Biggest NBA surprises of Week 1

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Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) drives between Toronto Raptors forwards Pascal Siakam (43) and Kawhi Leonard (2) during first-half NBA basketball game action in Toronto, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Great news for casual fans and basketball geeks everywhere: the NBA is back! Last Tuesday marked the start of a brand new season jam-packed with hyped up rookies, a couple of familiar faces in fresh places and a revamped pace, all of which making the games more exciting than ever.

There were plenty of popular takes entering this year: the Raptors will be top-two in the East with Kawhi, the Rockets will look worse without Mbah A Moute and Ariza, Ben Simmons still doesn’t have a jump shot. Although it’s early and we can’t tell how many of those predictions will come to fruition, I’m interested in what we CAN draw from the first week of NBA competition, and that would be early season surprises. Which players are better than expected? Which teams are worse? Let’s jump on in.

Is Kemba the best player in the NBA?

No, unfortunately for Husky faithful, he’s not. But through three games this is a Kemba Walker we haven’t seen before. He’s leading the league in scoring with 35.3 points per game and has been a flamethrower from beyond the arc, putting down 19 of his 38 attempted three-pointers and setting an NBA record for most three-pointers through three games. Not much is expected of the Hornets this season, so if Walker keeps it up they could very well exceed expectations.

Jokic’s perfect triple-double

Everyone knew Jokic was capable of putting up monster all-around stats with his magical passing ability, three-point shooting and rebounding prowess. What we didn’t know was that he could do what he did on Saturday. Matching up against Deandre Ayton, the young center that was picked first overall in this year’s draft, the Joker gave him a fine welcome to the league by dropping 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals, one block and not a single turnover while shooting 11-11 from the field. In just the second game of the season Jokic made a statement: the Nuggets aren’t to be taken lightly this season. Case in point: their win over the former champion Warriors on Sunday on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Pelicans averaging 140 points per game

Very, very small sample size. Yes, I know. But even through two games for the Pelicans to be where they are, winning 131-112 over the Rockets in their first game and then dropping 149 on the Kings the next game, is very impressive. Anthony Davis looks the part of an MVP. Nikola Mirotic is what Davis always wanted Ryan Anderson to be. Elfrid Payton triple-doubled in his first game as a Pel. We knew New Orleans would be good, but I’m all in on them as one of the premiere Western Conference teams this season.

The Winless in the West

Three games down for the Thunder, two for the Lakers. Five L’s total. Once again, it’s only the first week, and Westbrook only played one game for the Thunder so far, but it’s an early surprise and disappointment for both of these squads to be here. The Lakers managed two tough losses to the Trailblazers and Rockets this week, respectable games that were competitive to the end. The Thunder blew their last game to the Kings even with Westbrook in the lineup and with Iman Shumpert leading Sacramento in scoring. These two teams have frequently been spoken of as top-four in the west. It’s early, but those lofty ambitions are looking out of place.


Zac Lane is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at zac.lane@uconn.edu.

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