Numbers don’t lie, or at least they shouldn’t, but what if we told you that this year’s records don’t always reflect how good or bad a team’s actually faring? Of course, the standings are all that matters at the end, but progress should also count.
At the beginning of the season, several teams were entering the year with a lot of praise and high hopes and haven’t been able to live up to it, while others have been a pleasant surprise considering how little was expected out of them to begin with.
Today, we’re going to talk about 5 basketball clubs that even though aren’t at the top of the standings, are playing very good ball at the moment, but just lack the kind of expertise and leadership to close out games, or are just starting to click the right way at this point of the season.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (13-27)
The Los Angeles Lakers are right now at a place where they’re not used to be: the bottom of the standings in the Western Conference and justs managed to shake off a 9-game losing streak with a dominant victory over the mediocre Atlanta Hawks. Still, during that slide, the future seemed quite bright for the purple and gold.
Lonzo Ball has started to click as a better defender than expected, while Kyle Kuzma’s looking like the biggest draft steal in the last 5 years or so. Besides, Brandon Ingram’s breakout seems real and the Lakers young core is starting to build up some nice chemistry, and they’ve lost some games they could’ve won against great teams like the Warriors, Blazers, and Rockets.
4. Dallas Mavericks (14-28)
The Dallas Mavericks aren’t going to make the playoffs, but they just won’t give up and hand out anything to anybody, being one of the fiercest teams to beat at home this season despite what their mediocre record may make you think.
Dennis Smith Jr. seems more and more NBA ready although his playmaking is still a work in progress, while veteran guard JJ Barea’s been playing like a major stud. Still, it would be interesting to see if Rick Carlisle’s willing to find minutes for Nerlens Noel when he’s back to full health to try and fix their defensive woes.
3. Chicago Bulls (14-27)
The Chicago Bulls got off to a terrible start of the season before finally turning things around amidst Nikola Mirotic’s and Kris Dunn’s comeback, and the young core of the team is finally starting to play according to Fred Hoiberg’s run and gun philosophy.
With Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn plus Zach LaVine nearing a return, it seems like the Chicago Bulls made the right decision to trade Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and if they manage to still compete to develop their youngsters, but still lose some close games like they’ve done so far, they can put the cherry on top of the sundae with a top 5 pick at the end of the season.
2. Indiana Pacers (21-19)
The Indiana Pacers should be way higher in the Eastern Conference standings, but a recent passage without future All-Star guard Victor Oladipo made them enter a major skid. Still, it’s quite impressive to watch what the Pacers have done considering nobody had them in their books to be competitive this year.
Victor Oladipo has been playing the best ball of his career in both ends of the floor, while Domantas Sabonis has been extremely reliable off the bench, so the Pacers have to be quite excited for the future and the results their Paul George trade is giving them so far.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-19)
And finally, we got the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that took a while before developing some chemistry and a true identity and that lost several winnable matchups against subpar teams, but that seems to be finding a lot of shape behind their hard-nosed defense and Paul George’s stellar play on both ends of the hardwood.
Coach Donovan deserves a lot of credit for merging this team all together, while Carmelo Anthony has to be praised for embracing such a lesser role as the third scoring option besides PG13 and Brodie. Still, their second unit raises a lot of questions, but they should just get better as the season progresses.