We are only halfway through the 2022/23 season and many teams have shown tremendous improvement in comparison to last tournament’s stats. Can you believe the Indiana Pacers are only 2 wins away from reaching the same amount of victories they conquered last year?
So much can happen one season apart. Not only trades for players or even coaches are important, but also many changes deep within the franchise’s organization can occur, just like back when entrepreneur Joseph Tsai bought the Nets back in 2019. You can’t go on to say the Brooklyn side have been outstanding ever since, but at least they’ve qualified for the Playoffs every time.
And disappointments… well, we sure got a lot of those this year too. For example, the Hornets at least aspired to compete for the Playoffs last season, but nowadays they don’t even represent a challenge as they sit last in the Eastern Conference standings, having already lost 32 times this championship. Or what about the Toronto Raptors who currently have a 19-23 record standing 11th in the East?
At Basketball Insiders, we decided to rank the teams who have shown the most improvement this season:
7. Los Angeles Clippers
Probably one of the least impressive improvements of the season, but still worthy to mention, the Clippers didn’t make last season’s Playoffs by the smallest of margins, finishing 9th in the West Conference last year. This time around, they are steady in the race for post-season with a 22-21 track in 6th place.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
Also missing out of last year’s playoffs, the Cavs were one of 2022 biggest dissapointments. Not too long ago, they were a dominating team in the NBA, winning the 2016 Championship. But ever since, 2018 was the last year they qualified for Playoffs. After that it’s only gone downhill, ranking 28th in 2019, 29th in 2020 and 27th of the entire league in 2021. This season things are finally looking up and the sun is reaching basketball courts in Cleveland once again. They are recording 27 wins in 43 games so far, standing in 4th place in the West. This just might be the year we see the Cavs again in the Finals!
5. New York Knicks
I think it’s finally safe to say the Knicks are improving. Although they’ve never really been the same team since the Patrick Ewing era, players like Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and veteran Derrick Rose are building a new playing culture for the club. They are proving to be a true team, ever since their best player RJ Barret got injured, a young Immanuel Quickley took his place in the starting lineup, and the squad might just be playing better than before. The New York side finished 11th after the last regular season, but currently stand tall 5th (23-19) in the Eastern Conference.
4. New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans is definitely one of the best surprises of the season so far. They’ve been a regular, good enough team in the past years, usually in line to fight for Playoff positions, just as they did last year. The Pelicans ranked 8th after 2021/22 regular season, but lost 4-2 against the Suns in the first round of the Conference’s Finals. This year they are something else. Just this past December, they won 10 games! It came as no surprise that chief Willie Green won Best Coach of the Month Award. New Orleans stand high up the western table as the Conference’s third best (25-17).
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 3, 2023
3. Denver Nuggets
What to say about these Denver Nuggets? The league’s second best team so far seem to be the current title contenders next to the Boston Celtics. Problem is, history matters, and its’ weight is undeniable. Historically, Denver have never won an NBA Championship, but in the hands of oh powerful Nikola Jokić everything is possible. The 2-time MVP winner is shining bright as ever, averaging 24.9 points, 11 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game, he is unstoppable. They’ve won their last 4 games against strong teams like the Suns, Cavs and both LA franchises. Last year they positioned in the Conference’s sixth spot, and now rest atop the West with a 28-13 track.
2. Indiana Pacers
Although Indiana have been one of the greatest NBA disappointments in recent years, their improvement this season is unquestionable. Yes, they don’t seem to be title contenders like in the past, but there is no way denying the Pacers appear to have what it takes to finally return to the Playoffs this tournament. There’s just no way around it, after 2022’s regular season they ranked 13th in the East, and 26th out of the whole NBA league. This championship is only halfway, but inspired in their point guard star Tyrese Haliburton (20.2 points, 4 rebounds and 10.2 assists per game) there are currently in Playoff territory at the Conference’s 7th place.
1. Sacramento Kings
No doubt, the biggest surprise yet. The Kings are certainly shutting mouths closed this season, as no one really expected much out of them after a sad performance last time around. Their past regular season ended in the league’s 24th position having only conquered the court 30 times in total. Today, they are living a true offensive explosion, ranking in the top 5 offenses this season, with point guard De’Aaron Fox averaging 23.8 points per game, and of course impossible to ignore one of the league’s best center Domantas Sabonis’s stats so far ( 18.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists per game). Sacramento lie comfortable in 5th place in the West so far, with 22 wins to their tally this championship.