The NBA season is well underway, and even though almost three weeks have passed since the start, we can conclude it didn't disappoint in any way. Even though the season is relatively young, and there are still over 70 games to be played until the regular season is over, we can already assess which teams are among the positive surprises in the league and which have disappointed us more than we initially thought.
We'll start with the 5 most pleasant surprises this season and teams that are off to a great start. Some of these teams were known as great teams in previous seasons, but they took it to the next level this year, while some came out of nowhere and are simply playing great basketball while also winning games in the process.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
After adding Donovan Mitchell in the offseason, the Cavs finished revamping their roster and are looking absolutely great. They have a deep squad, and so far, Mitchell is playing like a true MVP averaging 32 points per game which is one of the main reasons why they have a 6-1 record and are second in the eastern conference. They surrounded him with a great supporting cast that plays well into the roles they were given, and if the Cavs continue playing in this way, they will easily break the 50-win mark for the regular season before the playoffs start.
The Utah Jazz
When Danny Ainge took over as the main decision-maker for the Utah Jazz, he immediately traded all the best players. Everybody was convinced the Jazz are now rebuilding and will try to get high draft picks. However, they are now playing great basketball and currently sitting in third place in the western conference with a 6-3 record. Lauri Markkanen is playing like an All-Star, averaging almost 23 points per game and 9 rebounds. They have an interesting group of young players and experienced veterans playing competitive basketball.
Portland Trail Blazers
At the start of the season, there were speculations Damian Lillard would leave the Blazers; however, he signed a contract extension worth $122 million for an additional two years with the team that originally drafted him. Lillard is averaging 31 points per game and is the only player on this young squad over 30. The rest of the team is young, and it's important to point out the youngster Anfernee Simons who is having a breakthrough season for the Blazers. They are second in the western conference with a 5-2 record, which nobody expected from this young Blazers squad.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are another team that everybody saw at the bottom of the western conference when the season started. Gregg Popovich might even retire from the NBA after running the team for the past 25 years, but this group is playing a pretty good brand of basketball. There are no big names on this squad, but some players stand out, like Keldon Johnson, averaging 23 points per game, and Devin Vassell, with 20 points per game. The Spurs were also in the news lately for releasing their rookie Joshua Primo for inappropriate behavior, and it will be interesting to see if they can keep up winning games since they are now fourth in the western conference with a 5-3 record.
The Bucks have been a great team for the past couple of years, so it might sound surprising that they are on this list, but from my perspective, they deserve it. The 2021 NBA champions are the only team without a loss this season while dismantling every opponent on their way to a 7-0 record. It's important to stress that Khris Middleton is still injured alongside Joe Ingles, Grayson Allen, and Pat Connaughton. When you are watching the Bucks, you can see their core has been together for a while now, and it definitely helps to have Giannis on the team, who is putting up MVP-caliber numbers once again. The Bucks are currently looking like a real championship contender, and the hype around them is real.
Los Angeles Lakers
At the moment, the Lakers are the biggest disappointments in the NBA and a true inspiration for quite a few great memes. Their 2-5 record to start the season is disappointing for several reasons, even though nobody really believed they improved compared to last season when they also missed the playoffs. When you look at the Lakers, you see a complete dysfunction on all levels, and the only one that is actually producing solid numbers is none other than LeBron. They won their last two games against the Nuggets and Pelicans after Russ agreed to come off the bench. Luckily the season is still young, and there is still hope for the Lakers despite numerous fans and analysts believing this team will have a hard time making it to the playoffs.
The Nets are in a very similar situation as the Lakers, even though I would say they are at least clicking on offense, unlike the Lakers. Unfortunately for them, their defense is one of the worst in the league at the moment, and to make things worse, they fired their head coach Steve Nash and recently suspended Kyrie Irving for five games because of his anti-Semitic remarks. According to the reports, they will hire Ime Udoka as their new head coach, who had his own set of problems with the Celtics, and there is a big question about whether he can fix the situation within the team. When it comes to Ben Simmons, he is still doing everything relatively good, but his shooting, as expected, is horrible, and it's hard to imagine he would improve that significantly over the season.
Golden State Warriors
The NBA champions are having a horrible start to the season when you take everything into account, and their 3-6 record is really surprising. They lost their last four games, and except Curry and Poole, everybody else on that team is underperforming big time. Klay is not shooting the ball extremely well, and Draymond is not doing what Draymond is supposed to be doing, and that is providing versatility, especially on defense. Steve Kerr and his coaching staff will have to take a different approach or switch up the lineups a bit to get the same type of results as they were getting last season when they were the most dominant team in the league.
Los Angeles Clippers
When the season started, most analysts said the Clippers have the deepest team in the league, and when you look at the names on their roster, you would argue that they are definitely up there with the most stacked teams in the NBA. However, their best player, Kawhi, has been struggling with injuries and is inconsistent in getting meaningful minutes while playing only two games this season. Paul George is their best player averaging 22.6 points per game, but the rest of their squad is underperforming offensively. They are 11th in the western conference right now with a 4-4 record, and most of their potential success will depend on Kawhi Leonard and his health.
The Sixers looked like a promising team at the start of the season. James Harden said he was finally healthy, Embiid was a legitimate MVP candidate last year, Tyrese Maxey looks like the next great guard in the league, and they signed some respectable free agents that were supposed to bring additional value to the existing core. Now they are 4-5 to start the season, and it was recently announced James Harden would miss the next month or so because of a right foot injury which is a real problem for the 76ers. He's been playing great, and now this might hurt their chances of getting into a much-needed rhythm to secure as many wins as possible before the playoffs.