Takeaways from the Start of the NBA Season


Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo

WELCOME TO THE CARUSHOW: Recent acqusition Alex Caruso has helped power the Chicago Bulls to a hot start to the 2021 NBA season.

For the first time since 2019, the NBA is having a conventional, 82-game season. In its first week, the season has already provided quite a look at how the year will unfold. Here are some of the key takeaways from this first week of the new NBA season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is Only Getting Better

The reigning NBA Finals MVP is only 26-years-old and continues to amaze in small-market Milwaukee. Giannis has been known for his rim-running ability, incredible length and high-flying antics thus far in his NBA career. His one major flaw though has been his jump shot. He has historically been a frequent recipient of free-throw violations, something a 5th grader wouldn’t get called for in the NBA. Now, for the first time in his career, Giannis is shooting above 30% from three and 70% from the line. What’s scarier is that these threes are not catch-and-shoot. Defenses have historically eased off him and let him shoot the pull-up three because he would never hit them. Now, he’s hitting them at a respectful rate, so defenses can’t let him shoot from deep. It allows the best player in the world to do the thing he is best at: drive to the rim and dunk it in your face. At this stage in his career and in the 2021 season, the two-time MVP is unstoppable and is looking to add more hardware to his trophy case. 

The Lakers Need More Shooting

Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka seemed to have one goal this past offseason: surround LeBron James with his friends. The acquisitions of Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo did just that, as well as severely increase the average age of the team in an increasingly youthful league. However, the glaring weakness of this new group of Lakers is the lack of spot-up shooting. This team struggled last year due to injuries and no shooting. Now, they’ve added older, more injury-prone players and nobody who can stretch the floor. All this does is pack the middle of the court where 37-year-old alien LeBron James and superstar power forward Anthony Davis thrive. Westbrook doesn’t know how to shoot threes consistently. Anthony only shoots pull-up threes. The Lakers did nothing to solve their issues from the 2020-2021 season, and now enter the 2021-2022 season wondering why they have these problems. 

The Chicago Bulls Are So Much Fun

The Bulls made money moves this offseason, trading for point guard Lonzo Ball, acquiring DeMar Derozan and signing Alex Caruso. These acquisitions, alongside guard Zach LaVine and big man Nikola Vucevic, have made the Bulls a really fun team to watch. Their offense is super fast and high-motored. Alley-oops are frequent and memorable, Caruso throwing down a dunk every quarter and it has resulted in team success with the Bulls currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference. It might only be week one, but if Chicago can keep up this excellent offense, the Windy City will be finding its way back to the playoffs in no time. 

Davion Mitchell is a Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Frontrunner

Davion Mitchell entered the NBA with the nickname “Off Night” because when he’s guarding you, you’re bound to have an off night on offense. This nickname has rung incredibly true through his first two games in the NBA. In these first two games, he has guarded some of the league’s best offensive talents: Donovan Mitchell, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson. In 75 possessions against that group, he held them to 20 points. No defender in the NBA has been able to do that for the entirety of Damian Lillard’s career. Now, for the first time in seemingly forever, the Kings have made an amazing draft pick in Davion Mitchell. If Mitchell can keep up this amazing defensive production, he should absolutely lead the pack of DPOY candidates.