NBA: A quick summary through one-quarter of the season

Milwaukee Bucks Giannis defends KD (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
Milwaukee Bucks Giannis defends KD (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports) /

A summary through one-quarter of the 2021-22 NBA season. 

It all started on Oct. 19, opening night of the 2021-2022 NBA season, when the Milwaukee Bucks received their rings and banner in the rafters for winning the 2021 NBA Championship. The newly-crowned champions were all smiles all night as they proceeded to take on the Brooklyn Nets and came out victorious on their historic night.

Perhaps, this is the true meaning of the 2021-2022 NBA season, a historic team headlining a historic season in its 75th season.

The NBA is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season. The National Basketball Association, known for creating legends and basketball stars all around the world, is indeed in its 75th season, and there are teams, players, coaches, fans, and sportswriters looking to make their mark on this, to say the least, historic season.

A month has gone by and a few games have happened in the historic season being called “NBA 75” on social media, and the Bucks headlined the first night featuring another key matchup in the Los Angeles Lakers vs Golden State Warriors, which saw Steph Curry’s Warriors edge out LeBron James’ Lakers, 121-114 and was reminiscent of the two stars’ rivalry in the Finals when LeBron was in Cleveland.

Giannis Antetokounmpo edged out Kevin Durant’s stat line with 32 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists on opening night, which was reminiscent of their matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals. Antetokounmpo and his Bucks sit atop a historic NBA season as still a standout team, even though they got off to a slow 3-4 start and their record currently sits at 12-8. The Bucks star and NBA’s Greek Freak, Antetokounmpo, is averaging 27.2 points per game and he’s garnered several impressive double-doubles this season during Bucks home games.

There are other teams and players who are doing impressive things, even more than the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, which is not an easy feat. Durant leads the league in all scorers with 28.5 points per game followed by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic capping off the top 5, and Chicago Bulls star teammates, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine are right behind in scoring.

The 75th season is more than just about the numbers, although these stats of the NBA’s most talented stars prove to be important. The reason being is that the numbers are not always reflected in the quality of the game, at least this season. The Bucks’ record isn’t at their best, and while the Nets are at an impressive 14-6 start even without one of their key players, the absence of star Kyrie Irving due to COVID-19 protocol has been a distracting part of an important season for them in only their second season playing together.

Despite their hot start, there is a question that looms over their season: What will the Nets do without Irving? Can they make it to the Eastern Conference Finals again and win this time? The same question can be asked when it comes to the Bucks’ record and Milwaukee begs for a deeper question, which has been because of the absence of some of their main stars also.

Now, at a 12-8 record, what will the Bucks do to continue to improve and how will they get better to survive this historic season and perhaps, make it to the Finals again and win? Khris Middleton, the Bucks forward and second hand to Antetokounmpo was sidelined for Milwaukee where they lost a couple of games, then there’s Brook Lopez who has been out with back soreness and Donte DiVincenzo is still nursing the ankle injury from last season which sidelined him for the Bucks historic championship run.

Recently, star point guard Jrue Holiday was even sidelined, and this hurt Milwaukee where they struggled a few games in his absence. There are others on the bench who have been on the injury list and working their way back to recovery, so the Bucks aren’t working with their full and healthy championship team that everyone knows them to be. The main point of this season it seems is that Milwaukee and Brooklyn are battling to stay atop the league and through tough obstacles, especially the Bucks.

This is where the other teams and players, and their storylines provide a bright spot. The Memphis Grizzlies should see a rise this season and it’s because of their bright star in Ja Morant. Morant’s success is the main reason for the Grizzlies’ success, and this is why the point guard should see a rise with an All-Star spot this season. Morant should see an All-Star spot, especially after the All-Star snub last year when Zion Williamson was voted in and he wasn’t.

Many saw it as a challenge for the then 20-year-old, but it could have been a snub. The rookie race and competition was tight in 2019 between Morant and Williamson, and although Morant won that, the star point guard was, to most, snubbed of his debut during his second year in an All-Star game that needed and could have benefitted from his presence.

Also, Morant should see a spot in the All-Star game this year because the Pelicans star Williamson has been, so far this season, underwhelming with an injury and weight issues. Meanwhile, Morant is currently averaging 24.1 points per game and his team is one of the best in the Western Conference. The young guard and his Grizzlies have been, to say the least, a show every night for the NBA with Morant’s rim-rocking dunks and the team’s overall grind to stay in the conversation amongst the NBA’s elite, hence their name, “Grind City.” Grind City will have a whole lot more to smile about if they keep it up. Though his recent injury could impact all of those fronts.

Speaking of the NBA’s elite, the new-look Chicago Bulls are impressive and have lived up to their history and hype. The current Bulls do have a new look, but also a look that is reminiscent of the classy treatment the organization carried in the ’90s. Stars like Morant don’t come easy, but the Bulls have put together three of them to create an unlikely star power in the Windy City not seen since Michael Jordan or Derrick Rose.

DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Lonzo Ball form this trio in Chicago. You heard it right. The high-flying dunks of DeRozan and LaVine will be a sight to see and will be reminiscent of M.J., and then you have Ball, who’s the older brother of Charlotte Hornets star LaMelo Ball, who has a knack for passing that will make him a bigger star on and off the ball as a point guard this season reminiscent of Rose.

Of course, one can’t forget about Nikola Vucevic hanging in the frontcourt and Patrick Williams, although out with an injury, is a major part of the Bulls roster when he returns. The Bulls have made some adjustments, and the main point of the adjustments was to rid the load of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr, Denzel Valentine, and surround one of the league’s brightest stars, LaVine, with an all-new supporting cast to ultimately propel the Bulls to the playoffs.

That’s all to say that the adjustments have worked, as the Bulls are currently at a 13-8 record and they made headlines early as one of the only teams to achieve a 5-1 record. Watching the trio along with who they place in the frontcourt and their bench, which has an array of options, including former Laker Alex Caruso, shooting point guard Coby White, and another high-flyer in Derrick Jones Jr. will be fun and interesting all season.

Other teams, such as the Miami Heat, have been on fire if you get the drift. That’s right, the Heat need a heat check again this season and their roster adjustments have been a major reason why. Obviously, there are many teams on the rise and looking to make an impact, but the Heat have come out blazing and looking to make what one might call a statement. The Heat, with Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker, is clearly looking to capitalize on their recent past success in the playoffs and make a run to contend, and maybe win a championship at the end of it all.

The Heat winning a championship in this new era would probably mean so much to Heat fans and if not a championship is the goal, being at the top of the ladder and staying in the conversation of “teams to watch every night in the NBA” or “NBA’s greatest teams” is the goal. The addition of the veterans to their already stacked roster of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Victor Oladipo also makes Miami a serious competitor and a team you rarely see in the NBA.

The best thing is that Miami plays like the serious team they are with their competitive and rare playbook put together by head coach Erik Spoelstra looking to keep the NBA on fire.

Star power in the NBA is not to be understated, and it includes second-year stars like Herro and Robinson. The superstardom of LaMelo Ball is at the top of that star power conversation, and it has been a pleasure to watch so far in his second year. Second-year LaMelo Ball, full of star power and fresh basketball pleasure and not veteran experience yet, but an experience in star quality that is heading toward legend status is going to be fun to watch all season. Second-year Ball is even better than rookie Ball.

Ball’s team, the Charlotte Hornets, is the young and versatile team that it looks to be with Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington, Gordon Hayward, Kelly Oubre Jr., and others there. Time will tell on Ball’s future and most importantly his future with leading a franchise like the Hornets. This is a mantra really for all the rookies, and we’ll see if they can do what Ball has done. Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Scottie Barnes, and Evan Mobley are at a critical time and critical position.

The time seems to be now and the future is now, as these rookies have made immediate and obvious impacts on the NBA’s psyche.

Early observations of the NBA season include rookies, but it’s hard to imagine what the projection for rookies is if you haven’t seen a hint of their game at the professional level. This has been the story for most of our rookies, especially Cunningham who was sidelined with injury at the beginning of the season and who scored only two points in his debut in a limited 20 minutes.

Houston Rockets’ Green has seen the most upside and his game looks like what many saw in the G-League. The No. 2 pick is a young star, and he’s partnering with other young stars in Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood to help turn the Rockets and league into a fantastic basketball place. Josh Christopher and Alpren Sengrun were drafted alongside Green in this year’s illustrious draft, and their play with the Rockets has been dynamic and impressive. The rookie trio made early headlines for their play together. Green has shown that he can score the ball in high volumes and play at the NBA level, going up against some of the best.

The No. 4 pick Barnes has shown this level of maturity most, especially on the defensive end, with the Toronto Raptors. The 6-foot-8 Barnes has received multiple compliments from NBA vets and teammates on his play in Toronto. The maturity, indeed, of Barnes is not to be understated. He has shown, so far, not the stats or style of Green, but the most NBA-ready attitude.

That brings the rookie conversation to Mobley, who embodies being NBA-ready and molds offensive versatility into a 7-foot-1 frame. Mobley, like Barnes, is impressive, and he’s even more impressive because he’s being presented with the task of starting on a franchise like the Cleveland Cavaliers, which is old and growing. While old and historic franchises like the Bulls got rid of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., who plays on the Magic with another special rookie, Jalen Suggs, the rookies like Mobley and Suggs have picked them up and helped current NBA stars reach their potential. That’s what Mobley is doing in Cleveland; helping NBA stars who have been in the league four or five years reach heights that he is seeing in his first year, and rightfully so with all of the gifts he possesses.

During Cavaliers games, Mobley can be seen running the offense and scoring the basket down below and up top. He is an athletic 7-footer with so many offensive upsides, it is interesting to witness in the year 2021 and he fits right into the NBA’s frontcourt while also sorta overachieving this early and this young. Last, but not least, there’s Suggs in Orlando who noticeably plays with last year’s rookies, Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton, and a host of four or five-year NBA stars trying to make it in the league.

Jalen Suggs is an interesting prospect with mechanics at 6-foot-5 and a jump shot looking to defy those mechanics and help propel his game to an unstoppable level. Suggs, along with Anthony and Hampton, run in the backcourt and it helps that the other two are sorta “true” point guards and pass-first guards whereas Suggs can just play off the ball at the shooting guard position where he is most comfortable. Suggs’ future in the NBA looks perfect; it’s moderate and right where it needs to be, not overzealous but not underwhelming either. Suggs is a great basketball player and a perfect rookie who will make a perfect NBA star in his third or fourth year following the likes of Trae Young and RJ Barrett.

With so much upside on the young rookies, there’s an even downside with the older stars in the NBA this season. Stars like Kyrie, who can’t even play because of an unvaccinated debacle, aren’t helping the NBA right now. That brings me to the superstardom in L.A., or what is supposed to be, who were all players brought together to create more than a bright spot for the NBA, but they are in a dark tunnel, and there isn’t any light at the end of it. Perhaps, this is what you get when you bring together 30-something veterans.

Although spearheaded by the talent and gifts of the NBA’s reigning King, LeBron James, a scoring machine in Carmelo Anthony, and an overall triple-double motor in Russell Westbrook, it’s hard to grasp the concept of the Lakers or the point in them playing together. Aside from LeBron’s thing with superteams and his ability to succeed, the new Lakers have been underwhelming. The underwhelming Lakers are 10-11. The Big 3 is failing to remind LeBron of his glory days with the Miami Heat with friends Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

The King is still glorious on his own, and each of these players plays great on their own, but the culmination of them in their age, injury proneness, and sometimes overall lack of concern might not help against the younger and hungrier deserving teams. The star power of the older players and teams has, indeed, burned out or hasn’t so far lived up to the expectation.

That’s with the exception of the Golden State Warriors who still have Steve Kerr and Steph Curry, and remain fresh with a mix of old and young talent. There is so much talent on the Warriors. Talent, star power, and hard work are all understatements for the current Warriors. The Warriors are No. 1 in the West right now, and the way they’ve been playing, they’ll likely remain there. Golden State’s actual literal record is 17-2, so they’ve won all but 2 games so far in the new historic NBA season.

What has been most impressive is how Golden State has come back from their drought last season, but also how they remain an example of how to carry age and injuries, unlike the Lakers. Curry, Kerr, and the Warriors are like fine wine, and they make everything and everyone better around them on the court. They’ve brought the others along with them, and that’s been the story of their lives, at least since Curry stepped on the scene.

The others meaning Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and more recently, Gary Payton II who is the son of NBA legend, Gary Payton. Payton II has proven to be a standout point guard with a high ceiling if you look at his contributions to the Warriors every night. He’s able to defend, which is reminiscent of his dad’s abilities on defense, pass the ball, and score, especially at the rim with high-flying dunks. If he has time to develop his shooting mechanics and scoring more, which he does, that still isn’t much of an obstacle because everyone at the pro level nowadays is required to make a certain FG percentage and he makes up for it in other areas at being only 6-foot-3.

Also, everyone on the Warriors can shoot. His teammates make up for where the young star is still developing, who do the other things well as well. Toscano-Anderson is thankfully a knock down shooter and perimeter defender, and Poole is an all-around star embarking on a healthy and bright NBA career if he keeps it up. This is all to say that the NBA is full of talent, and it’s once again because of and includes the Warriors. Again, the story of their lives underneath Curry and head coach Kerr. The NBA is living under the rules of the Warriors. It is indeed the Warriors world, and the rest of the NBA is just living in it.

The time has come now to put this altogether. From teams like the Warriors and their young talent to the rest of the league, what’s in store for the NBA this season doesn’t come with a price tag. It is as they say when something is priceless. The other young teams, such as the Hornets and their young star LaMelo Ball who defeated the Warriors this season are coming. The Rockets, namely, are a team who will rise by the looks of their establishment on paper with their young stars and their need for reinvention after James Harden.

The Pelicans who play basketball in the illustrious city of New Orleans will look to make an impact once their star Zion can make his return, and it will be a big impact. The Grizzlies, as stated, spearheaded by Zion’s friend and most competition right now in Morant, will be at the top of the league’s expectations every night. And then, at last, there are the other teams, such as the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, Utah Jazz and LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers, and the Dallas Mavericks, especially the Mavericks who will look to stand out and further make their mark on this historic 75th season with Luka Doncic who graced the cover of the NBA 2K22 video game and Jason Kidd as head coach of the team he helped win a championship.

Philadelphia, Boston, and Indiana also will look to up the ante to compete with the competition in the East, and amid all of their problems, including injury woes and player issues. The Spurs and Kings also will look to tackle the West in the coming months with their roster of young talent, and hopefully they will, but this will only happen if they can see past all the competition like the Phoenix Suns or can make their climb above mediocrity like OKC while also waiting patiently for their moment.

The Detroit Pistons, of course, with new and talented rookie Cunningham still have a while to go, but their team with the dynamic and experienced coaching of Dwane Casey and well-rounded roster might climb to the top faster than one might expect for the organization and for Cunningham.

Next. Los Angeles Lakers: 3 mid-season trade targets to help salvage the season. dark

Teams like the Raptors with a rookie of their own do hope to stand in their way. The Ben Simmons debacle in Philadelphia isn’t the only thing headlining this historic season or taking over the East. The final thing, at last seriously, is that players like Simmons and powerful teams like his, are what the NBA is really about, but so are the joyous and more positive experiences of everyday life in the NBA.