These NBA teams could be nightmare matchups in the playoffs.
Recently, I shat out a couple articles on who I think are the top 5 teams from the East and West. Unlike college hoops, we have a fairly good idea of what teams will do in the playoffs due to an 82-game sample size and a server full of data and metrics on every player.
And yet, sometimes we get a team that surprises pretty much all the NBA analysts. I think Dallas, Chicago, and New Orleans will surprise a lot of fans and experts this season.
It might seem strange that I'm putting Dallas as a sleeper since they lost in the WCF last season. Looking back though, they had to catch fire in the second half of the season and then grind it out in the playoffs. Somewhat of a fairytale season. Some of these power rankings are putting them high in the West while others have them much lower. Basically, the jury is out on these dudes.
This year's team doesn't have Jalen Brunson, which is a huge L, and Dwight Powell has been somewhat relegated to the bench. Maybe this is why they have been pushed down in some rankings? I like that they picked up JaVale McGee and Christian Wood. McGee may have been a regular on Shaqtin' a Fool, but he brings value with rim running/protection and he plays hard. Christian Wood has steadily improved over the last few seasons and will be impactful this year (already averaging over 17 PPG). Dinwiddie is in a better spot in the health department and will be Luka's right-hand man. Kidd seems to get a lot out of his players and as a former PG, he knows how to handle high-pressure in-game situations.
In the end, Luka is just a beast. He's typically entered the season on the heavier side but looks a lot trimmer this year, which tells me he is determined. An improved Luka is dangerous for everyone else. One thing is for certain; Dallas will be a much-improved team in game 82 than they are now.
Aiiiight, maybe Dallas isn't as much of a sleeper snipe as Chicago is. They're ranked somewhere in the middle right now, but I don't know if I'm in agreement. Don't forget, the Bulls were crushing it last year until a slew of injuries derailed their season. Lavine, DeRozan, and Vučević form a pretty good trio. Then you mix in rapidly improving guard Ayo Dosunmu and you're looking at a legit threat.
Lonzo Ball was instrumental in the teams' success last year and is having trouble fully recovering from a knee injury, but when he returns it will add a dynamic playmaker to the court. The Bulls have added vets Goran Dragić and Andre Drummond, who can both still get it done. They will also provide a lot of leadership when they're not putting up big numbers. Solid bench guys.
The Bulls don't have the depth like the top teams in the East, but their starters are very talented. They're running back a very similar roster to last season, though an increase in chemistry and the eventual return of Ball might lead to them ruffling feathers in the playoffs. Speaking of feathers...
The Pels have a 3-headed monster in Zion, Ingram, and McCollum, with a few reliable supporting cast members like Trey Murphy III and Jonas Valančiūnas. Zion's physical dimensions and subsequent tinkering of his biomechanics at the NBA level have potentially led to his constant injuries. I'm not a doctor in the Western sense of the word...or any sense of the word but he was pretty healthy in college. It felt like he immediately started getting injured after joining the Pelicans. Aaaanyway, with that being said, if he can remain healthy, he will be a juggernaut. No one can handle his strength and power.
Brandon Ingram is a stud and I feel like he doesn't get the notoriety he should. With his skillset and frame, he's a very similar scorer to KD. I see him having a monster season. We know what CJ and Jonas bring to the table. With an intact starting core and a serviceable bench, the Pels could upset a team or two in the playoffs. Holy crap, I really want to see Zion healthy and punishing opponents on the biggest stage. Oh, and New Orleans already has five players averaging over 14 PPG. Be ready for them.
I'll be watching these teams a little more closely than I have in years past.