Nylon Calculus

Nylon Notebook: Takeaways from the NBA’s real opening night

The NBA‘s regular-season kicked off in earnest on Wednesday night with 11 teams playing their first game. Here are some quick statistical takeaways from the league’s first big slate.

Kyrie goes off

Kyrie Irving‘s 50-point explosion was a nice way for him to formally introduce himself as a Net. He finished 17-of-33 from the field and 7-of-14 on 3-pointers, adding 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Other than losing his footing on a potentially game-winning possession he played an offensively flawless game. In fact, according to Game Score — a box-score based single-game metric — this was Kyrie’s best individual game since leaving the Cavaliers two seasons ago.

Markelle Fultz can do some things

Markelle Fultz’s open-court dunk was the highlight of the night but Magic fans also probably felt hopeful seeing his willingness to take three attempts from beyond the arc, even though he missed all three, and drill a 13-foot jumper from the wing. Healthy enough to jam and willing to shoot are absolutely important developments for Fultz, but the playmaking he showed off in the Magic’s 94-85 win over the Cavaliers was the most meaningful factor for his immediate future.

Fultz had 6 assists which produced 13 Magic points. However, his teammates missed a number of open shots off his passes and he actually had 12 potential assists in just over 23 minutes. Fultz also managed 13 drives, on which he scored 8 points and produced 3 of his assists. D.J. Augustin led the Magic in drives per game last season at just 10.2.

Even if Fultz’s outside shot continues to be a work in progress, his shift ball-handling, vision and finishing ability will be tremendous assets to Orlando’s offense.

Double-double-off

With 22 teams playing their first game of the season, we saw an astounding 20 point-rebound double-doubles. In terms of overall quality, these ranged from Bam Adebayo‘s 14 and 11 with 5 turnovers to Karl-Anthony Towns‘ 36 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks.

Pacers’ twin towers

Just before the regular season started, the Pacers locked themselves into the combination of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner by locking Sabonis down with a four-year extension. The pairing hasn’t had a great track record on the court together so the dance Nate McMillan does with managing their minutes could be the key to the Pacers season. The graph below shows how minutes were distributed in their first game, a 119-110 loss to the Pistons.

The Pacers were plus-8 in the 26 minutes they were on the court together. Solo stretches for Sabonis came around the end of the first and third quarters, into the second and fourth. The Pacers were minus-5 in the 10 minutes Sabonis was on the floor alone, and minus-12 in the 12 minutes Turner was on alone. This is the polar opposite from the pattern over the past few years when they struggled together and dominated apart. One game is such a small sample but it’s something worth keeping track of as the season progresses.

Next: Nickeil Alexander-Walker is going to create offense

No more jumpers for Andrew Wiggins

On the surface, Wiggins’ opening night line doesn’t exactly look impressive. Yes, there were 21 points and 8 rebounds. But there were also 27 shots to get there, 0-of-9 shooting outside the paint, not a single assist, steal or block, and a team-worst minus-26 plus-minus in his 36 minutes. However, Wiggins was phenomenal at attacking the basket off the dribble and finished with 16 points on 15 drives. He might not finish this well every night but If he could just pare his offensive role down a bit to focus on this, it could do incredible things for his overall efficiency.

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