As much as looking at teams that haven’t got the recognition they deserve, this article is shining a light on a triumvirate that have sneakily put together a good string of results and performances. All of these franchises got off to shaky (in some cases worse) starts. All three have turned their seasons round before we’ve opened our advent calendars.
Two of the teams experienced upheaval this summer, the other was having a nightmare at one end of the floor. All three were in the discussion for a playoff berth before the season began – they could yet be playing postseason basketball next spring.
Starting in California, here are the three teams to keep an eye on…
Luke Walton’s reign started off 0-5. Sacramento have played slow – they’re unrecognisable from the feel-good story of last season. Having fought back to 6-7, though, the Kings are right back in the mix having won six of their last eight and gone 3-1 since De’Aaron Fox injured his ankle. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been immense.
A buzzer-beating win over the Jazz secured a first victory and Walton’s team have gone from strength to strength since then despite Fox and Marvin Bagley’s injuries. They pushed the Lakers all the way on November 15th and toppled the Boston Celtics’ 10-game winning streak two days later.
Heading out East to face the Nets, Wizards, Celtics and Sixers, who knows how the Kings’ season will look in seven days’ time.
Brandon Ingram was the early story for the Pelicans. Unfortunately, injuries and figuring stuff out meant New Orleans started 1-7. Still awaiting Zion Williamson, the Pelicans have turned it round of late with Jrue Holiday beginning to play like his All-Star self and Ingram still averaging over 25 per game.
Things have started to improve for New Orleans of late. While the record of 5-9 still isn’t pretty, three wins in four (including a five-point win over the Clippers) is a sign that Alvin Gentry has this new-look roster heading in the right direction.
A rough stretch is coming up as the Pels are on the road against the Suns, Jazz and Clips before hosting the Lakers. It’ll be fascinating to see if they can pick up a W or two on that run.
A hot stretch to end last season made the Orlando Magic a hard team to evaluate coming into the 2019/20 campaign. They fell to 2-6 with a loss to the Thunder earlier this month – their offence was by far the worst in the NBA.
While the offence is still only 25th, Orlando have corrected the ship over the last couple of weeks. They have taken full advantage of a homestand with four wins in five games, including a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. A four-game roadtrip follows, however, which will be a test of the Magic’s credentials as they look to break .500.
Their size has made them a top 10 defence and that could yet improve. With seven players scoring 9.8 points per game or more, don’t be surprised to see the Magic among the top six in the East.