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10 Observations From The NBA’s First Quarter

Russell Westbrook
Feb 8, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) smiles on the court in the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Oklahoma City won 122- 106. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

With most teams having now played anywhere from 20-25 games, we’re about a quarter of the way through the NBA season. That means there’s still a long way to go, but we’ve seen enough to be able to make some interesting and informed observations on how the season is going. Here are 10 such observations.

1. The Warriors Are As Good As We Expected

An opening loss to the Spurs made the Warriors look a little weak. But Golden State has rounded into form with Kevin Durant playing more efficiently than he ever has and the other Warriors stars doing what they’ve always done. Their offense is frightening, and they blew out the Clippers even on a sluggish night. Simply put, this team is as good on the court as it looked on paper.

2. Tyronn Lue Can Use Kevin Love

Kevin Love was relegated to the role of spot-up shooter under David Blatt for much of last season. But under new head coach Tyronn Lue, Love is back to his dominating ways. He’s averaging almost six points per game more now than he did last season, and has improved his rebounding rate and shooting percentages as well. He looks like the Love from the Timberwolves days.

3. The Knicks Are Back

No, they aren’t going to contend. But at the time of this writing, the Knicks are tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose has played respectably, Kristaps Porzingis is a star, and the team is competing. There could well be playoff basketball at Madison Square Garden in the spring.

4. The Jazz Are Starting To Rise

Heading into the season, the Jazz were a popular pick as an up-and-coming franchise. Indeed, preseason betting outlooks actually tabbed the Jazz as the favorites in the Northwest Division, ahead of the Trail Blazers. Right now, the Thunder are actually leading that division, but the Jazz (at 15-10) are squarely in the playoff hunt and a clear step ahead of the Blazers. Utah is going to get some playoff experience.

5. The Raptors Are Still Second Best In The East

For all the talk about the rise of the Celtics and the balance in the East, the Raptors have been the clear second-best team behind Cleveland and are likely headed for another 2-seed.

6. Anthony Davis Is The Best Young Big Man

Heading into the season, people were ready to crown Karl-Anthony Towns as the best young big man in the league. And after his first few games in Philadelphia, Joel Embiid stole all the headlines in this regard. But after a quarter of the season, it’s 23-year-old Anthony Davis who’s re-asserting himself as the best young forward/center in the NBA. He’s averaging just over 30 points and 11 rebounds along with nearly 3 blocks per game. He also scored 45 points in 39 minutes in his one head-to-head matchup with Towns this season.

7. The James Harden Experiment Is Working

No one knew quite what to expect when Mike D’Antoni took over the Houston Rockets and installed James Harden as his point guard. But so far, Harden has been a suitable hybrid of the Steve Nash and Joe Johnson guard duo from D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns days. The experiment has worked beautifully, with some suggesting Harden is the quarter-season MVP.

8. The Lakers Are Fun Again

They’ve lost 8 of their last 10 after a hot start, but the Lakers are worth paying attention to once more. The young core of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram looks very promising, and while they may not be playoff-bound, the Lakers are not a joke.

9. Dwyane Wade Is Unstoppable

Wade is averaging 20 points in his first season in Chicago and has seamlessly transitioned into a lineup that pretty much everyone agreed made no sense. The Bulls’ talent is winning out, with both Wade and Jimmy Butler playing well en route to a 13-10 record so far. Wade is standing up to Father Time better than most anticipated.

10. Russell Westbrook is Amazing

Westbrook is averaging a triple double, even if his streak of seven straight recently ended. He’s simply playing phenomenal basketball in his first season without Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, and not much more needs to be said.

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