Blogtable: Surprise Teams?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Surprise Teams | Teams Likely to Fall | Rookie Coaches

Which team will do better than most expect next season?

Steve Aschburner, I think Cleveland has done more in a fairly short amount of time than I expected. Sure, I’m projecting a happy outcome in the Andrew Bynum gamble, but at least the terms of that deal are sensible and maybe he’s ready – physically and mentally – to kick his career into top gear. Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark rate as second- or third-tier acquisitions that could have a surgical benefit on the Cavs’ promise to push into the playoffs this season. Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson all will be better. So I’m watching Anthony Bennett for how well he fits in and works on his game, rather than taking his No. 1 status in a grab-bag draft too seriously.

Fran Blinebury, I’m taking a flyer on the Pistons, who already had two solid front-line up-and-comers in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond and landed veteran Josh Smith in free agency.  Smith should be the consistent scorer that the Pistons need to make scoring easier.  The acquisition of Brandon Jennings should give the offense a further boost, especially if he can heed the wise counsel of returning favorite Chauncey Billups as a mentor. If rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can show what he can do early, new coach Maurice Cheeks could have his team sniffing at the playoff race.

Boston Celtics v Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus Cousins leads the young Kings.

Jeff Caplan, It’s interesting because I think in the West many believe that most of the bottom seven teams improved themselves with the exception of probably Utah, which has taken on a youth movement. I don’t know what the perception of the sad-sack Sacramento Kings is, but I’m suggesting this team will be better, maybe much better, than it has been in a long, long time. Everything is fresh, from ownership to management to the coaching staff to the point guard (emerging Greivis Vasquez) to — wait for it — DeMarcus Cousins‘ attitude? With Mike Malone in charge on the bench, there should be a vitality to this bunch that has been lacking, and more than that there’s actual talent and some toughness, too, so Sleep Train Arena should wake up to a new brand of exciting basketball.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Washington. I’m not sure what “most expect,” maybe good enough to make the playoffs, but the Wizards have a chance for more than sneaking in. A healthy John Wall, Bradley Beal off the rookie learning curve and heading toward a long career, Nene and Emeka Okafor up front, Otto Porter as the perfect complementary piece – that has real potential. Just over the horizon and coming quick: Orlando.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comGolden State could be top three in the West if Andrew Bogut plays close to a full season. With a healthy Bogut and Andre Iguodala, they have the potential to improve several spots defensively (where they ranked 13th last season), and we know they’ll be potent offensively with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee. Denver has obviously taken a step backward and it’s hard to believe in the Clippers until they show us that they can defend consistently, so there’s a real chance for the Warriors to have home-court advantage in a first round series next spring.

Sekou Smith, Call me crazy, but the Detroit Pistons could be on to a little something with their risky free agent summer. Smith, Billups and now Jennings, who the Asch Man points out gets his cash and a fresh start in the Motor City. For a franchise that has been searching for a way back to the playoff mix the past few years, the Pistons seem like they are on the right path with their mix of edgy veterans, potentially All-Star-laden homegrown talent (young bigs Monroe and Drummond) and an intriguing mix of worker bees (Kyle Singler, Jonas Jerebko, Will Bynum) and specialists (Italian shooter Gigi Datome). Most people had the Pistons picked as a borderline candidate to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. I think they are not only going to make it but they could challenge for the sixth seed behind Miami, Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York, if things play out the way Pistons’ general manager Joe Dumars has them planned.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: How about the Lakers? Last season was such a mess for them, from injuries to coaching changes to the never-ending Dwight Howard saga. But this year, with Dwight gone, they’re firmly under the radar, even in their own city. (Even in their own building.) If Steve Nash can stay healthy, and Kobe returns and is able to give anything, we’ve seen what head coach Mike D’Antoni can do with a team that nobody expects much from.


  1. ko0kie says:

    btw. I think boston will be better than Danny Ainge wished they would be….rondo is still overlooked a lot.. no wonder the nba got a bunch of elite point guards. But now with the Big3 gone, it’s his spotlight alone… I just hope he had practiced that mid-range jump shot during his rehab.

    annnd… jeff green has potential to be an all-star, which he showed already last year during some stretches.I think the added responsibility will do him only good.

    annnd… avery bradley is one of the better on-ball defenders in the league.

    so they’re backcourt is pretty nice.. just wonder how they will look upfront.

  2. ko0kie says:

    lang whitaker… sure, the lakers… haha dream on.

  3. LISTEN UP says:

    Top 8 seeds in the East. Top 8 seeds in the West.

    1.Miami 1. Oklahoma city
    2.New York 2. San Antonio
    3.Cleveland 3.Houston
    4.Chicago 4.Clippers
    5.Brooklyn 5.Grizzlies
    6.Indiana 6. Nuggets
    7.Celtics 7. Mavericks
    8.Detroit 8. Lakers

    • ko0kie says:

      no clue ?

      indiana 6th seed after they pushed back-2-back champ miami to 7 games? (not to mention, they got better with additions and granger coming back)

      what about the warriors? they clearly improved but are not in even in your top 8?

      lakers and mavs are not going to make the playoffs… lakers were a close 7th seed with howard, mwp and clark and a healthy kobe, and now..what do they got? kobe^s still injured, pau is a year older, steve nash is about 60 years old…

    • Trypll says:

      The fact that the Warriors aren’t even in your top 8 shows how little you know, or it shows your Favorite team. Since you seem to think Denver, after imploding this off season gets in, but the Dub’s, improved into a top contender do not, tells me you might be a butt hurt Nuggets fan. Or Stupid, you can pick which one.

    • Rondell says:

      I agree but only about 60%!

    • kenny says:

      Indie will be a lot higher possible first in the east and Chicago will be ahead of cleveland and lakers will most likely miss the playoffs

  4. LISTEN UP says:

    Yo guys, what about Detroit? Chauncey Billups is back with Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Tayshaun Prince etc. This team could go far in the East, like from 10th seed to like 6th or 7th maybe higher.

    Also, Cleveland is gonna be a good team with Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, etc. 2 rd 1 pick 1 will lead a team to something special, just lke the spurs did back in the 90’s with Robinson and Duncan, this team is a must watch.
    The Brooklyn Nets are gonna be a standout, probably 3rd or 4th seed. They have a great team, with 2 young players in their starting line-up (Brook Lopez, Deron Williams) and 3 veterans (Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett) This team has a new young coach too (Jason Kidd). With all these great off-season movements, this team could go far.

    And finally, the Houston Rockets, who added Dwight Howard to their line-up. With a great young team, they could be in the top 5 in the East for sure. With Howard at Center, and Lin + Harden at 1 and 2 guards, this team is expected to win big games.

  5. JDL says:

    The Raptors!!! Making the playoffs this year…

  6. Milosz says:

    I think that Cleveland and Washington will be the most improved teams in the comming season. Especialy Cavs look great with Irving, Bynum, Jaret Jack and Waiters in the lineup, but don’t forget the Wizards, Wall is now happy with new contract, strong and healthy and when he plays the whole team plays better and they can beat everyone. last season they beat almost every great team besides Spurs, so watch out! I don’t think that Pistons will be that much good, Jennings is not a lot better than Brandon Night and Josh Smith alone can’t make miracles

  7. JS says:

    Unfortunately for the Lakers and Kobe the injury he sustained is a 12 month injury minimum. Most athletes at his age never return from an injury like his and I say ‘most’ because Kobe’s next level when it comes to recovery.

    It would be a huge effort for Kobe to return this season. If he does return and is instrumental in getting the Lakers into the playoffs that would need to be considered one of his greatest feats in an already stellar career

  8. Mark says:

    how bout minesota

    • Brew Master says:

      Rose and the Bulls will finally CRUSH the HEAT!!!!! Also Cleveland will have to pay Bynum for absolutely NOTHING!!! That Guy will be CUT by February 2014.

  9. Steve B says:

    I think the Boston Celtics will suprise a few folks this season. THe team felt stale last year, especially after Rondo went down with the knee injury. With a healty Rondo, Jared Sullinger, and focused Jeff Green along with suprising potent rookie, Kelly Olynyk – Celtics make the playoffs. And Brad Stevens aint tanking.

  10. Chris says:

    Lakers r better than rockets Dwight coward houston will fight dallas for 8th seed lakers will be 5 seed

  11. Dapper Jay says:

    Top 10 Bottom-to-PO/Under-the-radar teams in the NBA (W & E)
    1. Detroit Pistons
    2. Cleveland Cavaliers
    3. Minnesota Timberwolves
    4. New Orlean Pelicans
    5. Portland Trailblazers
    6. Charlotte Bobcats
    7. Toronto Raptors
    8. Washington Wizards
    9. Dallas Mavericks
    10. Phoenix Suns

    Just missed: Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings, and Atlanta Hawks.

  12. J says:

    i’ll take the east!!! lol

    think about it you’ve got Cleveland who’ll be 6th seed, Washington who will be 7th, Detroit who will be 8th, the bulls will obviously improve with d-rose back, the pacers are gonna be even better and the nets should improve also.

    but 1 team I’ll take the cavaliers they are gonna be terrific

  13. Gaizka says:

    I think Cleveland Cavaliers

  14. wooderson says:

    golden state werent a surprise last year to learned basketball fans and they arent a surprise this year even to morons. they have arguably the best squad in the NBA and if Bogut, Curry, Lee, Thompson and Iguodala all play somewhere near their best consistently all season and Barnes and Thompson keep improving they will be the best in the west. NOT a surprise.

  15. loco says:

    the biggest surprise could be the bobcats. they got some terrific talent in kemba walker, who hopefully improved his shot. mkg will probably double his scoring output and there is no discussion about his defense and energy. al jefferson was one of the best centers the last couple of years. henderson played great after coming off an injury last year and is still improving as well. of course they probably won`t be in postseason but there will be some surprise wins. and the fact that nobody mentioned them, already makes them a team that some people will be surprised of

  16. ricky sanchez says:

    ya I agree, with a new system and efficient and wide bodied players like paul millsap, Elton brand, al horford, pero antic and Gustavo ayon at the front line, other teams will really have problems penetrating this Atlanta wall, combined with good shooters at the guard positions in korver, Jenkins, lou will and Teague this team will surprise everyone…

  17. Daniel Ferricks says:

    Anyone forget about the Hornets? They acquired Jrue Holiday, an All-star point guard who will have a solid line up with newly acquired Tyreke Evans playing small foward, And also Eric Gordon, if he stays healthy can easily average 20 points a ball game. On top of all this, they have Anthony Davis, which will develop, and give them vitally needed defense, and with an expected improvement, I think this team could definitely become a sixth seed, and they’ve got depth in the bench with Austin Rivers, and Ryan Anderson.

  18. Gillsy says:

    Yea the Rockets are expected to do well, while the Warriors shouldn’t even be in the discussion cause they should be vying for a top 4 place in the west. The surprise for me is the people like Bynum and Jack that the Cavs have picked up, having Jacks ability to be another scorer down the stretch will be vital. But once again I will be surprised if they don’t make the playoffs, when you read the roster.

  19. DC says:

    AC, you must not remember when the Kidd led Nets toyed with the Knicks. Expect more of the same next year.

  20. Kimmy says:

    I think its a 3 way tie between the Cavaliers, Pistons and Wizards. I’m convinced the Rockets are going to do well. But these 3 teams have the potential to be dangerous and knock out teams like Boston, Hawks, Milwakee and maybe even move Knicks to 7th or 8th seed. Raptors won’t make any noise this year. Like the Lakers, I think they have some chemistry issues. Just my opinion.

  21. Niels says:

    New Orleans Hornets!!!!!!
    PG: Jrue Holiday
    SG: Eric Gordon
    SF: Tyreke Evans
    PF: Anhtony Davis

  22. lee says:

    the t wolves should trade him just like the bucks traded jennings trade him to dallas for dalemboret and another rotational player

  23. lee says:

    housten isnt a surprise team unless the dont make it to the playoffs that would be a surprise my surprise team is detroit i agree with alot of people here brandon jennings is a huge upgrade over knight especially if he listens to billups but when you look at there 8 player rotation it looks really good
    jennings stuckey smith monroe drumman
    billups pope there just missing 1 player and thats a back up big man i was hoping the would sign dalemboret but thats nt happening now
    so my other team would be the t wolves if the can stay healthy the have a great team can easily win 50 games if the stay healthy i love that the got corey brewer back and teamed him up with martin the need a shot blocking center who is tough not worried about points and i dont think thats the guy the have it wouldnt hurt my feelings if the traded him for asik but the may have drafted 1 in deng who would fit in great if he can put on some weight

  24. ac says:

    I’m going to laugh so hard when the Knicks win the eastern conference next year and Brooklyn finishes in fourth again. Those bustas on Atlantic Ave can spend all the money in the world but true new yorkers (even from BK) will always remember them as the dirty jersey nets.

  25. jacob says:

    Celtics anyone?!?!?!?!

  26. Peanut says:

    first off the pistons would be better with Bj and Josh smith but anybody forgetting about the defending champs @heatnation @3peat

    • CAVS!!!! says:

      Nobody’s asking about who will win the championship… We’re talking about surprise teams..

  27. Henrik Jensen says:

    I could see Wizards take 7th or 8th spot in East, if they can get youngsters: Beal and Porter to play alongside Wall, that is a great 3-way combo right there

  28. caleb says:

    I will probably go ith Houston and goldon state aquring wight was a huge deal for r them they have the talent to cea hampionship team and for warriors the will have a preetyty good lineup I f bogut will stay healthy I woudnt be surprised to see the at the top 3 and so Houston

  29. TTKIN says:

    Im taking the Lakers. Every team mentioned here is supposed to do better this year. They all made moves to be better.

    Picking GS or DET is ignoring the question asked. GS didnt get Iggy and DET didnt get smith and jennings to fly under peoples’ radar. they did it to improve.

    The Lakers however lost their superstar. and signed a bunch of guys for the minimum. People are saying they may miss the playoffs. But with a healthy gasol and nash, kobe still playing well (cmon, he’s not gonna just forget how to shoot), and an improved bench, they may make some noise. That’ll be a true under the radar team.

    • skrutz says:

      I think the Lakers will perform as expected: Poorly, with Kobe being the only real thing keeping them afloat (if he returns half-decent). They made some off-season moves, but out of desperation.

    • manie says:

      sorry but I don’t see the Lakers winning 50 games. Kobe will have all the excuses to take 30 shots a night and that never helped the Lakers. Kobe will have a monster season and maybe get the scoring title but Lakers will fall

    • yoloo says:

      I agree, and they have some guys that are playing for contracts, wich will up their effort, and it wont suprise me if Nick Young has a breakout year.

  30. Oakley34BLAM says:

    Cleveland, Detroit, and Washington all look poised to maybe crash the East playoff party (although I perennially overlook the Hawks), but the team I am looking to (hoping for) maybe surprise the league is the Raptors. They’ve got a very solid and young starting five (tho the bench is starting to look thin with the departure of Alan Anderson) and a dynamic pairing in Gay and Derozan. If Valancuinas finally breaks out as I suspect he may then this all comes down to how well Lowry does this season. I thought he was ready for a great season last year (so I may get burned again) but I really do think he has a great chance with all the offensive weapons at his disposal.

  31. brady says:

    T-wolves anyone? Not saying they will make playoffs, but I think it will be close. Rubio is only going to get better and he showed last season that he could develop into an elite PG. They picked up Kevin Martin and he gives them more 3- PT shooting. The biggest thing is if Kevin Love stays healthy. Kevin is the star of this team and their fate depends on him. And Pekovic is actually somewhat underrated. He is a really good re bounder along with Love who already his a good re bounder. I really hope Shabazz Muhammad gets enough minutes. He could be special.

  32. Jimmy Buckets says:

    Pelicans anyone Jru Holiday is a star who could potentially push them into the playoffs ???? I love Josh Smith but Drummond is overrated and has yet to prove himself in the NBA as an elite piece of a playoff team. Greg Monroe is not even on the radar yet so please. Mostly still just young talent w/ josh smith. Cleveland will still miss the playoffs because all these young players still have to prove to be “elite players on a playoff team” which if Kyrie is your best player thats not happening.

    • give him a chance says:

      drummonds only had one year in the nba, how can you say he hasn’t proven himself? give him time. “with great size comes great potential”

  33. triston says:

    I also believe that people are underestimating the moves Dallas has made…By a grand scale, the backcourt aquisitions of calderone and ellis speaks volumes..

    • manie says:

      Calderon is very consistent but both point guards are a defensive liability and there is no but in Dallas protecting the paint But a health Norowisk puts any team on the winning side

      • dirk45 says:

        Kidd was a defensive mastermind in 2010/11 – no, wait. Even with Chandler they were always about team defense and helping each other. I don’t know how they will fare this season but Carlisle probably has some aces hidden somewhere in his playbook.

  34. julio mendoza says:

    i honestly think that the trailblazers would be the must surprising team with lillard and mccollum in the backcourt batum and aldridge playing at the level we all know they can and the righ amount of energy from the bench
    this would be a hell of a team
    im telling you

  35. Alex LO says:

    I wouldn’t call the Rockets a surprise team. I’d say the expectations are there for them.

  36. egg waffle junior says:

    houston rockets anyone?

  37. steppx says:

    I think washington is going to be bad. I like wall of late……and love beal, but porter is going to be a big dissapointment. Cleveland is a disaster…………Bynum wont play, and bennett is a long ways off. Brown is going to implode with this group. Golden state is a real contender but I agree about the kings. Malone is i think going to be a great coach…….and if he can get Cousins to really apply himself, they have some talent. Patterson remains underrated, McLemore certainly has potential, and isiah thomas is decent. Jimmer might get to develop……..who knows. The pistons are a disaster i fear. BJ joins josh smith in the all selfish roster. Ugh. And slow foot Monroe is being exposed on defense. But my real pick is Portland. Aldridge and lopez and batum is a pretty good front line to compliment lillard and Mathews and McCollum. They will score………and if meyers leonard can improve….this might be the real sleeper.

    • manie says:

      I think Cleveland were a much better team than their record. I think this year they will find more ways to win as a team and they will win allot of close games

  38. George Isaac says:

    Houston Rockets. I think now that Dwight is in Houston, he will be the center of attention in offense. And defensively he will do what he does best. Having Harden and Parson around him in addition to a smart PG like Lin, the Houston rockets will make some noise.