We're seven days into the 2014-2015 season and we're already seeing some trends and stories emerging. We asked J.A. Adande, Kevin Arnovitz, Israel Gutierrez, Tom Haberstroh and Ethan Sherwood Strauss five questions. Here, our panel discusses its answers and the first week of the NBA season:
1. What was the highlight of the first week?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Robin Lopez's throwdown on Andrew Bogut. It's not that the dunk was so extraordinary, it's that Lopez cited it as the proper usage of the term "steamrolling" in his Twitter critique of USA Today Sports (which he called an "otherwise fine periodical").
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: The show in the Bay. Golden State has traded last season's rigor mortis half-court offense for the Bolshoi ballet. And as pretty as the movement and sets are, the Warriors haven't even started to hit their marks on the floor consistently. Imagine what it's going to look like when they click. In the meantime, G.S. is 3-0 and its elite defense hasn't lost a step.
Israel Gutierrez, ESPN.com: While James Ennis' dunk over Rasual Butler helped ring in the new season, Klay Thompson's play has to be the highlight of the first week. He scored 70 points in two games after signing his $70 million extension, and he finally looks like a player who is willing to take on the challenge of becoming a star.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Insider: I'll go with Kobe Bryant's up-and-under circus shot against the Warriors. I'm operating from the mantra that the best highlight is the one you least expect. Bryant has mostly stayed grounded, chucking contested long 2s, so the acrobatic layup came out of nowhere. That and the reverse dunk have served as a reminder of what Kobe and the Lakers used to be.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN.com: I'll go with Anthony Davis' flying putback dunk against the Grizzlies. The play itself was incredible, with Davis smoothly swooping from beyond the restricted area. It also told a story. Here was Davis compensating for (another) Eric Gordon shank, doing all he can to make up for a team that lacks perimeter talent. Of course the Pelicans lost, because at this juncture of his career, Davis can't be an entire team -- yet.
2. Which team has been the most pleasant surprise?
Adande: Sacramento Kings. Following up a win in Los Angeles (over the good L.A. team) with one on the dreaded West Coast-to-Denver back-to-back counts as the most impressive pair of victories to date. This team knows what it is, but it's not settling for it. Also, #YearOfBoogie.
Arnovitz: Memphis Grizzlies. Virtually nobody projected them as a top-four team, even though they ran off a 33-13 record last season after Marc Gasol returned from injury and played OKC even in a first-round series. This might be the best incarnation of this current Grizz core, and it's the same Grit 'n' Grind formula -- shrinking the floor to the size of a Post-It Note with stubborn base defense and smart help. The results are familiar: opponent point totals in the fourth that look like halftime scores.
Gutierrez: Miami Heat. Even though the Kings have a pair of impressive wins, the Heat have been the most pleasant surprise largely because they're scoring 109.3 points a game. I didn't think this group would pick up this offense as quickly as it has, moving the ball well while still finding Chris Bosh enough to let him thrive.
Haberstroh: Sacramento Kings. Looking at the Kings' early schedule (Golden State, Portland, Clippers and Denver), you could easily see them starting 0-4, not 3-1. But they're playing defense for the first time since the Rick Adelman days. We'll see if it lasts. Remember, we were talking ourselves into the 76ers this time last year.
Strauss: Miami Heat, who showed us just how repressed Chris Bosh was sharing the ball on LeBron's Heat. They are 3-0 and, while likely not as good as LeBron's new team, have certainly looked better than the Cavs in the early going. If Dwyane Wade's body holds up, this is a playoff team and probably a high seed.
3. Which team has been the most disappointing?
Adande: Oklahoma City Thunder. I'm not disappointed in them, I'm disappointed for them. It's bad enough they had to start without Kevin Durant; now we don't even get to see Russell Westbrook unleashed. Maybe I'm really just disappointed for all of us.
Arnovitz: Los Angeles Lakers, but there's a silver lining here. The Lakers' defense is such a spectacular donkey waltz that it's hard to look away. I've lost count of how many people I know with neither allegiance nor disgust for the Lakers who have made their games appointment viewing with the hope of seeing Kobe set the floor on fire one way or another. So you can call it a disappointment -- or just good TV.
Gutierrez: Charlotte Hornets. They needed overtime and Kemba Walker's heroics to beat the Bucks, already have a loss to the Knicks and are averaging 90 points a game. Steve Clifford has already called out new acquisition Lance Stephenson. This isn't the start a more visible Michael Jordan came out of his man cave to watch.
Haberstroh: Los Angeles Lakers. Can it be anyone other than them? Look, most of us knew they'd be bad, but not this bad. They've lost by a total of 68 points in their first four games. Not only is it the worst four-game start in franchise history, but it's the worst start for any team in the past six seasons. How the mighty have fallen.
Strauss: Cleveland Cavaliers. Does anyone want to admit this Cleveland team looks a little ... off? They gutted out a tough game against Chicago, which will shield them from such critiques as LeBron looks about as bad defensively as he did last year. I say it as someone who picked them as a Finals team: Even if their offense eventually jells, they won't make it without LeBron playing better defense than last year. That's a dicey proposition, it seems.
4. Which player has impressed you the most?
Adande: Klay Thompson. He looks worth every dollar of that max extension he just signed, thanks to his career-high 41 points against the Lakers and clutch plays against the Trail Blazers. Thompson has been Golden State's best player so far -- and that might hold up throughout the season.
Arnovitz: Chris Bosh. In the AfterBron, Bosh has fused the efficient one-on-one low game he built in Toronto with all the skills he mastered during his first four seasons in Miami -- elite pick-and-roll defense, the long-range game and superior playmaking. The result is what Bosh hoped he'd become seven or eight years ago, which is a top-10 two-way player who can beat you from every spot on the floor.
Gutierrez: How can you look away from Anthony Davis? I know he didn't exactly light up Memphis on Monday, but not many players are going to have big nights against that defense. And yes, the basketball world seemed to be hyperventilating in anticipation of a huge season from Davis. But his start has given us reason to remain giddy.
Haberstroh: Klay Thompson. We know about contract years, but this was a contract month. He has been ridiculous. He was the biggest black hole in the NBA last season, passing on less than 50 percent of his touches, but he's moving the ball much better and getting to the rack with more ease. He won't continue to lead the league in scoring, but he'll break the 20-point barrier this season.
Strauss: Klay Thompson, whose money is as long as his shooting range. His shooting has been there for a while, but now he's getting better at drawing and finishing through contact. It took him 12 games last season to accrue the amount of free throws he has claimed in three to start this season.
5. What storyline stands out to you after Week 1?
Adande: The Los Angeles Lakers, specifically because there's no reason to be talking about an 0-4 team's storyline other than because it's the Lakers. Their relevance at their weakest moment is a twisted testament to the strength of their brand.
Arnovitz: We might not know a damn thing about the top half of the Western Conference. The assumption is that the Spurs will be there when it matters, which is fair, but then what? This idea that there were well-formed tiers consisting of the Thunder and Clippers just shy of the Spurs, then Economy Plus with the rest of last season's playoff teams isn't holding. But the Thunder are in triage mode, while the W's, Mavs, Rockets and Grizz have played as well as the Clips. Madness.
Gutierrez: Unfortunately, it's the Lakers. From the injuries of Steve Nash and Julius Randle, to huddling while the Clippers were inbounding, to the first 0-4 start since moving to Los Angeles, the Lakers have been more of a mess than expected. And while some may wanna brag "I told ya so," it's just not fun watching this franchise in this state.
Haberstroh: The poor OKC Thunder. When does it officially become an injury epidemic? For years, OKC ranked as one of the healthiest teams in the league, but it's all falling apart now. Reggie Jackson has returned, but Andre Roberson (ankle) became the third starter to go down with an injury. And Perry Jones III was limping around the floor after bumping knees on Monday night. Maybe just play in bubble wrap until Durant and Westbrook come back?
Strauss: Can Scott Brooks coach? He has been challenged by unfortunate events. It has been assumed that anybody could coach the Thunder to success, but now with Durant and Westbrook out, Brooks must hold the fort with lesser talent. We're about to learn something about the man who coaches one the league's best teams.