A Football Fan's 2020-21 NBA Cheat Sheet
With football season finally in the books, the North American sports universe belongs to the NBA once again.
Ratings for the Association are on the up and up, and there’s no time like the present for football fans to hop in on the action.
Need to get caught up on what you’ve missed so far during the 2020-21 NBA season? Here at OTG, we aim to serve. As such, here’s what you need to know about this current campaign of pro hoops:
(Stats via: NBA.com)
The offense is spectacular:
One hallmark of this NBA season has been unbelievable offensive play. Yes, the three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden looks poised to shatter scoring records. But overall, the offensive prowess of the league across the board appears to be nearly off the rails.
In the 2015-16 season, just five years ago, only two teams averaged north of 110 points per game. This year? Twenty one clubs are scoring more than 110 points a night.
Obviously a big element of this trend is the three-point revolution. Five seasons ago, the Warriors dominated the three-point game, averaging a league-leading 31.6 3PAs per contest. In 20-21, fully 24 teams are launching that many shots from deep every night.
Shooting percentages are up, as are assist rates, and overall, the scoring rhythm for most clubs has been spectacular.
Maybe this is the cumulation of years of an offensive renaissance that began many seasons ago. Perhaps this is the work of very crafty team-building. Or it could be that something else entirely is at play.
The defense has been putrid:
Without a shadow of a doubt, the defense this season has not been particularly good. Outside of the Lakers and the Jazz, very few of the top teams in the NBA have shown interest in winning on the defensive end.
Steals and blocks are down. But so are the number of fouls committed per game. With exception, the eye test backs this up. Defensive effort is meh at best around the league.
There are plenty of good reasons for this. First and foremost, with COVID regulations, players’ lives have been flipped on their head. Multiple tests a day, prolonged travel with strict regulations on where a player spends time, plus the psychology of navigating a pandemic all add up. Players are understandably tired.
For afternoon matinee games, for example, players are usually tested first thing in the morning to try and get a PCR COVID test result as quickly as possible. Getting up at dawn in the dead of winter after flying into town the night before might lead to a little laziness on the defensive end.
To make things worse for fans of defensive basketball, nine teams have new head coaches this year. With a shortened off-season, no training camp or preseason, and limited opportunities for team practice, it's been hard for clubs to find rhythm and focus on setting up systems and expectations.
There’s plenty to love:
So the earth-shattering offense is probably more a symptom of lazy, discombobulated defense more than anything else. And it’s very early in the 20-21 NBA season, such that it’s hard to declare much of anything with certainty.
Still, there are a few tremendous storylines and individual performances worth of adulation. The aforementioned Brooklyn Nets really are must-see TV. Perhaps no team is offering more (offensive) basketball nirvana at this time.
Steph Curry, though, is doing his best to put on a show out West. He’s had a few iconic scoring bursts. He joins the likes of LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, and Kevin Durant as bonafide MVP candidates.
Joel Embiid, too, looks like a true world-beater. His Philadelphia 76ers are sizzling behind his new-and-improved conditioning regimen. Giannis Antetonkoumpo is changing his offensive identity slightly, and Jayson Tatum looks like a stud, too.
Mike Conley, Tom Thibodeau, and the entire Spurs organization have seemingly turned back the clock and are proving to be considerable forces. Jaylen Brown, LaMelo Ball, Colin Sexton, and others, meanwhile, have burst onto the scene.
All told, there’s great parity in the league this season. The league’s upper echelon is as crowded as ever, while the basement is full of plucky, dangerous teams with lots to play for.
Welcome, football fans. We’re lucky to have you. Or baseball fans anxiously waiting to see what the future MLB season actually looks like. Welcome all to the great spectacle that is the 2020-21 NBA season!