The 2023-2024 NBA season has officially started and Opening Night was nothing short of stellar. Multiple players outshined the rest and some teams already look like they’re in mid-season form. There were also a plethora of surprise performances from guys like Cam Thomas, Harrison Barnes, and Dereck Lively II. Let’s take a look at some of the top takeaways from teams all across the league in their season debut.
Going into the game against the Warriors, the Suns would be without their newly acquired third star Bradley Beal. Beal is still dealing with back injuries and was also sidelined for their matchup against the Lakers. Even without him, the Suns caught fire in their first game of the season. Devin Booker dropped 32 points and shot 62% from the field. Kevin Durant saw his fair share of action, putting up 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jusuf Nurkic and Josh Okogie also played well, but it was Booker who stole the show. Hopefully, his foot injury won’t cause him to miss consecutive games after missing their matchup against the Lakers. If the Suns can somehow stay healthy, they are destined to be a powerhouse in a stacked Western Conference.
After winning the Championship in the 2022-2023 season, the Nuggets show no sign of slowing down. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic put up his usual stats; 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists on 54% shooting from the field. If Jokic can continue his early dominance into the season, he could be aiming towards his third MVP award. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jamal Murray provided Jokic with scoring help all night long. Caldwell-Pope scored 20 points and Murray put up 21. The Nuggets bench hardly contributed, but they didn’t need to. Along with Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr, the starters dominated the floor all game long. Even with the competitiveness of the West this year, look for the Nuggets to potentially lead the conference in wins this year again.
Even with a close loss to the Miami Heat in their first game of the season, the Pistons can look to the future with promise. Cade Cunningham led the team in points and assists, as he scored 30 and 9 respectively. Cunningham took on the workload for the team, but their other options also filled up the box score with efficient stats. Jalen Duren shot 73% from the field to go along with his 17 points and 14 rebounds. Rookie Ausar Thomspon shot inconsistently in his debut but was a menace on defense racking up five blocks. The Pistons' young core looked promising and with an average age of 25.2, it might not be long before Detroit fans can see their team back in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers
If the Clippers can somehow manage to avoid long-term injuries throughout the season, they could become a force to be reckoned with in the West. Superstars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard put up a combined 50 points in their debut game against the Trail Blazers in a 12-point win. Ivica Zubac and Bones Hyland also complimented George and Leonard well, with Zubac scoring 20 points on ten shot attempts. The most surprising performance for the Clippers on Wednesday night was no doubt Russell Westbrook. He seemed to turn back the clock a few years with his four first-half dunks. He scored 11 points on eight shots with no free throws and continuously found great looks for his teammates, finishing the game with 13 assists. The Clippers have also been in trade talks with 76ers star James Harden and one can only imagine what he could bring to a team already full of talent.
With 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Cavs guard Donavan Mitchell iced the game with a clean three-point jump shot which boosted his points to 27. The Cavs newly acquired shooting guard Max Strus also showed out with his own 27-point game. Darius Garland and Evan Mobley provided additional support as they beat the Brooklyn Nets 114-113 in a tightly contested game to the buzzer. The Cavs could very well be a top team in the East, even after their disappointing series loss to the New York Knicks last year. Donovan Mitchell appears to be in full stride already with hopes to lead his team back to the playoffs for the second straight year. We’ll see if they can continue their success with a Thursday matchup against the Thunder.
Oklahoma City Thunder
In their first game of the season, the Thunder took over in the second half on their way to a 20-point win over the Chicago Bulls. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paved the way for their dominance, scoring 31 points on 67% shooting from the field. He also racked up five rebounds, 10 assists, and one steal. Jalen Williams and Josh Giddey each scored 16 and provided Gilgeous-Alexander with the support he needed. Isaiah Joe shot 50% while scoring 14 points on eight shots off of the bench. Chet Holmgren seemed a little shaky in his NBA debut but overall looked promising with 11 points. Rookie Cason Wallace made every single one of his five shots on his way to scoring 13 in his debut. Lugentz Dort continued his dominant defensive play recording two steals and a block against the Bulls. Behind Gilgeous-Alexander the Thunder seemed to be completely in sync. As hopeful as the future seems for the team, it will be tough for them to make enough noise in a loaded Western Conference. With teams like the Nuggets, Suns, Clippers, Pelicans, and Mavericks the Thunder will have to aggressively fight those teams and others for a postseason appearance.
The Celtics may just be the team to beat in the East this year. Kristaps Porzingis made his presence known early with 30 points and eight rebounds on 56% shooting from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum scored the second-highest points of any player on Wednesday with a staggering 34-point and 11-rebound performance. The Celtics barely needed their bench and relied mainly on their starters to beat the Knicks 108-104. Derrick White and Jaylen Brown also carried their weight scoring 12 and 11 respectively. Only time will tell if the Celtics can meet their expectations for the season and finish as a top-three seed in the East. Based on this game alone, it seems like they may just exceed those expectations.
San Antonio Spurs
All eyes were on this game heading into Wednesday night. Victor Wembanyama made his NBA debut against the Dallas Mavericks as he put up 15 points on 67% shooting from the field along with five rebounds and two steals. The Spurs ultimately lost to the Mavericks 126-119 after Luka Doncic scored a 33-point triple-double. Besides Wembanyama’s highly anticipated debut, the Spurs saw another young star rise to the occasion. After signing him to a five-year contract worth $135 million in the offseason, Spurs shooting guard Devin Vassell led the team in scoring with 23 points and racked up five rebounds as well. He shot 73% from mid-range and inside the paint and showed off his defensive abilities by racking up two steals in the loss. Keldon Johnson and Tre Jones also contributed to the offense, with Jones specifically scoring 16 on 71% shooting from the field. The Spurs are loaded with young talent at all positions. If Wembanyama can get used to the pace and aggressiveness of the NBA, the Spurs may just become the next up-and-coming contender in the West.