The NBA this season has been anything but predictable.
With so many moving pieces coming into the season, the league was in a position of unknowing. Now that we are more than a quarter of the way through the season, it is about time that we look back at the season so far and determine its biggest surprises.
5. The Rise of Pascal Siakam
Its hard to call the Raptors remaining relevant in the league as ‘surprising’ considering they won the championship just a few months ago. But when discussing the season so far, I don’t think anyone could’ve seen the even further rise of Pascal Siakam.
After the departure of Kawhi, the city of Toronto was wondering who exactly would step up to fill that void – both offensively and defensively.
They certainly do not need to wonder anymore. Siakam is their guy.
His numbers are up across the board and Toronto have maintained a strong position in the East, sitting in the top four seed in the East – something very little people would’ve predicted at the start of the season.
4. Ben McLemore
Coming into his 7th season in the league, it seemed to be near the end of the road for Ben McLemore.
The 7th pick in the 2013 draft has been such a disappointment in terms of his career production that the only memorable moment of his career was an extremely mediocre slam dunk contest appearance in 2014.
That was until the Houston Rockets tossed him a lifeline this offseason.
In the month of December, McLemore has averaged 15.6ppg whilst shooting 51.1% from the floor and 44.3% from the 3-point line. He has become a crunch time player for one of the best teams in the league.
By purely using him as a 3-point shooter (this season alone he has attempted 188 3-point shots compared to just 34 shot attempts inside the arc), Houston have uncovered a great use for McLemore.
3. The Eastern Conference
Coming into the season, all the championship buzz resided out West.
The Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Nuggets, Jazz and Warriors (lol) were all considered to be front-runners in the championship race. Fast forward 30 games into the year and the top of the East is standing toe-to-toe with their Western counterparts.
The Bucks sit on top to absolutely no one’s surprise, but the performances of Miami, Boston, Toronto and Indiana have come (almost) completely out of the blue.
Despite a slight dip in the powerhouse that is Philadelphia, the resurgence of the Eastern Conference has balanced out what was to be a very lopsided championship race this season.
2. Mike Conley & the Utah Jazz
This one sucks.
Everyone was very high on the Jazz coming into the season. Defensive studs in Gobert and Ingles complimented with offensive talents in Mitchell and Bogdanović sparked excitement for the team out of Salt Lake City.
Mike Conley was thrown into the team, which only heightened the potential of this already up-and-coming squad.
Being an obvious upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the point guard slot, Conley seemed to be the perfect backcourt partner for Donovan Mitchell to reach another level in his short career.
Utah has been in the top 3 for defence in the league for the 3 seasons prior to the 2019-20 season. Spearheaded by the reigning DPOY in Rudy Gobert, the defence was thought to improve with the addition of Conley.
The 32-year-old has put up dreadful numbers to start the season, averaging 13.6 ppg (his lowest since the 2011-12 season) on 36% shooting (his lowest since his rookie year – not including the 2017-18 season where he played just 12 games).
Defence for Utah, normally a staple of the gritty and tenacious Jazz line-up, has suffered greatly since the insertion of Conley into the team. The Utah defense is now only 10th best in the league.
Despite Conley not being entirely to blame for the woes in Utah (even though they still sit in a playoff spot in the Western Conference), his performance so far this season has left a lot to be desired and has been a sad surprise for the league.
1. Devonte’ Graham
How good has this guy been.
Averaging just 4.7ppg last season after being selected in the second-round, Graham has taken full advantage of the departure of Kemba Walker and has exploded to put up 19.1ppg while shooting 40.3% from the arc.
Having put up 10 20+ point games so far this season – highlighted by his 40-point outburst against the Nets which included 10 3’s – to go along with 7 10+ assist games, Graham has kept the Hornets relevant.
His unreal play this year has even garnered some All-Star buzz (pun intended), something not many people saw coming from a Hornets roster that looked lucky to win 5 games this season.
All in all, Graham’s performance this season has surprised absolutely everybody.
The MIP front runner has taken the league by storm.
The season so far has had countless surprises, many of which I wasn’t able to even mention (Dwight Howard, Gordon Hayward, Bam Adebayo, Eric Paschall, Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie just to name a few). Being only a touch over a quarter of the way through the season, I cannot wait to see what else the league has in store for the rest of the year.