After the off-season gave the regular season and the playoffs a run for its money for the most exciting season award, the regular season has responded by saying “Hold my beer,” and turning the entire league on its head. Good teams were losing, bad teams were winning, the Warriors had a top five pick, the Pistons were on their way to a championship, and Giannis Antetokounmpo was the greatest player of all-time. Now that we’re a little bit deeper into the season, things have started to settle into normality, but several teams aren’t where people thought they’d be before the start of the season.
Teams Surprisingly Doing Well
Last year, the Pistons finished only 37-45 and missed the playoffs. So experts didn’t expect much, but they’ve come out on fire. They’re currently 10-3 and sit at number two in the eastern conference standings and first in their division. Avery Bradley has paid dividends for them as their key addition this off-season, while Tobias Harris and a motivated Andre Drummond helped him lead the Pistons to surprising start.
The Magic has been a lottery team since Dwight Howard was traded in 2012 and last season was no different. They finished 29-53 and most expected them to be a lottery team again. Yet, they’ve squashed their early season expectations with an 8-5 record good for third in their conference and first in their division. Their 2014 draft pick, Aaron Gordon, has made significant improvements and will be in the running for most improved player of the year. The Magic could be vying for a playoff spot behind him and Evan Fournier.
New York Knicks
Some may have mistaken MSG for Broadway with the amount of drama around the Knicks franchise after removing Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson. The Knicks are off to a good start despite sport writers picking them to be a bottom five team. They’re currently 7-5 and are tied for fourth in their conference. Kristaps Porzingis has been a superstar on both sides of the floor and “The Unicorn” the driving force for the Knicks hot start.
The Grizzlies have always been a poor man’s San Antonio Spurs and after the entire west improved and they lost Tony “The GrindFather” Allen and Zach ”Z-bo” Randolph, they were expected to be more of a low playoff/lottery team. But this season they are currently sitting at fifth in the West at 7-5 proving that a strong culture can be the difference between a winning team and a losing team.
Teams Surprisingly Not Doing Well
Oklahoma City Thunder
Many thought that when Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Thunder that they were automatically the second best team in the league. It was also assumed that the team would struggle as they learned each other’s styles and strategies. However, no one expected them to look as bad as they have. They are currently 6-7 and are out of the playoffs as of now. On top of that, Russell Westbrook hasn’t looked like his MVP self. Fortunately for the Thunder, the season is long and they have time to build chemistry and improve.
The Cavaliers were expected to be the best team in the East. Seeing them at 6-7 and outside of the playoffs is a big surprise. The Cavs have been in the Finals the last three years in a row. With this in mind, they were expected to be at least a top three team in their conference. Their defense has been horrible.
The Bucks were the sixth seed in the playoffs last year and have one of the league’s best young players in The Greek Freak. People expected them to make their way towards a top four team in the East. However, they’ve gotten off to a disappointing start. They are currently 6-6 and are outside of the playoffs looking in. They did trade for Eric Bledsoe but that doesn’t erase the poor start. Bledsoe should be one that pushes them towards Finals contention not the piece that merely gets them into the playoffs.
The Wizards aren’t doing bad. They’re currently 7-5 and are tied for fourth in the eastern conference. Yet the Wizards had much higher expectations. With the Cavaliers struggling and Gordon Hayward getting injured in the Celtics first game, the path towards a top two team in the East was cleared for the wizards but they haven’t taken advantage. They’ve lost to teams they should have beaten and have a made a bad habit of talking trash and not backing it up.