The biggest surprises of the NBA season so far
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Hunter De Siver
After last season’s successfully rushed attempt for a return to basketball normalcy, several teams and players have made astonishing changes.
Every NBA season, there are a couple of teams that do significantly better or worse than expected. This year, the whole league looks different.
Surprise #1: Teams returning from the dead
When NBA legend LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018, the franchise went back to their old ways of being one of the worst teams in basketball. This season, they promoted an associate coach to the head coach job, have young future stars in Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and rookie Evan Mobley, and they sit at an excellent 35-23 record (4th in the eastern conference). The Cavs only had 22 wins last season.
The Chicago Bulls have had short stints of success since Jordan left in 1998, but never reached their potential with former MVP Derrick Rose and current Miami Heat all-star Jimmy Butler. This offseason, they signed five-time all-star DeMar DeRozan, who has been an MVP-caliber player so far. The Bulls also traded for Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and two-time all-star Nikola Vucevic. The four new players combined with two-time all-star Zach Lavine have made Chicago a threat in the eastern conference once again (37-21, 2nd in the Eastern Sonference).
The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the newer NBA franchises, but they’ve never had much success. They’ve always been average thanks to the hall-of-fame efforts by the Gasol brothers and Zach Randolph, but now they’ve soared above average and into the third-best record in the NBA, thanks to NBA superstar Ja Morant. The 22-year-old high-flying phenom combined with the stellar shooting of his supporting cast Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. have made them a force to be reckoned with.
The Golden State Warriors have had a rough past couple of years during their current dynasty due to injuries. Before they got all-time great shooter Klay Thompson back this season, they built an amazing depth of positions around Stephen Curry and Draymond Green that led them to become arguably the best team in the NBA. Now that Klay is back after two years of suffering from ACL and Achilles tears, they are returning to that 2010s dynasty.
For decades, there have been certain cities like Los Angeles that have dominated in multiple sports. The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t stood out since Kevin Garnett was on the team in the early 2000s. 20-year-old Anthony Edwards and three-time all-star Karl Anthony Towns have led this team to a solid 31-27 record (seventh in the Western Conference)
Surprise #2: Super-teams struggling
The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA finals in 2020, but haven’t been the same since. After losing in the first round of last season’s playoffs, they added former MVP Russell Westbrook. It simply hasn’t worked as his struggles, combined with Anthony Davis’ injuries have only allowed LeBron James to carry the team to an abysmal 26-31 record (ninth in the Western Conference).
All a team with three future hall-of-famers needs is a little dysfunction and an injury to its best player (Kevin Durant) to put them in a slump. Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving is only allowed to play in away games due to the NYC rule for players to be vaccinated. James Harden was just traded last week as he was unhappy in Brooklyn, especially since they were on an 11-game losing streak.
Surprise #3: New wave of stars
During the NBA’s annual award show, one award goes to the most improved player. This year, there are too many to consider. Andrew Wiggins, Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland, Dejounte Murray, Ja Morant, LaMelo Ball and Fred Van Fleet all made their first all star appearances this year.
There were so many surprises during the first 70% of the regular season. Who knows how many more surprises will occur for the final 30%.