Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

Even though the NBA season began a week and a half ago, over 75 games have been played so far. Teams that have been labeled as title contenders and have been living up to those expectations are the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta Hawks. Meanwhile, there are currently teams in the basement cellar in the standings, those teams are the New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers. Then you have the teams on the rise who could earn playoff berth in April. Those teams are the Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic. This NBA season is fairly young, but there are major takeaways.

One team that is surprising the NBA in a good way is the Portland Trailblazers. Over the summer, the Trailblazers lost four out of five starters due to free agency and trades. Many sports analysts and media outlets projected them to rival the Sixers for the worst record in the NBA. However, the Trailblazers feature a solid and promising lineup consisting of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis and Mason Plumee. Lillard is currently top five in the league for scoring with an average of 27.3 points. McCollum is averaging a shade under 20 points, experts are already mentioning him in the Most Improved Player conversation. The team currently has a 4-2 record, which is good for third place in the brutal Western Conference. They have a ceiling for a lower seed playoff team.

Another surprising storyline is the New Orleans Pelicans and there tough start to the season. The Pelicans are one of the three NBA teams who are currently winless. The other two teams are the Nets and Sixers. This record is surprising due to the fact the Pelicans possess a top-five player in the league, Anthony Davis. Despite averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds a game, Davis is shooting at a career worst field-goal percentage at 46 percent. One key factor that plays a part to the Pelican’s putrid start is injuries. With Tyreke Evans and Omer Asik missing six to eight weeks, the Pelicans are already down two starters. Other key players battling injuries are Kendrick Perkins, who may miss three months with a pectoral injury, and Jrue Holiday who is on a 15 to 20 minute restriction.

Before the season, ESPN experts projected the Pelicans to hover around the 50-win mark. It is not too late but, realistically, the Pelicans will win between 44-48 games.

A key storyline in the NBA is whether the Golden State Warriors can repeat their title run this season. The Warriors are the only team that is undefeated in the NBA. With their schedule for the next two weeks features non-playoff opponents, it is very likely the Warriors maintain their undefeated record. There are some important pieces that the Warriors currently do not have. Coveted rim-protector Andrew Bogut is out indefinitely while Coach Steve Kerr is out until the All-Star break from back surgery.
Other teams in the West have bolstered their roster over the summer. The Clippers added wing depth and veteran leadership with Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith. The Spurs reeled in All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge from Portland with a max contact in the summer. Not to mention, former finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is blossoming this season and an early MVP candidate. The Houston Rockets upgraded their point guard position by bringing in troubled Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson to handle the playmaker responsibilities.

Over in the Eastern Conference, you have reigning Eastern Conference Champions, Cleveland Cavaliers, who will challenge Golden State for the title once again. The Cavs have gotten off to a good start despite not having guards Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. Expect one of these five teams to represent the East come June: Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks or Miami Heat. All of these of teams are teams that will probably reach the 50-win mark by the end of the season.

Compared to last year, the rookies this season have been impressive and dominant. First and foremost, Sixers center Jahlil Okafor is heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year due to his elite skills in the post and being the main scoring option for the 76ers. Okafor leads all rookie in scoring and 20th in the NBA with 20 points a game. The two players who can challenge Okafor for the Rookie of the Year Award are Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Karl Anthony-Towns and New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis.

As mentioned earlier, there is a lot to look forward to. As the season progresses, there will be more players who may break out, some players who may be on the decline and most of all, trades. It is unlikely you will see trades this early in the season; however, in December expect to see and hear many trade rumors. Every year there is that one move made that puts everybody in the NBA in a frenzy.

This NBA season has a lot of potential for some incredible stories and moments. From the young teams looking to rebuild to championship contenders, to MVP candidates. Who will come out on top? Everyone will have to watch to find out the answer to that question.

Garbiel Smith is a fourth-year Communication Studies major. He can be reached at GS783203@wcupa.edu

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