NBA Star Power Index: LeBron James rains 3 points; LaMelo Ball must have Warriors kicking each other

Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players who control the most buzz around the league. Inclusion on this list is not necessarily a good thing. It just means that you capture the attention of the NBA world. It is not a ranking either. The listed players are not ranked in any particular order when it comes to the buzz they generate. This column will be broadcast weekly throughout the regular season.

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The Lakers got off to a slow 2-2 start (they survived in overtime in San Antonio on Tuesday without LeBron James, who had a sore leg), but the good news is that LeBron James continues to look like a player capable of wearing a team. James’ 3-point shot is particularly vivid (as is his crossfade).

Over the course of three games, James takes just under 10 3 points per game and hits 48%. If you’re interested in how the Lakers played with Russell Westbrook as a pick-and-roll partner with LeBron, our Sam Quinn provided a good breakdown here.

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Do yourself a favor and free up your schedule for as many Hornets games as you can. It’s an Indy car, and LaMelo Ball is in the driver’s seat with the throttle pegged. Charlotte got off to a 3-1 start with Ball shooting 50% from 3 on eight attempts per night; he has already done seven 3s in two separate parts.

This kind of shooting just wasn’t expected of Ball, and certainly not so soon. His comfort and confidence belies his experience. When he does 3s on dribbling and catching in addition to making passes like this below, he’s already an All-Star player.

People are going to play the premature card, but the Golden State Warriors, while obviously going to say all the right things about James Wiseman, have to quietly kick each other for not catching Ball while he was sitting right there for them at No.2 in the 2020 draft.

What Ball could do in this fast, instinctive, passing-oriented Warriors system, with that kind of shooting and talent around him, is limitless. And that doesn’t mean anything about the obvious franchise player talent and star power he possesses. Through this lens, moving from the Stephen Curry era to the LaMelo Ball era would be like hitting Powerball twice, and the Warriors had the ticket.

That’s not to say that Wiseman won’t end up being good, but it looks like the Suns taking Deandre Ayton over Luka Doncic and Trae Young at best. Ayton is going to be good; it already is. But he will never be Doncic or Young. We don’t need any more time to be able to say this with extreme confidence.

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Speaking of the Warriors, they got off to a 4-0 start, and they did so despite a relatively cold start to the season from Stephen Curry. His 45-point game against the Clippers bolsters his numbers, but all in all he’s still only shooting 38% against 3 and 43% overall. Throw in the Clippers game, and it’s 10 for 32 of 3.

But Curry – whose mere presence, even when he’s not making a ton of shots, creates countless open opportunities for his teammates – does a lot of other things. Like bouncing back. The Warriors play a lot of small lineups, making it a committee rebound situation, and so far, Curry competes in over eight boards per night.

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After an offseason of business rumors, which he recently crushed (for now), Damian Lillard has stepped frigid out of doors 2021-22. In three games, he is 2 for 24 of 3; he went 0 for 9 against the Kings and 0 for 8 against the Clippers, and he only hits 36% of his shots overall.

Since Lillard entered the league in 2012, this is the first time that he has had two games in the same season in which he has not scored 3 points while attempting at least eight. We won’t even start with Lillard’s defense, which has, as usual, been terrible. The shootout is sure to resume, but if the Blazers can’t stop anyone, those “Lillard has to force his way out of Portland” catches will fly again soon enough.

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What more can we say about Ben Simmons at this point? He has reportedly said he is not mentally ready to play for the Sixers, who have started paying him again as long as he works, both mentally and physically, to get back on the pitch. There are so many layers in this situation.

Simmons didn’t handle this well, first and foremost. If he’s legitimately struggling with his sanity, then go out there and say so. He should be, and I guess he would be, respected. But that half-explanation of not being mentally ready to play sounds like a guy who isn’t ready to face the music he has composed extensively with his teammates and the Philadelphia fans.

Criticism is part of being a professional athlete. Sometimes that review isn’t fair or balanced, but he gets paid $ 170 million to play basketball. His ego should be fine. Simmons is right that he and Joel Embiid don’t go together and that he would probably be better off in a system designed specifically for what Simmons can and can’t do, but it works both ways. Embiid would be better off with a point guard who could shoot and create an attack in the half court and give a free throw here and there.

I’ll say this: The Sixers don’t look good without Simmons. They are 2-2, beating two bad teams and losing to two good teams. Their last five-minute streak against Brooklyn was horrible. The Knicks beat them. In both games, it was glaringly obvious how difficult it is for the Sixers to create a half-court offense.

You’d think they could still play with Embiid in the post, but he’s still not good at handling the inevitable double-team; Throwing the ball to him does not guarantee a good shot like it does when you give it to Nikola Jokic or Kevin Durant or other great players back to the basket.

Simmons doesn’t fix those half-court issues (Tobias Harris and Seth Curry are just over their heads as lead creators), but some of the things he does could, like in the past, go a long way at compensating the least for these collective holes. I suspect Simmons will be playing for the Sixers at some point this season before he is finally traded. To say it will be interesting to know how it goes is an understatement.

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Ja Morant leads the league scoring three games, and he nearly had the Grizzlies unbeaten with 40 points and 10 assists against the Lakers on Sunday. With Memphis down three in the dying seconds, Morant was fouled on a 3-point attempt and had a chance to tie the game on the free throw line, but after making the first two, he hit back with an iron on the third as the Lakers held on. to.

Morant has looked good from a distance, making 8 of 18 3s so far, and what’s scary is he hasn’t really started dominating with his float yet, which is one of the league’s most indefensible shots.

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Steve Nash called James Harden a “poster boy” for the emphasis officials have placed this season on not rewarding 3-point shooters with an offensive call for non-basketball moves designed simply to create false contact; i.e. jumping into defenders, falling, kicking legs, etc. Harden has certainly taken advantage of these situations for years (as have, to a lesser extent, guys like Steph Curry and Trae Young), and that was a big reason he averaged double the number of attempts. free throws per game over seven of eight full seasons in Houston.

That has been reversed this season, as so far Harden has only reached the line 12 times in four games. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Harden averages only 17.3 points on 36% of shots, 32% of which are 3. Harden has never been a particularly lethal shooter; his disproportionate 3-point and free-throw volume played the biggest part in his three goalscoring titles in Houston.

That’s not to say that Harden is just a product of weak whistles and isn’t an elite scorer under these new circumstances. But it is a factor. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Harden, having to constantly do his hard recoils and just sell a foul and make free throws are two entirely different things.

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The Bulls are 4-0 coming on Wednesday. Do not panic ; they faced the Pelicans without Zion Williamson, the Raptors and the Pistons twice. Still, the Bulls look good, surprisingly on both sides, and Zach LaVine cooks over 25 points per night with a 3-point shot over 44%.

Few players give the impression that the score is as easy as LaVine, who adapts perfectly to a more off-ball role. He still initiates a lot of attacks, but the Bulls activate Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso a bit as initiators.

We’ll see if that’s a mechanism to get these guys going early in the season, or maybe to keep them engaged defensively (I don’t think any of them need to be pampered to play. tough on defense), or just to present a more balanced attack, but LaVine and DeMar DeRozan are clearly the best individual creators, and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly Chicago starts relying heavily on those two again when it comes down to it. will start losing some matches.

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