Every team starts the season with hopes and dreams of doing something special. Everything special in the NBA must start with making the playoffs. This year has been crazy, coming back from a bubble season that was all kinds of weird, and 2021 regular season had its own share of surprises. The playoffs start in less then a month, May 22, and there are already teams locking in playoff spots. Taking a look at the standings at the moment, there are many surprises in the NBA that we would never have guessed in 2020. From a new superteam to hope in the desert, the everchanging NBA landscape continues to surprise.
Chris Paul and a town in the desert
From an under .500 team in 2020, to the best team in the Western Conference the Phoenix Suns have been one of the biggest surprises this season. Looking at the massive jump that the Suns took, one major change stands out. The addition of Chris Paul. Phoenix traded for the point god during the offseason, and the impact has been astounding. Having a savvy veteran like CP3 has helped the young stars of this team take it to the next level. Devin Booker is having another great season averaging 25 ppg, and Deandre Ayton has started to find his rhythm. All of the success of the young kids have been centered around the mentorship and atmosphere that has come with Paul. Devin Booker said, “You just understand every little detail of the game matters. Chris is going to demand that. The little things you think you can slide by, he’ll let you know. We can’t shortcut anything we do.” This is a major change in the structure of the Suns. Going from a young team with a bright future to championship contenders does not take that much, especially for a team as talented as Phoenix. This went from a team that was having fun, making a run in the bubble to a team that made sure they had every little detail under control. Building off a strong time in the bubble, the Suns only got stronger with the addition of CP3 who has helped instill this team with a championship mindset.
A superteam only growing stronger
We all knew what was coming. When Kevin Durant joined Kyrie in Brooklyn, that was going to be a contender for a while. The problem with the 2020 season was injuries, both players never saw meaningful amounts of time on the court. Nothing was a surprise, with a duo of KD and Kyrie this team was going to be very competitive in 2021. The surprise didn’t start until the season had already started, and the rumor mill started turning out James Harden rumors. Many people were saying that he wanted out of Houston, and after multiple incidents that made it clear the situation was unsalvageable. Brooklyn and Philly were the two biggest names thrown around as landing spots for Harden, and ultimately the Nets were able to land Harden. A trio of KD, Kyrie, and Harden was something pretty unexpected and it is still yet to be seen how they work together as a team. Harden is still out with a nagging injury, and even though he isn’t playing the Nets are looking like one of the most dangerous teams in the league. With the addition of James Harden, who seemed to be embracing the role of playing point guard and more of a facilitator role. The Brooklyn Nets are a bona fide superteam, and a championship seems to be all but a guarantee.
The New York team no one saw
The New York Knicks have not had a winning season since 2013. 8 years. This is one of the historically great teams, a destination for free agents, that was now in the lottery year after year. Many people expected the same this season, and while the signing of coach Tom Thibodeau was nice it didn’t seem like the Knicks were going anywhere this season. Then it happened, a complete shocker of a season. The emergence of All-Star Julius Randle. Randle has been averaging 25 ppg and 10 rebounds per game, and is the number one on this team. Randle has been great, but the rest of the team has stepped up as well. R.J Barrett is a solid number two option, Immanuel Quickley is surprising everyone as a rookie, and Derrick Rose who came over in a midseason trade has played a huge role on this Knicks team. Not only has Rose provided a spark off the bench, he has been a mentor for the young guys on the team. With so many players still developing, the Knicks needed someone like Rose to help guide the young guys and that is exactly what he has been doing. The New York Knicks are on the come up, and they might be surprising a lot more people come playoff time.
Top Image: SportsBookWire/Jess Root