Graphic by David Jakacky

Every NBA season seems to have very clear front runners for who will be the champions come the season’s end. In the 1960s you had the Boston Celtics, in the 1980s the Los Angeles Lakers, the 1990s the Chicago Bulls, the 2000s again with the Lakers and in the 2010s, you had both the Miami Heat and then the Golden State Warriors.

Though every season there are a few key front runners, this season there has not been a team that has stood out from the pack yet. However, some have the potential to surprise us.

The Phoenix Suns are currently tied with the best record in the NBA, continuing off of last year’s surprise run to the finals. They are led by star shooting guard Devin Booker, who is averaging 23.2 points, 4.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 0.9 steals. Center Deandre Ayton is second in the team averaging a double-double with 16.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists. 

The Warriors are back on a winning streak even though they lost star player Kevin Durant. Point guard Stephen Curry is off to a great start having one of his best seasons so far, averaging 27.8 points on 45.2% shooting, 6.6 assists, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.8 steals. Andrew Wiggins has had a breakout season so far averaging 18.6 points on 49% shooting, 4.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.8 steals.

To help out their team even more, All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson is slated to return after missing the last two seasons due to knee injuries to make the Warriors even more dangerous.

Even without star point guard Kyrie Irving playing, due to his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the Brooklyn Nets are still tied for the first seed in the East Conference.

Along with Curry, Durant was named Player of the Month in November and he has had a terrific start to the season with 28.6 points on 53.9% shooting, 7.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 0.7 steals. Guard James Harden has also had a great start to the year averaging 21 points on 41.6% shooting, 8 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 0.7 steals.

Every NBA season has a surprise team that has done well, and this year that seems to be the Chicago Bulls. They are currently one of the hottest teams in all of basketball and they are tied with the Nets for the best record in the East Conference. 

Guard DeMar Derozan has bounced back to all-star for them so far, leading the team with 26.3 points on 49.5% shooting, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1 steal. Guard Zach LaVine has been playing at an all-star level as well, averaging 25.4 points on 48.8% shooting, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Coming into this season, no one expected the Lakers to struggle as much as they have been. While the season might still be young, the Lakers are showing worrying signs that they might continue to disappoint if something does not change, and with the age of the team, injuries could easily become a major concern.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis have continued to prove themselves when they’re active. James has only played in 11 games this season so far and has averaged 25.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists. Davis has averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

While Lebron and Davis have been playing at the level they are expected to, the Lakers star acquisition, Russell Westbrook, has not. When he was brought in, he was expected to help take the load off of James and Davis, but he has not mixed well and has not done well defensively. So far this season, he has averaged 20.7 points, 8.6 assists, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals.

It is too early to tell who will win the NBA finals but with no clear top dog, anything can happen.