With pretty much every team in the NBA through 20 games this season, we are now officially a quarter of the way through the 2021-22 season! 

As we get ready for games during the month of December, now is the time where we begin to see which teams are real “contenders” and which ones are just “pretenders” pertaining to the playoffs. Every team still hypothetically has a chance to make the playoffs, but over the next few weeks, we will get an idea for what the playoff picture is shaping up to look like this year. 

Both the Eastern and Western Conferences have a ton of talented teams, but this year, one of the key storylines in the NBA has been how many good teams there are in the East. The Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls have all got off to fast starts this NBA season, but they may not be the only teams with a chance to win it all this year. 

In the Western Conference, the Warriors and Suns look like the two clear-cut favorites, but who else could wind up sneaking into the mix?

As for some of the league’s awards, many of the races are still neck-and-neck, but Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant seem to be battling one another early on for the league’s Most Valuable Player honors. 

So much has happened over the first two months of the 2021-22 NBA regular season and with plenty of more basketball to be played, let’s take a look at four major takeaways from this season so far. 

Big names does not always mean big wins

You can have all the talent you want on your team in the NBA, but at the end of the day, chemistry is what wins championships. Right now, the Los Angeles Lakers do not have any chemistry whatsoever and they just look like a team of a bunch of “has-beens” in this league. 

Entering this season, the Lakers were picked by many to be the “team to beat” in the entire NBA and this was because of their new “Big 3” in LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. Along with Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, DeAndre Jordan and others, the Lakers came into the year with so much All-Star/championship experience, but it has not shown. 

Teams across the league are outhustling them, the Lakers do not look like the same defensive threat they were a season ago, and quite frankly, teams just want to win more than they do. Because of a handful of injuries, the Lakers have not been fully-healthy at all this year and as a result, have not built the same chemistry other successful franchises in this league have. 

Los Angeles has plenty of talented players on their roster, most of which will be in the Hall-of-Fame one day, but that does not necessarily mean that they will win every single game. Learning curves are always expected with new teams, but we seemed to be blind to this because of the fact that LeBron James and Anthony Davis were leading this team.

The Lakers definitely have their work cut out for them this year, especially because LeBron James has missed over half the season due to a variety of injuries and illnesses. In time, this team is going to figure things out and begin looking like the championship contender we thought they were, but is it going to be too late when they do figure things out? 

This team is currently 12-11, which is not terrible, but it is also not very good. They are just 3.5 games in front of the Sacramento Kings, who are out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, and this early in the season, things can change standings-wise very quickly! 

Anthony Davis is going to do his thing every night, as is Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and others, but one individual, especially LeBron James, is not going to magically change this team. Their biggest problem right now, besides not having chemistry with one another on the court, is that their defense is terrible. 

They rank 15th in the league in defensive rating and some nights, it looks like they are playing pick-up basketball at the park! Whether it is Westbrook or someone else, effort needs to be given on every single defensive possession if this team is to win another championship. 

During the 2019-20 season, the Lakers ranked 3rd in the league in defensive rating and guess what? They went on to win a championship that year. 

This was not a coincidence and defense has to be the identity of this Lakers team moving forward. If they cannot figure things out defensively, they are going to wind up losing in the first-round of the playoffs again, assuming they make the playoffs at this rate!