NBA Team Chemistry Experiments – Are They Working?
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
Several teams around the NBA entered the 2018-19 facing change. Most rosters experienced some form of churn and eight teams have different coaches than they did a year ago. The teams that develop the best team chemistry, including coaches, are the ones that can successfully navigate the season. How are they doing so far?
TORONTO The Raptors decided to part ways with veteran coach Dwane Casey who took the team to five straight playoff appearances. Nick Nurse, Casey’s lead assistant, has taken over and the biggest change to the lineup, of course, is the addition of MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard. Kyle Lowry is averaging 15.5 points and 10.4 assists per game while Leonard has helped many Raptors fans forget about the loss of DeMar DeRozan. Leonard is scoring 24.8 points a game for Toronto which is now 13-4, the best record in the league. It seems the new chemistry is working out well in Toronto.
MILWAUKEE With a new head coach in Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks started the new season with seven straight wins. It helps that Milwaukee has a star like Giannis Antetokounmpo to build its chemistry around. The Greek Freak is shooting 55.5 percent from the floor and leads the Bucks in both scoring (25.9) and rebounding (12.7). Teammate Khris Middleton averages 19.3 points and PG Eric Bledsoe scores 15.2 points and averages 5.9 assists per game. So far, Milwaukee has challenged Toronto for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks are 12-4 and lead the NBA in scoring (120.1 ppg). The chemistry experiment is working.
L.A. LAKERS Head coach Luke Walton, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, and superstar LeBron James have to find a way to make the chemistry thing work. The Lakers are 9-7 so far but need to find ways to help individual players thrive. One example is Brandon Ingram. The third-year player is scoring just 13.8 points in his last five games. Team chemistry needs to find a way to create conditions in which any player, not just James, can win basketball games for the Lakers.
PHILADELPHIA The addition of Jimmy Butler has forced a chemistry experiment for the 76ers. Butler has averaged 18.3 points per game in four starts with Philadelphia. His arrival has forced Markelle Fultz out of the lineup. Fultz did suffer a minor shoulder injury and will miss a few games, but his role is going to change. Will that affect the Sixers’ chemistry? Philadelphia has proven it can win and is 12-7 thus far in 2018-19. Joel Embiid (27.9 ppg, 13.1 rpg), Ben Simmons (14.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 7.8 apg), and J.J. Redick (18.3 ppg) seem to be working fine with Butler.
MINNESOTA With Butler gone, one would think the Timberwolves team chemistry would improve. Remember, it was Butler who said the T-Wolves could not win without him. That may be so as Minnesota is just 7-10 so far and is 14th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference. Karl-Anthony Towns (19.9 ppg, 12.2 rpg) and Andrew Wiggins (17.4 ppg) are good but are they good enough to mesh with defensive star Robert Covington and Dario Saric, both of whom were obtained in the trade for Butler. The chemistry has not worked through the first month and a half of the season.
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