Each year, the NBA has teams that overperform or disappoint at the start of the season. While teams will go through a hot streak or a cold spell during a campaign, there have been two teams that have already overachieved in their season’s expectations. These two have elevated themselves and are currently riding a winning record and dominating. On the other side of things, two title contenders have been struggling to stay above .500. The NBA is filled with parity of late, and franchises can find themselves going in the complete opposite direction of what they had expected.
Golden State Warriors
Golden State is shaking up the NBA landscape early this season. The Warriors are currently sit atop the Western Conference and have been the best team in the NBA thus far. Heading into the season, many expected the team to be a playoff contender. Projections ranged from the sixth- to 10th-seed for the team.
Stephen Curry is leading his team with 29.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game. Curry is having another transcending season in his career, and his play is infectious among his teammates. Draymond Green is back to his old ways of being the grit-and-grind forward who does it all. Damion Lee and Jordan Poole have been having outstanding starts to the season, as well; both players have been great filling in for the injured Klay Thompson. Each are reliable shooters from all ranges of the court and can help defend the perimeter.
This Golden State team is very deep, as the bench is filled with valuable role players. The team with this depth should never have an “off night.” If one player struggles, head coach Steve Kerr has the capability to have another player to step up. Both first-round selections Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga have barely seen consistent playing time. As the season progresses these two will find a major role, as they both have the talent and potential.
DeMar DeRozan is thriving in Chicago, and if his play continues, it will be the best move of his career. DeRozan is currently a name on everyone’s MVP list. Chicago came into the season as a playoff hopeful, but they were projected to be in the middle of the pack. With DeRozan’s play, the team has ascended towards becoming the league’s top team. Averaging 26.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game, the forward is elevating the franchise.
The team’s success also stems from high-flyer Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball. Ball signed with the team this offseason and has been arguably a top point guard in the league. He is just 24 years old, and each year he has been improving his shooting. This season with the Bulls, he is having a career year from the field, as he is shooting 42 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three. Ball’s shooting, playmaking, and underrated defense have helped elevate this team’s success.
LaVine is continuing his success in Chicago, averaging 26.2 points per game on 40 percent from three and 49 percent from the field. He has been nothing less than an All-Star for the team, proving that he is not only an elite basketball player, but can be a great leader for a contender. The Bulls are also reaping the rewards of Alex Caruso, who is finally able to spread his wings. Caruso has been an elite defender this season and is the spark off the bench that the team will need to continue their success.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers were heavy favorites to win the Western Conference. The team had a total overhaul of their roster from seasons past. They added guard Russell Westbrook and brought in veteran presences for the bench, signing Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and Rajon Rondo to fill it out. With all these signings, the team was prepared for a long NBA playoff run. However, with injuries and terrible basketball, the team is struggling to stay in the playoff ranks.
Currently sitting ninth in the West, the Lakers are showing worrisome tendencies. Lebron James has been injured for the past two weeks, and Russell Westbrook has been miserable compared to his usual standards. Anthony Davis has been the only consistent player this season, as he is averaging 23.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. His play has been incredible and the main reason this team has yet to fully collapse.
With James injured, Westbrook was needed to step up in offensive production. The guard’s efficiencies have never been the best, but they have never been this low since his rookie season. Shooting 42 percent from the field and 30 percent from three is not acceptable for his standards. His shot selection has been abysmal this year, and he has been taking an overabundant amount of three-pointers this season. The NBA has seen Westbrook start off slow with a new team, only to then turn into the unstoppable guard that everyone is used to. Once James returns, the team will return to the dominance that was projected for them.
The Boston Celtics have been nothing but a disappointment this season. With injuries starting to pile up, and the bench looking abysmal, the team is showing cracks. They revamped the bench to suit their two stars, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Since Tatum is having a slow start to the season as he continues to struggle to find his shot, the Celtics bench is being relied on to make up for his offensive woes.
Al Horford and Robert Williams have both stepped up this season, keeping the season afloat. Both bigs have been dominating the paint both offensively and defensively. Without these two centers, the team would still be around the two-win mark. Brown has missed the past few games with an injury, and the team is sorely missing his presence. A tremendous wing defender, Brown was the rock to Boston’s offense this season, averaging 25.6 points on 49 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from three.
With Brown out, the free agent signing of Dennis Schroder has looked like the biggest steal of the year. The guard has been nothing less than spectacular for the team and has filled the role smoothly. Schroder, Horford, and Williams are the players that are currently keeping the team together from falling apart. Tatum will eventually find his rhythm, and Brown is coming back from injury within a week. Once this duo starts to heat up, this slump will be diminished and the team will become a threat in the Eastern Conference.
Main Image Credit: via Pippen Ain’t Easy