With the first week of NBA completed, there are already several highlights we can take from the 2020-21 season. Although most teams have only played at most three games and it may be too early to conclude anything, here are some notable observations:
Giannis Antetokounmpo is coming off back-to-back seasons with nearly unparalalled production. However, his team performance may suggest otherwise, starting the first week with a record of 1-2 despite being title contendors.
The most glaring issue is his free throw shooting which is currently at 58.3%. If he keeps this up, this will be the fourth straight season in which Antetokounmpo’s percentage from the line drops. The team performance has been lacking as well and are having trouble closing out games, if they want to contend for a title, they will need Antetokounmpo to step up his shooting.
Recently acquiring Russell Westbrook in a unprecedented trade, the general consensus with Washington Wizards is still very unsure. However, center Thomas Bryant’s ability to hit threes that allows the Wizards to play five out and keep the lane clear for Westbrook’s drives. Also, shooting from Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Deni Avdija also helps space out the floor.
However, Westbrook’s inefficiency on the floor and tendency to commit on risky plays may have negated the above advantages. The Wizards are 0-3, including two losses to the Orlando Magic despite Westbrook averaging his trademarked triple-double.
With that said, there is no reason for only Westbrook to fall on the sword as the team is not helping on defense either. The team is currently 24th league wide on points allowed, 22nd league wide on rebounds allowed and also overall defensive rating.
There is good reason to expect the team to underperform. The team has gone through a wild ride, from winning their first championship with Kawhi Leonard two seasons ago, to losing the MVP player to Los Angeles Clippers. However, they still manage to prove their championship-caliber and make it to the ECF last year. And yet, misfortune struck them again as they lost a couple of their major players this offseason.
The Raptors are currently bottom third in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Additionally, the player who they need to step up now, Pascal Siakam, has been underperforming. After shooting 33.0 percent from January 1 to the end of last season, he’s 3-of-12 in 2020-21.
If the Raptors want a good season, they will need Pascal Siakam to return to form, as well as pieces like OG Anunoby and Norman Powell stepping up their offense.
Zach LaVine is the top scorer on the team. Lauri Markkanen fits the mold of a modern big who relies more on skill than athleticism. Wendell Carter Jr. has Swiss army knife potential. Coby White can get hot as a jump shooter. Otto Porter Jr. is a solid glue guy. To spare you a recitation of the entire roster, we’ll just sum it up and say they should at least be competitive.
With all that, the 0-3 Bulls seem to have fell flat of all expectations. they gave up 129 points to the Golden State Warriors that have been struggling. No one looks like a great candidate to anchor a decent defense. And rookie Patrick Williams may already be their most impactful player on that end.
With all the pessimism, there are still many good surprises coming out of the season. Most would agree that this season is one of the most balanced the league has been, with stars evenly distributed across the league and many solid role players on all teams.
To everybody’s surprise, the 3-0 and undefeated teams are Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and the Atlanta Hawks. All of them are young and promising teams, and young teams prospering can only mean good things for the league.