The NBA is a month into the 2021-2022 season and #ThisLeague is back in full force.
Kevin Durant is out to prove to everybody he is the greatest player in the league.
Ben Simmons still has shown no interest in playing basketball, period, much less with the Philadelphia 76ers.
And Stephen Curry has the Golden State Warriors looking like the juggernaut that ran the league from 2014-2019.
Steph Curry over the last 5 Games:
Steph is insane. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/fwfjtPl72d
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) November 15, 2021
Preseason predictions have mostly been thrown out the window with some surprisingly hot starts from teams that mostly flew under the radar.
For this article, we will look at those teams – specifically those in the Eastern Conference.
The Brooklyn Nets, heavy preseason favorites, are tied for the top spot after a sluggish start.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks are dealing with some injuries to key players.
The same can be said for the 76ers, while the Miami Heat are learning to play together.
Some top teams struggling have opened the door for the surprising upstarts this year.
2. Washington Wizards
First up is the Washington Wizards, maybe the most surprising team in the NBA so far.
The NBA has released its newest Power Rankings:
4) Wizards (👀)
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) November 15, 2021
Dinwiddie, Kuzma, and KCP are all starters while Harrell plays nearly 30 minutes per game coming off the bench.
While the offense hasn’t been as potent as last year, the defense has been substantially better – allowing the eighth-fewest points per game in the league.
That is a good thing considering the slow start Beal has gotten off to.
Beal has only averaged 23.3 points per game so far on .407/.250/.976 shooting splits.
He is well below last year’s averages of 31.3 points per game on .485/.349/.889 shooting splits.
Washington being this good this early even with Beal struggling is a good sign it could continue.
A 9-3 start from a team that snuck into the playoffs last year is a major surprise.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
The other team off to a start few saw coming is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Last year’s Cavs had the worst scoring offense in the league paired with a league-average scoring defense.
Their -8.6 net rating was third-worst in the NBA.
All told, it led to them getting the third overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
The Cavs’ plan to seemingly stockpile bigs (Mobley, Markkanen, Jarrett Allen) has thus far worked out.
They allow the second-fewest points per game in the league and have a top-10 defensive rating.
Their offense is still a work in progress (bottom 10 in the league in both points per game and offensive rating) but they have a balanced attack.
Cleveland is off to their best start since 2017 and sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
But more importantly, Mobley seems to be the real deal.
The Cavaliers will need to show more on offense, but that doesn’t take away from their shockingly strong start.