The NBA can sometimes be easy to predict, as the parity between teams and players, at least over the past five or so years, has been largely been poor. We had the Cavs and Warriors in four straight NBA Finals and LeBron in eight straight finals before the Raptors took down Golden State last season.
However, this year is much different with the balance of power shifting thanks to the wild summer of free agency and trades, so let's take a look at a few storylines that caught us by surprise, even though we probably should've saw them coming.
6. Explosion of Second-Year Stars
While NBA fans expected the super sophomores to be great, nobody expected them to be this incredible. Luka Doncic has the Mavericks in prime playoff position and is averaging of 29 points, 9.7 rebounds and 9 assists per game. On the other hand, Trae Young is averaging 28.9 points and 8.4 assists per contest and has improved considerably with his efficiency. The icing on the cake? Neither is older than 21.
5. Dwight Howard's Comeback
Dwight Howard has had issues with every team he has been a part of, and after every season claims he has "figured it out," only to watch the same narrative play out again. But now it seems as though Howard has actually put the pieces together, averaging 7.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for the Lakers ... without any drama.
4. OKC Thunder’s Competitiveness
With an awkward mix of young talent and aging veterans, the Thunder were projected to be in the basement of the Western Conference. However, with the trio of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder in the backcourt coupled with the work of underrated big man Steven Adams, the Thunder are six games over .500 and in the playoff hunt.
3. Carmelo is Back!
Wow. Who would have guessed that not only is Melo back in the NBA, but is actually playing some prodcutive and meaningful basketball? Carmelo is averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds while shooting nearly 40% from 3-point land. It's been a while, but the former Nuggets and Knicks star has carved out a role for himself following failed stints with the Thunder and Rockets.
2. Spurs Not Being a Playoff Team
LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan have been on a tear recently, however, this hasn't been enough to propel San Antonio back into the playoff picture yet. This may be the first Spurs team to not make the postseason since the 1996-1997 campaign. However, with half the NBA season remaining, don't count out the Spurs to make an incredible comeback despite their surprising first-half stumbles.
1. Heat Are the Real Deal
The Miami Heat sport a surprisingly stellar record of 27-12, good for third in the Eastern Conference. The Heat are led by superstar Jimmy Butler, who is averaging an outstanding 20.7 points, 7 rebounds and 6.5 assists per night. The Heat's young core of Bam Adebayo, Justice Winslow, Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro has been equally as impressive. Adebayo has led the youth movement with 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists, which has been a revelation for head coach Erik Spoelstra.