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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From October 26th-31st

Are you not entertained? After witnessing a great opening week to the 2021-’22 NBA regular season, the league’s second week in action managed to raise the stakes even more. At one point, we had three undefeated teams. The defending champs dropped below .500. New York City, by way of midtown Manhattan, is witnessing high-level basketball again. And Jimmy Butler is getting early hype as league MVP! So down below are my four biggest takeaways from it!

How about those Knicks?

Listen, we know most teams, including the NY Knicks, are only six or so games into their new season but can we acknowledge how great they looked? After having a surprising home loss against the Orlando Magic to conclude their opening week, the current No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference went 3-0 between last Tuesday-Sunday, with every win being a statement win.

Although Julius Randle has struggled to maintain his All-NBA form from last year, the Knicks have been buoyed by contributions from their lesser stars. Despite murmurs that the Knicks overpaid for him in free agency, Evan Fournier has emerged as a fearless wing scorer with his combination of on-ball chutzpah and off-ball craftiness. Even more promising, RJ Barrett has solidified the gains he made as a shooter last year while also emerging as an elite defender.

Lastly, Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose are providing the Knicks with the most stability, they have had in their backcourt in two decades.

Carmelo is making a run for Sixth Man of the Year

While NBA fans have debated whether the Los Angeles Lakers can overcome their roster’s oldness and awkward construction, one undeniable truth has emerged: Carmelo Anthony still is a bucket. In his first season as a Laker, the future Hall of Famer is averaging 16 PPG and has made himself an early, viable candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Moreover, Anthony has scored with remarkable efficiency, shooting 50 percent from the field and 52% from long range.

Whether it’s as a shooter, scorer, or simply another body on the floor, Anthony’s presence has created the spacing and dynamism the Lakers’ offense often lacked last season.

Jimmy Butler for MVP?

If any player was looking to bounce back from a lackluster season, it was Jimmy Butler. After leading the Heat to the NBA Finals one year ago, Butler and Co. came back to Earth with an inconsistent regular season performance (Their 40-32 record landed them the sixth seed) before getting swept in the first round. But now? It’s Butler’s time for payback.

As his Heat stands at 5-1 after winning four consecutive games, including a pair of impressive wins over the Nets and Hornets, Butler is arguably playing the best basketball of his career. The Marquette product is currently averaging career-highs in points (25), rebounds (7.0), and steals per game (2.8), and field-goal percentage (52.9%) while also having the league’s third-highest player efficiency rating (30.69).

And who are the two players in front of Butler? The last-two MVP winners, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Wizards may have figured something out!

Amid the action during the NBA’s first two weeks, the Washington Wizards and their 5-1 record have flown under the radar. Even if it’s extremely unlikely that the Wizards will be able to sustain this pace, they deserve credit for what they’ve accomplished so far.

Bradley Beal has upped the ante as a complete player, bouncing back from a slow start to average 31 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game over his last two games. In addition, the Wizards’ trio of summer additions in Spencer Dinwiddle, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell have played the kind of basketball that provides a second wind in most players’ careers.

If you’re wondering who the Wizards have beaten this season, say hello to the Celtics (twice), Hawks, and Raptors, with two of those wins being on the road.

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From the Season’s Opening Week

If there’s anything to accept about the NBA, it’s that there’ll never be a week without action or drama! As we’re officially one week into the 2021-2022 season, fans and media have been left with plenty to discuss. Between this year’s rookie class getting off to a good start, various games having exciting finishes, and the reigning world champion Milwaukee Bucks looking better than ever before, there is a lot to unpack from the NBA’s opening week. So down below are the four biggest takeaways from it! 

The Bucks are clearly favored to repeat

Minus a rare blowout loss to the Miami Heat last Thursday night (They lost by 42 points!), the Milwaukee Bucks (2-1) have looked and played the part of a team that is becoming increasingly favored to repeat as NBA champion. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Averaging 22 points per game, 10 rebounds per game, and 5 assists per game) is gearing up for another run at league MVP. Right now, the Bucks have six players who are averaging double-digit points, with George Hill or Brook Lopez are on the precipice of becoming the seveneth(both are averaging eight points per game).

And by the way? Don’t sleep on second-year forward Jordan Nwora (11 PPG and 5 RPG). The Louisville product put a lot of people on notice on opening night with his 15-point performance against the Brooklyn Nets. If he continues to find his groove, the reigning NBA champion will have the kind of depth that contenders need to endure the long regular season, especially when the currently-injured Donte DiVincenzo returns. 

LaMelo Ball and the Hornets won’t remain your League Pass Darlings anymore

With more basketball fans watching games through NBA League Pass or other more illicit forms of streaming, there will always be specific players or teams that become must-watch TV despite their current lowly situation. Although that extra attention may be welcome, it’s often heaped upon teams as a kind of damning praise—the only reason they’re League Pass Darlings is because they aren’t good enough to merit many games on the NBA’s national broadcasts. But in the case of the Charlotte Hornets, this is a good thing. After fighting their way into the play-in tournament last season and being knocked out by the Indiana Pacers, the Hornets have returned wiser, stronger, and somehow more entertaining as they finished opening week with a 3-0 record.

Reigning Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball (22/5/6) and the ultra-dynamic fourth-year forward Miles Bridges (25 PPG and 8 RPG) are taking the leap you want to witness from your team’s brightest stars. Veterans such as Gordon Haywood and Kelly Oubre are providing top-notch on and off the court support. And who would have thought Ish Smith becomes a feel-good story at any point of this season while still proving his ability to get a bucket at any moment? 

We have another stellar rookie class to watch this season

Fewer things are more exciting than watching the league’s newest members thrive as pros, but when their impact is immediate? Priceless! As this year’s rookie class takes their first action in the NBA, it has become clear these guys will be game-changers for their franchises. Top picks Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, and Scottie Barnes have kicked off the Rookie of the Year race. Davion Mitchell might become the Sacramento Kings’ best two-way player in due time. 

And it isn’t a complete rookie class without those mid-late first-round picks (Indiana’s Chris Duarte) who are surprising everyone with their production too!

Exciting games = near heart attacks but it’s worth it

Of course, last-second games are expected throughout an NBA season, but what we watched during opening week? Chaotic! Between the double-overtime thriller between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics and what we experienced on Sunday night with the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies, the league is witnessing teams sharpen each other’s iron and set the tone for what’s ahead in the following weeks.

As the season continues, we’re going to witness the immediate effect of close games on teams regarding their load management and handling of rotations. But to a further extent, that effect could be felt sooner than later.