Just over three weeks into the 2020-21 NBA season there has been plenty of eye-popping, head-turning action that may or may not be sustainable.
That's the fun about a 10-game sample size! It's just enough to begin formulating opinions while also recognizing that there are still over 85% of games still to be played this season.
With that being said, here are 10 overreactions from the first 10-or-so games of the season. I'll leave it to you to decide which ones you believe are real or not.
Nikola Jokic will make passing history
Wilt Chamberlain holds the record for the highest assist average by a centre in a single season, posting 8.6 assists per game back in 1967-68. Aside from Chamberlain, there is only one other centre in NBA history who has averaged over 7.0 assists per game for an entire season.
His name? Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets All-Star who is solidifying his case as the best passing big man ever.
Through the first 11 games this season, Jokic has been a machine averaging a league-leading 10.5 assists per game. He's recorded double figure assists in eight of those 11 games and is even responsible for the highest assist total in a single game this season when he dropped 18 dimes in a triple-double effort against the Houston Rockets.
🃏👀 Career-high 18 ASSISTS for Nikola Jokic.. the MOST by a center since Wilt in 1968! pic.twitter.com/brVw1r37ZL- NBA (@NBA) December 29, 2020
Of all the things you'll read on this list of overreactions, Jokic breaking the assists average record for a centre may actually be the most believable of them all.
The Brooklyn Nets will miss the playoffs
After destroying both the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics in the first week of the season, the Nets were already being crowned the best team in the Eastern Conference. Who would've guessed that two weeks later, through their first 12 games of the season, they would be 6-6 just inside the East's playoff picture?
Luckily for Brooklyn, it's a 72-game season, not a 12-game season. With that being said, through the first 12 games, the Nets have only played six games with both of their superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant was forced to miss time due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, whereas Irving has been absent for four consecutive games due to personal reasons (and is reportedly expected to remain absent for the near future).
There are still 60 games for Brooklyn to get things ironed out but has this start to the season raised a cause for concern for this team moving forward?
C.J. McCollum will finish top five in scoring
If we told you at the start of the season a Portland Trail Blazers guard was going to land in the top five in scoring, you would've assumed that we were talking about Damian Lillard. Through the first 10 games of the season, the first part of that sentence reigns true - someone on the Blazers is in the top five in scoring - but it's McCollum, not Lillard.
McCollum has been on fire to start the 2020-21 season, averaging 28.1 points per game. That ranks him second in the NBA, trailing only Bradley Beal (34.9 PPG).
To add to his career-high scoring average, McCollum is also shooting a career-best 44.5% from beyond the arc (on 11.0 attempts per game, nonetheless) and is posting career-highs in assists (5.0) and steals (1.6) per game. Oh, and he's been clutch, too.
This Is Art: CJ McCollum's game winner! pic.twitter.com/JOjJewZ8uz- Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 12, 2021
Julius Randle will make an All-NBA team
This is one I'm not sure anybody saw coming prior to the start of the season.
Randle has been one of the best players in the entire league through the New York Knicks' first 11 games and that is not hyperbole. Averaging 22.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game - all of which are career-highs - Randle has looked like more than just an All-Star candidate.
The list of players currently averaging over 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game: Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Domantas Sabonis and Randle. That's it.
The Knicks have been a pleasant surprise to start the season and Randle has played a huge role in that. Can he maintain this level of play for a full season and keep New York in the playoff hunt? That remains to be seen.
Gordon Hayward's Charlotte Hornets will make the playoffs
The NBA world was surprised to see Hayward sign a four-year, $120 million contract with the Hornets this past offseason but through the first 11 games of the season, it appears Charlotte knew exactly what it was doing.
Taking on a much bigger role than he ever had in Boston - one similar to the one he established during his lone All-Star season in Utah back in 2017 - Hayward has thrived as the go-to guy for the Hornets thus far.
Averaging 22.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 50.3% from the field and 40.4% from 3, he has put up All-Star numbers with Charlotte looking like a playoff-hopeful for the first time since 2016. It only took him eight games to eclipse his career-high in scoring, dropping 44 points in a win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Hayward (44 PTS) dropped a career-high against the Hawks! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/Qx4l9WaJnI- NBA TV (@NBATV) January 7, 2021
If Hayward can stay healthy, which has been the main issue for him in previous years, the Hornets might surprise some people this season.
The Phoenix Suns will make a run at a first-ever title
The Suns went 8-0 in the bubble and just missed the playoffs but it was clear that something special was brewing under head coach Monty Williams. When they traded for 10-time All-Star guard Chris Paul in the offseason, that was the piece that took the Suns from fringe-playoff team to a team possibly looking to contend for a title.
Through the start of the 2020-21 season, "title contender Phoenix Suns" doesn't sound nearly as ridiculous as it may have in the offseason. Phoenix has gotten its season off on the right foot, looking like one of the best teams in the league. Paul has been the perfect fit alongside cornerstones Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, even though Ayton hasn't exactly raised his level of play the way he was expected to so far. Mikal Bridges has raised some eyebrows in cementing himself as an early Most Improved Player of the Year candidate, and a 7-4 record has Phoenix tied with the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz for second place in the conference.
2010 was the last time the Suns made the playoffs, falling in the Western Conference Finals. Can they get back to the postseason and return to that stage and beyond this year?
Brandon Ingram is a better prospect than Zion Williamson
When the New Orleans Pelicans won the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery (essentially the Zion Williamson sweepstakes), it was assumed they found their franchise cornerstone for years and years to come. And while that idea hasn't changed much, what if I told you the Pelicans' main franchise cornerstone was already on the roster before they selected Williamson first overall?
Ingram, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, went through some growing pains to start his career with the Los Angeles Lakers but has since then proved to be one of the best young talents in the league. After winning Most Improved Player of the Year last season, this season has been no different as it appears Ingram has taken another step toward superstardom.
Averaging 24.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, Ingram is looking like New Orleans' best player even though Williamson is still averaging an impressive 21.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Before Zion stepped foot on the floor, the general consensus likely would have been Williamson over Ingram. I'm curious as to what the answer to that question would be today.
The Toronto Raptors will finish in the basement of the East
Standing in at 2-8, tied with the Detroit Pistons for the worst record in the NBA, the Raptors are far from where they expected to be 10 games into the season.
Pascal Siakam game-winning shot attempts rimming out on back-to-back nights tells you all you need to know about the way the ball has been bouncing for Toronto this season. The Raptors own the 21st-ranked defence in the NBA, a far cry from a team that is typically in the top five on that end of the floor. They also have the 15th-ranked offence in the league, giving them a -1.4 net rating.
They've also blown double-digit leads in six of their eight losses.
While none of the above is a recipe for success, things are trending in a better direction for the Raptors. If the season ended today, they'd finish in the basement of the East. Luckily for them, there are still 62 games to try and right the ship.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets playoff streak will come to an end
After the San Antonio Spurs missed the playoffs last season, snapping an NBA-record 22-year stretch of reaching the postseason, the Rockets were next in line for the longest active playoff streak in the league. Since acquiring Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2012, Houston has qualified for the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons.
Just when you thought trade talks had died down, Harden made his feelings clear following Houston's loss to the Lakers stating, "I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."
Even though free agent signing Christian Wood has looked like an All-Star at times this season, averaging 22.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, and John Wall has shown flashes of his former All-Star self, Houston still hasn't been able to turn that production into wins.
It's too early to definitively say the Rockets can't turn things around, but getting out to a 3-6 start this season with all the locker room turmoil, their playoff streak is in jeopardy.
MVP-level Paul George is back
In 2018-19 with the Thunder, George was a finalist for both Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year. He came up short on both awards, but it was an impressive achievement nonetheless.
In his first season with the Clippers in 2019-20, the six-time All-Star became the fall guy whenever things went wrong. It was far from the most memorable season of his career ... and things got even worse in the playoffs. George struggled mightily in the postseason and the Clippers were eliminated well short of their goal as a result. After a quick offseason, George looks to have overcome that version of himself, because he's been back to MVP form to start the new season.
PG is averaging 25.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, a career-high 5.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 49.7% from the field and a blistering 51.2% from 3. He has the Clippers back where they belong and if he can keep this up, they'll be poised to make the deep playoff run many expected from them last season.
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