The world isn’t a perfect place, and neither is the NBA.
Sometimes, things don’t turn out how they were supposed to. We see this every year. A couple of teams get off to unexpected starts (be it good or bad) and create a lot of noise in the beginning of the season. The hard part is trying to determine which of those teams’ starts is an accurate representation of the state of their team.
This season is especially challenging in that regard.
More so than usual, we’re having to really question whether these first few weeks are sustainable. And in my quest to uncover the truth behind these radical starts, I’ve compiled a two-sided case for the most surprising teams, and came to a verdict on each one.
Record and Position: 6-3, 6th in West
The case for why the start is real: After so many years of hard-core losing, who would have thought that this would be the year they’d finally break out? So far this season, the Kings are second in the league in FG% and 3PT%, and fourth in points per game at 119.8. Buddy Hield has been a stud this season with 19.8 points per game, 6 rebounds on 53% shooting.
All that to say this: the Kings have not had an offense this potent in years. Their young guys are finally starting to blossom, which means their record should start to show it.
The case for why the start is a fluke: While the Kings are doing great on the offensive end, their defense has been pretty awful. They are in the bottom half of the league in points allowed and opponent field goal percentage. Ultimately, bad defense is something that stays consistent throughout the season.
Being in the Western Conference doesn’t help either. With how tight the margin for error really is, it’s easier to be bad than to be good.
The verdict: Fluke.
It’d be great to see the Kings finally enjoy a good season. Maybe next year will be the year, if they continue at this pace.
For now, however, there’s just not enough. Hot offenses usually cool down by midseason, and Buddy Hield will likely fall off as well. What really separates the boys from the men is a team’s ability to maintain great defense when their scoring finally takes a dip.
Record and Position: 1-7, 15th in East
The case for why the start is real: There’s always been something wrong with the Wizards. Not only are they inconsistent, but the team never seems to be able to step it up come playoff time. The Wizards are near the bottom in field goal percentage, opponent field goal percentage, and total rebounds per game, meaning they’re not doing a whole lot of anything right at the moment.
The case for why the start is a fluke: Any team that has got a star has got some hope. Luckily for the Wizards, they’ve got two, and one more who is just returning to the court.
Bradley Beal and John Wall are capable of turning on the jets, especially if they’re determined to bring the team out of this slump. With the addition of Dwight Howard (who has been cleared to play), he can relive some of the pressure the backcourt has been so used to carrying.
The verdict: Real.
As great as it is to have stars, they can’t solve everything. Are they this bad? Probably not. But they will still be worse than people expected. So, unless the Wizards have been just goofing off this whole time, there’s no statistical basis on why we should believe they will bounce back. Also, it’s not like their stars have been performing bad either, as Wall, Beal, and Howard are all averaging at least 20 points per game. Maybe it’s time for a reboot.
Record and Position: 2-5, 13th in West
The case for why the start is real: Sometimes we forget just how important role players are. When the Rockets lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute this past summer, it was supposed to be a situation the team would get past.
But when you replace two defensive minded guys with an aged Carmelo Anthony, defensive identity is sure to take a hit. That’s exactly what happened. After being one of the league’s best defensive teams a year ago, they are allowing the 4th highest opponent FG% in the game.
The case for why the start is a fluke: Having the reigning MVP is always a positive. Bearing in mind his absence the past few games is even more reason for optimism. Above all though, there’s faith for a better season because the team is hungrier than perhaps any other. Paul and Harden are looking to avenge their loss to the Warriors last year, while Carmelo is hungry to change the narrative of his bruised reputation.
If we’ve seen anything, we’ve seen that desperate stars usually find ways to win.
The verdict: Fluke.
The Rockets will be good again. Yes, they might’ve lost some fire-power with the losses of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, but they have enough between their stars, their coach, and their bench to get the job done. Once they adjust to a tweaked roster, expect the Rockets to pick it up.
Record and Position: 7-1, 2nd in East
The case for why the start is real: The Greek Freak is putting on an absolute show, except this time it’s with Mike Budenholzer, one of the best coaching minds in the league. They are towards the top in nearly every statistical category and have beaten some really good teams while getting some great contribution from their role players.
Everyone is stepping up in a new system, and the team isn’t showing many signs of weakness.
The case for why the start is a fluke: Usually, teams that don’t make significant changes don’t significantly improve. This Bucks roster is practically the same thing we saw last year, and Giannis is the same player as well. This reeks of a hot shooting streak more than a sustainable long-term standing.
Their loss to the Celtics last week was a failed test.
The verdict: Real.
Yeah, the Bucks will probably slow down a bit. There’s no way they can sustain this kind of play.
Still, the team will prove to be one of the East’s elite. They may not have changed much, but Giannis and coach Bud will provide a big enough spark to elevate the team higher than they have any business being.