The 2022-23 NBA season has been full of surprises in the first two months. Some are good, some are bad, but all are entertaining. Teams that were thought to be tanking sit near the top of each conference, and exciting rookies have exploded onto the scene. Today we look at which teams in the NBA aren’t supposed to be where they are. For better or worse.
The Utah Jazz were expected to be players in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes after they moved on from superstars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert this summer. However, thanks to the terrific play of Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson, this team sits fourth in the Western Conference standings. An injury to Mike Conley and a bad stretch (2-5) recently may have cooled this team down, but they remain only a half-game out of first place.
the Finnish 📸
a career-high 38 points for @MarkkanenLauri #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/UqnChv00xN
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) November 19, 2022
If players like Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley continue to play well and Kelly Olynyk’s career renaissance is no fluke, this team could be waiting to upset your favorite finals hopeful in the first round of the playoffs.
Some of this is going to sound familiar, but the Indiana Pacers are not supposed to be here. At the start of the season, the biggest news in Indy was the return packages that Myles Turner and Buddy Hield could bring in for the rebound. Well, that and Bennedict Mathurin.
Bennedict Mathurin up and under. HOW?! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/X6AsHIZdrG
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) November 24, 2022
If you don’t know this rookie’s name yet, don’t worry. Soon, everyone will. The sixth overall pick is one of the most entertaining young players to watch and one of the most efficient. Mathurin’s 53/43/82 (FG/3P/FT%) split is insane for a rookie and speaks volumes to his offensive talent. Not to be forgotten, Tyrese Haliburton has improved his games vastly since coming over in the trade with Sacramento.
Unlike Utah, this team doesn’t feel like a true contender yet. While Turner has played exceptionally well and established himself again as one of the league’s premiere shot blockers, one can’t ignore his injury history. This team has likely already won too many games to have a real shot at a top pick, which could mean that this scrappy group of talented upstarts has doomed their fandom to another decade of frustrating mediocrity. Too bad to win anything of relevance and too good to draft a generational talent. At least it’s a lot of fun to watch.
Speaking of that trade between the Pacers and the Kings, we have the next pleasant surprise on this list. Looking back on the deal that sent Haliburton to Indiana in exchange for Domantas Sabonis, we may see a rare win-win scenario. Sabonis has thrived in Sacramento, averaging a double-double and trailing De’Aaron Fox as the team’s leading scorer. Kevin Huerter has been great for this team as well. The 24-year-old guard is shooting an incredible 49.6% from beyond the arc. Harrison Barnes, Malik Monk, and rookie Keegan Murray are all contributing as well.
“Kevin Huerter, right now, he’s playing like Klay, Steph. If you’re not a basketball fan and locked in on the league, you gotta watch how Kevin Huerter is shooting this ball right now.”@KDTrey5 sees what they’re doing in Sacramento. 👀
📺 New The ETCs: https://t.co/RZsJmQjKoF pic.twitter.com/Kka74S2FqL
— Boardroom (@boardroom) November 22, 2022
Unfortunately for Kings fans, this team has a brutal upcoming schedule, and the clock may strike midnight on this run before we ring in the new year.
Apologies for that fairy tale reference above. No need to worry about that here, as the Los Angeles Lakers have been anything but magical to start the season. First, there was the benching Russel Westbrook saga, which has yielded decent results. Westbrook’s output has improved while playing with the second unit, but it hasn’t helped the Lakers much. This team has yet to win a road game, and if they don’t manage to win one of the two games in San Antonio this weekend, then the ship has sunk.
Anthony Davis has returned to form, and a ‘struggling LeBron James can still get you 25 points a night, but does this team have enough around these two to make a run? No. At least, not like this. This Lakers team will have to make some moves before the trade deadline to have any chance at salvaging the season.
Looking at the Lakers’ situation without thinking of the New Orleans Pelicans is hard. Thanks to that Davis trade, Los Angeles has the 2020 NBA Championship, but the Pelicans have one of the brightest futures in the NBA. Brandon Ingram is a stud. A lot of you know that already but some have no idea what is coming. The seven-year veteran is keeping pace with his 20/5/5 averages from last year (points, rebounds, assists). It’s easy to forget that the 6’8” former all-star is only 25.
A smoooth move to the basket by Brandon Ingram 😤
He’s got 7 Q1 points so far on TNT. pic.twitter.com/RcbUXOYvLO
— NBA (@NBA) November 16, 2022
Zion Williamson has come back healthy and looking better than ever. He’s on pace for career highs in points and assists per game. CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas round out a deep starting lineup. It doesn’t stop there, though. This team has solid role players like Larry Nance Jr. and Jose Alvarado, and they even boast a crop of young talent in rookies Dyson Daniels and E.J. Liddell. This team may be ahead of schedule, but they are here to stay as contenders in the West.
Next time we’ll look deeper into the surprising players from the young season. In the meantime, let us know your surprise teams and players for 2022. Who’s your favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award? Let us know with a comment, or find us on Twitter.