Every season seems to have at least one team that exceeds all expectations and challenges for the top spot in its conference. Last season, we saw that occur in both conferences.
The Warriors were considered a team on the upswing entering last season but there were still serious doubts about their ability to contend. They had a first-year head coach, Steve Kerr, who had no previous experience running an NBA club. The core of the team was young and talented but had yet to make a deep playoff run. Everyone knew their backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could shoot but would a perimeter-oriented team thrive throughout an 82-game schedule? Could Andrew Bogut stay healthy for most of the season and carry their interior defense? And just how much more could Draymond Green, a second-round pick, expand his game?
The Warriors answered all the questions with an exclamation point and carried that success over to the postseason during their dream season.
Don’t forget that a similar story unfolded in the Eastern Conference. While the Hawks had a disappointing playoff run, they enjoyed a regular-season run that nearly matched the Warriors’ dominance. The Hawks won 60 games, seven more than the much-heralded Cavaliers.
What made it even more impressive was that the Hawks did it with a core group that even today, most casual fans would have trouble naming. Who considered DeMarre Carroll to be one of the better small forwards in the league prior to last season? How many people thought Jeff Teague and aging gunner Kyle Korver would form one of the league’s most potent backcourt duos? Who thought center Al Horford could make it through a season without another significant injury?
Atlanta’s sudden rise was an eye opener. But that was last year. Somewhere out on the NBA landscape, another team without much hype is about to make a charge toward the top spot.
That brings us to today’s question: Which team will be the league’s biggest surprise and emerge as a contender this season?
Take to the comments section below to share your thoughts and opinions on the matter. Also, be sure to check back later on, as we’ll be responding to readers throughout the evening. We look forward to what you have to say!