The 2020-21 NBA regular season is two weeks in, and already there are several surprises and disappointments.
We listed six surprises and four disappointments, which are listed below:
Orlando in first place – The Magic started the season red hot and went 4-0, but have fallen back to 5-2. Nonetheless, that's an impressive burst out of the gate. The Miami Heat, at 3-3, still may have something to say about the eventual winner of the Southeast division, but the Magic are clearly the class of a very average group of teams two weeks into the young season.
New Orleans in first place – The Pelicans have been a mediocre team for a long time, and it doesn't help they play in the same division with Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, which have dominated the top of the standings for the past 25 years. Statistically, the Pelicans stink. They rank in the bottom half of several categories. Nonetheless, New Orleans is winning right now. We'll see how good this team is when they start playing against tougher competition, but give the Pelcians credit for taking care of business early on.
The Clippers-Suns-Lakers dogfight – Everyone expected the Clippers and Suns to give the defending champion Lakers a battle this season, and that's precisely what's happening. So, it's not really a surprise to see all of these three teams atop the standings. What is a surprise, however, is just how strong they have looked this season, going a combined 15-6. Even the bottom teams in the division – Sacramento and Golden State – are 7-7. The Pacific division is going to create a battle-tough team that's likely to be the team to beat the remainder of the season.
Philadelphia with the NBA's best record – The 76ers are 6-1 and streaking right now. Let's agree that Philadelphia has faced a soft schedule, but they've also taken care of business. The Sixers’ 9.3-point scoring differential is third in the NBA, behind only Milwaukee (13.5) and the Los Angeles Lakers (11.1). So, not only are they winning, they are winning big (and covering the spread).
New York Knicks with a winning record – The Knicks have been the NBA's laughingstock for a decade. One of the worst-managed teams in pro sports, the NYK keep looking for a turnaround. Maybe 2021 will be their year. At 4-3, they are certainly competitive. Head coach Tom Thibodeau may have found the nucleus of a winner. Last year, it took the Knicks 14 games to get to four wins. This season, it took only half as many games.
The NBA's TV ratings – TV ratings, critical to the health of the league, took a suprising uptick in the first two weeks of 2020-21. TV ratings on ESPN, ABC and TNT in the United States were up a whopping 67 percent over last year’s opening week. The huge slate of Christmas Day games averaged nearly 3 million viewers, up 10 percent from a season ago. In terms of NBA TV ratings, the opening week of 2020-21 NBA action represented the most-watched slate of action since all the way back in 2011. Given the trend of televised sports have been flat for a while, this is a big surprise.
Toronto's 1-5 record – The Raptors are better than this. They've won just one game in six tries and looked bad in the losses. Their next three games are on the road out West, so that likely won't improve things. 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 temp home in Tampa is affecting the Raptors on the court. Whatever the reasons, they should still be playing at a higher level than this.
Houston - Dallas - San Antonio off to slow starts – The Rockets and Mavericks were forecast among the top teams in the Western Conference, and while the Spurs are in a rebuilding phase, they were also counted to show improvement. Yet, through two weeks, none of the three Texas teams shows a winning record. They're a combined 7-11, so far. The first place team in the Southwest Division? The New Orleans Pelicans. It would be shocking to see this continue much longer, but none of the big three can be pleased with their results, to date.
Denver's 2-4 record – The Nuggets, who were expected to compete in the West, have been among the disappointing teams two weeks in, but the talent is in place to make a run. Center Nikola Jokic is putting up a whopping triple-double average of 22.3 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 12.8 assists. Denver's game at the NBA-leading Sixers on Saturday will tell us more about the Nuggets and their direction.
Brooklyn's slow start – The Nets remain the favourites to win the Eastern Conference, yet currently have a losing record. To be fair, Brooklyn has some valid excuses. The Nets have to compensate for the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie, who suffered a serious injury. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have played well, but the Nets still need more help, especially since Durant is expected to miss at least seven days and the next four games because of COVID-19 protocol. The Nets fate isn't likely to improve anytime soon.