trophy. While no one is exactly sure just how good the Mavericks will fare in the postseason, assuming they make it there, on thing is certain: Luka Doncic is the real deal and he’s putting the basketball world, and his doubters, on notice with his play this season.

4) The Hornets are better then we all assumed they would be

Out of all the teams overperforming this season, this one is the real shocker to me. The Hornets parted ways with their longtime star Kemba Walker in the offseason, as he went to test the waters as a Boston Celtic, a role which he has realized and thrived in by the way. But, we have more on that later. Back to the Hornets. So, as I previously mentioned, the Hornets suffered a crushing blow by losing Walker, but in his wake, several players have really stepped up and helped propel the franchise to a decent record. Players like Devonte Graham and PJ Washington have helped keep the ship afloat, while players like point guard Terry Rozier and others have pitched in as well. By no means are we saying that this Hornets team will be a contender in the Eastern Conference or even be an above .500 team this season, but they certainly have out performed their preseason expectations.

5) The Celtics are, wait for it, having fun

After a season filled to the brim with mysterious headlines and troubling locker room emotions, the Celtics’ brass decided to flip the script in the offseason. Their first order of business was to bring in a young, exciting point guard by the name of Kemba Walker. This move turned out to pay off big time. Kemba has relished in his role as the distributer of the ball in Boston, which is seemingly putting everyone around him at ease. The young Celtics look like they are having a lot of fun taking the court night after night, but the best part is, the team is finding success this season too. The Celtics have managed to find themselves in the top half of the Eastern Conference standings this season, all while having fun doing it. The partnership between the Celtics and the young Walker has worked perfectly, and now the team is beginning to see the dividends pay off.

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Watch: Zion Williamson destroys rim during first NBA game

Zion Williamson has been one of the most polarizing players to follow this offseason, with a new story about him and his new-found team, the New Orleans Pelicans, coming out virtually everyday. With all the hype surrounding the young star, you would think he might come out of the gates slowly, adjusting himself to the pace of an NBA game, but that certainly was not the case. Zion showed the basketball world just a taste of his talent during the Pelicans’ first preaseson game of the season, finishing with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists against a youthful Atlanta Hawks squad. Check out some of Zion’s best plays from his first NBA game!

Video Credit: HouseOfHighlights/YT

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Breaking: DeMarcus Cousins suffers horrible injury

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Los Angeles Lakers’ big man DeMarcus Cousins suffered an ACL tear during a team practice.

Cousins reportedly “knocked knees” with another player during a team drill and suffered the horrible injury. While there’s not yet word as to when the Lakers expect Cousins to return, the team has reportedly already scheduled his surgery.

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Summer League Standouts: Nickeil Alexander-Walker

The NBA’s Summer League has long been a great opportunity for young players and rookies to breakout and make a name for themselves in front of fellow NBA veterans and front office staff. So, with that being said, NBA analysts are always searching through every team’s Summer League roster looking for the next NBA superstars.

Here at The Hardwood Tribune, we too have been searching for the next NBA superstars and over the next couple of weeks, we will be releasing scouting reports on several players whom we believe have showed great potential and promise during the 2019 Summer League. Today, we will be taking an in-depth look at New Orleans Pelicans’ rookie standout Nickeil Alexander-Walker. So without further ado, let’s jump right into the action!

Physical Attributes

Age: 20
Position: Guard
College: Virginia Tech
Height: 6′ 5″
Weight: 204 Lbs.
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
College Stats: 13.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 46.4% from the field
Years of College Experience: 2

Strengths:

Nickeil Alexander-Walker brings a little bit of everything to the table when looking at his overall style of play. Alexander-Walker is a quality scorer who can bring a spark of offense to the Pelicans second unit, which is a very sought after trait in the NBA. The 20-year-old is not only a quality shooter, but he’s also an impressive floor general. The Virginia Tech product possesses a very high basketball IQ, allowing him to dish out pin-point passes to teammates in transition, while also being able to step up and knock down an open jumper on the run. During the 2019 Summer League, Alexander-Walker showed that he possesses the ability to step on the floor and run an offensive unit, leading his Summer League coach to praise his game in an interview, stating the following:

“Nickeil’s been great running the offense. That was a change I saw in the first game, I saw his ability to play at the pace where we want to be, along with his ability to score. He was outstanding out there today. We’re just excited to have him, because of his ability to pass and find his teammates, and he’s an unselfish player.”

Not only has Nickeil garnered praise from his Summer League coach, he recently also was praised in the media by fellow Pelican’s draft pick Jaxson Hayes, who said this:

“Nickeil finds people, he gets buckets, he’ll drive to the hoop, hit a three, dime somebody. I’ve just really been impressed.”

In our book, Nickeil is somewhat of a swiss army knife, seeing as he shoots at a high clip while also asserting himself on the defensive end. During his short time at Virginia Tech, Alexander-Walker displayed incredible awareness on the defensive side of the ball, showing scouts he could pick off multiple kinds of passes with ease. Overall, Nickeil Alexander-Walker has shown NBA fans that he possesses a great amount of both potential and skill, leading us to believe he can transform himself into a quality NBA player upon entry into the league. After seeing his impressive performance in the early stages of the NBA’s Summer League, there’s absolutely no doubt the 20-year-old has begun to silence doubters with his crafty style of play.

Weaknesses:

While Alexander-Walker does enter the league with a polished set of skills, scouts do have some concerns regarding his frame and athleticism. According to multiple scouting reports, experts explained that they worry that the former Hokie lacks the athleticism necessary to beat defenders off the dribble and explode towards the rim. They also stated that they were concerned with his slender frame and his ability to match up with bigger defenders in the league.

Hopefully Nickeil can fill out his frame and put on some muscle to help him better matchup with bigger defenders. As for the athleticism concerns, developing a better first step and explosion timing can be done, and the Pelicans have plenty of trainers and coaches who will help Nickeil work on these areas of weakness. Ultimately, if Alexander-Walker can work on the parts of his game where he struggles a bit, he could develop into a future NBA star and a leader for this young Pelican’s team.

Review of Nickeil’s Summer League Thus Far:

If there were any doubters who didn’t believe Alexander-Walker was the real deal heading into the Summer League tournament, we guarantee there aren’t any now. The Virginia Tech product has had an incredible run during the 2019 Summer League thus far, averaging 27.7 points, 6.3 assists, 4 rebounds, 2.6 steals, and one block per game. Nickeil’s stat-line has propelled him into the national spotlight and the young rookie has handled the new-found attention incredibly well. Nickeil has proven he possesses the talent and ability to play at the NBA’s highest level and we simply cannot wait to see how the young guard performs during the NBA’s upcoming regular season.

Player Comparisons:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dejounte Murray

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Breaking: The Thunder have traded Russell Westbrook

According to ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Oklahoma City Thunder have traded superstar and franchise cornerstone Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for star point guard Chris Paul and a series of picks and pick swaps. More to come on the exact years of the picks and the swaps. Stay tuned.

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Breaking: Leonard, George headed to the Clippers

According to ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Los Angeles Clippers are acquiring both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this offseason. The team organized a trade for George after the pair discussed playing together earlier in the offseason, with Kawhi even telling him to attempt to “force” his way to the Clippers. The Thunder hauled in all-rookie selection Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, veteran forward Danilo Gallinari, and at least four first-round draft picks in exchange for the six-time all-star, leaving their team clearly in rebuilding mode. As for Leonard, the Clippers intend to ink him to a four-year maximum deal, which would keep the reigning Finals MVP in LA for the foreseeable future.

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Report: Damian Lillard, Trailblazers working towards max extension

According to league sources, superstar point guard Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers are working towards finilizing a maximum contract extension that would keep the 28-year-old in Portland for the next four years.

League sources informed Shams Charania of the Athletic early Sunday about the news regarding the star point guard. The potential contract extension could be worth around $196 million in exchange for four more years of the former ROTY award winner’s services.

During his time in Portland, Lillard has been tasked with becoming the face of the franchise and, paired with fellow teammate C.J. McCollum, has created one of the most dangerous backcourts in the powerful Western Conference. While there is not yet word on how long it will take the two sides to reach an agreement, Trailblazers’ fans can remain optimistic about keeping the star point guard in Portland for the foreseeable future.

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