2021 NBA Contenders & Pretenders


While the newfound NBA season is underway, some teams have gotten themselves out to a hot start. For others, lingering injuries and lack of chemistry have provided a slow beginning to the campaign.

Here, we examine whether various franchises have the potential to be contenders, or whether they are simply pretending:

Contenders: Brooklyn Nets

We speculated whether the combination of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant would take time before translating to success, but they have quickly played a role in the Nets’ strong start. With a record of 3-2, Irving and Durant have a combined average of 56.6 points per game. At the same time, the depth of Caris LeVert (15.6 PPG) and Jarrett Allen (12 RPG) has given Brooklyn a distinct advantage in the Eastern Conference. The Nets were considered preseason favorites by many, and pending injuries or setbacks, that prediction may become a reality.

Pretenders: Indiana Pacers

Domantas Sabonis is off to a quick start, nearly averaging a triple-double to this point. Still, do we expect this trend to continue? The Pacers rely heavily on their ability to score at will, averaging 116.8 points per game; 8th in the NBA. The return of Victor Oladipo after an unfortunate 2019 season is promising, but we have the right to remain pessimistic at this time.

Contenders: Los Angeles Clippers & Los Angeles Lakers

Neither Los Angeles franchise has taken an early leap towards proving their dominance, as the Clippers were recently blown out by the Dallas Mavericks, while the Lakers have dropped multiple games to above-average opponents. Still, the NBA regular season is scheduled for 82 games for a reason. We have no right to panic entering the 2021 year, as both the Clippers and Lakers should find themselves atop the Western Conference playoff picture.

Pretenders: Minnesota Timberwolves

The early injuries to Karl-Anthony Towns raise early red flags when it comes to discussing the Minnesota Timberwolves. A top overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft in Anthony Edwards is forced to adapt to a larger role, and is averaging over 15 points per game to this point. Still, Minnesota can’t be considered a legitimate threat in the West unless they are at full strength. There is still time to change the narrative, but there is a concern.

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