The NBA is a game where amazing happens, but it has also became a game where anything can happen. This season is no different as many teams have made surprising moves and teams that in the past that have thrived have become disappointments this year. Looking at the season standings so far, the East is still the weaker conference as the West still stands strong. From both conferences, there are seven teams that are surprises and four teams that have been disappointments.
1. Golden State Warriors (31-23)
The Golden State Warriors have been one of the biggest surprises this season. At 30-22, they are 6th seed in the Western Conference and they have produced an All-Star from this team. The two stars from the team, Stephen Curry and David Lee, have stepped up and had phenomenal seasons (respectively). Stephen Curry averages 21.0 PPG, 6.6 APG, and 1.6 SPG while shooting 43% from the field and 45% from behind the arc. Arguably, Stephen Curry is having an All-Star season; better yet, he is having a career season. His co-star, David Lee, is averaging 19.0 PPG and 10.8 RPG while shooting 51% from the field. David Lee is playing one of the best seasons of his career and it is evident through the team’s record. With Mark Jackson having a full year to take over the reigns, he has done a great job. The team is trying to commit on the defensive end, and they have become a prolific scoring offense by being 8th in the league in scoring (101 PPG). Overall, the Warriors have played very well this season and if they can take their play to another level they might be a problem in the playoffs for whoever they face.
2. New York Knicks (32-19)
The Knicks this season have been one of the biggest surprises in the East, as they are second in their conference behind the World Champion, Miami Heat. The Knicks this season have really showed critics and fans that this team can really contend for the NBA Title. They have become a defensive system that is 8th in the league at holding opponents to 95.7 PPG. The Knicks have remained a prolific scoring team: 10th in the league in scoring (100 PPG). The star trio of ATM (Amar’e, Tyson, and Melo) has worked pretty well for the Knicks as of late. Carmelo Anthony is having an MVP-like season and is second in the league in scoring averaging (28.3 PPG). Chandler and Amar’e are playing efficiently as they are 1ST and 9th in the league in FG% (respectively). Another reason why the Knicks have had so much success is the play of J.R. Smith and the rest of Mobb Deep 2.0. Smith is playing arguably the best basketball of his career averaging 16.2 PPG [off the bench] and is arguably the Sixth Man of the Year right now. Together, the Knicks have become one cohesive, entertaining team to watch this season and many teams in the East need to watch out for them in the playoffs.
3. Brooklyn Nets (33-22)
33-22? That is a huge turn around from the 22-44 record the Nets had last year. The Nets this season have not only changed their location, logo, and team colors, but they have changed as a team in general. The Nets have turned many heads and turned some critics into believers this season with their 33-22 record. They are another defensive team and they are 5th in the league at holding opponents to 94.7 PPG. The stars of the team, Lopez, Johnson, and Williams have tried to make it work and so far it has been successful. Lopez, a first time All-Star this season, leads the team in scoring and blocks averaging 19.0 PPG and 2.2 BPG. Joe Johnson is tied for second in team scoring, averaging 17.0 PPG and has come up big in clutch situations for this team. Perennial star guard, Deron Williams, is also tied for second in team scoring with 16.7 PPG along with averaging 7.6 APG. This team has not reached its full potential yet and when they do, every team in the East [at least] needs to watch out for this good up and coming team.
4. Denver Nuggets (33-21)
The Nuggets this year have been a surprise for the fact that they are the 4th seed in the West. They are the third highest scoring teams in the league averaging 105.1 PPG and the are 2nd in rebounding and 3rd in assists with 45.5 RPG and 23.9 APG. Gallinari leads the team in scoring with 17.2 PPG and he also contributes on the glass with 5.5 RPG. Their back-court consists of Ty Lawson who averages 15.8 PPG, 7.1 APG, and 1.6 SPG; along with Andre Iguodala who averages 13.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.5 SPG. The Nuggets this season have been doing most things right, from executing offensively to getting the bench production they need. This Nuggets team looks like they are here to stay, and in the playoffs, they may even become a second round Western Conference team in the playoffs.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (39-17)
Lob City has been a huge surprise this year as they are the 3rd seeded team in the Western Conference. They have the flash and the substance to compete in the West and to contend for the NBA Championship. This team has turned many critics into believers such as former Laker Earvin “Magic” Johnson who said the Clippers remind him of the Showtime Lakers in the 1980′s. The Clippers this season have also answered the question: whose town is it? Lakers or Clippers? This team can be entertaining, they can also score, as they are 9th in the league in scoring (100.4 PPG). They are also one of the top five defensive teams in the league by holding opponents to 93.7 PPG. Led by Blake Griffin (18.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 1.5 SPG) and Chris Paul (16.6 PPG, 9.6 APG, and 2.6 SPG), this team is really showing others that they mean business. Earlier this season, they had a 17-game winning streak and after that, they have been plagued by injuries. Other than the injuries, the Clippers have looked really good this season and another reason for their success is their sixth man, Jamal Crawford. With Crawford coming off the bench, he is providing excellent scoring from the second unit. Teams in the West need to watch out for this young, fast-paced team.
6. Indiana Pacers (33-21) & Chicago Bulls (31-22)
The reason why the Pacers are on this list is because they are still getting the job done without their star. The Pacers are the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference and they are also one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They hold opponents to 89.9 PPG and they average 45.8 RPG, which is number one in the league. The Pacers have still gotten the job done, led by Paul George and David West. George leads the team in scoring, averaging 17.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 1.8 SPG. West averages 17.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 1.1 BPG, having a spectacular season so far. Without Danny Granger, this team is playing pretty well. They have held the top two East teams (Heat and the Knicks) to 77 and 76 points (respectively). Without their main star, this team has put themselves in a good position to contend for a title. When Granger gets back, this team is really looking like a problem for any other team in the East.
Chicago is doing the same thing as their Central Division rivals (the Pacers). The Bulls are 4th in the Eastern Conference without their star, Derrick Rose. This team is the 3rd best defensive team in the league by holding teams to 91.5 PPG. They are also 6th in the league in rebounding averaging 43.7 RPG. Taking over the reins until Rose returns are the All-Star tandem of Deng and Noah. Deng is leading the team in scoring averaging 16.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 1.04 SPG. Noah is averaging a double-double with 11.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and 2.0 BPG. The Bulls are playing exceptionally well without Rose and they look like they have not missed a beat. They have turned into a defensive system with Rose gone due to a lack of scoring, but their defensive intensity has shut down teams like the Heat, and especially the Knicks. If the Bulls can play defense like this when Rose is 100%, then the Bulls will be nearly unstoppable in the playoffs.