NBA: 5 biggest question marks after the first quarter of the season

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Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Exploring the five biggest question marks after the first quarter of the 2021-22 NBA season.

Even though the 2021-22 NBA season is already a quarter of the way through, there still remains a bunch of questions about every team.

Are the Phoenix Suns really this good? How much better will the Golden State Warriors be when Klay Thompson returns to the lineup? What’s the deal with the Los Angeles Lakers? These are just a handful of questions that are being asked today by fans and media members alike.

Having said all of that, let’s take a look at the five biggest unanswered questions at the first quarter mark of the NBA season.

1. The Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving situations 

By far, the biggest question mark of the season has to deal with two players that haven’t played a single second of NBA basketball: Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving.

Simmons declared this past offseason that he would never play for the Sixers franchise again and demanded general manager Daryl Morey to trade him. Irving, on the other hand, has decided not to get vaccinated and, as a result, the Nets announced back in training camp that Kyrie wouldn’t play or practice with the team until he could be a full participant.

Fast forward to the present day and not much has changed. Simmons has been a man of his word and has yet to suit up for Philly or be traded and Irving remains unvaccinated.

Both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets have been forced to play without two of their best players so far this season. The result has been different for both squads.

For the Sixers, they started off hot, winning eight of their first 10 games but have really dropped off since. Currently, Philly has a record of 11-11, putting them in eleventh place in the Eastern Conference.

Doc Rivers’ squad have lost nine of their last 12 games. Their struggles of late are due to Joel Embiid’s absence. Embiid missed nine games due to health and safety protocols. During that stretch, the Sixers lost seven games, including a five game losing streak.

On the bright side for Sixers fans, when Embiid’s been on the floor this season, Philly is 9-4 as opposed to their 2-7 record without him. Plus, second-year pro Tyrese Maxey has really stepped his game up in Simmons’ absence.

Maxey is averaging 18.0 points per game, 5.0 assists per game and 3.8 rebounds per game on 47.8 field goal percentage and a 37.7 3-point shooting percentage.

Then there’s veteran wing Tobias Harris who has been his usual steady self, averaging 20.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 3.9 APG, and last but not least there’s Seth Curry.

Curry has been shooting lights out this season. Through 21 games, Curry has shooting splits of 51.2/41.7/91.5. If Curry can continue his hot shooting through the rest of the season, he’ll end up being the 10th player in NBA history to join the historic 50-40-90 club.

Even though 13 games is a small sample size, it appears that the Sixers are a quality team that has the ability to make a playoff run when Embiid is healthy.

When on the floor this season, Embiid has arguably been the best player in the league.

In his 12 games played this season, Embiid has averaged 22.0 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 1.7 BPG. Plus, in his first game back he put up 42 points and 14 rebounds against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

As for the rest of the team, they’ve complimented Embiid’s skill set quite nicely, but Philly definitely doesn’t have enough to compete with the top dawgs in the East. The Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks will prove to be too much come postseason time.

A Ben Simmons deal could get them that missing piece or pieces they need to put them right back atop the Eastern Conference.

However, a Simmons trade probably won’t happen anytime soon. The earliest it could happen is later this month when free agents that signed this past summer become eligible to be traded on December 16th. Even then, it’s unlikely because of what the Sixers have been reportedly asking for in exchange for Simmons.

With that being said, a Ben Simmons trade won’t happen until the trade deadline and even then it may not happen.

It feels as if Darly Morey is waiting to see if Damian Lillard will request out of Portland before the deadline.

As of writing this the Blazers have a record of 11-11 and are in eighth place in the Western Conference. Out of all the years Dame has been rumored to want out of Portland, this seems like the most likely year for it to happen due to the Blazers mediocre play thus far.

However, Dame has been adamant in his stance on the matter. He’s stated multiple times that he loves Portland and the rumors of him wanting out are false. If that’s true and remains to be the case through the deadline then what does that mean for a potential Simmons deal?

Well, Morey has been adamant in wanting a star level player back in return for Simmons. If Dame isn’t available, who else is out there for Philly to try and get? Bradley

Beal certainly doesn’t want out of Washington with how good they are playing. Maybe Karl Anthony-Towns but would the Timberwolves do that? Probably not.

At this point it feels like the Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam could be the best player they could get in exchange for Simmons. Siakam would be a nice fit in Philly but he’s a far cry from what the Sixers originally wanted back when the whole Simmons saga began.

The Ben Simmons situation is a question that will continue to be asked throughout the season and could even last the entire season if Philly can’t find a suitor during the trade deadline.

As for Kyrie and the Nets, well it’s quite different and, frankely, not as interesting.

The Nets are currently atop the Eastern Conference with the third best record in the league at 15-6. They have been more than okay with Kyrie out of the lineup.

On the offensive end of the floor, the Nets are top 10 in points per game, field goal percentage, three point percentage and assists per game.

With how impressive Brooklyn has looked, the question has to be asked: Would the Nets consider trading Kyrie Irving?

This was brought up back when the Irving situation started but was quickly swatted down by Kyrie himself when he threatened to retire if the team traded him. Even though a Kyrie trade is far-fetched, it’s still fun to consider.

Imagine a Ben Simmons for Kyrie Irving one-for-one swap between Philly and Brooklyn? It would never happen but, man, that would be something!

Anyways, both the Simmons and Irving situations are questions that won’t be answered anytime soon. On the bright side though, the NBA has been full of excitement and surprises a quarter of the way into the season.

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