10 Story Lines NBA Fans Should Be Thankful For

11.22.12 4 years ago
LeBron James

LeBron James (photo. Nike Basketball)

Today you probably woke up with excitement in your eyes because of the amazing dinner selection that will await most of us later in the day. Thanksgiving is famous because of the turkey, ham and stuffing that we all love to engulf over the holiday. But somewhere in that huge pile of food, we’ve lost what the true meaning of Thanksgiving is.

While you should enjoy that turkey and the subsequent apple pie that you’re getting afterward, it’s important to remember what the holiday is truly about. It’s really elementary stuff – Thanksgiving is about being thankful. Being around our loved ones for one more year is always something to be thankful for.

On the basketball side of things, we have things to be thankful as well. This NBA season is proving to be very exciting and there are plenty of reasons why. At Dime, we’re thankful for a lot of things. In fact, we’re so thankful that we’ve compiled a list of things that all NBA fans should be thankful for.

Here are the top ten.

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Not that anyone should’ve expected otherwise, but LeBron James is still playing out of his mind. You would think that after a third MVP trophy, a Finals MVP, and his first championship that there would be some kind of drop off. Not with this guy right here – James is leading the league in PER once again with a 29.0 rating.

What’s more is that James is shooting a career-high figure from beyond the arch at 44 percent. If he can keep that pace up he’ll be virtually unguardable this season. Will he? I doubt it. But while it lasts, we should definitely be thankful for it.

Yes, the New York Knicks are actually good for a change. Right now they’re sitting at the top of the NBA as the only team (outside of Memphis) with just two losses, and they look for real. They aren’t just running through teams that can’t hang with them. They’ve beaten the likes of the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, two teams considered among the best in the NBA.

For those of us, including myself, who thought the Knicks weren’t for real have another thing coming. They haven’t won a playoff series for over a decade now and it looks like that should change soon. Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony have become a great combination for the Knicks, and their 4-1 set with ‘Melo on the high block is extremely hard to defend. Unless Amar’e Stoudemire comes back and changes things for worse, I don’t see the Knicks being completely stopped anytime soon.

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The Grizzlies’ offense is one of the most unorthodox things I’ve ever seen. They play a free throw line-down style of offense, which means they pride themselves on playing close to the basket, and don’t really focus on getting threes involved in their game. In the ’80s and ’90s, this style would be more normal, but in today’s game, it’s a definite oddity to see a team shooting a lack of threes and winning.

The Grizzlies functioning like this is a breath of fresh air for hoop fans, and the way Marc Gasol has the gears turning is unbelievable. He controls the elbow like no other player in the game. The Grizzlies pinch the post, run high-low plays, and attack the post all through Gasol. It’s no wonder he has a 133 offensive rating, and is averaging 4.6 assists per game.

Before the season started, the Thunder threw us that first gut punch by trading James Harden to Houston, and getting back Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and a bevy of draft picks. Many of us thought that the Thunder would fall off after trading Harden, a sure All-Star-caliber player. But Martin has stepped into that role without losing stride at all.

Right now, Martin is averaging 17.8 points and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 95 percent from the free throw line and 54 percent from beyond the arc. His per-36 numbers (21.3 points and 2.5 assists) are even better, per Basketball-reference. He also among the league leaders in true shooting percentage at 71 percent, which blows James Harden’s 66 percent from last year out of the water.

Kevin Martin has been amazing for the Thunder and I’m sure they’re thankful for the scoring touch he brings off of the bench. The Thunder will be just fine.

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Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant (photo. Nike)

Speaking of the Thunder, how can we talk about them without talking about how much Kevin Durant has improved his game this season? We know he can score the ball with some of the best players in NBA history. He’s the youngest scoring champion ever and he’s done it three straight years, which is unprecedented for a player in his sixth year.

This year, the pressure isn’t on Durant to score but instead to do everything else. The Thunder don’t really need him scoring so much more than he already has – he’s averaging 25.4 points per game. He may not be leading the league in scoring, but he’s averaging 10.1 rebounds per game along with 4.7 assists and 1.3 blocks per game – all career high numbers for him.

He’s gaining an edge in all other facets of the game that aren’t scoring and that’s more important for the Thunder without James Harden. I’m sure that some of this is because Harden is off of the team, but the Thunder have to be thankful for the improvements Durant has made.

O.J. Mayo is showing us a side of him that we haven’t seen since his high school days. He’s scoring 22.2 points per game, and is making us forget about his horrible seasons in Memphis. Mayo is shooting at a 50 percent clip right now and has a true shooting percentage of 65. That’s a ridiculous clip after shooting no higher than 55 percent (true shooting) during any of his seasons in Memphis.

I’m not really a Mayo fan, but he’s making even me eat crow. I didn’t expect him to perform very well after Memphis failed to extend him a qualifying offer. I thought he was going to be out of the NBA limelight fairly quickly. This rejuvenation, of sorts, is sparking Dallas. Their star player isn’t even back yet, so expect to see them in the postseason again once he does return.

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