With more or less thirty games played into the season, there have been a lot of surprises around the league. Underachieving teams like the Chicago Bulls (9-17), Cleveland Cavaliers (13-16), Houston Rockets (13-15) and Dallas Mavericks (19-10) have been very disappointing. There have been a lot of expectation from these teams in the pre-season and up to now; they have not lived up to the expectations. But aside from these underachieving teams, there are also some positive surprises in the NBA. There are some surprising teams that have played above average and maintained records above the .500 mark.
In the Eastern Conference, it’s surprising to see the Atlanta Hawks above the .500 mark at this time of the season. They are currently second in the Southeast division with a 15-12 record. It’s pretty amazing for this team to be playing at this kind of level. I must admit that I never thought that the Hawks can play this big this season. Joe Johnson is still playing great basketball although his statistics have dropped a little compared last season. The athletic ability of Josh Smith is helping the Hawks as he increased his statistical averages compared last year. Rookie Al Horford is also contributing quality points and rebounds as he is averaging close to a double-double with 9.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest in his rookie season. It’s too early to tell if the Hawks will qualify for the playoff rounds, but if they continue to play like this, they will surely grab a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The keys to their success are teamwork, consistency and staying healthy.
The Washington Wizards have been pretty impressive too. Even without Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards have managed to post a 14-13 record and stay just right above the .500 mark. Different guys have been stepping up for the Wizards, most recently Roger Mason posting career high 24 points against the Charlotte Bobcats. The injury plagued Wizards have relied heavily on Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison who have been playing extremely well this season. Butler leads his club in scoring with 22.2 points per contest while Jamison developed into a double-double threat this year as he averages 21.9 point and 10.8 rebounds in 27 games. The Wizards may be short-handed now, but they are still playing fantastic basketball and if they can continue to play at this level until February until Arenas comes back, I like their chances in the playoffs. Staying healthy as a team is a big factor in winning because they are now missing four players in their roster, they can no longer afford to miss more players. Hard work and consistency from the bench are also vital factors to consider if they are to pick up more wins.