The dust of the first week of the NBA season has settled, giving fans a preview of what is to come the rest of the season and the storylines that will dominate this coming year. While week one is usually too early to make definite predictions about the rest of the season, some teams’ seasons appear to have been written already.
The Golden State Warriors entered this season looking for redemption. After a five year run of making the finals and winning three championships, they saw two-time Finals MVP and all-world talent Kevin Durant depart for Brooklyn in free agency, as well as All-Star guard Klay Thompson tear an ACL late in game six of 2019’s finals. The harm of Durant’s departure as well as Thompson’s injury was lessened by Golden State bringing in Nets all-star guard D’Angelo Russell to replace the injured Thompson. The Golden State’s success now relied almost entirely on the performance of two-time MVP Stephen Curry, whose unprecedented three-point shooting prowess started the Warriors dynasty.
After a shaky 1-2 start this season, Golden State looked for a statement win at home against the Phoenix Suns. Things quickly took a turn for the worse. In a home game as major favorites, Golden State found themselves down 43-14 before seeing their playoff hopes dashed when star Curry broke his hand in the third quarter, after being landed on by The Suns’ Aron Baynes. It was later announced Curry would undergo surgery and miss three months. Now, many have drawn comparisons of this year’s Warriors team to the 1996-97 Spurs who saw star David Robinson go down with injury and tanked the season in order to have a better chance of drafting eventual top pick Tim Duncan.
The Phoenix Suns have, on the contrary, vastly overperformed expectations. The Suns have been in a rebuild, intentionally finishing with poor records in order to acquire high draft picks and retooling their roster with young talent. As a result, Phoenix has gone a combined 87-241 over their last four seasons, but have acquired elite young talent in Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton to build the future of their team around in the process. While Phoenix was on the upswing, they were not expected to seriously compete this year. After a 5-2 start with wins over expected title contenders in the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers, many have begun asking if the Suns are ready to compete right now.
Another team with positive early returns has been the Los Angeles Lakers. With the pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the offseason, many suspected that the Lakers would be instant championship contenders. The only questions before the season that arose around the team’s performance related to their lack of depth. Thus far, their depth hasn’t proven to be a problem. Dwight Howard—signed for the minimum—has been stellar through his first seven games, as well as Quinn Cook and Alex Caruso who provide valuable minutes off the bench. What has truly surpassed expectations thus far has been the Laker’s defense. With the acquisition of Anthony Davis, an improvement in their defense was anticipated, however, their No. 1 ranked Defensive Rating through the first week of the season has outperformed expectations. The Lakers now sit 6-1 atop the Western Conference and look to carry this momentum through the rest of the season.
It’s still early, but the Sun’s and Laker’s aim to finish atop the Western Conference as Golden State will consider the feasibility of tanking the season.