At every start to an NBA season, there are always a handful of teams that shock the basketball world. Some teams started the season well when they weren’t supposed to, while other teams had high expectations but ended up playing horribly. With that said, let’s take a look at five of the most surprising teams this season!
Before diving into the top five, let’s take a look at some of the teams that barely missed the cut!
Despite having two former MVPs and one of the best point guards in the NBA today, the Brooklyn Nets have played abysmal basketball. Even though they lead the NBA with the best offensive percentages, they also lead the NBA with the worst defensive percentages. This team needs to make a significant change as offense is only half of the game!
Ever since trading away their best defender, Jarrett Allen, this team has been average, making them a surprisingly disappointing team. The Brooklyn Nets are projected to reach the NBA finals and currently have a record of 19-12. That is worse than the Phoenix Suns! Something needs to change if this team wants to have a home-court advantage.
Even though the Nets haven’t played the best basketball, they still rank second in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn is finally picking it up as they currently have a five-game winning streak without Kevin Durant. This team has experienced a dramatic change in their roster hence why they are an honourable mention. This team still has three of the best scorers the NBA has ever seen and will be the biggest threats against the Los Angeles Lakers.
San Antonio Spurs
Before the season started, the San Antonio Spurs appeared to be entering this season as a rebuilding team. From a lack of a true superstar to most of the roster being relatively young, the Spurs were expected to be a lot worse than they currently are. The Spurs have a record of 16-11, which is good enough to rank sixth in the Western Conference! However, the biggest surprise has been DeMar DeRozan, who has been playing arguably the best season of his career.
With averages of 20 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists while tying his career average in three-point percentage, DeRozan has passed the ball better while also shooting the basketball far more efficiently. If not for DeRozan’s unexpected leadership and impact, the Spurs would be at the bottom of the conference.
In the 2020 NBA off-season, the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets made one of the most bizarre trades in recent history. The Wizards traded John Wall, who has been loyal to the organization since 2010, in exchange for Russell Westbrook. At first glance, a duo of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook would be enough to compete for a playoff spot. However, the Wizards have once again started a season poorly with a record of 9-17. Even though Bradley Beal was named an All-Star starter, the rest of the roster has been playing below expectation.
The reason why that the Wizards missed the top five is due to Thomas Bryant suffering another season-ending injury. Losing one of your starters at the beginning of the season can lower morale for many players. Despite their abysmal record, the Wizards appear to be building momentum as they currently have a three-game winning streak. If they can sustain this, the Wizards could return in the playoff discussion.
5. The New “New” York Knicks
The name says it all, the New York Knicks are back and ready to compete for a playoff spot! That might be a stretch, but the Knicks have played great basketball and have been led by none other than Julius Randle. Last season, Randle played mediocre despite averaging fairly decent numbers. This season, however, Randle has taken a dramatic jump as he is averaging more points than Anthony Davis, more rebounds than Joel Embiid and is averaging a better three-point percentage than Luka Doncic! For 19 million dollars, the New York Knicks did something right for the first time in a long time!
Even though Randle is playing great basketball this season, other players have taken a dramatic jump in their production as well. These players include RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and Austin Rivers. The Knicks are far from being contenders in the Eastern Conference, but they have a bright future in the NBA. Their young foundation is one of the best in the Eastern Conference hence why they sit as the seventh seed. New York does have a losing record being 14-16, but the confidence and grit that this team brings every night is why they make this list.
4. The Miami Cold?
After such a shocking playoff run by the Miami Heat last season, many people, including myself, thought Miami was a title contender this season. However, the Miami Heat have started terribly as they have a record of 12-17. For a team that just made the NBA Finals, Miami has turned cold! Even though Jimmy Butler did miss a significant portion of the season due to catching Coronavirus, that is still not an excuse for how the rest of the roster played in his absence. Their disastrous start to the season is an indicator that Jimmy Butler is, in fact, a superstar in the NBA!
The Miami Heat have had an unusual start to the season. However, similar to last season, the Heat does not need a high seed to be a threat. All this team needs is a boost of confidence, and they are back to where they left off last season.
3. The Three-Headed Hornet
Gordon Hayward signing a multi-year max-contract with the Charlotte Hornets was confusing but is now making a lot more sense. In the last few seasons, Hayward was subjected to a limited role on the Celtics due to Jayson Tatum’s rise to stardom. Now, Gordon Hayward is the face of the Hornets and is looking like an All-Star. His surprising start to the season has also allowed the rest of the roster to turn competitive.
Many great things have happened in Charlotte, including the rise of Lamelo Ball and Terry Rozier. Even though Hayward has dramatically improved, Terry Rozier and Lamelo Ball have also taken the next steps in their game. Ball, who is rookie, is already a huge addition to this team. From his playmaking to his basketball IQ, Lamelo Ball has so far been the clear favourite to win rookie of the year. However, Terry Rozier has taken the biggest jump as he is averaging career highs in every category and is the second scoring option on the Hornets. With this developing big three in the Eastern Conference, all Hornets need is a center like Myles Turner!
2. The Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets have had the worst stretch of games in the Jokic era. Every year since Jokic has evolved into a superstar, the Nuggets would always sit as a top 2-4 team in the Western Conference and would finish top three when the regular-season would be over. However, this season the Nuggets have had an unusual start with a record of 13-15. Even though that does put them as the eighth seed, it is a surprise considering how far this team went in last year’s playoffs.
Similar to the Miami Heat, the Nuggets also shocked the NBA world by coming back from a 3-1 deficit twice. With only a handful of teams successfully doing that, the Nuggets did it twice in one season, which was incredible! This season’s expectation was for the Nuggets to take that next dominant step in the Western Conference. Even though Nikola Jokic did, the rest of the roster has somehow gotten worse, including bubble Murray.
The Nuggets having such a terrible start is a shock when comparing their past seasons. But the reason why this team is ranked second is primarily due to Jamal Murray. In the playoffs, Murray was arguably the best point guard. Some may argue that he was the main reason why the Nuggets reached the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately, Murray has been unable to continue that momentum as he returns to being a point guard with potential. This season he was supposed to take the next step to his game but instead took a significant step back. It is unclear why he is struggling, but the Nuggets need him if they want to return as title contenders.
1. The Utah Jazz
Without a doubt, the Utah Jazz has been the most surprising team in the NBA. From Jordan Clarkson playing like an All-Star (according to Charles Barkley) to Utah winning 20 out of their last 21 games, the Jazz are clearly title contenders. Shaquille O’Neal’s comments about Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell have sparked the Jazz in the right way. Currently, the Jazz has a record of 24-5 while having a nine-game win streak.
The Jazz are playing with a chip on their shoulder. Every analyst or fan doubting Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and the rest of the roster gave this team a boost of confidence. With Rudy Gobert being the clear defensive player of the year, this team is an All-Star player away from being the 2021 champions. It will be tough for any team to beat the Jazz, including the Los Angeles Lakers. What makes Utah so intriguing is no one on the roster is playing like a superstar. Instead, Utah invokes teamwork as the chemistry of this team is the best in the NBA.