Going from the bottom to the top: Off-season moves are helping these NBA teams win by Suvir S.
The only predictable thing so far about the NBA has been its unpredictability. To put in perspective how crazy the first month of the NBA has been: last year only 26 percent of NBA teams varied from their win-loss projections by more than five games. This year, the Wizards, Warriors, and the Bulls have all climbed up the standings, each in different ways.
First, let’s look at the Wizards. With historically 30-point scoring guard, Bradley Beal having his lowest scoring output in four years. You would expect the Wizards to be at the bottom of the standings, especially after trading 2016-17 MVP Russell Westbrook to the Lakers. Nevertheless, the Wizards have thrived and have newfound life after not making it out of the first round of the playoffs in 5 years. But the Wizards’ new depth has proven to be the difference. The Wizards have compiled a team of players that most experts wrote off. Spencer Dinwiddie, who the Nets let walk in free agency, plus Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell--two former Lakers who struggled in the playoffs--have new opportunities and are having some of the best years of their careers. Overall, 4 of the 5 top scorers on this new look Wizards team have been new additions.
Next, the Chicago Bulls have been on fire as of late, and it’s not a surprise after how many moves they have made in the last year. After supposedly reaching for Florida State, small forward Patrick Williams in the 2020 NBA draft, got heavily criticized for giving up too much (two future first-round picks) at the trade deadline for 31-year-old all-star center Nikola Vucevic, but the Bulls have been spectacular. New free agents Demar Derozan and Lonzo Ball have been doing great in 2nd-year head coach Billy Donovan's system. Ball, 23, has been finally living up to his high expectations set when he was first drafted 2nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. Many thought Demar Derozan was overpaid, but he is now having an MVP-type season at the age of 32. The Wizards and Bulls were both projected to be the bottom 10 teams, but so far they have been one of the top 8 teams through the first two months of the season.
Lastly, the Warriors have exceeded expectations differently. Their last five draft picks have not been in the rotation at all. They have gotten older role players to surround their aging core in Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and two-time MVP and future Hall of Famer, Steph Curry. That core led the Warriors to five straight NBA Final appearances and are looking to add on to their hall-of-fame resumes. After two seasons decimated by injuries, the Warriors are looking great. Klay Thompson, who missed the last two seasons due to achilles and ACL injuries, is looking to bounce back and is targeting a Christmas Day return against the reigning Western Conference champions, the Phoenix Suns. The Warriors and Steph Curry have been leading the league in margin of victory. The team also has one young star helping them, Jordan Poole, a third-year guard out of Michigan has been averaging 18 points per game. Last year, the Warriors were 2-7 without Curry. With Poole’s emergence and Klay Thompson’s return on the horizon, the future is looking bright for the Warriors.
Each of these teams got better in different ways, whether it was through free agency, the draft, or trades. These teams are all exceeding expectations and are doing very well a month into the season. Parity is so rare in the NBA. Any team can win on any given day, and any team can go from the bottom to the top. It just takes one move and everything can change. These teams have shown that smart off-season moves are helping them make the right moves on the court.