Sports

7 NBA overreactions after one game of the 2021-2022 season

The NBA is back, and it feels like it was never gone. The 2021-2022 season opened just over a year since the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 championship inside the bubble, and only three months after the Milwaukee Bucks won the 2021 title. Yes, the league had another short offseason to get back on its normal, pre-pandemic schedule, and it makes the return of games feel a little overwhelming from the jump.

All but four teams have been in action through the NBA’s first two days. The Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, and Atlanta Hawks won’t debut until Thursday. For everyone else, hot takes are suddenly fair game with one contest in the books.

Let’s wildly overreact to what we saw from teams through one game. It will be fun to check back on these at the end of the year and see what opening night taught us, and what it didn’t.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to win MVP

Last time we saw Giannis, he was dropping 50 points in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to clinch the Milwaukee Bucks’ first title since 1971. Milwaukee opened the season against the Brooklyn Nets — the team favored to win the championship this year even without Kyrie Irving — and, yeah, The Greek Freak is picking up where he left off.

Milwaukee rolled past Brooklyn, and Giannis dropped a 32-14-7 line while looking dominant on both ends of the floor. He might be the best player in the league, and we know he has no problem going peddle to the metal in the regular season. Antetokounmpo already has two MVPs, and he sure looked like he’s capable of winning another coming off his first championship.

Chris Duarte will make the All-Rookie First Team

Duarte was 24 years old when the Indiana Pacers took him with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, making him the oldest first round pick in the class. The former Oregon Duck found himself into the starting lineup from game one with T.J. Warren and Caris LeVert injured for Indiana, and he showed he could contribute right away. Duarte finished with 27 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three as the Pacers lost late to the Hornets.

Duarte was a skilled shooter and disruptive perimeter defender during his time with Oregon, and the shooting immediately translated on opening night. New Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle typically doesn’t trust rookie, but an older rook like Duarte might buck that trend. A spot on the All-Rookie team wouldn’t be too surprising.

LaMelo Ball is going to be an All-Star

Okay, this was one of my preseason predictions, too. I’m feeling pretty good about it after Ball started his second season by dropping 31 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists in a late second win over Indiana.

LaMelo went 7-of-9 from three on the night. If he’s shooting anywhere close to that, he’s going to be a sensation this season.

Zach LaVine is going to average 30 points per game

LaVine put up 27.5 points per game on wildly good 64 percent true shooting last year. This year, he finally has some good teammates and won’t be the sole focus of opposing game plans any more. LaVine looks terrific in his season debut, putting up 34 points on 11-of-17 shooting in a win over the Pistons.

Nikola Vucevic took a team-high 21 shots and DeMar DeRozan attempted 17 field goals, so it’s possible LaVine just won’t get enough shots to significantly improve his scoring average from last season. There’s no doubt he’s the best player on the Bulls, though, and at 26 years old he’s just starting to hit his prime. He’s an awesome scorer who is capable of putting up 30 per game.

The Knicks were no fluke last year

Knicks-Celtics was wild on Tuesday night. The Celtics had a wild comeback in the fourth quarter to force overtime, but New York would eventually win the game in double-OT. Julius Randle was awesome (35 points, nine assists, eight rebounds), and new addition Evan Fournier (32 points) added some badly needed offensive firepower. Obi Toppin looked good off the bench, too.

It’s hard to remember that the Knicks were the No. 4 seed this year. Las Vegas expects them to be a .500 team, but Tom Thibodeau’s ‘Every Game is Game 7’ mentality should help them win a ton of regular season games. Prediction: the Knicks will make the playoffs in the East without having to go through the play-in tournament.

Patty Mills will win Sixth Man of the Year

Patty Thrills went 7-for-7 from three in his debut for the Nets.

Someone has to score if Kyrie is going to be out. Mills is a perfect fit playing off Kevin Durant and James Harden, and will probably be in for a big year.

Russell Westbrook is going to inspire the wildest takes all year

Was Russ good in his Lakers debut? No he was not.

The truth is that Russ has started slow the last few years. He’ll be better by mid-season, count on that. The concerns about how he’ll fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis during the playoffs are legitimate, though. We’ll spare you a Westbrook hot take after one game and just say he’ll be the biggest lightning rod of the season.

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