A couple of weeks of NBA basketball have now concluded, and teams are starting to take shape. Injuries and suspensions have decimated some teams, and others have taken advantage. There have certainly been a few surprises, both in terms of individual performers and overall team output. So what teams and players have overachieved? And which have not been as advertised so far? Let’s take a look at some NBA teams and players that have been noteworthy thus far.
East Overachiever: The Charlotte Hornets
This one seemed like a no brainer to me based on their off-season. Losing Kemba Walker made the Hornets look like a dumpster fire heading into the season. But this team is currently holding down the six seed in the East somehow. This has been due to the play of young players Devonte Graham and PJ Washington. Do I think this is sustainable for MJ’s crew? No. However, there is no denying that this NBA team has looked balanced so far. They have six players averaging double-digit scoring. They are beating teams that they should like Golden State. If they are trying to tank for the #1 pick, they better start losing more games soon.
West Overachiever: The Phoenix Suns
The shock of the west is pretty apparent, especially after the Deandre Ayton news. Ayton, being suspended 25 games, looked like it would be a crushing blow to the Suns season. But their off-season acquisitions are performing well. Devin Booker is an early contender for MVP, averaging 25, 5 & 3 while shooting 53%. On my podcast, I have been really hard on Ricky’s “stupid face” Rubio, but he has proven me wrong. He is averaging a near triple-double at 12, 8 & 7. Oubre, Baynes, and Kaminsky all are averaging double-digit scoring as well. Phoenix, at this rate, could take the eight spot, especially with Golden State and Sacramento faltering early. The NBA may have a new exciting team to look out for.
East Underachiever: Orlando Magic
I am not saying that the Magic were title contenders, but they certainly shouldn’t be this bad. Starting the year at 2-6 and near the bottom of the NBA’s Eastern Conference is disappointing. It is not just that they are losing, but who is beating them. Losses to Atlanta and Oklahoma City are unacceptable for a team of this caliber. Fultz is averaging double digits, but multiple others are not. Terrence Ross and Al-Farouq Aminu need to step it up, as both were expected to be big contributors. Mo Bamba also needs to figure it out quickly, or he will be out of the league pretty quick. Orlando can certainly turn it around with this roster, but they better hurry.
West Underachiever: Golden State Warriors
I don’t think anyone saw this coming, even with no Klay Thompson. Don’t get me wrong; the injury to Steph Curry is significant. That does not excuse how they were playing before it happened. The NBA ran through Golden State for years, and now teams are running through them. Steph broke his hand and will miss at three months, all but ending the Warriors title hopes. Draymond Green also has had some injury problems. This means Eric Paschall and Glenn Robinson will see serious minutes (yikes). The Warriors looked like a bottom-tier playoff team, but injuries say a top-five pick could be becoming. This could be a blessing in disguise, but for now, Golden State is not a team to watch on League Pass.
East Overachieving Player: Malcolm Brogdon
The fact the Pacers are the seven seed despite injuries to Oladipo and Turner is shocking. Malcolm Brogdon has been keeping them afloat in a big way, as he is having a career year. Brogdon always seemed to be an afterthought in Milwaukee. He is showing how good he can be, averaging 22 points and almost ten assists. TJ Warren and Domantas Sabonis have helped, but Brogdon is leading the charge. Indiana may still see NBA playoff basketball if Brogdon can maintain this while their stars miss time.
West Overachieving Player: Brandon Ingram
It has been an absolute privilege to see Brandon Ingram play basketball this year. The Pelicans may not be seeing success, but it is not due to Ingram’s lack of trying. Ingram struggled as the number two pick out of Duke in Los Angeles. That looks to have changed now that he is eating the gumbo in New Orleans. 26 points per game, seven rebounds, and four assists on 55% shooting is staggering. These numbers likely cannot be sustained, but he is the runaway winner for Most Improved Player so far. If he can be even 80% of what he has shown early, New Orleans may have gotten a steal getting Ingram.
East Underachieving Player: Nikola Vucevic
This man’s team is on the underachiever list, and his play is the biggest reason why. The Magic center had his first all-star appearance last year and has not looked great so far. Nikola Vucevic averaged 20 and 12 last year and has seen that dip to 16 and 11 on 41% shooting. While I do consider Vucevic a low tier all-star, he is not even playing at that level thus far. He is the man that makes things run in Orlando, and it is on him why they are struggling. Let’s hope he can turn it around before the possibility of making the NBA playoffs is out of reach.
West Underachieving Player: Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Memphis Grizzlies may have the rookie of the year right now, but definitely not the best second-year player. Jaren Jackson Jr. had an impressive rookie season and has not been the same player this year. Memphis is not a playoff team by any means, but they need Jackson Jr. to be good moving forward. Eleven points and five rebounds for a second-year lottery pick is abysmal. I do expect him to step up and improve; however, he has started slowly. 40% shooting is well below where he should be, and 23% is abysmal for an NBA player.
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