I've been shouting the same message from the rooftops, on every show I've been on since we started prepping for the 2020-21 season: This season is not normal.
NBA basketball from August to October is unprecedented, especially when only 22 of the 30 teams played in the bubble, leaving a quarter of the league with no game action since March. It set up a situation where teams that played well into the playoffs may have had less than two months of offseason, while teams that didn't travel to the bubble had more like eight months off.
The NBA draft and free agency occurred in late November, less than two weeks before training camp and barely a month before the opening tip for the 2021-22 season. Compound that with limitations on training due to COVID-19, and the incoming rookies and newly configured teams had very little chance to acclimate before they were playing the games at full speed, for real, against live opponents.
And of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the 10-ton elephant in the room that is drastically impacting every aspect of life right now, let alone the day-to-day production of the NBA.
Put this all together, and there was no chance that the NBA action of the first month of the season would be representative of what we should expect as the season goes along.
Veteran players, especially those on contending teams, were always going to start slowly and have more load management and injury maintenance than usual. Rookies and inexperienced players in new roles were always going to be even more unpredictable in their output than usual. Players and even entire teams were always going to have flexible, unreliable schedules, meaning we wouldn't necessarily know who might be available any given day, let alone in an upcoming weekly session.
Therefore, we have to take everything that we've learned to date during this NBA season with a couple of boulders of salt. Players off to excellent starts, players off to horrible starts, teams with shocking wins or surprising losses, all fall within the realm of reasonable expected value due to the incredible variance from expectation.
This all leads to some excellent potential trading opportunities for shrewd fantasy basketball managers who aim for slow-starting players who should turn things around.
To that end, let's take a look at some players who are producing well below expectations thus far, to identify some potential trade targets.