With the NBA offseason winding down, some clear championship favorites have emerged, and superstar talent is moving all around. However, every year there are teams under the radar that always perform way better than the expectations laid out for them. Sleepers always seem to come out of nowhere, but for now we will be looking at a pair of teams I think can surprise us this coming season.
1- New Orleans Pelicans
In the aftermath of losing a superstar player in Anthony Davis, it seems like the Pels should be back at square one. However, looking at their roster, it has the chance to be pretty solid this season. Acquiring Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart in return for Davis is pretty solid, and winning the lottery to draft Zion Williamson will definitely skyrocket the potential in New Orleans. Jrue Holiday is obviously still a very good player, and one of the better defenders in the league. The big key to success is if the young guys can play together and work as a team in the ultimate team game. If Ball, Hart, Ingram, and Williamson keep developing and play as a unit together, this team has a chance to make some unexpected noise. The addition of two veteran players in JJ Redick and Derrick Favors, can also not only help the team win games, but help the younger guys mature and grow. With the strong core they have put together, the New Orleans Pelicans have the potential to get into the playoffs, and maybe pull off an upset on a more talented team.
2- Atlanta Hawks
After losing all of the pieces to what was a very good team, the Hawks have turned the ship around and look like they are headed in the right direction for several years to come. Trae Young broke out as the player Hawks fans were hoping he would become, and if John Collins keeps getting better and playing at a high level, then that duo can make something pretty special. Atlanta had two top ten picks that can help the team get better right away. If De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish play well in their rookie years, then this team can leave their expectations in the dirt. The level of play in Atlanta seems like it’s taking a leap, and a very solid core can help them win more games than a lot of people think. Kevin Huerter can become a good scorer in this league if he keeps developing, and DeAndre’ Bembry is emerging as a pretty good defender. With a good group of young guys that will still be getting better, Atlanta has the chance to make the postseason, and cause some problems for teams at the top of the east.
The real key to young teams like the Pelicans and Hawks doing well is how big of a leap players take in a year. If stars emerge from out of nowhere like they have in the past, then maybe we will never be able to predict the teams that play better than expected. However, basketball is a team game, and we have seen that it takes more than just one guy to win. While the young and promising players get better, they will need to be able to play together, or else they have no chance to succeed. In conclusion, if the Pelicans and Hawks keep to improve, and play together as a team, they can do big things this year.