The NBA season has played only eight games or so. It is only two weeks old. What has happened to this point in the season might not hold in place or carry too much weight over the course of 82 games. However, the old and generally true adage in sports is that while no team wins championships in the first month of the season, teams can and do lose the chance to win championships or make the playoffs in the first month of the season if they completely fall off the cliff. With this in mind, which teams have surprised the most, either for better or worse? Let’s find out:
The Wizards are one of just four NBA teams with a negative point differential of at least 10 points or more. The other teams are the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Phoenix Suns, all of which were expected to be terrible teams this season. The Wizards have John Wall and Bradley Beal on their team and have no business being in the same company. The Wizards have the worst defense in the NBA, giving up 125 points per game. They are a disaster. Their effort is atrocious. They don’t communicate with each other. They don’t trust each other. They show no signs of being able to make adjustments, and they are not tuned in to what head coach Scott Brooks is saying. Just two years ago, Washington took the Boston Celtics to Game 7 in the second round of the playoffs. Now this team has entirely no clue of what to do next and appears headed for a lost season with no shot at the playoffs… unless something changes drastically in the coming weeks.
The Bucks were expected to be very good this year… but they have become great. This 7-0 start is a dominant run which, if continued, will continue to open eyes around the league. The Bucks are plus-15.9 points per game, the highest point differential in the league, even higher than the Golden State Warriors, who are second in the NBA. The Bucks are the only Eastern Conference team to score an average of at least 120 points per game. The other three teams in the NBA to score at least 120 per night are the New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Warriors. However, the Pelicans and Lakers allow at least 118.8 points per game at the defensive end of the floor. The Bucks allow only 104.1 points per game in a league where scoring has gone through the roof in the opening weeks of the season. Incredibly great offense and merely decent defense has given Milwaukee an unbeatable combination. Head coach Mike Budenholzer knows how to maneuver the pieces on his roster. Quality coaching is the ultimate reason why this team has become this good this quickly.
The Rockets were probably not going to win close to 65 ballgames for a second straight season, but they also weren’t supposed to be 1-4 through five games. The Rockets have unexpectedly stumbled in the early going. They have a large minus-8.6 point differential, which is a product of the fact that they allow 118.8 points per game. Houston was supposed to be what the Milwaukee Bucks are now: a great offensive team which plays decent, moderately competent defense. Instead, Houston is a very solid offensive team with an appalling defense. A big reason: Carmelo Anthony, who is old and slow and can’t be hidden or disguised on defense. It is a mystery as to why the Rockets took him on, but he is there, and the Rockets are paying the price.
The Nuggets have the fifth-best defense in the NBA, allowing 105.2 points per game. They held the Golden State Warriors to 98 points in a win over the NBA champions a week ago. Head coach Michael Malone is getting maximum effort from his whole roster. Players such as Jamal Murray and Gary Harris are ripening into complete two-way forces as they grow in understanding of what it takes to win in the NBA. The main source of concern is that the Nuggets have played only two road games. How they do on the road will reveal how great their season becomes. Nevertheless, 5-1 is better than most people were expecting, and now it is up to the Nuggets to continue their winning ways in the West.