Warrior Weekly: Biggest Surprises of The NBA Season So Far

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Warrior Weekly: Biggest Surprises of The NBA Season So Far

WSPN’s Dante Coppola compares the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs ahead of Super Bowl LIV.

WSPN’s Dante Coppola compares the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs ahead of Super Bowl LIV.

Credit: WSPN Staff

WSPN’s Dante Coppola compares the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs ahead of Super Bowl LIV.

Credit: WSPN Staff

Credit: WSPN Staff

WSPN’s Dante Coppola compares the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs ahead of Super Bowl LIV.

Dante Coppola

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As the NBA season passes the quarter mark, many players and teams have well surpassed their goals. At the same time, many woefully failed to meet the high expectations set for them. Players and teams could even find themselves underperforming greatly one year, the following season find themselves soaring past expectations. Possibly the greatest example of this is the Celtics who, after having a disappointing finish to last season, now find themselves near the top of the league.

Sophomore Class Stars

Second-year stars are dominating this season so far, making the infamous “sophomore slump” appear no more than a myth. The group is lead by Trae Young and Luka Doncic, two projects turned stars which were traded for each other on draft night. In just their second year in the league, Luke and Trae have already become arguably one of the top 15-20 players in the NBA. Doncic is even making a case for this year’s MVP, and if won, would make him the youngest player ever to win the award.

Both All-Rookie First Team members had impressive first seasons, and while a jump was expected, no one thought they would improve this drastically. Trae Young proves that he is a certain number one option for any team, averaging 27 points, eight assists, and four rebounds. While the team’s success doesn’t reflect his class, the relatively young team should see more wins come their way as they gain experience.

As for Luka, he is currently dominating the competition while dropping 30 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists along with a solid defensive effort. Despite being in a more difficult Western Conference, the Mavs retain the No. 3 seed. This shows some of Doncic’s leadership ability as well as his resilience in carrying a team with only one other significant player to help in Kristaps Porziņģis.

Celtic Twist of Fate

Last year, all hope was drained from fans and players alike as the Celtics massively underachieved. Then, bringing insult to injury, they lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford in free agency. Their two best players both left to rival teams in their division, one to the 76ers and the other to the Nets, but the Celtics management remained undeterred. Earlier, they had drafted multiple potential steals late in the first and early in the second round, which removed any fears they had about depth.

So they turned their attention to filling the gaps of their two stars. In moves that General Manager Danny Ainge would later call their “plan A”, the Celtics signed star point guard Kemba Walker along with center Enes Kanter. This renewed the hopes that were previously diminished, but people were still wary. They were projected to be around the fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and tenth league-wide. But now, with over 20 games completed, the Celtics see themselves fifth overall in the league.

Tatum finally took a big leap along with Jaylen Brown, and they find themselves in contention for their first All-Star selections. Kemba is playing just as advertised, and Hayward has made a miraculous comeback to his star form. The bench now has the right flare and role understanding, and Brad Stevens continues to look like one of the best coaches in the league. This team has a shot to do what they should have done last year: fight for the NBA championship.

Struggles in the West

The West has seen a few teams take great strides in their game, becoming real contenders in the league. But when this happens, there are usually teams that must regress to make up for it. In this case, three teams that were expected to be playoff contenders find themselves at the bottom of the league.

Gregg Popovich and the Spurs have remained relevant for decades. Despite the obvious talent present on the team, the Spurs are 10-15 with no clear path to take. It is now obvious that DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge don’t fit and the Spurs style of play is outdated. They are on pace to have their worst finish in over 20 years, and their once bright situation now appears bleak.

The Trailblazers, a team that just made an impressive run to the Western Conference Finals last season, now owns the No. 12 seed in the West. They choose to stay relatively quiet in free agency and the trade market and run it back with the same squad. While their stars seem to be continuing their play, their depth is nonexistent. Combine that with injury troubles, and you have a perfect storm to move a championship contender out of the playoff race.

While many expected the Warriors to experience a drop-off after losing Kevin Durant to free agency and Klay Thompson to injury, people still believed they could sneak into the playoffs. Unfortunately, misfortune finally struck the successful franchise, as Stephen Curry joined Thompson with an injury, sidelining him for three months. Now, they languish at the bottom of the barrel, ranking No. 30 in the league. With a lack of experience and defense, the team now has to pray that the eventual return of Curry can spark a resurgence.