The NBA season is in full swing and here are three things you should know as the season continues.
We are over one month into the 2021 NBA season and although Seattle is still left without a team, the league has been exciting and filled with drama thus far.
Who are the top contenders?
The top of the western conference is going as expected with the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers in the lead, who will likely be the favorites going the rest of the way.
Even at age 36, Lakers star Lebron James is showing he has a lot left in the tank this season, currently averaging 23.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. The pairing of him with Anthony Davis has been a force to be reckoned with as they continue their quest of winning back to back NBA championships.
However, as the other resident LA team, the Clippers have been playing well and seem to be hungry to bounce back after a disappointing playoff run in 2020 where they were eliminated in the conference semifinals by the Denver Nuggets. Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who are averaging a combined 50 points per game, the Clippers are one of the deepest teams in the league and will be motivated to dethrone the Lakers.
Two other teams to watch are the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets. The Jazz is off to a surprisingly hot start, currently sitting in a tie for second place. Donavan Mitchell continues to solidify himself as a star in the league while attempting to finally take the Jazz to the next level and make a run.
The Nuggets, who overcame a 3-1 deficit twice in the playoffs last season to eliminate the Jazz and Clippers, were a popular pick to have a good season coming into the year. They got off to a slow start but are quickly making their way back to the top of the conference. Nikola Jokic is having an MVP-type season, leading the team in all three major categories with 25.8 points, 12 rebounds and 9.6 assists per game all while shooting an outstanding 56% from the field.
Over in the eastern conference, there has been a shift in favorites after one of the biggest trades in recent years went down. Former MVP James Harden grew unhappy in Houston and requested a trade to be made and the Brooklyn Nets jumped at the opportunity.
The Nets had to give up three first round picks as well as four pick swaps to acquire Harden and add him to their already star studded core with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. This move likely puts them in position as the favorite over the Milwaukee Bucks, who have yet to make a deep run in the playoffs during their time as one of the top teams in the East.
Are the Sonics coming back sooner than we thought?
Over the past few years, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly stated how expansion is not in the NBA’s near future plans and likes the league where it is today. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed his thoughts on this possibility where expansion might be in the league’s best interest at this point.
Like many other sports leagues around the world, the NBA has faced some financial challenges with losses relating to the pandemic. If the league decides to expand, once the city is chosen the ownership group must pay a $2.5 billion entry fee. In the past, the NBA has done this in times of financial struggles where the entry fee is split between all the teams that were currently in the league.
Seattle would almost certainly have a group capable of bringing the expansion fee together and after completely renovating KeyArena into what is known now as Climate Pledge Arena, the city now has an NBA ready arena and should be at the top of the league’s list of possible expansion cities.
Dawgs in the NBA
There are currently nine former University of Washington players who can call the NBA their home. This includes Terrence Ross, Markelle Fultz, Marquese Chriss, Dejounte Murray, Justin Holiday, Matisse Thybulle, Jaylen Nowell, Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart.
Sadly, after hot starts to the season, Fultz and Chriss will miss the remainder due to injury. Fultz received a contract extension a few weeks ago that solidifies him as the point guard of the future in Orlando.
Orlando is also home to Terrence Ross who is making a strong case for being the sixth man of the year currently averaging 15.5 points per game off the bench. Ross is the longest tenured former Husky in the NBA currently in the middle of his ninth season.
Matisse Thybulle continues to receive minutes off the bench consistently making the defensive highlights that he was known for. Two more young players, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, are receiving minutes in their rookie seasons as well.