Week one is in the books, and now it really feels like the NBA season is underway. It’s only been six days since the Golden State Warriors hoisted another championship banner into the rafters, but the season feels in full swing.
For the Warriors, the league’s second week offers a lot of opportunities. After a mediocre first week that featured two lackluster wins and a loss, the Warriors have a very easy slate this week. They play four times, which is a lot, but the four games include only one team that made the playoffs last year - and that team was the East’s 8th seed.
The table is set for a strong week.
Position entering the week
Western conference standings: 4th
Net rating: 9th (+3.0)
This week’s games
Monday, October 22 vs the Phoenix Suns (1-1)
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
What to watch for: The Warriors are facing a very bad team for the first time this year. Do they sleepwalk through the game, and rest on their laurels? Or do they go for the jugular and try to put the inexperienced Suns team away early?
Why they could win: Golden State has a significant talent advantage in this game, and they’re likely a little angry after Sunday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets - a game which featured a lot of sloppy play from the Dubs.
Why they could lose: The Warriors may be utterly exhausted coming into this game. They’re a little bit banged up, and this is the second game of a back-to-back - and one that required traveling, no less. It’s also the third game in four nights, with the first two coming in high-altitude Utah and Denver - the two most physically taxing places to play.
Opponent to watch: DeAndre Ayton. The Warriors will get their first look at the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Ayton has been, predictably, up and down to start the year; he has the tools to make life miserable for Damian Jones, but also the weaknesses that could allow the Warriors to dominate.
Wednesday, October 24 vs the Washington Wizards (0-2)
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
What to watch for: Do tempers stay in control? We know the Warriors can get a little emotional when they play - any team with Draymond Green and Kevin Durant is going to. And the Wizards feature John Wall, Austin Rivers, and Markieff Morris (unfortunately Dwight Howard, who would lead this list, is injured). Could we see this game turn into a chippy, technical-filled battle?
Why they could win: Washington is a decent team, but they don’t do anything particularly well. Last year, the Wizards ranked 15th in offense, and 15th in defense. There are a lot of areas for the Warriors to exploit.
Why they could lose: Despite all that, the Wizards are a talented team, and they start a potent triumvirate in Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. If two of those three catch fire, it could be a long night at Oracle.
Opponent to watch: Otto Porter Jr. The Wizards small forward started last year as the team’s glue guy, and ended it as arguably their best player (though he certainly isn’t commonly lauded as such). Porter shot 44.1% from three-point range last season, while playing very good defense - he could make Durant work hard on both ends of the court.
Friday, October 26 at the New York Knicks (1-2)
When: 4:30 p.m.
TV: NBA TV and NBC Sports Bay Area
What to watch for: Unsubstantiated speculation has started swirling about Kevin Durant’s upcoming free agency, and how he may bolt for the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Will the rumors be overbearing as he visits New York, New York? Will the fans go all out to try and woo him? Will he comment on the matter?
Why they could win: The Knicks have exactly one good player, and he is out with an injury.
Why they could lose: Sometimes you lose games you have no business losing.
Opponent to watch: Frank Ntilikina. New York’s second-year point guard is still developing offensively, but is already a stud defensively. He’ll be tasked with slowing down Steph Curry - a player known for having huge nights at MSG.
Sunday, October 28 at the Brooklyn Nets (1-2)
When: 2:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
What to watch for: The battle of the backcourts. Brooklyn has three very exciting young guards in Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and D’Angelo Russell. Golden State has the Splash Brothers. This should be fun.
Why they could win: The Warriors have too much firepower for this Nets squad. It’s hard to see Brooklyn having an answer for the three-headed monster that is Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant.
Why they could lose: Kenny Atkinson gets his team to play hard every single night, and the Nets can do some interesting things defensively. Also, this is a Sunday game following a weekend spent in New York, so . . .
Opponent to watch: Caris LeVert. Brooklyn’s young wing has started the season on an absolute tear. Through the first week, LeVert is averaging 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game, while sporting a 75.1% true shooting percentage, and playing strong defense against multiple positions. He’s the Nets best player right now, and he’s a lot of fun to watch.
This week’s storylines
Can Klay get it going?
Klay Thompson obliterated the nets in the preseason, but once the regular season began, his shot dove into an ice bucket. After the first three games of the year, Klay is averaging just 13.7 points per game, and has made only two of 16 threes. The frustration is visible, and impacting his entire game, as he has just one assist on the year, after showing off improved playmaking skills during training camp.
Will Jerebko keep it up?
Jonas Jerebko had an awful preseason, and looked fairly bad on opening night. Since then, he’s been a vital member of the Warriors bench. In the last two games combined, Jerebko played 35 minutes, and totaled 15 points and eight rebounds. Most importantly, he tipped in the game winner against the Jazz.
Is the veteran addition becoming a key member of the Warriors rotation? This week could teach us a lot.
Can we get a blowout . . . please?
Three games, three close contests, with the starters playing until the buzzer. Don’t get me wrong - intense games are a lot of fun. But Steve Kerr is waiting for some stress-free moments to unleash the back half of the bench. Rookie Jacob Evans III has yet to make his NBA debut, Alfonzo McKinnie has only played 18 minutes, and Jordan Bell has only played 10. We need some garbage time so those players can get some developmental minutes in.