One month into the 2021-22 NBA season, there's been no shortage of surprises. The Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets are top-five teams in the Eastern Conference, while the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks currently find themselves outside of the playoff picture.
While it's still very early, we asked our BasketballNews.com writers:
Which NBA team is better than its record currently indicates?
Alex Kennedy: The Milwaukee Bucks are the obvious answer since the defending champs currently sit at 10th in the East with an 8-8 record. Injuries are largely to blame for Milwaukee’s early struggles; several Bucks have missed multiple games including Khris Middleton (COVID-19), Jrue Holiday (ankle), Bobby Portis (hamstring), Brook Lopez (back), Donte DiVincenzo (ankle) and Rodney Hood (foot). Now that Milwaukee is healthy, I’m confident that they’ll climb back up the standings. I think the Toronto Raptors are better than their 8-9 record too. They were without their best player, Pascal Siakam, for the first few weeks of the season as he recovered from shoulder surgery. Now, he’s back and beginning to look like himself again. I like Toronto’s balanced attack, which features five players who average at least 16.0 points: OG Anunoby (20.1), Fred VanVleet (19.4), Siakam (17.0), Scottie Barnes (16.3) and Gary Trent Jr. (16.1). Don’t be surprised if they are able to right this ship and make the playoffs.
Nekias Duncan: The Bucks are the easy one. It feels like their Big Three hasn't played since opening night. As they get healthier, they'll look like the title contenders that they are.
Spencer Davies: After the thrashing they put on the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday and their beatdown in Brooklyn on opening night, the Milwaukee Bucks have to be the answer. We can’t just forget about Giannis Antetokounmpo because of this team’s difficult, injury-riddled stretch; he’s certainly given us every reason not to. Khris Middleton just got back on the court after missing eight games in the NBA’s health-and-safety protocols, Jrue Holiday missed the first two weeks of the season essentially with a bum ankle and Brook Lopez hasn’t suited up for a whole month in dealing with a bad back. Oh, and Donte DiVincenzo is still on the mend recovering from ankle surgery. These are explanations more than excuses, so don’t be surprised if the Bucks go on a huge midseason run when the band gets back together.
Moke Hamilton: There are a few teams here that you could go with, and Milwaukee is probably most obvious. I’d probably take Atlanta, though. These guys are a solid ball club, but their 0-4 Western road trip really sank them in the standings. Although they’ll be without De’Andre Hunter for the foreseeable future, I think they’ll end up battling for a top-four seed in the conference.
Jesse Blancarte: The Los Angeles Lakers are currently 8-9 and had been struggling with LeBron James sidelined. The roster was almost completely revamped this offseason and the team is still figuring out its rotations and how to play cohesively. Miscommunication and too much isolation on offense have been a problem, which may be smoothed over as we get deeper into the season and now that LeBron is back on the court.