5 NBA Teams That Will Surprise This Season

The Memphis Grizzlies made a surprise visit to the playoffs last season. Led by Ja Morant, the Grizzlies are looking to surprise again. (Photo: Screenshot)

With the NBA season slated to start soon, the usual suspects such as the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are being touted as top-end title contenders.

Here are five other squads with loads of potential to keep an eye on this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves 

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a nice young nucleus led by Karl-Anthony Towns, DeAngelo Russell and Anthony Edwards. The shocking firing of front office head Gersson Rosas notwithstanding, these Wolves appear to be on an upward trajectory.

A lot of that has to do with Edwards, the NBA Rookie of the Year runner-up who was absolutely dynamic down the stretch last season.

Edwards, 20, averaged 23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists on 45% shooting over the final 34 games of the campaign.

The health of “KAT” and “DRuss” will be the biggest factors in Minnesota as this team looks to end its playoff drought. Should these three ballers play a vast majority of the season together, the Wolves could be a force in the Western Conference.

 

Washington Wizards 

An argument can be made that the Washington Wizards improved leaps and bounds by simply moving Russell Westbrook in a multi-team trade with Los Angeles Lakers.
While Russ still filled-up the stat sheet, he still struggles as a shooter and is a defensive liability at times.
The move helps Bradley Beal, who now has more to work with as far as a supporting cast.

This team will go 11-deep, adding the likes of Aaron Holiday, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell in the “RussBrook” trade was a coup.

That trade plus the expectation that wing Deni Avdija will take the next step as a sophomore gives the Wizards a real shot-in-the-arm. The team also drafted sharpshooter Corey Kispert from Gonzaga, and he may be one of the most pro-ready players from the 2021 NBA draft.
New Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. has inherited some real talent, now it’ll be his job to figure out how to make it work.
Memphis Grizzlies 
After earning a very surprising playoff spot last season, the Memphis Grizzlies’ ability to ascend to the hierarchy in the Western Conference will depend heavily on the health of young stars Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
The two young stars played nine games together last season. With that said, this is an uber-talented duo.

The tenacity that shot-making wing Dillon Brooks brings to the table can’t be overlooked. He averaged 17.2 points and played tremendous defense last season. The acquisition of big man Steven Adams makes them a much better rebounding and rim-protecting team.
There’s so much to like about those guys down on Beale Street in the heart of “Memphis Blues.”

Sacramento Kings

There was a time when the likes of Chris Webber, Mike Bibby and Vlade Divac nearly made the NBA Finals and were consistent contenders in the West. The Sacramento Kings haven’t tasted much success since then.

Currently boasting the longest playoff drought in the league, Sacramento has been irrelevant since it last made the playoffs in the 2005-06 season.
It’s doubtful that much will change under overrated Luke Walton, who’s still riding the coattails of being Bill Walton’s son.
The fact that he led the 2015-16 Warriors (73-9) to a 24-0 start minus Steve Kerr hasn’t helped him in “SacTown,” which might have the most talented backcourt west of Phoenix.

DeAaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and rookie lottery pick Davion Mitchell are all potentially lethal.

It also boasts one of the league’s most underrated wings in veteran and 2014-2015 NBA champion Harrison Barnes.

If this team can get any decent play out of their bigs in 2021-22, there’s a great chance we’re looking at a playoff team out West.

Cleveland Cavs 

Gone are the days of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving racing up and down the court of Quicken Loans Arena leading the Cavaliers. Now it’s guys like Collin Sexton and Darius Garland leading the way in “Believeland.”

Sexton the talented scoring guard has been the subject of trade rumors all offseason, but nothing has materialized.

There is still a possibility the former Alabama standout can be moved by the trade deadline if Cleveland isn’t in the playoff hunt.
All signs point to him beginning the season in Cleveland with backcourt mate Darius Garland, a sharpshooting lead guard by way of Vanderbilt.
Sexton averaged 24.3 points per game last season, while Garland averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists on 40 percent from distance in 2020-21.
As far as the team’s frontcourt goes, the likes of Jarrett Allen and rookie No. 3 overall pick Evan Mobley dynamic form a rim-running, rim-protecting duo.
The same thing can be said about Isaac Okoro and the recently acquired Lauri Markkanen out on the wing.

 

Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has a lot to work with on the shores of Lake Erie.