We’re now a few weeks into the NBA season and have noticed some major trends around the Association thus far.
Out west, the Golden State Warriors are now among the worst teams in the entire NBA following a rash of injuries. Meanwhile, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic looks like one of the game’s best players.
Speaking of the best players in the NBA, Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam has his team looking like a legit threat. The same can’t be said for Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets.
It’s in this that we look at the 10 most stunning early trends around the NBA this season.
Luka Doncic’s otherworldly performance
We previously focused on Doncic as a potential MVP candidate and already one of the best players in the NBA. Nothing that the reigning Rookie of the Year has done since dispels this notion. The 20-year-old Doncic remains an overwhelming talent for Dallas.
Just beyond his teenage years, the Slovenian is averaging 28.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game. He’s also shooting 49% from the field and has posted a 56% effective field goal mark. It’s already time to look at Doncic as one of the great forces in the Association. Just 82 games into his career, that’s an absurd realization to come to.
Raptors’ ability to overcome the loss of Kawhi Leonard
The defending NBA champions head into Wednesday’s game with a 7-3 record and sit in second place in the Eastern Conference. Given the departure of reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, this has to be considered one of the biggest surprises of the early season.
Despite some previous issues with fouls, forward Pascal Siakam has morphed into a legit MVP candidate. He’s averaging 26.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists. Meanwhile, Fred VanVleet has taken that next step to All-Star caliber by averaging nearly 16 points and 7.7 assists per. These Raptors now have to be considered legit threats back east.
Warriors’ plethora of injuries
Even pretty much healthy to start the season minus the Klay Thompson injury, these Warriors had very little margin for error. The five-time defending Western Conference champions were forced to rely more on young and unproven players than we’ve seen in the past.
This has all been taken to a whole new level. Stephen Curry is out until the spring with a wrist injury. Draymond Green missed multiple game to injury, as did D’Angelo Russell to start the season. Meanwhile, Thompson might not play at all this season. It’s all led to a stunning 2-9 record to open the campaign. Tank mode activated.
Celtics not missing a beat without Kyrie Irving
We already know that Irving’s short-lived tenure in Boston ended with a thud. In no way did this mean that the team could find a way to live up to expectations with Kemba Walker and a bunch of unproven players leading the charge.
Through the first nine games of the season, that’s proven to be a false narrative. Boston boasts a league-best 8-1 record after a double-digit win over the Dallas Mavericks. Walker is averaging 25 points and shooting 44% from distance. These Celtics now look like legit contenders in the Eastern Conference. It’s been an astonishing start to the season.
Brandon Ingram looking like a legit star
Prior to missing Monday’s game against the Rockets with knee soreness, this former Lakers No. 2 pick had turned in a tremendous start to his third season in the NBA. Ingram is averaging 25.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists on a stellar 54% shooting from the field.
The potential that his former Lakers squad was unable to untap in him has finally been fulfilled. This alone, makes the Anthony Davis trade well worth it for New Orleans, especially given he was never a long-term solution. At just 22 years old, the sky appears to be the limit for Ingram.
Rookies balling out in South Beach
We really have to give Heat president Pat Riley credit for building up a playoff contender from pretty much scratch. That started with the selection of former Kentucky star Tyler Herro in the first round of June’s draft and culminated in the acquisition of All-NBA performer Jimmy Butler the following month.
All Herro has done to open his rookie season is average 13.1 points and 4.8 rebounds while playing nearly 30 minutes per game. He’s been a godsend on the defensive end of the court, too. Add in undrafted rookie Kendrick Nunn going for nearly 17 points per game, and the future looks to be bright for the upstart Heat.
Just one of two teams to lose to the Warriors this season, we’re legitimately concerned about both Terry Stotts’ future in Portland and the core of a team that earned a trip to the Western Conference Finals last season.
Portland sits at 4-6 on the season and is yielding nearly 115 points per game. C.J. McCollum is shooting less than 40% from the field, including a 31% mark from distance. The team’s secondary options have failed at every turn. Meanwhile, Zach Collins is out with a long-term injury. It might now be time for Blazers general manager Neil Olshey to simply blow this entire thing up. That’s amazing given where this team was just a few short months ago.
High-flying Nets are grounded
Those who believed that Brooklyn would immediately turn into NBA Finals contenders after adding Kyrie Irving were going to be sorely disappointed. The acquisition of Irving did not push this team into the upper-echelon. That won’t happen until Kevin Durant returns next season.
The first nine games of Brooklyn’s schedule has magnified this. Sure Irving is going for north of 30 points per game, but the team’s defense has been absolutely atrocious. It’s giving up an average of 121.7 points per game. That’s been the biggest downfall during a 4-5 start to the season.
Andrew Wiggins as Most Improved Player?
The Timberwolves were simply looking to get out from the dud that is Mr. Wiggins contract this past summer. It comes after multiple seasons of regression from the former No. 1 overall pick. Just when we thought Wiggins was going to go down as a bust, he’s improved big time under young head coach Ryan Saunders.
Still only 24 years old, Wiggins is averaging 25.5 points on a career-best 47% shooting from the field. He’s also put up a tremendous 53% effective field goal mark. Sure Wiggins might be a one-trick pony, but that trick has been darn good thus far this season. Can he keep it up?
Orlando’s brutal scoring start
At a time when we’re seeing NBA teams consistently drop 120-plus points per game, the Magic are in a league of their own. It’s absolutely shocking that a team like this exists heading into the 2020 calendar year.
Orlando ranks dead last in offense at 98.1 points per game. It also ranks second in scoring defense (99.3). It has not been a fun product in Florida this season. This is surprising given the talented players Orlando boasts in that of Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vučević and Evan Fournier. It also has Steve Clifford’s squad at a disappointing 3-7 after they made the playoffs last season.