Six Biggest Surprises of the NBA Season so far

Jake Lannon

There have been numerous big surprises in the NBA season so far, with many teams underperforming expectations and others surpassing expectations. There are six that stand out and will be worth keeping tabs on as the season progresses. 

1. The Struggling Warriors

The Golden State Warriors have been one of the biggest surprises so far this season, but not in a good way. Currently the team sits at a 21–21 record, a far cry from where they were expected to be this year. The Warriors’ problems stem from two main issues: their inability to win on the road and their lack of depth. The Warriors currently have a 17–5 record when playing at home, but their road record is 4–16, making them one of the worst teams in the NBA on the road. Their other problem is a result of the youth and offseason signings not performing to the team’s expectations. Players like James Wiseman and Jamychal Green were expected to have big roles off the bench, but instead both of these players play very few minutes or do not play at all. The Warriors have big issues, but there is still hope that the team can return to the championship contender they were expected to be.

2. Lauri Markenen and the Utah Jazz

Through the early part of the season, the Utah Jazz were the number one seed in the west and Lauri Markenen was playing like a superstar. The team was expected to be one of the worst in basketball, but have decided to surprise most of the NBA media. A player who has flourished in this team has been Lauri Markenen, averaging 24.5 ppg while converting 40% from three. He’s been good enough to be an all-star this season, which is something nobody expected from the former seventh overall pick. Although the Jazz have come down to Earth in recent weeks, their start was something that surprised everyone and has put them in a prime spot to potentially make the playoffs. 

3. The Rise of the Kings

This past offseason, the Sacramento Kings decided to fire their coach and hire Mike Brown, a former assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors. This move has worked wonders for the franchise as for the first time in countless years, they have a chance at making the playoffs. Currently the Kings sit at the fifth seed in the western conference standings at a 22–18 record. Their star players, De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, have played their best basketball this year under the tutelage of Brown. The team has gone from one of the worst-coached basketball teams to one of the best, with their offense ranking top three in basketball at a 116.3 offensive rating. It’s surprising that the Kings, who were dreadful the year before, have improved this much this quickly. 

4. The Failure of the Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns were touted as championship favorites last season as they won 64 games, but were ultimately disappointed as they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round. Going into this season this team was expected to still be a top three seed in the west, but things have not gone to plan. With injuries to Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton at different points this season, the team has already lost more games than they had all of last season. Role player Jae Crowder has been absent from the team due to a contract dispute, culminating in the Suns having a steep decline in talent on the floor. They currently sit as the 10th seed with a 21–23 record. With fewer injuries, this team could make a comeback this year, but as we currently sit, the Phoenix Suns have failed to build a championship team. 

5. The Ascension of Tyrese Haliburton

Tyrese Haliburton was traded to the Pacers last season at the trade deadline. The Pacers decided to trade their star player away for this young player with seemingly unlimited potential, and it’s starting to work out. This season, Haliburton is averaging 20 ppg and an astounding 10 APG, which are career highs in both categories. He has taken on the star role for the Pacers and is doing better than most people expected, as he has led them to a 23–20 record. Haliburton is set to make his first all-star appearance this season and possibly become a finalist for the Most Improved Player award. 

6. The Disappointing Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors were one of the most promising teams going into this season, with players like Pascal Siakam, Fred Vanvleet, and Scottie Barnes. So far this season they have yet to live up to that potential. The team currently sits at a 19–23 record, with a 5–13 record on the road. This team, despite the championship pedigree they have, has been unable to figure it out so far. With this disappointing record halfway through the season, the team could become a seller in the trade market and commit to a full rebuild, rather than continuing on with this roster. The Raptors are on the clock of whether or not they can live up to the expectations set upon them. 

Art Courtesy of Nicholas Regli