The 5 Biggest Surprises of the 2018-2019 NBA Season

Koby Epstein

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Mavericks guard Luka Doncic playing for Real Madrid in 2017. The rookie has impressed                                                                                                                                                                     everyone with his crafty play this season.

Tuomas Vitikainen

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic playing for Real Madrid in 2017. The rookie has impressed everyone with his crafty play this season.

The 5 Biggest Surprises of the NBA Season

  1. The Denver Nuggets – In the 2014 NBA Draft, with the 41st pick, the Denver Nuggets got one of the greatest draft steals in history when they took Nikola Jokic. Since then, Jokic has developed into a top three center in the NBA and is currently leading his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals for the second year in a row. The only center to ever do this in multiple seasons was NBA hall-of-famer Wilt Chamberlain. As of January 18, the Nuggets are the number two seed in the Western Conference and are serious contenders to make the Conference Finals.
  2. Paul George and the OKC Thunder – Yes, Paul George, and not Russell Westbrook, is leading this team to victories. George is currently averaging career highs in points, rebounds and assists in only 35 minutes of play, which is his lowest since 2015. Paul George currently has a player efficiency rating (how efficient a player is on both ends of the court) of 22 which ranks him at fourth among small forwards, the most talented position in the NBA. This makes George’s efficiency even more impressive. Keep in mind that Paul George is playing with Russell Westbrook, a guy who ranks seventh in the NBA in usage rate. In other words, Paul George is putting up very impressive numbers in very little time with the ball in his hands. George has single-handedly been winning games for his team as on December 5, with the Thunder down by one with three seconds left, George hit a three to put his team up by two and give them the win. Paul George finished with 47 points, two away from beating his career high.
  3. Two in one (L.A.) – The Los Angeles Lakers have been showing out lately. With the addition of LeBron James this summer, many people were expecting them to be the seventh or eighth best team in the west. On December 5, the Lakers made it all the way to the four seed in the Western Conference. Since then the Lakers have struggled but that can be attributed to the untimely injury of LeBron James. As of January 18, the Lakers are the eight seed and just pulled of an impressive win against the three seeded Thunder. The Lakers are a very inconsistent team, just like many of LeBron’s past clubs, but we all know that when it comes down to the playoffs, Lebron will likely take the team to another level. As for the other team in LA, the Clippers have been amazing. Most predictions had the Clippers at the bottom of the standings, but it has been quite contrary. For about two weeks, the Clippers stayed in the top three, even keeping the one seed for a few days. As of January 18, they are right in front of the Lakers with the seven seed. The impressive play of Tobias Harris, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montrezl Harrell has led to some blowout wins for the Clippers.
  4. Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks – Four words. Rookie-of-the-year. Mavericks forward Luka Doncic has taken the league by storm this season. Luka leads all rookies in points with 20 per game. Luka also helps his teammates out with an impressive five assists, a skill that is very important for a wing player in this league. Luka’s lack of an NBA body was a big concern for many teams in the draft. He is not particularly athletic and weighs a heavy 220 lbs. Aside from Doncic, the rest of the team has played very well. Mavs starting point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has had a solid sophomore season. His numbers are down but that can be attributed to less minutes and less time with the ball in his hands. He is shooting much more efficiently this year and has established himself as a real threat from three, averaging a solid 35%. Unfortunately for Smith, the Mavericks have made it clear that he is available for trade. This can be attributed to the fact that Luka Doncic has such good court vision and the Mavericks want to run the ball through him more. This makes a point guard like Smith expendable. So far, Smith hasn’t been moved anywhere, but the Mavs have made it clear that they want a lot in return for Smith. As of January 18, the Mavs are 20-24 and are the eight games out of the playoffs.
  5. The young, raw talent of Sac-town – The future dynasty of the Western Conference is led by the young stud De’Aaron Fox. In his second season, Fox is averaging 18 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Fox has led the Kings to the tenth spot in the West which is very impressive when considering that the last time the Kings were in the playoffs was 12 years ago. Obviously the tenth spot is just outside the playoffs, but there is still plenty of time for them to improve their record. With the addition of rookie Marvin Bagley to the squad, the Kings are looking like a very scary team in the coming seasons.