Week one of the 2021-2022 NBA season has concluded. This past week we’ve seen some spectacular performances from multiple players, surprise teams remaining undefeated, and some players off to rough starts. Nonetheless, NBA basketball has returned and it’s as exciting as ever!

The Emergence of Chris Duarte

The casual NBA fan may not be familiar with Pacers’ rookie guard Chris Duarte. He was a late lottery pick in this years’ NBA draft and not as well-known as the top selections. Regardless, Duarte has had a stellar start to his early NBA career.

For context, Chris Duarte is starting for the Indiana Pacers in place of the injured T.J. Warren. In his three starts, the rookie logged 20.3 PPG, shot 40.4% from the field, and netted 45.8% of his three-point attempts. Duarte’s two-way play has complimented Indiana’s style of play perfectly. Defensively, he’s been very solid on the perimeter. On the other end, his floor spacing has been excellent. In addition, he’s showcased his mid-range shot creation ability as he’s shooting 53.8% from inside the arc. 

Most recently, Chris Duarte helped lead the Pacers to a huge overtime win over the Miami Heat 102-91. In overtime the two-way wing knocked down all five of his free-throw attempts, which gave him a total of 19 points (team high). Though it’s extremely early in this season, Chris Duarte has emerged as a ROTY candidate along with Evan Mobley and Jalen Green. 

Russell Westbrook’s Rough Start

In the offseason, the Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers agreed on a deal that’d send Russell Westbrook to the Lakers in exchange for key rotational players. As a result, the NBA community questioned the fit between Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James for good reason. 

Westbrook’s fast-paced ball dominant style of play does not mix well with James and Davis’ need for floor-spacing. This Lakers team has championship aspirations and Russell Westbrook needs to do more off the ball for them to succeed. So far, this hasn’t been the case as this star-studded trio hasn’t meshed well at all. Los Angeles sits in 9th place of the Western Conference with an underwhelming 1-2 record. 

On the season, Russell Westbrook is averaging 12 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 8.7 APG. Efficiency-wise, the 2017 MVP is shooting 34.9% from the field, a horrid 9.1% from long-range, and has a true-shooting percentage of 37.3% (17.2% below league-average). Westbrook is a winning player, and his off-ball offense will undoubtedly improve over the season and the Lakers will get into rhythm sooner than later.

Steph Curry and Golden State’s Blazing Start

One of the NBA’s biggest surprises so far has been the Golden State Warriors. They’re undefeated and are in first place of the Western Conference with a 3-0 record. The reasons for Golden State’s early season success are obvious when you have one, if not the greatest point guard in NBA history. 

Three games in and superstar Stephen Curry is already having an MVP-caliber season. Curry’s averaging 31.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, and surprisingly 9.0 RPG. As far as his shooting goes, he’s shooting 43.5% from the field and 38.9% from beyond the arc. These shooting numbers may be a bit uncharacteristic, which is due to Curry’s shot volume. In addition, Steph Curry has been the powerhouse of Golden State’s exciting offense. To measure, the Warriors’ offensive rating goes down by 13.6 when Curry isn’t in the game. 

Evidently, Curry has been nothing short of spectacular so far. Last week he went nuclear by dropping 25 PTS on 100 FG% in the 1st quarter alone against the Los Angeles Clippers. In short, a Curry-led Golden State Warriors could be a dark-horse team, especially with fellow splash-brother Klay Thompson returning in a few months.