The Toronto Raptors have their first win of the season and now 14 of the next 19 games are on the road. Not an easy task ahead. A few quick NBA thoughts including Kyle Lowry's early success with the Raptors, Jordan Hill's effect on the Lakers and Brandon Rush's season-ending injury.
1. C.J. Watson (Nets): He played really well vs. the Raptors on Saturday night in Brooklyn and when you evaluate the impact he can have for the Nets, I'd say he was a good pickup for them. Played pretty well over the years for the Bulls and when you look at a versatile guard who can compliment Joe Johnson and Deron Williams and give you solid reserve minutes, you have to like the backcourt situation in Brooklyn.
2. Jordan Hill (Lakers): I'm not too impressed with the depth of the Lakers whatsoever but this guy has improved over the past few years and will give you great effort. He battles on the glass and has great pursuit on the offensive glass. His energy level is there each game and he will hold his own as far as the post/interior defence. High draft pick of the NY Knicks that has never really panned out. I think in the current role that he's in, it's ideal for him and he can be a consistent/workmanlike performer for his team. The numbers won't wow you but he'll hold the fort.
3. Nikola Vucevic (Magic): Liked him at USC and thought he showed good glimpses of ability with the 76ers last season. Big day on Sunday with 18 points and 13 rebounds. He'll get the opportunity to play major minutes with Orlando and he's got good post skills. He'll get touches and have an opportunity to play through mistakes and find himself as a pro. He tracks the ball well as a rebounder and runs the floor pretty well for a big man. He was part of the Dwight Howard mega-deal this summer and kind of fell below the radar with discussion of the deal but is a solid pickup for the Magic.
4. Kyle Lowry (Raptors): Looked at him as a guy who was improving as a pro point guard with his best days ahead of him and liked the move by the Raptors to get him. Honestly, I didn't expect him to play this well though. He has far exceeded what I thought he would bring. This guy is a pitbull. He rebounds, guards and creates steals and deflections. He gets in the lane and creates offence for teammates and is a gutsy scorer who wants the ball in big situations. He is getting to know his teammates and is a crafty pick and roll guy. Can he keep it up? Who knows but based upon what I've seen since Day 1 of training camp, he'll do everything in his power to not be denied. He is relentless and confident to say the least. The past two games, he and DeMar DeRozan have looked like a significant NBA backcourt. You win in this league with elite perimeter play and the addition of Lowry was an upgrade, no doubt.
5. Brandon Rush (Warriors): He's out for the season with a torn ACL. Tough setback for him and his team. He was really starting to emerge as a reliable 3-point shooter last season and an overall steady guard for Mark Jackson and now this. Liked his poise on the floor and his ability to read screens and defensive coverages. Moves well without the ball and has a good future in the league. Setback? Definitely. Permanent? Far from it. Today's doctors, trainers and team staff do a tremendous job helping athletes recover from these injuries and there is no doubt in my mind that Rush will put the time in to come back from this even better.