Inspired by BBallScholar’s post where he lists his top 5 most surprising and disappointing teams this season. While I don’t necessarily disagree with any of the teams listed, I do think there are others that are more deserving.
Here is BBallScholar’s list with strikethroughs to represent where my opinion differs whether it be in the order or team and bold to designate teams not originally mentioned:
Denver NuggetsMilwaukee Bucks Brooklyn NetsDenver Nuggets Milwaukee BucksBrooklyn Nets
Indiana PacersLos Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles LakersPhoenix Suns
Washington WizardsNew Orleans Pelicans New Orleans PelicansCharlotte Hornets Minnesota TimberwolvesSan Antonio Spurs
While some inclusions or exclusions may sound a bit crazy, everything that’s bolded above will be explained below. I won’t talk about the order changes just because it’s irrelevant since they’re still on both lists. (S) denotes surprising while (D) denotes disappointing.
Clippers > Pacers (S)
After seeing the greatness of Oladipo on full display last season I had no doubt that the Pacers would be a top team coming into this year. Aside from Vic playing like a superstar at times, the team as a whole not only looked more comfortable with one another, but the ball movement and execution were much more crisp. And with that new found success last year, it seemed to me that because they are young, that that display was more of a floor for them than a ceiling. As such, despite the season ending injury Oladipo sustained at the tail-end of January, to me, it wasn’t really all that surprising that they would sustain this level of play. On top of that, he also played half the season.
Nonetheless, I’d be lying if I didn’t say they’ve been amazing this season, it’s just that I think the Clippers, a team with no stars have just been better. Yes, they’re currently the 8th seed as opposed to the 3rd seed like the Pacers, but, with positions 3-8 all separated by 3 games or less in the west whereas the 5th place Celtics have a 7 game lead over the 6th seed Pistons, who have 33 wins, the west is much much tougher. On top of that, if you look at both teams records, Clippers being 37-29 and Pacers at 42-29, there’s only a 5 game difference. And while the Pacers lost Oladipo, the Clippers traded away their best player in Tobias Harris to the 76ers and have still continued to win as well.
Suns > Lakers (D)
At the beginning of the season, Devin Booker said that he was tired of not making the playoffs, yet, here we are coming up at the season’s end and once again, the Suns are not only one of the worst teams (15th in the west and 29/30 overall), but were the first team to mathematically be eliminated from playoff contention. On top of that, despite drafting Ayton, who’s shown he has the ability to dominate games at times, they’ve effectively frozen him out of the offense. Still, with comments like that and a promising rookie, along with other young players like Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges, plus Kelly Oubre, you’d think they’d at least be able to scrape together more than 15 wins at this point in the season, but no, you’d be dead wrong.
How is that more disappointing than the Lakers you may ask? Well if I’m being honest, since the start of the season, I didn’t foresee them making the playoffs. If they did, they would barley get in as the 8th seed. The reason for this is because not only did their offseason signings of make no sense, but because the west is just that tough. Heading into the season, I thought that the Warriors, Nuggets, OKC, Rockets, Spurs, Jazz, Blazers were the top 7 teams essentially guaranteed playoff spots, while the 8th seed would likely go to the Pelicans. Needless to say that I was wrong, but still, even with Lebron, I didn’t think it would be enough. Granted injuries happened, however, if they didn’t occur, given their recent meltdowns, they probably would have dropped to 8th and gotten swept in the first round anyway.
I also mention more about the Lakers’s struggle in my previous article.
Hornets > Wizards (D)
Aside from the Raptors, Bucks, Celtics, and 76ers, the east still looked pretty open and ripe for Charlotte to secure a playoff berth, however, they are currently in 10th with a losing record of 30-35. Granted, that’s only 2 games out from the 8th seed, but given that Kemba has become transcendent this year and the hot start they got off to, it’s incredibly disappointing to see the position they’re in now.
As for the Wizards though, that’s a whole different story. With previous grumblings of how Wall looked out of shape at the USA Basketball camp and his comments related to partying and drinking on the weekend, I didn’t expect much of anything from them. Yes, Wall is one of the best point guards in the league when he’s healthy and in shape, but aside from recent issues, it has also been well documented that the team plays better without him. Just look at how Bradley Beal has exploded since Wall got injured. Still, they just don’t have the talent outside of either Beal or Wall to do all that much. Add that on top of the toxicity that has enveloped the team this season and it’s no shock that they are where they are now, which is 11th with a 27-38 record.
Spurs > T-Wolves (D)
After a 15 year long playoff drought, last season, Jimmy Butler who forced his way out of Chicago single-handedly carried the T-Wolves, along with their “franchise players” KAT and Wiggins to a playoff berth. While that seems fine and good, behind the scenes, things were anything but that. Despite commanding a max contract, Wiggins’s level of play is equivalent to that of the most average player in the league: Rudy Gay. While he is undoubtedly incredibly athletic, he lacks any type of effort on the offensive or defensive end. The same could also be said of KAT in terms of defense, though he does somewhat make up for it in other areas such as scoring (sometimes) and rebounding.
This lack of effort irked Butler so much that he not only demanded a trade, but cursed out team executives and lead the third stringers to a win over the starters in practice just to prove a point. With all that dysfunction, and Wiggins and KAT still disappointing as they’ve done these last two years, I never really believed in the T-Wolves in the first place. Granted KAT is playing better now with Butler gone, but the talent level also just isn’t there.
That being said, I think they are actually trending in the opposite direction now where I am less disappointed in them.
So why the Spurs? Well because as one of the most lauded and storied franchises for their ability to compete in spite of any talent disparity they might be up against, they are currently on a downward trend, looking incredibly vulnerable. And even as the 8th seed with a 37-29 record, if anyone at the bottom falls out of playoff contention, it will likely be them. While that still is a good record, and they did lose Kawahi, given their history, being in 7th, even if the west is loaded, for them isn’t good.