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NBA opening week review: Jokic, Doncic dominant, Wembanyama debuts

The new NBA campaign tipped off on Tuesday night and there have been plenty of twists and turns in the first five days of action.

We’ve already seen the champions lay down a marker, some MVP hopefuls have made flying starts and of course, Victor Wembanyama is already showing what he can do.

Let’s run through the key results, performances and talking points from the season so far.

Defending Champions make strong start

The Denver Nuggets went into the season with talk of a dynasty hyping up their return. They took the NBA Championship to Colorado for the first time last season, but they have the talent to be a contender for years to come.

That’s clear from their perfect start, with the Nuggets downing the LA Lakers after picking up their rings on Tuesday. The Nuggets won that Western Conference Finals rematch 119-107, before downing the Memphis Grizzlies 108-104.

Nikola Jokic picked up where he left off against the Lakers, posting a 29-point triple-double in the victory. The Serbian is a +400 favorite for MVP after two impressive displays early on, while the Nuggets lead the way at +240 to make it out of the west.

Stellar Luka bails out the Mavs

The Dallas Mavericks had one of the busiest offseasons in the NBA, massively overhauling their roster after a dismal 11th-placed finish last term. Despite their huge changes, their opening two games had a familiar feel.

Dallas slid late last season despite having superstar guard Luka Doncic, as the Slovenian had effectively exhausted himself early in the campaign. So far this term, he’s almost solely responsible for their 2-0 start.

Luka posted a 33-point triple-double to down the San Antonio Spurs in their opener. He followed that up with a scintillating 49-point display to lead a comeback win against the Brooklyn Nets.

Doncic is +450 for MVP but these displays will be long forgotten when voting comes around in the spring. They could, however, have a lingering impact on Doncic if he’s asked to play at this level every night.

The Mavs have surrendered 119 points to a lottery team in the Spurs and then 120 at home to a Brooklyn Nets side who were missing two starters. Their defense still needs work, Luka Magic can only bail them out for so long.

It feels like an odd thing to suggest about an unbeaten team, but Jason Kidd may well be on the hotseat if we can’t get the Mavs to function like a team.

Dame clicks in Milwaukee

The new-look Milwaukee Bucks have only played one game, but their 118-117 win over the Philadelphia 76ers showed what they could be.

The title favorites saw new addition Damian Lillard rack up 39 points in his debut. The Bucks have always been a powerful side, but they’ve lacked a half-court spark at times, especially in crunchtime situations.

Lillard’s arrival has changed that and it has transformed how this Bucks team goes forward. Dame’s signature clutch shooting helped them see off the Sixers. It’s little surprise that Lillard is favorite for the Clutch Player of the Year trophy, but there’s some value in his +1000 price.

Grizzly start for Memphis

Despite some preseason predictions placing the Memphis Grizzlies top of the west, they’ve endured a torrid start which has seen their odds plummet.

The Grizzlies have lost all three games so far, first a 111-104 defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans, before a forgivable defeat to the Nuggets. However, it was their 113-106 loss to the Washington Wizards - probably the worst side in the league - which has raised alarm bells.

Memphis are shorthanded without Ja Morant, while Steven Adams’ season-ending injury was a huge blow. Without them, the Grizzlies look incredibly short. In the betting to top the west, they’re now +2500, trailing nine other sides.

The rumoured addition of Bismack Biyombo will help ease their issues at center, but this side may struggle throughout Morant’s 25-game suspension.

Wemby arrives in the NBA

Victor Wembanyama’s NBA debut against the Mavericks was limited due to foul trouble, with the Frenchman picking up five fouls in 23 minutes. He did come alive during the stretch, but his 15-point total didn’t quite match the hype.

The Spurs’ overtime 126-122 win over the Houston Rockets highlighted Wemby’s potential, posting 21 points including the score which tied the game in regulation.

He has caught the eye defensively, with his 7ft 4 frame ensuring he’s a great presence at the rim. His shooting will need to improve if he is going to ascend to the heights promised, as he went 7-19 against the Rockets, including a dismal 0-6 from three.

The Frenchman remains a unique, unpredictable player and he’s worth tuning in for on that alone. However, he’s far from the finished product. 

He’ll deliver plenty of highlights as the season progresses, but he isn’t turning the Spurs into playoff contenders just yet.

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