The NBA season is only a week old but it is not too soon to look at how some of the biggest moves of the abbreviated offseason are faring.
No offseason trade made bigger headlines than the blockbuster that sent nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook from the Rockets to the Wizards for John Wall in a swap of high-scoring point guards.
Playing for his third team in three years has not done anything to slow Westbrook’s production, as he has averaged 19 points, 13.7 rebounds and 12.7 assists with three triple-doubles in as many games for the Wizards entering Thursday’s play. He is the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961 to record triple-doubles in the first three games of the season.
While Westbrook’s accomplishment is undeniably remarkable, the Wizards are one of four winless teams left in the league and the 0-4 start is the franchise’s worst since it began 2012-13 with 12 consecutive losses.
Many of the same issues that have plagued Westbrook throughout his career have followed him to the nation’s capital, with shot selection the most glaring weakness.
The early returns on the trade aren’t very good from Washington’s perspective but at least Westbrook has been on the court. Wall has yet to play a game for Houston after he and several teammates had to quarantine following COVID-19 issues on the Rockets.
The most surprising free-agent acquisition of the offseason was Gordon Hayward leaving the contending Celtics to sign a four-year, $120 million deal with the Hornets, a team that has not won a playoff round since 2001-02.
Hayward will not post the eye-popping numbers of some players, but he consistently makes smart choices and elevates the players around him. Hayward has averaged 19.8 points and six assists through his first four games with Charlotte.
A move that would’ve been impossible to predict a couple years ago was the Rockets giving a three-year, $41 million contract to Christian Wood, a player who went undrafted and has been waived four times since entering the league in 2015.
A versatile big man, Wood had a breakout season with the Pistons in 2019-20 and played at an All-Star level after moving into the starting lineup in early February. He averaged 21.9 points on 56.0 percent shooting with 9.4 rebounds in 12 games.
In his first two games with Houston, Wood has totalled 54 points on 23-of-42 (54.8 percent) shooting and 16 rebounds while starting at center. With the James Harden saga hanging over the team, Wood has given Rockets fans a young player to be excited about.
Veteran point guard Chris Paul has been on the move quite a lot lately, with the Suns his fourth team in five years following his November trade from the Thunder. Paul should be the perfect floor leader and mentor for a young Phoenix team that was the story of the bubble last season with an 8-0 record in the seeding games before falling short of a postseason appearance.
Paul has only scored in double figures once in his first four games but he is among the league leaders in assists (9.5) and has helped the Suns to a 3-1 record, their best four-game mark since 2014-15.
Kevin Durant was technically a member of the Nets last season though an Achilles injury kept him sidelined all year. The four-time scoring champion has not shown any rust upon his return this season, averaging 28.3 points on 52.2 percent from the field while helping Brooklyn to a 3-1 record in the games he has played.
Brooklyn is reportedly Harden’s preferred destination and acquiring him seemed to make sense for the Nets, since collecting superstars on one team is all the rage in today’s NBA. But with Durant seemingly back to his All-Star form and Kyrie Irving also playing extremely well, perhaps Harden’s scoring and demand for the ball is not needed in Brooklyn.
The Durant-Irving combination and a strong supporting staff of players could be enough to get the Nets to a place the franchise has not been since the days of Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson.
Durant, Irving and the rest of the league are chasing the defending champion Lakers, who on paper appear to be even better than last season. The addition of point guard Dennis Schroder in a trade with Oklahoma City is already proving to be a very valuable addition.
Schroder is a prolific scorer who can ease the burden on LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and he can take over some of the ballhandling duties in place of the departed Rajon Rondo.
Schroder is one of just 15 players this season (minimum of three games) averaging at least 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. Some of the others on that list are James, Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic.
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