Sports

2 Most Surprising Teams In NBA Eastern Conference

A diamond-themed logo commemorating the NBA's 75th anniversary is shown on the court during a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Detroit Pistons during the 2021 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on August 8, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Thunder defeated the Pistons 76-72.
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

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.

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.

This offseason’s blockbuster five-team megadeal that netted the Wiz Spencer Dinwiddie, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has paid major dividends.

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.

Dinwiddie, Kuzma, and Harrell have helped provide a more balanced scoring attack instead of relying on Bradley Beal to pour in 30 every night.

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.

A pick they used to take Evan Mobley, the 7-foot rangy center from USC with gobs of upside both offensive and defensively.

Cleveland also acquired Lauri Markkanen from the Chicago Bulls and Ricky Rubio from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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.

Six players average double figures with two more almost cracking the threshold (Kevin Love at 9.9 and Cedi Osman at 9.8).

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.

He has shown flashes of brilliance on both ends, drawing comparisons to Kevin Garnett and Anthony Davis.

The Cavaliers will need to show more on offense, but that doesn’t take away from their shockingly strong start.



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