Just like that, almost a third of the 2020-21 NBA season is in the books.
Yet with a decent sample size of action behind us, there are still very answers to our preseason questions. One of those questions was how the league would navigate playing a season outside of the bubble. The result has certainly been a mixed bag.
Life outside the bubble
Brooklyn, Washington, Miami, Philadelphia and Boston have been just a few of the teams with significant bouts against the virus and safety protocols. Less than a month ago, the Sixers suited up a minimum eight players for a tilt with Denver. Most recently Nets forward Kevin Durant was yanked mid-game against Toronto for contact-tracing protocols.
Now the league and players are wrestling with the idea of putting on an All-Star weekend. The league office is reportedly eyeing targeting a March showing in Atlanta. Meanwhile, stars like LeBron James and Giannis Antentokoumpo have spoken out against playing the game, citing the inability to spend time with family if it is played.
The Jazz are hot but the Lakers are the team to beat
As for the play on the court, Utah sits atop the NBA with an 18-5 record. The Jazz recently won 11 straight before falling to Denver on Jan. 31. This has been the best team against the spread with a 16-7 record yet it’s still not a top-three favorite to win the title.
The favorite has remained the Los Angeles Lakers as it was during the preseason. James and co. are 17-6 thanks in part to a phenomenal 12-2 record on the road. Health has been in their favor and the offseason additions of Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroeder seem to have bolstered the roster.
Looking at individual futures, James has easily surpassed the preseason MVP favorite Luka Dončić for the best odds to earn the honor. LaMelo Ball remains the favorite for Rookie of the Year and looks poised to earn a starting spot with Charlotte any day now.
What to expect moving forward
There are still plenty of moves to be made throughout the NBA. It’s safe to expect the Lakers, Nets and Bucks to remain among the favorites to win it all.
Dallas is expected to be on the market to make a significant move before the trade deadline on March 25. The Mavs are surprisingly on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. On the other side of the coin, Cleveland — an expected seller and cellar-dweller — has been better than advertised.
The rise of Colin Sexton as a legitimate problem may keep the Cavs staying mostly intact. Andre Drummond has been the most likely piece to be shopped around, especially after acquiring Jarrett Allen, but he’s having one of his best seasons.
As weird as this season may seem, it’s very much the same
With all of the questions surrounding COVID-19 and the state of the world, one thing has remained the same this season: the on- and off-court storylines are riveting.
There isn’t a moment that goes by where the landscape isn’t shifting. Whether it’s Durant’s social media activity or a rumor emerging from a front office, you need to stay dialed in to have a bead on what’s going on.
Lucky for you, you’ve found the right place to stay on top of it.