The 2021-22 NBA season has seen the return of fans' favorite big men to our screens. However, whilst many have carried their form from the previous season, others have failed to acclimatize, performing below their known standards, in the opening weeks of the new season.
Although there shouldn’t be much concern this early in the season, let’s go through the NBA's three big men that have begun the new season to an unfamiliar standard.
Three NBA big men who have performed below expectations early in the 2021-22 NBA
#3 Clint Capela
The Atlanta Hawks center has failed to hit the ground running in his second season with the Hawks. The 2020-21 NBA rebounding leader has not been able to recapture the form that saw him inspire the Hawks to fifth place in the Eastern Conference last season. The Hawks languish in 11th place in the league this season, with a 4-5 record from their opening games.
Clint Capela, by all his world-class standards, has played in all nine of the franchise's games this season, averaging 4.4 field goals per game, the second-lowest of his career. His 55.6 field goal percentage is only better than his rookie season.
Since becoming the most dominant rim player of the 2020-21 NBA season, Capela has failed to measure up, averaging 3.7 offensive rebounds against his 4.7 rebounds last season. His 7.6 defensive rebounds at this point are the worst tally the center has averaged since the 2017-18 season.
#2 Deandre Ayton
The Phoenix Suns big man has shown his pedigree in his first three seasons in the NBA but has failed to surpass those lofty heights this season. Deandre Ayton has played in six of the Suns’ seven games so far, averaging a career-low 6.3 field goals per game, his 58.5 field goal percentage only better than his sophomore year in the NBA.
Though he has performed better from range this season, his free throw skills have not been at its best, averaging 61.5% accuracy from charity stripe, a career-low. His rebounding has been stellar as always, but Ayton is yet to take off as expected, producing the fewest blocks per game in his three-year career in the NBA.
#3 Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic has been instrumental in the Chicago Bulls' incredible start to the season (6-3 record), but he has had a slow start thus far. The 2021 NBA All-Star player currently averages 13.4 points, having played 34.4 minutes per game in nine appearances.
Despite the Bulls undergoing something of a resurgence in the opening weeks of the season, overcoming last season’s malaise to rank third in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic has failed to inspire, averaging some of his lowest numbers to date.
The center scored only four points in the franchise's outing against the 76ers, despite playing 36 minutes. It registered as his lowest points in a game since November 2019, where he played only 11 minutes. His shooting has also been poor in the early weeks, averaging a meager 38.0 percent shooting from the field and 25.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc.