2022-2023 NBA Week One Review

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

2022-2023 NBA Week One Review


2022-2023 NBA Week One Review


The first week of the NBA season is always a good one, but there’s a lot of notable headlines this year that have made it even more exciting than usual. There’s been some feel-good stories surrounding underdog teams and young players on the come-up along with dominant performances involving the NBA’s top stars. Today, we’re going to look at some of the notable things that popped out to me during basketball’s first week back.

-Ja Morant’s Added Dimension

Throughout Ja Morant’s first three NBA seasons, he was an objectively subpar shooter. He had previously gone 221-676 (32.7%) from behind the arc and wasn’t always a willing shooter. He took threes at a moderate volume but he passed up several open catch and shoot attempts and his form didn’t look like a true “shooter’s” form. He could get hot during different stretches and took his fair share of pull-ups, but the shooting was a mere compliment to his incredible driving game which carried his scoring numbers.

However, Morant has gotten off to a scorching start this season from distance, shooting 12-20 from behind the arc with a noticeably smoother form. He’s not passing up clean spot-up looks and he’s shooting with a newfound confidence that he’s never had before. Not to mention, he’s willing to take them from deep range:

Expecting Morant to continue with this level of efficiency is asinine. But if he takes a leap forward with his jump shooting to a 36-38% clip, we might be talking about the NBA’s leading scorer.

He’s already proven to be one of the league’s best drivers. He leads the league in points scored in the paint despite being a guard and everyone has seen the highlight reel dunks he seemingly gets every night. His nuclear burst and athleticism allows him to penetrate the paint at will and he’s already one of the best scorers in the league just based on that alone. 

But, if he’s able to shoot at a steadily consistent level, that adds a whole other dimension to his game, and makes him even more unguardable. You simply can’t defend someone who’s a threat to pull-up from three at any point but can also blow by you in a flash and posterize your team’s rim protector. Ja Morant may have taken another step forward in his development, and that should be absolutely terrifying for every team in the league. 

-Haliburton’s Hefty Load

Tyrese Haliburton has exceeded almost all expectations since entering the league. Although he was a lottery pick, many people throughout Draft Twitter had questions about his game and his translation to the league. His handle was poor, his burst was limited, and his thin frame put a ceiling to both his driving and his defense.

He came into his first season with a chip on his shoulder. He had a really solid first season with the Sacramento Kings and cracked the All-Rookie first team, but he didn’t have that same spark in his second season. In a win-now move for the Kings, Haliburton and Buddy Hield were swapped for Domantas Sabonis halfway through the season and immediately, Haliburton was thrust into a higher usage role and averaged 18 PPG and 10 APG for the Pacers.

However, he’s taken on a much larger responsibility this year. He’s currently putting up monstrous numbers with a usage rate much higher in recent years and is torching defenses with shotmaking, unorthodox advantage creation, and three-level scoring prowess:

The usage rate is the most shocking thing to me. During his two years at Iowa State in college and his first two NBA seasons, he’s always been a high efficiency, low touch player. Something that always stuck out was a story from Haliburton’s college days. The Iowa State men’s head coach for basketball brought every single member of the team in for individual meetings where he would try to sell them on shooting less and focusing on other things. When he had that same meeting with Haliburton, he had to sell him on shooting MORE

He’s been the same player for a long time. An incredibly unselfish and smart basketball player who always looked to get others involved first and share the touches with everyone else. However, with a roster lacking creation and true star play, it was time for Haliburton to be selfish. He increased his usage rate, has begun taking more shots than ever before, and is playing at the highest level he ever has. He’s maintained unreal efficiency so far, which will undoubtedly regress, while also being able to create offense for the rest of his team.

It’s clear that he is an absolute star for the Pacers and is a franchise building block long term. Indiana should feel extremely confident knowing that Haliburton can carry a heavy offensive load for the time being but has no problem scaling back when they inevitably bring in a top prospect next season. For now, we should all enjoy watching him play and it’s apparent that he’s going to be a star for a long, long time.

-Cade’s Got A Problem

Cade Cunningham has struggled tremendously to start the 2022-23 NBA season. His defense for a guard has been tremendous and the passing/creation has still been there in the midst of his struggles. However, his scoring has been quite poor so far and the shooting that was one of his biggest selling points in college has not translated to the pro level so far:

Cade Cunningham was drafted number one overall to be the Detroit Pistons’ primary initiator and offensive hub. As a 6’7 guard, he was a devastating shooter in college with sub-elite athleticism who mainly got buckets using his size and shotmaking. Combine that with great passing ability and defensive potential, and it was easy to see why he was drafted and regarded so highly.

Cuningham has not been able to replicate that same scoring success so far. He’s been experimenting with a different jumpshot and the results have been streaky to say the least. He’s currently shooting 31.8% from behind the arc and the form looks like a clear work-in-progress. This wouldn’t be such an issue if he was able to get easy buckets in different ways.

A perfect comparison for this situation would be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Gilgeous-Alexander was working on a new jumpshot form last season and while he was extremely inefficient, he was able to get to/finish at the rim and generate free throws. Cunningham is not only significantly less athletic than Gilgeous-Alexander, but he’s a much worse driver/finisher while not having the same ball-handling ability. His mid-range pull-up has been an inefficient shot for him and his floater is wildly inconsistent. It just doesn’t seem like he has an avenue to score.

There are two positive things to take away from this poor start however. The first is that it’s still very early. If this is just a poor shooting stretch and he gets his percentage from three up, then none of this is an issue. The second is that the rest of his game has been tremendous. He’s looked like a potential All-Defense candidate early in the season and he’s been great as a facilitator.

Cunningham’s high-end outcomes depend on him becoming a true dynamic scorer. He needs to start being able to hit jumpers at a higher level if he’s not going to be a consistent rim scoring threat. He no longer looks like the generational prospect he once was, but there’s still a clear path to being a high-level All-Star if he can find an avenue to scoring success.

Some other notes from week one:

  • Christian Wood is a revelation for Dallas off the bench. He provides oxygen to an offense that desperately needs it right now.
  • De’Aaron Fox is most likely going to have his best season yet. He’s had an unsustainably hot stretch from three to start off the year, but with Domantas Sabonis serving as a secondary option and guys like Keegan Murray and Kevin Huerter providing valuable off-ball scoring, defenses can’t just key in on him at all times.
  • Fueled by incredible confidence and marksmanship from behind the arc, Benedict Mathurin is the ROTY frontrunner. He’s dominated as a scorer off the bench and torched opposing defenses with his athleticism and shotmaking. He’ll be a starter very soon.
  • The Utah Jazz might be sneakily competitive. They’ve got plenty of shooters and guys with something to prove: a recipe for a team that can upset any team on any given night.
  • The Nuggets have been terrible defensively as expected, but the offense is unusually bad to start the year. Expect a turnaround soon as more shots begin to fall for them.
  • Damian Lillard is back!
  • Multiple top-10 picks from the 2020 NBA Draft such as Patrick Williams, Isaac Okoro and Killian Hayes are entering scary territory. If they don’t turn their play around quickly, this could be the beginning of the end for them.

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