fbpx

8 biggest surprises/disappointments of the NBA season

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first month or so of the 2021-22 NBA season, we’ve seen a lot go down throughout the league. On one end of the spectrum, the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors continue to play absolutely elite basketball. Why is it a surprise they have been so successful?

On the other side, we’ve seen some major struggles with the Los Angeles Lakers. Who is to blame for that? Which player is among the biggest disappoinments? Let’s check on all of that below.

Related: Updated Sportsnaut NBA power rankings

Surprise: How quickly Chicago Bulls have meshed

nba surprises: chicago bulls
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

If it weren’t for one team in California, this would be the story of the NBA’s first month. Chicago currently sits at 12-5 and continues to play elite-level basketball. Just look at how their new players have performed from a statistical perspective.

  • DeMar DeRozan stats: 26.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.2 APG, 49% shooting
  • Lonzo Ball stats: 12.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.8 SPG, 44% three-point
  • Alex Caruso stats: 7.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 2.2 SPG

Add in the continued brilliance of one Zach LaVine, and the Bulls find themselves as one of the top title contenders back east. It really has been something for head coach Billy Donovan and Co.

Related: Updated NBA MVP rankings

Disappointment: Jaren Jackson Jr. with the Memphis Grizzlies

nba disappointments: jaren jackson jr.
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off an injury-plagued 2020-21 campaign, the Grizzlies opted to give this 22-year-old former top-four pick a resounding four-year, $105 million rookie-level extension. The hope was that Jackson could perform at a high clip and help take the pressure off Ja Morant. Instead, we’ve seen major regression on the part of the forward.

  • Jaren Jackson Jr. stats (2019-21): 16.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 46% shooting, 38% three-point
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. stats (2021-22): 14.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 38% shooting, 34% three-point

Sure Jackson has to find a way to get back in game shape after missing pretty much the past calendar year. But those are not stats you’d expect in today’s NBA from a guy earning north of $26 million annually. And it has Memphis as a pedestrian team despite Morant’s brilliant performance thus far.

Surprise: Tyrese Maxey proves Philadelphia 76ers’ brass right

nba surprises: tyrese maxey
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia front office head Daryl Morey has pushed back against moving Tyrese Maxey in any of the blockbuster NBA trades the team has been linked to. That included the possibility of acquiring James Harden early during the 2020-21 campaign. While he drew some criticism, this has proven to be the right decision.

With Ben Simmons away from the team and Tobias Harris as well as Joel Embiid missing multiples of games due to the NBA COVID-19 protocols, Maxey has stepped up in a big way. The 2020 first-round pick is averaging 18.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists on a resounding 52% shooting. He’s also hitting on 42% of his three-point shots and looks to be an absolute star at the young age of 21.

Related: NBA trade rumors leading up to February’s deadline

Disappointment: Indiana Pacers star under Rick Carlisle

nba disappointments: indiana pacers
Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

When the Pacers fired head coach Nate Bjorkgren after just one season and quickly replaced him with this respected mind this past summer, most figured that Indiana’s struggles of 2020-21 were a thing of the past. That has not been the case through the first quarter or so of the 2021-22 campaign.

Indiana currently boasts the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference at 7-11. It ranks in the bottom half in points, points allowed, offensive rating and defensive rating. The team has also seen a downtick in production from both Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis. Yeah, this is one of the biggest disappointments on the young NBA season.

Related: 2021-22 NBA Playoff and championship predictions

Surprise: Golden State Warriors supporting cast

nba surprises; jordan poole
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

At 15-2, it would be foolish to conclude Stephen Curry isn’t the primary reason for Golden State’s success. He’s the odds-on NBA MVP favorite and is playing absolutely elite basketball on both ends of the court. However, the performances we’ve seen from Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole has the Warriors thinking title.

  • Andrew Wiggins stats: 19.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 49% shooting, 36% three-point
  • Jordan Poole: 18.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 46% shooting

The ability of these two to take over games when Curry isn’t hot shooting the ball has helped lead Golden State to an NBA-best record through the first month. As for Wiggins, his brilliance on defense can’t go unnoticed, either. None of this takes into account how well recently-acquired players such as Nemanja Bjelica, Otto Porter Jr., Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala have played.

Related: Find out where LeBron James ranks among NBA’s top-50 players

Disappointment: Russell Westbrook stats and fit with the Lakers

nba disappointments: russell westbrook, los angeles lakers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

There was always going to be a question whether this former NBA MVP would be a fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles. Through 18 games, we’re now fully understanding why said questions came up. Westbrook thrives in a high-tempo offense and in transition. The Lakers play more iso-ball with their two stars. It’s led to some major struggles fitting in.

Thus far in his first NBA season with the Lakers, Westbrook is averaging what would be a 12-year-low 19.3 points. He’s also shooting just 43% from the field and 29% from distance. If that weren’t bad enough Russ is also averaging 4.9 turnovers per outing. This just isn’t going to cut it, and it has Los Angeles as an average team right now.

Related: Evan Mobley and other top NBA Rookie of the Year candidates

Surprising NBA stats this season

evan mobley stats
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
  • Evan Mobley stats (Cleveland Cavaliers) : 14.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 49% shooting
  • Grayson Allen stats (Milwaukee Bucks): 15.1 PPG, 42% three-point
  • Luguentz Dort stats (Oklahoma City Thunder): 16.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG
  • Kyle Kuzma stats (Washington Wizards): 13.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 36% three-point
  • Tyler Herro stats (Miami Heat): 21.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 40% three-point

Disappointing NBA stats this season

damian lillard stats
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
  • Damian Lillard stats (Portland Trail Blazers): 21.6 PPG, 39% shooting, 29% three-point
  • LeBron James stats (Los Angeles Lakers): 22.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.1 APG
  • James Harden stats (Brooklyn Nets): 21.2 PPG, 42% shooting
  • D’Angelo Russell stats (Minnesota Timberwolves): 39% shooting, 34% three-point

WATCH: Sportsnaut’s Carolyn Manno on the latest NBA rumors