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Most Improved NBA Teams
With no NBA games until next Thursday because of the All-Star Break, it’s time to analyze the most improved teams thus far this season:
1. ATLANTA HAWKS
2013-2014 NBA Season: 38-44 (0.463)
2014-2015 NBA Season: 43-11 (0.796)
What else can I say about the Atlanta Hawks? The fact that they’ve already surpassed last season’s number of total wins with almost 30 games yet to be played pretty much speaks for itself. They’re just having an outstanding season. They’re leading the Eastern Conference by a wide margin and they’re doing so with amazing team basketball, without a true go-to guy (as D-Wade said in the All-Star broadcast, they’ve got 5 go-to guys), and getting contribution from each and every player that wears the Hawks uniform. We’ve even been able to see that Spurs’ trademark where every single player comes out ready to play and has an impact on the game. We’ve seen how Dennis Schroder’s improved, how Mike Scott and Kent Bazemore provide a spark off the bench, Sefolosha makes an impact defensively, Pero Antic has had several games where he’s certainly helped them (i.e. key points in a close game against the Grizzlies at Phillips Arena), and even Shelvin Mack had a couple of great games with limited minutes. We’ll see if the Hawks can keep it going as we move along and reach the Playoffs, but so far their season’s just been unbelievable with one of the most impressive winning streaks in the history of NBA basketball at 19 in a row (5th longest).
2. MILWAUKEE BUCKS
2013-2014 NBA Season: 15-67 (0.183)
2014-2015 NBA Season: 30-23 (0.566)
To be honest, I would never have expected the Bucks could be where they’re at right now. With 7 games over .500 and a playoff spot almost secured with 30 games remaining, they’ve just showed an amazing improvement in this 2014-2015 NBA Season. I believe Jason Kidd deserves a lot of credit for the great job he’s done since he took over the Milwaukee Bucks. Not only has he built a competitive team but he’s also getting the best out of several players who have great talent but have always lacked focus or commitment like O.J. Mayo or Jerryd Bayless. And let’s not forget they lost the likely ROY (main candidate alongside Wiggins) in Jabari Parker for the remainder of the season. Finally, although the whole team is playing great basketball, there are a couple of guys who have stepped up and deserve a lot of credit for leading the team to a great season thus far in Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
3. TORONTO RAPTORS
2013-2014 NBA Season: 48-34 (0.585)
2014-2015 NBA Season: 36-17 (0.679)
The Toronto Raptors were already a good team but they’ve taken it to the next level and have become a really solid and deep team that is 2nd in the Eastern Conference only behind the amazing Hawks. Likewise, they were already a great defensive team so I do believe their major improvement has come in the offensive end of the court, where they’ve become a much better team and are now 5th in the league in points per game. The All-Star starter Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are obviously their main players but the acquisition of an instant-offense type of a player in Lou Williams has really helped them in that regard providing a spark off the bench alongside Vasquez, Patterson and James Johnson (although it’s now Terrence Ross the one who comes off the bench). The question is: will they be able to keep that 2nd seed and get deep into the postseason? We shall see, but they’re well coached and have a really consistent and deep team, so I believe they’ll be hard to beat in the Playoffs.
4. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
2013-2014 NBA Season: 51-31 (0.622)
2014-2015 NBA Season: 42-9 (0.824)
The Golden State Warriors are just dominating the Western Conference and have it all to become a real contender. With the best backcourt in the entire NBA and great depth (it’s such a luxury to have a couple of former All-stars coming off the bench in Iguodala and David Lee), they just have all the pieces to be able to fight for the championship. They’re leading the league in points per game, assists and field goal percentage, and Steve Kerr seems to have found the balance between the offensive and defensive end of the court. To sum up, this has been an amazing season for them thus far, with the Splash Brothers putting on a show night in and night out (some unbelievable performances like Klay Thompson’s All-time NBA record for most point in a quarter with 37), and they’ve got a pretty good shot at clinching the NBA’s best Regular Season record, securing home court advantage for the entire postseason.
5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
2013-2014 NBA Season: 50-32 (0.610)
2014-2015 NBA Season: 39-14 (0.736)
They’re one of the best defensive teams in the entire NBA, and they’ve improved their offense this year in a way that I believe allows them to compete for the championship. They had already found the offensive rhythm to start this season off, but the acquisition of Jeff Green just gets them to another level. He provides the athleticism and offensive fire power they lacked in the small forward spot and we’re starting to see the results (they’re 13-3 since Jeff Green came over from Boston). The Grizzlies are a veteran, solid, grit-and-grind kind of a team with a better bench than most people think, so if their key players can stay healthy (they’re one of the best teams record-wise in the last 3-4 seasons when that happens) and Marc Gasol can keep his offensive explosion going we’re talking here about a real championship contender, and they’ve got a pretty good chance of clinching one of the top 2 spots in the loaded Western Conference and secure home court advantage at least until the Conference Finals.
6. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
2013-2014 NBA Season: 34-48 (0.415)
2014-2015 NBA Season: 27-26 (0.509)
Obviously, when you look at the Pelican’s improvement, you have to talk about Anthony Davis. What an unbelievable season he’s having! He’s “just” in the Top 10 in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. I do believe they would be in a playoff spot right now if it wasn’t for those minor injuries he’s had throughout the entire season. Anyway, you also have to give credit to the coaching staff and the team because they’ve found their way through multiple injuries (Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon…) and are still within striking distance. We’re also starting to see what Tyreke Evans showed in his rookie season, so if they can stay healthy and AD is back on the court soon, the Pelicans will certainly fight for the 8th and final playoff spot until the very end of the Regular Season (although there’s an extremely dangerous Thunder team bouncing back).
I could also have included the Cavs in this list because their record has certainly improved this season, but I believe this should be way better looking at the roster they’ve got.