Although just four weeks in, the 2021-22 season of the National Basketball Association has already played host to twists even the most astute oddsmakers proved unable to predict prior to kickoff. Not that they didn’t try. Certainly, fans would have laughed them off had they argued that the Wizards and Warriors would be Conference leaders, or that the Bulls and Cavaliers would have better records than the Sixers, or that the Clippers would have a superior slate vis-a-vis the Lakers.
To be sure, little can be gleaned from a small sample size. As heady as the efforts of those crowding the top of league standings may be to date, they need to retain their consistency in order to produce the same results for the remaining 85% of their campaigns. After all, an equally unforeseen turn — say, an injury to a vital cog — can spoil even the best-laid plans. Meanwhile, the surfeit of talent enjoyed by preseason favorites figure to improve over time; progression to the mean is expected both in view of historical data and in consideration of the intrinsic strength of the supposed under-performers.
That said, not a few developments stand as reflections of the truth even this early. For instance, there can be no denying that the Wizards got the better of the Lakers in claiming three starters vice overbearing Russell Westbrook. How lopsided has the trade been in their favor? Consider that they’re smoking the opposition even though leading scorer and lone All-Star Bradley Beal is in the midst of a shooting slump. Meanwhile, the purple and gold have been hard-pressed to stay afloat amid a home-heavy and supposedly soft schedule.
Course correction and momentum building are said to be made as familiarity sets in. In any case, the current NBA snapshot shows a buildup to a more unpredictable scenario. How will the Ben Simmons saga play out? Does LeBron James still have enough in the tank to keep his title hopes alive? Should Giannis Antetokounmpo prepare for the worst? Can Kevin Durant keep churning otherworldly performances? The answers to these, and more, will be known soon enough. In the meantime, everybody’s enjoying the ride.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.