That is great defense from David Vanterpool! Kuzma has made some clutch shots this season but the Wizards second-leading scorer missed a potential game-winner and was clearly still frustrated afterwards with an earlier moment in the fourth quarter.
The NBA season has finally begun with a big week of games kicking off the regular season.
This stretch of games saw big performances, the return of some familiar faces and gave us a brief idea of where each team stands coming into the season.
While a week may not be enough to gauge where everyone will eventually end up in terms of the standings overall, there are definitely some topics of interest to discuss from the first week. I shall write every week about the five main talking points from each week as we progress through the season, with opening week already giving us much to talk about.
1. Don’t sleep on Kevin Durant
The first week saw the return of numerous players, but none were more hyped than the return of Kevin Durant. Durant did not play a single game last season after suffering a torn Achilles in the 2019 NBA finals against the Toronto Raptors. Durant returned in a fast start against the Warriors, helping the Nets defeat his old squad.
Despite the recent injury of Spencer Dinwiddie, the Nets have looked deadly led by the duo of Kyrie Irving and KD. Durant has seemingly not lost a step on both the defensive and offensive ends of the floor, averaging 26.7 PPG in his three outings while shooting 53.2 per cent from the floor. Clearly, the injury has only made Durant hungrier than ever.
So far, the NBA world has been proved foolish for sleeping on Durant as his reemergence makes the Nets an intriguing team to watch.
2. The Lakers are better than last season
It is not every day that you see a team improve despite losing many of their key contributors from the season prior. However, that is exactly what the Lakers have done. Despite losing Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Danny Green and JaVale McGee, the Lakers have added key pieces such as Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell.
Harrell and Schroeder were both top bench players in the league last season and have continued to showcase why they were so highly-coveted players for their respective teams last season. They have both had big games for the Lakers and have provided valuable minutes and contributions to their new team thus far.
Despite his age, Gasol has also shown that he still has some play left in the tank for this Lakers by providing the team with a big body in the paint.
Along with LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the charge, the Lakers have showcased they are in a tier of their own as they look to repeat. Despite going 2-2, the Lakers have looked solid in all four of their games, which begs the question as to who can topple the reigning champs?
3. Houston, we have a problem!
As mentioned in previous articles, the Rockets had an eventful offseason. The team traded Russell Westbrook for John Wall, signed DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood, and are in the midst of discussing where to send James Harden as the star does not want to be with the team that helped him become a star.
Despite that, COVID has been the Rockets’ biggest enemy thus far as the pandemic and regulations created due to the virus has seen the Rockets’ first game with the Thunder postponed due to the team being unable to field eight players. This also affected the Rockets’ second game against the Trail Blazers, as the Rockets were only able to have nine players cleared to play.
James Harden has shown brilliance in his performances for the Rockets, which is a bad sign as the Rockets sit winless on the bottom of the Western Conference with Harden still seeking a trade. While the team has not been completely woeful, the Rockets need to start questioning whether it is time for a rebuild as losing Harden will derail the team further.
4. The Warriors’ competitive days may be over
Another former powerhouse team that has looked rather lacklustre so far is the Golden State Warriors. The team had a lot of promise coming into the season, as the additions of James Wiseman and Kelly Oubre Jr excited fans. However, despite Stephen Curry playing some decent basketball, the team has looked very average.
Steph Curry has been his usual self, having two 30+ point games already this season. However, the rest of the team has had no real standouts during the year thus far.
While the Warriors have faced teams such as the Nets and the Bucks, they have been manhandled during these contests. Andrew Wiggins and Oubre Jr have been woeful shooters, Draymond Green has yet to play a game and with Klay Thompson out for the year it may be a very long season once again for the Warriors.
5. Young Eastern teams dominating early
The Eastern Conference is often portrayed as the weaker conference, however some of the Eastern teams that have been balling this season. The Hawks and Cavs come to mind, as both teams look to put their stamp on the league and show off their developing young talent.
The Hawks had a terrific offseason, and have amassed quite a talented roster in an attempt to leap into the playoffs. They remain one of the only undefeated teams in the league, as Trae Young has looked hot from the floor. The young star is currently averaging 34 PPG and 7.3 APG, showcasing why he is being considered one of the best point guards in the league despite his age.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have also surprised early on, thanks mainly to their fun backcourt. Darius Garland and Collin Sexton have proved early on that they are a backcourt that should not be looked down upon. Sexton has averaged an incredible 25.3 PPG early on, while Garland has averaged an impressive 18.5 PPG and 7.3 APG to lead Cleveland to a 3-1 record.
While Cleveland may likely not keep up at this pace all season, it is a promising start for a team that not many had high expectations of going into the season. The duo that Larry Nance Jr dubbed as “Sexland” is proving to be an exciting pair to keep an eye on.