Matt Castillo (Mitch)
NBA Mid-Season Biggest Surprises And Biggest Disappointments
The NBA season is reaching the halfway point as teams have or just about reached the 42 game mark so it’s a great time to look at the teams that have been surprisingly good and the teams that have been the biggest disappointments.
3. Chicago Bulls
This doesn’t seem to be a big surprise because they were regarded as a playoff-caliber team at the beginning of the season but the surprise here is how good they have been as they have the best record in the Eastern Conference ahead of the defending champs the Milwaukee Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets.
Currently, they are 28-15 and will have to make up several games because of a Covid outbreak in their locker room and they are dealing with injuries right now to key players with Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine.
The Bulls have so many new guys on the roster with Ball, DeMar Derozan, and Alex Caruso, and with so many new faces sometimes it takes time to build chemistry but the Bulls have not shown any issues with this and have played great basketball up to point. I don’t think they will have the best record in the East once the regular season is done but one thing for sure they certainly have shown they will be near the top of the conference.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs have shown that they have a young talented roster and currently have a 27-19 record. But over the last several years this Cleveland team has been a team out of the playoffs and in the lottery for draft picks. And coming into this season that was the expectation for them once again.
But they got off to a hot start this season and many including myself thought it was a fluke but they just continued to play really good basketball. Then they had Collin Sexton go down with a season-ending injury and Ricky Rubio and I once again thought this team will take a turn for the worst but they have been resilient and have been led by a young star by Darius Garland.
The East is very tight right now but there is no doubt in my mind that this Cleveland will have a strong chance to make the playoffs and they definitively should make the play-in round.
1. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies have shown that even being young they can be a playoffs team as they are led by Ja Maront who is truly something special. So, once again not that I am surprised to see the Grizzlies in the playoff hunt but the reason why they are the biggest surprise is they are the third-best team in the Western Conference behind the Suns and the Warriors with a 31-16 record.
They have won 8 out of their last 10 games and those wins came against some of the most respected teams in the league. This team is tough and physical and one thing for sure is you be better to be ready to come out and play against them otherwise they will run you out of the gym.
Will they remain in the top three in the Western Conference? I still think the Jazz can catch them but this team should be at least in the top 5 of the conference.
2. New York Knicks
The Knicks surprised everyone last year as they finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and Julius Randle had a career year and the defense was at the top of the league. But the Knicks lacked shooters a year ago and that showed in their first-round exit to the Atlanta Hawks.
So the Knicks spent some money this off-season bringing back some guys from last year like Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, Taj Gibson, and added a shooter in Evan Fournier. Well, Rose is on the IR, Noel has not been able to stay healthy, Fournier has had his moments but has been widely inconsistent and Randle is not producing as he did a year ago.
When you add all of that together you get a 22-23 record and currently sitting outside of the play-in games for the playoffs. Now sitting around .500 at this time is where they were a year ago and then they were able to make a run and became one of the hottest teams in the league. They did that after making moves such as bringing Rose last year so they are hoping to do the same this year as they did make a move for Cam Reddish, who was RJ Barret’s teammate at Duke, but Reddish is currently hurt.
The Knicks just have not gotten into any rhythm this year the defense has not nearly been good, and if they are going to turn it around they need Randle, Fournier, and Barrett to be consistent from here on out. It’s hard to imagine them not making the playoffs so I still see them making at least the play-in games but this team should not be in that and should be in the top 6 to guarantee a spot in the first round. They are currently five games back from at least being the sixth seed that would guarantee them a first-round playoff matchup and are just a half a game back from being in the play-in game spot.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The lakers made the trade for Russell Westbrook this off-season and looked to form their own big three with Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis. But it hasn’t worked out up to this point. Davis is once again hurt, which is always a concern with him and Westbrook has struggled.
LeBron at 37 years old is having another stellar season but this Lakers team as a whole has not been good. They knock on them to start the season as they are too old with having supporting cast players such as Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, and Rajon Rondo. LeBron even tweeted about that narrative and to sum it up basically said they will prove those wrong. Welp, they haven’t…… They already traded Rajon Rondo to Cleveland and the Lakers are currently under .500 at 22-23.
They are atrocious on defense and James tweeted out the other day that they will be better, they followed that tweet up with a big win over the Utah Jazz so it appeared maybe they can get on a roll, well the next time out against the Pacers they blew a lead and dropped another game to fall below .500
This team is a mess right now and who knows if they can fix it, I believe that will depend on the health of Davis and his performance. Yes, Westbrook has to be better but if James is playing like he is if Davis can come back and play at the high level he is capable of doing then this team will turn around.