Early NBA overachievers and underachievers


All-Pro Reals | Wikimedia Commons

Vasileios Michaelides

With the NBA season a month in, it’s now possible for fans to have an outlook on the rest of the 2021-22 season. Then again, each team has played around 15 games, so it’s still too early to draw any real conclusions, but as fans, we do it anyway because that’s what fans do.

Let’s take a look at the underachievers and the overachievers of the NBA season so far.

Starting with one of the biggest surprises of the young season, the Washington Wizards have been playing exceptional basketball this season. The team is 9-3 at the time of publication and is getting the most out of new additionsKyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Harrell and Kuzma are leading the squad in rebounds, with 9.0 and 9.2 respectively, while Caldwell-Popeis averaging nearly nine points per game and shooting 42%from beyond the arc at home.

Then there’s their all-star guard, Bradley Beal, who leads Washington in scoring with an average of 23.3 points per game.

Everything’s coming together really well for the Wizards on both sides of the ball as they are tied for fourth in defensive rating, according to ESPN.However, it remains to be seen if Washington canmaintain this level of play.

Another shockingly impressive team so far this season has been the Cleveland Cavaliers.

They have beaten quality opponents like the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks.

The Cavs are getting contributions from early Rookie of the Year favorite Evan Mobley, as well as newly re-signed center Jarrett Allen and young point guard Darius Garland, who has shown improvement this season.

With that being said, the start to this season is reminiscent of last year’s Cavs who also started off hot, but sizzled down as the season continued.

Like the Wizards, the Cavs will have to continue to play winning basketball to get most NBA fans’ attention. As of right now though, Cleveland has to be hopeful about the franchises’ future for the first time since the days of LeBron James.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there’s the Atlanta Hawks. After making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks just don’t look the same as last year’s squad, despite bringing everyone back.

Atlanta has really struggled on the defensive end of the floor. They rank 20th in defensive rating and have allowed over 115 points in six of their last seven games, according to ESPN.

Simply put, the Hawks have to improve at team defense in order to get to where they want to go at the end of the season.

Defense is all about effort and it seems as though Atlanta just doesn’t care enough to play consistent defense.. Their superstar point guard Trae Young said that “it’s the regular season. I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot more boring than the playoffs. You got to find that motivation to play like the playoffs,” as reported by Chris Kirschner.

The Hawks need to find that motivation and hunger that made them tough to play against in the playoffs last season.

Despite the Hawks struggles, there has been an even bigger underachiever so far this season: the Milwaukee Bucks

The defending champs are struggling early mainly due to injuries. They have played most of the season without starters Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton and have just recently got back players like Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis and Semi Ojeleye.

Nobody should be worried about the Bucks’s early season struggles. Once everyone gets reintegrated back in the squad and the chemistry is built up again, Milwaukee will find themselves among the top three seeds in the eastern conference. Plus, they still have the two timeMost Valuable Player and reigning finals MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. There’s no need to press the panic button on Milwaukee.

One team that does need to press the panic button, though, is the Boston Celtics. The problems in Boston go far beyond injuries. It appears the Celtics players don’t really enjoy playing together.

Marcus Smart had some damning comments earlier this season, calling out teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Smart told reporters that Tatum and Brown need to pass more.

After last season’s disappointing run, if nothing changes in Boston soon some moves may need to be made for the better of the franchise.

Last but certainty not least, there’s the New York Knicks.

New York City’s own have put their fans on a rollercoaster of emotions in such a short span this season. From a double overtime win in a wild Madison Square Garden against the Celtics to an embarrassing loss against the Orlando Magic, fans have seen it all, despite the season being so young. From a 41-point turnaround victory against the defending champion the Milwaukee Bucks to getting torched by Ricky Rubio and the Cavs two days later on the Garden floor, the Knicks’s inconsistencies and defensive shortcomings, especially on the perimeter, will keep the team in the middle of the eastern conference.

Unless a quality perimeter defender is brought in, or the team can improve defending perimeter threats, the Knicks will stay where they are right now. The Knicks have plenty of work to do in order to get further in the playoffs than last season. Having said that, the positives outweigh the negative for the Knicks so far this season.