Three Most Surprising NBA Teams So Far
Three Most Surprising NBA Teams So Far
It’s always a lot of fun to discuss the prospects of NBA teams during training camp and media day. Fans get to see players who switched teams in their new uniforms for the first time and get to hear about the outlook surrounding the franchise before the real games begin. Realistically speaking though, there are certain teams that are better positioned to have a successful basketball campaign than others.
Perhaps, the most satisfying basketball seasons are the ones where fans did not expect much out of their team, but the players and coaching staff rallied together to deliver effective on-court performances. To predict such turnarounds, NBA enthusiasts can check the likelihood of each team to win the division, make the playoffs, or reach the NBA Finals on this page.
With this positive thinking in mind, we will take a look at three teams who are performing much better than most people expected:
The 2022 NBA season is not going according to the plan most people believed the Utah Jazz had. After the headline trades of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, and the moving of Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah was expected to let their young players see the floor for major minutes. Their lack of veteran talent had the public thinking that they were aiming to struggle on purpose this year, with the end goal of securing the number one pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
While it’s still early, the Jazz seem to be putting themselves in a difficult position to select French phenom Victor Wembanyama next June. They’ve gotten off to a hot start, as players who were not viewed as part of the future by other teams seem to be finding their footing with the Jazz.
Former lottery selection Lauri Markannen has been exceptional in the early going thus far. His skills as a modern big man have never been in question, but he’s thriving with the additional opportunities to handle and shoot the ball. It was fair to think that Markannen’s efficiency would decrease as his counting statistics went up, but the Finnish forward has actually done a great job making the most of his chances.
Guard Collin Sexton has also played well off the bench for Utah and has more importantly showed that he is healthy. Sexton missed most of last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers due to a knee injury, but he is returning to the form that made him a target of many teams coming out of the University of Alabama.
If new head coach Will Hardy keeps Utah in contention with this roster, he’ll be one of the favorites to win NBA Coach Of The Year.
The Eastern Conference has gotten much better over the last several years, which has made it seem like the Washington Wizards were standing still in their quest to improve. Their transactions in the last few years have not been dramatic, but they’ve slowly built a pretty well-rounded roster.
The Wizards have been behind the eight-ball for much of this season, as star guard Bradley Beal has missed a lot of time recovering from COVID-19. He has also missed a couple of tilts trying to return to optimal conditioning level. This has forced Washington to put the onus on other players to step up, and they have delivered.
Former Los Angeles Lakers role player Kyle Kuzma has stepped up, averaging over 18 points per game over the first 14 games of the season. While the opportunities that he’ll have to score the ball will dip once Beal returns, Kuzma’s ability to put up points from the mid-range or beyond the arc will continue to be valuable.
Although his stock has fallen in the last couple of years, Kristaps Porzingis still remains one of the most tantalizing talents in the NBA. At 7’3”, his ability to knock down three pointers from deep, as well as protect the rim make him potentially one of the most well-rounded players in the league. His main issue has been staying healthy, but he has been on the floor for Washington in nearly every game this season.
Portland Trail Blazers
With the return of a healthy Damian Lillard, fans expected the Portland Trail Blazers to bounce back from a dismal 2021-2022 campaign. However, most probably didn’t think it would start off this well in a highly competitive Western Conference.
The future Hall of Fame guard has returned to his elite ways, serving as a one-man wrecking crew against defenses who are locked in on stopping him. As long as he’s able to play, Lillard’s penchant for drilling clutch hoops will be frightening for teams to deal with.
The difference with the Blazers this season seems to be the versatility they have on the perimeter. Swingmen Josh Hart and Jerami Grant can do a little bit of everything, and have the ability to switch on defense. Their presence has made Portland formidable on the less glamorous side of the floor.