I watch a lot of basketball now…, okay? please talk to me about it all the time if you also just got really into ball, and ball being life.
Giannis Antetokounmpo may still be averaging 27 pts, but the Bucks’ 4-6 record is mostly due to the absence of the rest of the starting five. Khris Middleton tested positive for Covid-19, Jrue Holiday is expected to return soon from ankle pain, Brook Lopez is out with a back injury, and P.J. Tucker packed up over the off-season and went to Miami.
The Bucks still have some great reserves in center Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton, but with their championship stars out they’ll have a hell of a lot of trouble running the title back.
The Bulls wheeled and dealed in the off-season to build a team around Zach LaVine and they’ve seemingly done it. He’s playing very well around newly acquired stars Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan (who is averaging 27 points), and Lonzo Ball. Give them some more time together and we’ll see what they can pull off.
How the Cav’s are doing well is beyond me. Colin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen are playing well together, but three of their most important players are out indefinitely. Isaac Okoro has a hamstring injury, and both Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love have been placed on health & safety protocols.
Whatever success they’re having right now surely cannot last, but somehow it is. First-round pick rookie Evan Mobley scored 27 points against the Knicks on Sunday, and Ricky Rubio put down a career-high 37 points off the bench.
In my opinion–and that’s why you’re here–the Celtics should be winning more games. For a team with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and Dennis Schroder to go 4-6 is very odd, especially when Tatum and Brown are averaging over 40 points a game together and Horford is the current defensive block-leader.
Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi Leonard being out with a torn ACL has really destroyed the Clippers’ chance of deep success unless he can return for the playoffs. The team is still really strong–boasting Paul George (a top-5 offensive scorer), Nicolas Batum, Eric Bledsoe, Ivica Zubac, Reggie Jackson, and Terrance Mann–but somehow they’ve started off very inconsistent. The Cavaliers somehow held them off 92-79 last month.
Ja Morant is one of the most exciting players to watch right now. He’s not only averaging 25 points a game, but he’s playing brilliantly alongside an elevated Desmond Bane. Memphis just had two back-to-back wins over the Nuggets, and they had an exciting OT win last month against the Warriors with Morant putting down 30 points.
How are the Hawks losing so many games? Trae Young looked like the dark horse of the 2021 playoffs and De’Andre Hunter hit 10-11 FG’s and 6-6 3PT’s against the Nets on Wednesday. They also have John Collins, Cam Reddish, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and every other Hawk that took them to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot more boring than the playoffs,” Trae Young said on Friday. Well, you gotta do good here to get to play there, my man.
This team looks unstoppable. I have ’em in my top 3 right now, no doubt. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were already dynamite together, but now they’ve got Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, P.J. Tucker (fresh off the championship Bucks), and Tyler Herro, who has stepped up tremendously. The 21-year-old back-up point guard is scoring over 20 points a game, getting exceptional play time, and is my current pick for sixth-man of the year, hands down.
I really like the Hornets this year. They’ve got 2021 Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, 23-year-old Miles Bridges has stepped up a lot (averaging 22 points a game), and they’re really fun to watch… they’ve just got to figure out how to win some damn games.
No shade on the Utah Jazz, but it’s easier to go 7-3 at the beginning of the season when your division has the Timberwolves and the Thunder in it. The team was a big potential threat in last year’s playoffs thanks to Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, and they’ll likely find themselves there again in 2022. Mike Conley is an exceptional three-point shooter on a good night, Donovan Mitchell is averaging 24 points a game (when he doesn’t often exceed 30 points), and Rudy Gobert is the current rebound leader by a long shot.
The Kings are a conundrum. They’ve got good talent in De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Tyrese Haliburton, and Buddy Hield, but they’re having trouble either finishing with the win, or blowing a team like the Hornets out 140-110. I don’t have any sort of grasp over what’s happening over there as they sit at an even 5-5 record so far, and I don’t know if they do either.
New York Knicks
Big competition with the Heat for most exciting team on the East. The Knicks also built up a great roster for this season, adding Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker to an already promising team of Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Derrick Rose, and center Mitchell Robinson.
Winning the Most Improved Player Award last year, Randle has upped his game to average 21 points a game as he leads a 6-4 season with impressive early wins over the Bulls, 76ers, and the Celtics in double overtime. Both Randle and Fournier exceeded 30 points in that game against Boston, with Robinson nabbing over 17 rebounds. Bing Bong!
Los Angeles Lakers
No one is kicking themselves more than the Lakers right now with a 5-5 record. For how much talent was stockpiled onto that team in the offseason, they are flailing wildly. It’s nearly impossible right now to guess how they’ll play, and they have too many noteworthy players to not be winning every game: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan.
Sure, short-term injuries to LeBronn James, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and Trevor Ariza, are not great at the start of the season, but it’s amazing that Carmelo, AD, and Russ, can’t bust out win after win on their own.
After trading away Vucevic, the Magic are scrambling. They not only have six players on the injury report as of Saturday, but star center Mo Bamba simply cannot carry a team no matter how many great blocks he makes a game. Rookie Jalen Suggs is doing decent after being drafted fifth in the first round, but his shooting percentage is just not where it should be. He shot 1-6 three-pointers against the Spurs on Friday and 1-5 against the Celtics two nights prior.
Much like the Utah Jazz, the Mavericks have a pretty easy division to stay up on top of–Pelicans, Rockets, Spurs, and the Grizzlies. They have an excellent starting five in NBA 2K21 cover star Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, and Dorian Finney-Smith. Recently acquired Reggie Bullock as well was a decent addition. We’ll see how they fare in the playoffs if they can stay healthy.
Previous favorites for the title, talk-of-the-town Kyrie Irving pulling out over a refusal to get vaccinated has really hampered the team’s scoring potential. They still have Kevin Durant, the league’s scoring leader and potentially the best player in the game currently, but the Nets are still struggling a bit.
James Harden has settled into the carry the ball down and make an assist position nicely, but he looks like he hasn’t fully recovered from his hamstring injury in the playoffs last season to put up 30 a game alongside KD. Bruce Brown and three-point shooter Joe Harris have stepped up tremendously, but the team seemingly has an age problem. LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Patty Mills, and Paul Millsap (even Durant and Harden)–these guys are all in their 30s. We’ll see what they can keep doing, but the team may need some faster, younger talent.
The Nuggets have 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic, and they better pray he stays healthy. Will Barton, Aaron Gordon, and Michael Porter Jr. make for some good starters, but they’ve only on occasion so far been able to put up numbers resembling anything close to what Jokic can do. Back-to-back losses to the Grizzlies certainly hurt this week, and Jamal Murray out recovering with a torn ACL doesn’t show much promise either.
They’re not the worst team in the East, but they’re pretty close. Even with Chris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon, and 6’11” center Domantas Sabonis, the team just can’t convert wins. A surprising upset over the Knicks on Wednesday hopefully provided the team with some hope, and first-round pick Chris Duarte is playing pretty well as a rookie starter.
New Orleans Pelicans
Zion Williamson out indefinitely on foot surgery was certainly not part of the plan when they traded away Lonzo Ball. Brandon Ingram recently sidelined with hip problems has not helped their 1-9 record either, even with replacement center John Valanciunas stepping up. They lost by a staggering 126-85 against the Warriors on Friday, and I really don’t see the team getting out of this rut until Zion returns and realizes he needs to GTFO out of New Orleans.
Another of the league’s bottom five worst teams, the Pistons’ No. 1 first round pick Cade Cunningham has just not cut it so far. He had to sit out the first four games due to an ankle injury, and he’s only averaging around 10 points in the last four that he could play. The team was expected to pick up DeAndre Jordan in exchange for Jahlil Okafor, but Jordan went right over to the Lakers, swerving the 1-8 Pistons with no regrets.
OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, and Gary Trent Jr. make for a surprising trio. The team has gone 6-3 with wins over the Knicks and Wizards. VanVleet scored over 30 on Friday, Anunoby hit 36 on Monday, and Gary Trent Jr. is the current league leader in steals-per-game. There’s a lot of potential in Toronto for the first time in awhile, and No. 4 draft pick Scottie Barnes has been averaging around 17 points (probably the highest avg out of anyone in the 2021-2022 rookie class) as a much-needed starter.
As the worst team in the league last year with a 17-55 record, the Rockets got a ton of good pick placements in the 2021 NBA draft, despite losing the No. 1 slot to the Pistons. At No. 2, Houston drafted Jalen Green, a player that fared better than Detroit’s Cunningham in the Summer League. Now in the real season, however, he hasn’t been that much help yet at just a 14-point average and a 1-9 record.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have started out 3-7 this season, but that’s pretty much what I expected out of a team that traded their star player away for some draft picks and a 33-year-old forward averaging 5 points a game. Sorry San Antonio, but it’s honestly really hard to find any enthusiasm here.
Despite starting out with a 5-3 record, I know what the Suns are capable of doing. The team has remained unchanged over the off-season since being the 2021 NBA Finals runner-ups, and they’ve even picked up JaVale McGee and Landry Shamet.
The starting five roster of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Jae Crowder, still feels like the strongest in the league. Their three losses have come down to surprisingly low shooting accuracy from Chris Paul at the start of the season, but if they can reach that postseason magic again they’ll still be a major threat.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is heading this shabby team single-handedly right now, and it’s obvious when you compare his high numbers to their 2-6 opening record. Surprisingly, both their wins have come against the Lakers, where Shai led the team with 27 points.
The two Anthony’s, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, are doing some decent numbers in Minnesota. Though they lost back-to-back games against the Clippers this week, the duo had an impressive showing scoring 50 points together against a hampered Bucks for a win, even with Giannis laying down 40 on his own.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have one of the best trio’s in the league, so it’s quite shocking to see them go an even 5-5. Damian Lillard and Norman Powell have only averaged 17 points a game, and CJ McCollum used to be a decent three-point leader. I’ll give them some more respect as the season goes on, but only if they deserve it I guess.
Odds on Philly are looking good. The team leads the East with an 8-2 record, and everybody is playing exceptionally well (even without Ben Simmons). Recently they’ve beat the Bulls back-to-back and stomped the Hawks 122-94. Though star center Joel Embiid is only averaging 20 points a game, the bench for Philly runs deep: Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry, Shake Milton, Tobias Harris, Georges Niang, and Furkan Korkmaz all average at least 10 points a game as well. Strong roster.
Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry once again leads in three-point shooting, and being backed by Draymond Green, Jordan Poole, Andre Iguodala, and Andrew Wiggins, certainly helped their 8-1 start to lead the West. Once Klay Thompson returns from his year-long ACL injury, they’ll surely only add to their point total, as Curry continues to play a different game in San Francisco called: I can shoot from over 30 feet away.
Bradley Beal basically said, who needs Russ. The team is 7-3 in a pretty competitive Southeast divison, and the three players that the Wizards received for Russell Westbrook–Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope–have been doing pretty well. The Lakers treated these guys like spare parts in a three-for-one deal and look at ’em now.
The Wizards also acquired Spencer Dinwiddie, from the Nets injury reserve, to round out a surprisingly decent starting five. On Friday, they stomped the Grizzlies 115-87 with seven players deep scoring over 12 points. Then on Sunday against the hampered Bucks, Beal sunk 30 points for the win alongside a combined 30 from Kuzma and Harrell as well. Maybe it was the best move actually.
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.