• Jac Manuell

Teams Destined to Surprise

The NBA season always throws a few surprises and curveballs at us. Heck, have you seen this offseason? If that’s a precursor as to what’s ahead of us we’re in for one wild ride. There were a few surprises last year in relation to a few teams. We had the Wizards become an elite team out East, the resurgence of the Houston Rockets under Mike D’Antoni and how could we forget the Cinderella story of the Miami Heat? Spoelstra led Waiters’ Island to a .500 season, missing out on the playoffs by the smallest of margins. Who will be the teams that have the best chance to make us pull a ‘Steph face’ this 2017-18 season?

Philadelphia 76ers

This team is brimming with talent. Yes, a lot of it is young, unproven and injury-prone but that’s why they are the team in the East with the biggest chance to surprise. You add in the veteran presence of Amir Johnson and the lights-out shooting of J.J. Redick and you’ve got the ingredients to a very tasty team.

Last year was a breakout year for the Process driven Sixers, though, there are still a few holes they need to address, and in some cases they already have. In 2016-17 they finished the season 25th in 3P% (34%). The immediate presence of Redick should help fill that void as the former Clippers’ shooting guard was 5th in the league in that category at 42.9%. While they finished with a much more respectable win-loss record compared to past seasons they still severely struggled on the offensive end finishing last in the league in offensive rating. If Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons maintain their health for a majority of the season then that number is likely to change. Their health will be the driving determiner of the 76ers’ overall success this season.

Brooklyn Nets

No seriously, it’s 2017 and we finally have a respectable Brooklyn franchise. Thanks to the many moves made by Sean Marks this offseason he has Jeremy Lin saying things like this:

For the Nets to even contemplate playoffs they’re going to need a lot of things go right. Allen Crabbe will have to continue shooting like a mad man from three; he was a ridiculous 44.1% from the perimeter last season. While the Nets were 4th in attempts from three last year, they were a miserly 26th in overall percentage. DeMarre Carroll and Timothy Mozgov will plug some holes and be a nice veteran presence but the real player who could surprise the NBA world on this roster is the man with ice in his veins, D’Angelo Russell. D’Lo has so much potential to elevate this team, though, he himself will have to improve in a few areas, especially on defense. He’s got a diverse offensive skill set but he will have to improve from the perimeter like the team itself. His 3P% is at a respectable 35.2%, still right around the league average last year of 35.8%. If Russell can produce a dagger three in a hostile environment at Dyckman who’s to say he can’t thrive from deep at Barclay’s?

Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap are a frontcourt not to be messed with. One is one of the most offensively gifted centres in the league and the other a perennial All-Star and absolute anchor on both ends of the floor. These two will be causing a few rumbles around the West this year and with the development of Gary Harris and Jamal Murray there’s plenty to be excited about out in Colorado. The offense of the Nuggets in 2016-17 was outstanding; they had the 4th best offensive rating in the Association and with the league talent at an all-time high that’s no small feat. Their defense wasn’t much to write home about; it was the 2nd worst in the Association. Millsap makes a huge difference on that end, and with youth and talent on Denver’s side they’re sure to surprise plenty throughout the 2017-18 season.

Utah Jazz

Write this Jazz team off at your own peril. Their defense last year was elite (3rd in the league) and their offense wasn’t too shabby either (12th in the league). The loss of Gordon Hayward and George Hill does leave a dent on that end but Quin Snyder’s roster still has the nucleus of a playoff team. They’ll shock plenty and grind out plenty of wins out West. The relationship between Rudy Gobert and recently acquired Ricky Rubio (new look and all) is one to watch throughout the season. Both are stalwarts on the defensive end and Rubio should allow for the offensive growth of players like Rodney Hood and Dante Exum. Don’t sleep on Donovan Mitchell as well; he was a standout in Summer League.

Don’t sleep on any of these teams next season, #staywoke.

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