Three Weeks on the Rim: The 10 Biggest Surprises and Disappointments of the NBA Season, So Far

Basketball Jan 14, 2021

The 2020-21 NBA regular season is now three weeks in, and already there are several surprises and disappointments.  

However, things are really about to get interesting with the four-team trade deal that shipped James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.  And with that breaking news, instantly, the Nets became co-favourties (with LA Lakers) to win the NBA championship, this season.

Looking to where we are now, here are our five surprises and five disappointments, which are listed below:


Los Angeles Lakers hold the NBA's best record – It normally would not be a surprise for the defending champions to have the league's best record.  However, in most other seasons the winner from the previous year gets complacent.  It's just natural for a great team to rest on its laurels until nearling playoff time.  Not the Lakers.  They appear to be on a mission at 9-3 and remain the team to beat in the NBA.  Here's what's scary:  LeBron James thinks they are only playing at "a B+ level right now."  Look out.

Phoenix Suns are good, really good – The Suns were expected to improve.  But few thought they'd compete this quick.  At 7-4 the Suns are rising.  They continue a spectacular run closing out the 2020 season, and have lived up to optimistic projections.  Phoenix is balanced, playin strong offense and defense, ranking in the top 10 in both, and have allowed the second-fewest points per game in the league, so far.

Milwaukee is averaging 122 PPG – The Bucks were forecast as one of the East's top teams, but the offense has surpassed what was expected.  Now leading the NBA with the best offense in the league and averaging 122 points-per-game, there's no slowing down the Bucks.  Credit the front office for getting Giannis Antetokounmpohelp some support this past offseason, and now Milwaukee may finally live up to the hype in the playoffs.

Bradley Beal leading NBA in scoring – Wait!  A player for the Washington Wizards is leading the league in scoring, and Curry, Antetokounmpohelp, Doncic, and the rest are all healthy?  That's crazy.  But it's true.  What's really crazy is that Beal is putting up big numbers, but the Wizards remain at the bottom of the standings, with only 3 wins in 11 games.  Still ,give Beal his due for having a great season.

Cleveland Cavs have the NBA's top defense – Allowing only 103 PPG, Cleveland is playing old-style basketball that isn't pretty, but often frustrates opponents.  The starting lineup has been hit with unjuries, especially in the backcourt, but now appears to be capable of making a playoff run, especially if they continue playing strong D.

And now, who's on the other side of the spectrum......


Toronto Raptors panic time– The Raptors should be much better than this.  They've won just two games in ten tries.  Toronto is also coming off a disappointing 1-3 road trip, although two of the losses were last-second heartbreakers.  The Raptors clearly need another scorer off the bench.  Pascal Siakam, an All-Star selection last year, has not played well.  It's hard to say yet if the temporary "home court" in Tampa is affecting the Raptors.  Whatever the reason, this unit has too much talent to be in last place at 2-8.

Brooklyn Nets inconcistencies – The Nets have been hoovering around the .500 mark which doesn't necessarily make them a bad team, but they became the odds on favourites to win the Eastern Conference when the season began.  So, they're not living up to expectations.  Brooklyn has played inconsistently, and now just got the ideal spark they may have been lacking – the explosive and potential MVP James Harden who joined the Nets rooster in a mega-trade that could shift the balance in the NBA.  We'll see.  That said, this team still ranks as a disappointment here and now.

Houston Rockets falling apart – This team looks like a mess right now.  They just got hammered (again) by the Lakers this past week and the game wasn't even as close as the blowout looked.  Houston, which has been a serious thread in the West for multiple years is now 3-6 and lost their star player.  It's difficult to see the Rockets turning things around.

New Orleans Pelicans horrible weak – To say it was a disappointing week for the Pelicans is a gross understatement.  The Pelicans had leads in three very winnable games -- up six on Indiana with 21 seconds left, ahead by four with 2 mins to play against the Thunder, and up 18 versus the Hornets -- but lost all three.  Stan Van Gundy's team has to work on holding leads.  A week ago, they were in first-place.  Now, they're fading fast.

James Harden is a crybaby – Yeah, we know the superstar wanted out of Houston, and that's fine.  But at least he could have shown some effort while heading out the door.  “I’ve literally done everything that I can," Harden said when asked about his failure to help win a title in Houston and his performance this season.  Sure, he's not to blame for the Rockets being in last place.  However, Harden, cannot possibly believe he's done "everything," when the fact is he's been nothing but a distraction since tip off three weeks ago.  Perhaps his attitude and effort will improve in Brooklyn.

Two things remain certain:

  1. It's a long season ahead.
  2. Things are going to be interesting, and unpredictable.

See you next week, with another update of "Surprises and Disappointments," and exclusive here at POINTSPREADS.CA.