This year there were a few teams that were guaranteed a lottery spot, no matter who you asked. Teams such as the Cavaliers and Suns are the two that stand out the most. These two teams are very young and were both at the bottom last year. They were expected to be at the bottom again this year, to help get a high lottery pick and develop their young players. Despite their low expectations, these teams came out fast and strong this season surprising everyone and winning games that no one thought they could. Even though they are not at the top of their respective conferences, they can take down any team making to move up in the standings or make a playoff push late in the season.
The Phoenix Suns started off as one of the hottest teams in the league. They have already beat teams such as the 76ers, Clippers, and Nets, and they put up a fight against the Jazz, Nuggets, and Lakers. In all of those games they have proven, that they have the talent and the pieces to finally compete. They just need to prove they can consistently win games and compete against the top tier teams. They are currently 5th in the league in PPG, averaging 116.6 PPG. They are 1st in APG, averaging 28.5. There is one thing that stands out with this Suns team. They do not have Deandre Ayton, as he received a 25 game suspension for going against the NBA’s drug policy. Ayton averages 11 RPG for the Suns. If you put it all together, the Suns are 26th in RPG with 42. If you add Ayton’s 11 per game, then they would be 1st in that category as well. The Suns will be very dangerous once Ayton is back as he brings much needed rebounding pressure. Currently, the Suns are still 8th in the West at 6-4. Once Ayton returns from suspension, the Suns will be able to make a playoff push and end up in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 looking to upset in the early rounds.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have also turned many heads when it comes to surprises. No matter who you were, the Cavaliers were at the bottom of your power rankings coming into the season, and it made sense. This Cavaliers team won 19 games last year, finishing bottom 3 in the league. They did not change the team in the offseason. They made no drastic moves. They went and found a new coach in John Beilein, and they drafted a small guard, in Darius Garland, and decided to try running him and Colin Sexton together in the starting line up. Defensively this was not going to work. Right now, they rank 16th in the league defensively which no one expected. The Cavaliers have always struggled on the defensive side of the ball, and that dates back to when Lebron and Irving were their. They also have no true big man in Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, but with both of them having career years, it has help lead this team to a 4-6 start. Yes, they have 6 loses and are below .500, but all but one of those loses, they were in the game all 48 minutes and could have won. On Tuesday, against the 76ers, they lost by 1 point after Kevin Love missed a wide open game winning shot. This Cavaliers team is dangerous and could sneak in and steal a playoff spot in the East.
On the other end of the spectrum, there have been teams that were supposed to be playoff locks and maybe contenders, that just have not been producing wins and are off to a slow start. Teams such as the Warriors, Nets, and Trailblazers are at the bottom of their conferences after everyone had high hopes. For these teams though, it is not time to hit the panic button as there are reasons behind their slow start, but they need to figure it out soon before they are left behind in this competitive league.
First, the Golden State Warriors. They are currently the worst team in the league coming in with a record of 2-10. Although this is mainly due to the absence of Steph Curry, even before he got injured the Warriors started off horrible. The first alarming detail about the Warriors is they are last defensively with a DEFRTG of 117.2. The Warriors have the worst point differential of -10.8 as well. They do have young pieces such as D’Angelo Russell and Eric Paschall, who have been carrying the load offensively for this Warriors team. They went from a playoff lock and possible contender to a lottery team going for that No.1 overall pick. Although, this season will be a year for tanking, next year they will be back and powerful. They will have the return of the splash bros in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. This is not the end of the Warriors, but this year they are looking for a high lottery pick.
The Brooklyn Nets were supposed to be a top team in the East this year led by Kyrie Irving. Caris Levert is back from injury and signings such as Deandre Jordan and Irving were supposed to help this Nets team make a playoff run while waiting on Durant to return from injury. Although, Irving has showed MVP type play this season, averaging 30, 5, and 7, the Nets are still 4-6. Most of their games have been very close, but they have not been able to close out. Even with one of the clutchest players in the league in Kyrie, they have lost the games in the final minutes. They will learn how to play with each other throughout the season and begin to pick it up, but this slow start has been a surprise to everyone. The Nets are still and elite team in this league despite a 4-6 record.
The Portland Trailblazers have been off to a very disappointing start this season. Damian Lillard has been balling averaging 32 PPG but without Nurkic and with a very different roster than last year, the team has not been playing to their potential. They lost role players such as Mo Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Meyers Leonard, and Seth Curry in the offseason, and when a team loses a large portion of their core, like this Trailblazers team did, it is hard to fill those holes and come back like the same team. It will take time for this team to find their place in the West and are still a playoff team. They still have C.J. McCollum and Lillard which automatically makes them a playoff team. Another things holding this team back is the very slow start to C.J. McCollum. He is averaging 20 PPG which good, but his efficiency is not where it needs to be. He is shooting under 30% from 3 and only 40% from the field. This Trailblazers team has no need to panic or hit the reset as they will figure it out in a few weeks.