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Three Opening Week Surprises

We are officially one week into the new NBA season, and what a week it's been!

Despite the annual league pass issues, the action on the floor has been captivating and provided a welcome distraction for fans mourning the end of the AFL season (like me) and hoping that this is finally the season their team reaches new heights.

With that in mind, let's take a look at three surprises from opening week!

The Utah Jazz don’t suck!

I flagged that there is still established talent on this Jazz roster during my season preview, but to have them at 3-1 after a week was above and beyond what I thought they were capable of. The fact they’ve had a hard schedule thus far and their only stumble has been a loss to an up-start Houston Rockets squad makes it even more impressive.

A collection of solid players have come together to be more than the sum of their parts, with Mike Conley, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt and Collin Sexton all committing to one another on both ends of the floor. They play fast, they play tough and they don’t back down when the game is on the line and wanting to be won.

Lauri Markkanen (23) throws down a dunk during their overtime win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Credit: KSL Sports

They stunned a shell-shocked Denver in their season opener, then had two consecutive nail-biting overtime wins against Minnesota and New Orleans – all of whom most analysts are predicting to make the playoffs, if not come out of the Western Conference come June. Part of Utah’s strength is their depth as they have multiple players who are interchangeable at various positions depending on what the moment calls for, but as the season progresses I’d expect this to develop into a small liability.

Inevitably, teams with no definitive stand-out player become easier to defend as opposition coaches scout their tendencies and figure out the weaknesses in the combinations they put on the floor. But hey, for now, enjoy Utah Jazz basketball, because it truly is enjoyable to watch!

The Knicks are fun to watch….no really!

I never would’ve guessed that the Knicks would be a team I find myself seeking out games for, but that’s been the case in opening week.

They put on arguably the best contest of the start of the season fighting to the wire against the Grizzlies in overtime, followed that up with a 130 point performance against Detroit, and took care of business against Orlando today in another engaging contest.

Part of the reason the Knicks are no longer a grudge watch is undoubtedly Jalen Brunson. His crafty offensive game and ability to drive, then score or kick out to open shooters is creating so much movement off-ball that opposition defences get confused. His presence is also helping take the offensive load off Julius Randle, who after a down season last year, even received cheers when going to the bench early in this campaign from fans at Madison Square Garden.

Jalen Brunson (11) has become a key to unlocking the Knicks' offensive game. Credit: amNewYork

New York have also one of the most entertaining big-man combinations in the league with Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein. Robinson is arguably one of the league’s most elite shot-blockers and rebounders who can elevate and create a lob threat on offense, while Hartenstein offers more post play-making and some floor spacing without giving up a presence on the boards or above the rim. It’s been pleasure watching these two split minutes at the five through the opening week, and plenty of teams will struggle to deal with the combination down low.

I questioned why the Knicks were on the Christmas Day schedule when that was announced way back in August, but after opening week, I’m excited to see them play Philadelphia on December 26th (Australian time!)

Paolo Banchero is a 10 Year Pro!

Or at least that’s the way he looks out on the floor.

I’ve been on the record several times saying I think Jabari Smith Jr was the best player in the draft and should’ve been taken #1 overall, but I have to eat humble pie here and say Orlando got it right based on what we’ve seen. Banchero looks like…well, not a rook.

Paolo Banchero has looked like anything but a rookie in the opening week of his pro career. Credit: San Diego Union-Tribune

His scoring numbers have been remarkably consistent with all four of his outings totaling between 20 and 27 points, and he contributes in so many different facets of the game. He logged double-digit rebounds against Atlanta to go with three blocks, dished out five assists in his first pro game against Detroit and has generally been able to stay out of foul trouble for the majority of his appearances.

The Magic have undoubtedly found themselves a stud in Banchero and while the wins haven’t appeared yet for Orlando, it’s only a matter of time given how much improvement Banchero looks to have across this season and his career.

So, what do you think? Did I get it right? Did I mess it up? Let me know on twitter (@BMBTPodcast) or send us an email at!

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