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NBA Takeaways – Jokic For MVP, Woeful Warriors & Testing Time For Timberwolves

We’re a quarter of the way through the 2023-24 NBA season so it’s time to dig into some of the biggest talking points right now.

Jokic Is The MVP

The NBA’s Most Valuable Player voters made a mistake last year. For as well as Joel Embiid played, Nikola Jokic was better. Still, voters got in their own heads. The fairly unwritten but strictly followed rule of not voting for the same player as MVP three times in a row meant another incredible season wasn’t celebrated in the way it should have been.

But, with that one season spent away from the podium, Jokic is all of a sudden back in the mix and once again favourite. Make it make sense…

By the counting stats, Jokic is 3rd in total points, 1st in total rebounds and 2nd in total assists. He leads in the NBA in Value Over Replacement, box plus-minus and win shares when looking down the advanced numbers. He’s the best and most influential player in the league right now whether you’re simply looking at the numbers or judging by the eye test.

He seems to be breaking records or adding context to others every week. Just recently, Tyreese Haliburton posted only the 7th game with 26/10/13 and no turnovers in NBA history. Meanwhile, Jokic recorded two 30-point triple-doubles without a turnover in the six days prior. No other player in the last 40 years had managed that in 40 years.

The Nuggets have lost three of their last four games. Still, only a quarter of the way through the regular season and with the Nuggets on the second line of betting to win the championship at $5, the expectation is for Jokic to dig them out of this hole sooner rather than later.

It Might Actually Be Over For The Warriors

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will always be part of one of the best teams in NBA history. Curry will be remembered as the greatest-ever shooter, Thompson for his incredible ability to heat up, and Green for his yapping at referees alongside his defensive presence.

This season won’t take anything away from them when it is all said and done. But, it looks as though the Curry/Thompson/Green version of the Warriors is, in fact, said and done. The trio have been outplayed in their minutes on the floor together so far this season and things aren’t getting any better around them.

A little nugget from Zach Harper at The Athletic: Pistons, losers of 20 straight, have a lineup of Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Ausar Thompson, Isaiah Stewart, and Jalen Duren that has a net rating of -10.1 on the season. Warriors lineup of Steph, Klay, Wiggins, Draymond, and Looney has a -10.2 net rating.

Currently 10-12 to be 11th in the Western Conference, the Warriors are in trouble. Their three stars are playing with a negative net rating and those around them aren’t providing enough to prop them up through any struggles. Thompson, in particular, is struggling as a negative offensive player right now. He’s on track to finish with negative offensive win shares. Andrew Wiggins is currently at -0.6 win shares – the 5th worst mark in the NBA.

Golden State has struggled against the bigger teams in the league. Green has always been relatively small for his role and influence in defence, but players are getting bigger. The Warriors aren’t keeping up. If anything, officials are catching up with Draymond…

This is a roster stacked with talent. If not proven right now, they have a bevy of younger pieces that could be an appealing part of potential trades down the track. We’ve seen the Warriors start a season slowly before ramping up towards the end in the past. That’s a long, long past for this aging core, though. Without a shot in the arm via trade or an unexpected rise from one of their role players, the Warriors are looking like a non-factor come playoff time if they make it that far at all.

Clippers Pretenders or Contenders

The LA Clippers lost six straight games following their trade for James Harden. Even for those that were initially sceptical about the fit on and off the court, losing six on the bounce so start came as a surprise. A surprise still is the nine wins they’ve picked up in the following 12 games.

They’ve made significant leaps over the last three weeks to appeal as championship contenders at $18.

Having beaten the Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers have picked up wins against good teams. This isn’t a winning run built on W’s they should have been piling up anyway.

It helps that after a few years of resting players throughout the regular season the Clippers have finally figured out a better recipe for success:

It’s especially important now given how many difficult pieces need to come together if the Clippers are to reach the heights they crave. Cohesion is crucial to success and the Clippers haven’t played with it for years. Right now, they’re in the very early stages of developing a championship-contending level of cohesion.

The Clippers are contenders if it all comes together. Kawhi Leonard is a proven performer on the big stage and Paul George is putting up numbers. If James Harden buys into the team in the post-season, there is enough talent to make up for his historically poor playoff performances. Again needing to buy in and make it work, there is potential for Russell Westbrook to be a key piece off the bench. Although, the Lakers tried that, too…

A lot needs to go right for the Clippers. Players with a history of being difficult need to change while the whole group is on the wrong side of 30 years old. We will need to see it to believe it. Still, there is value in believing in them at $18 at this point of the season.

Bet Now LA Clippers To Win NBA Championship @ $18

The NBA’s Most Disappointing Team: Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons win total tipped the season off at 27.5 wins. It’s a number they hadn’t cleared since 2018-19 and while there was little optimism for the Over here, it suggested improvement was on the horizon. Instead, the Pistons have lost 20 games on the bounce to be the worst team in the NBA. It’s the longest single-season streak in franchise history and equals the league’s longest since the Houston Rockets dropped 20 in a row in 2020-21.

It’s unlikely to end at 20 with the Philadelphia 76ers ($1.15/-11.5) to come next…

Monty Williams is tinkering with the lineup and switching combinations in search of improvement. He’s toyed with Cade Cunningham on the perimeter and moved Killian Hayes and Isaiah Livers in and out of the lineup. Still, the results remain the same.

It seemed as though this season, while not one of many W’s, would at least inspire confidence of a better short-term future. That isn’t the case a quarter of the way through the season.

Surprise Team To Start

The Minnesota Timberwolves are 17-5 and two games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No.1 seed in the Western Conference.

They’re playing with the best defence in the NBA giving up only 106.9 points per 100 possessions. It’s a promising improvement on their 10th-ranked defence of last season and largely comes down to the play of current Defensive Player of the Year favourite, Rudy Gobert ($2.20). The Frenchman is back to his best and despite all of the naysayers and his playoff record, is again headlining the best defence in the league.

With the ball, the Timberwolves are only middling to rank 18th but their defence lifts the net rating up to +6.4 and 4th in the NBA.

Anthony Edwards is only getting better, though.

Averaging 24.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, Edwards is one of the most exciting players in the game. He’s developing as a guard alongside Karl-Anthony Towns who is quietly putting together a nice season. Mike Conley’s 11.4 points and 6.2 assists in 29.7 minutes per game are helping in Edwards’ development, too.

The Timberwolves have been excellent and still have room to improve, but that improvement may start to plateau. It’s not unfair to say they’ve been blessed with a favourable schedule to start the season. Now, they’ve just tipped off a run of 16 games against teams with a record above .500. If they can still be towards to top of the West at the end of this current stretch, we will have to take their $12 to win the conference and $23 to win the championship a little bit more seriously.

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Related

Assessing The Giant Killers In The West, Lakers Looming & Embiid Returns

Golden State Has A Problem, Sabonis’ Streak & Clippers Capitulating

The Race To The Play-In, Scoring Falls & Ant Edwards Rising

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