The NBA entered its 75th season on Oct. 19, 2021. Last season ended with the Milwakee Bucks beating the Suns 4-2 in the finals with a number of superteams such as the Nets and Lakers being upset in the earlier rounds. No doubt this season looks to be an interesting one, as both the Eastern and Western conferences look strong.
In the Western conference, the Golden State Warriors is one of two teams that remains undefeated. The Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in their season opener, led by Steph Curry with twenty-one points. Jordan Poole also scored twenty points, including four three-pointers. The Warriors are stacked up to be a dominant team in the West and are only set to improve upon the return of Klay Thompson around the holidays.
In contrast to the Warriors, the Lakers’ big three are struggling to find collective success. They are currently only 2-2 after going winless in the preseason. Despite the team’s mediocre start, LeBron James, currently in his nineteenth season, scored 34 against the Warriors and 25 against the Suns to open up the season. He is now poised to break Kareem’s all time points record and end the G.O.A.T. debate between him and Michael Jordan. Unlike LeBron, Russell Westbrook failed to perform in his first two Laker games, scoring only eight and fifteen points respectively. Adding to the Laker’s problems is the apparent dislike between two of their starters, Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard. The two had an altercation during a time out, but Howard claimed afterwards that he and Davis have “no issues” and have since “talked about it and left it at that.”
Another playoff contender in the West, the Suns, are hoping to make a repeat Finals appearance this year. In their game against the Lakers on October 22nd, Chris Paul had twenty-three points and Deandre Ayton had fifteen rebounds. Devin Booker showed out at the Staples Center in front of his girlfriend Kendall Jenner, scoring twenty-two points.
If you don’t love Ja Morant, you don’t like basketball. He and the Grizzlies looked great against the Clippers in a 120-114 victory on October 23rd despite Paul George scoring forty-one points for LA. However, on October 24th, the Lakers overcame another forty point performance by Morant, handing the Grizzlies their first loss of the season.
The Jazz are the only other undefeated team in the Western Conference as of October 27th. Donovan Mitchell continues to show his star potential and Rudy Gay, coming off of an outstanding performance playing for Team France in the Olympics, has made significant contributions as an elite, rim-protecting center.
In the Eastern Conference, the focus of much recent news has been on point guards Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving, who have both missed multiple games. Ben Simmons has been refusing to play for the 76ers and caught a $360,000 fine for missing their game against OKC. Videos of Simmons playing in practice with his phone in his pocket have gone viral confirming his reluctance to rejoin the team in any serious capacity. Teammate Joel Embiid remains optimistic, asking Sixers fans to continue to “support our teammate, Ben, because he is still our brother.” Irving has refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine, preventing him from participating in any home games because of New York’s vaccine mandate. Steve Nash, the Nets’ head coach, has come to terms with the fact that Kyrie will not be able to play at Barclays Center. Kyrie has yet to play a game, a serious loss for both the Nets and the fans, as he is an incredibly exciting player to watch despite his off-court antics. The Nets thus remain a strong contender with superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden on their roster.
Unlike Irving, Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal has missed no games despite also being unvaccinated since the District of Columbia has no vaccine mandate. Beal and the Wizards have a record of 2-1 throughout three games and are still adjusting to life without Russell Westbrook.
Lastly, the reigning champions, the Bucks, remain strong with a record of 2-1. The team was able to maintain their key starters Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton. Giannis looked great hitting spot-up three pointers throughout the preseason, a move he has historically struggled with, especially in the playoffs. With two MVP awards and a championship, Giannis can become a new face for the NBA.
The NBA is poised for an interesting season, with multiple teams vying for the championship. The two superteams, the Lakers and the Nets, are dealing with their own unique issues, young players like Ja Morant and LaMelo Ball are carrying their respective teams, and the two reigning conference champions, the Suns and the Bucks, are trying to maintain their status quo. I’m partial to the Lakers in the West, as I think one just cannot doubt a healthy LeBron James. Russell Westbrook’s playmaking ability will create more opportunities for LeBron, Anthony Davis, and even Carmelo Anthony to stand out. The Warriors and Curry are also just an incredibly talented team and the looming return of Thompson only spells more trouble for teams in the West. The East is a far more competitive and interesting conference; the Nets and Bucks are both really good teams. The Bulls and the Knicks are two staples in the NBA and to see both those franchises thrive with their younger squads is really exciting. If the opening week of the season is any indication, the 75th NBA season will be a historic one. Way too early finals prediction: Lakers, Knicks. Lakers in five.