NBA mid-season shifts surprising fans

Coming into the 2018-2019 NBA season, several teams were thought to have already solidified themselves as playoff contenders; however, the league is always full of surprises and this year has been a brief reminder for the fans. Several teams that fans believed would be in the playoff race have dropped out, replaced by teams everyone had doubted.

One team, who was only one win away from reaching the NBA Finals last season, the Houston Rockets, was thought to be a legitimate contender in the Western Conference, but the Rockets had a rough start this year with a record of 11-14, currently fourteenth in the Western Conference standings.

Over the summer, Houston lost two of its best defenders in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, via free agency. The Rockets then signed Carmelo Anthony.  Many critics did not believe the Rockets would improve with Anthony.

“This is a really, really bad idea. It was a pretty bad idea when rumored last summer, and everything we’ve learned about the Rockets and Melo in the past year has only fortified those beliefs,” Tom Ziller, a journalist from SB Nation, a sports blog, stated.

The critics proved to be correct as Anthony would only play ten games for the Rockets before being sidelined.

Another unexpected situation unfolded as the starless Los Angeles Clippers have been a legitimate force in the West.

Last season, the Los Angeles Clippers seemed to be entering a “rebuild” phase when they traded away Blake Griffin and let DeAndre Jordan walk in free agency. They also traded away Chris Paul in the previous season.

The “new look” Clippers boasted a roster with no “star level” talent. Even with a roster that fans viewed as weak, the Clippers impressed and look to be a contender in the Western Conference and currently sit at fourth, with a 16-9 record.

Another exciting surprise for NBA fans, especially Dallas Mavericks fans, was the speedy rise of rookie phenom Luka Dončić. Drafted third overall in the 2018 draft,Dončić has proven to be a top-tier rookie who can run the offense for the Mavericks. The rookie is averaging 18.2 points per game on 43.6% shooting along with 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

“It’s pretty clear that he’s got a flair for the moment. He’s unafraid. You don’t see that every day,” Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle stated about the rookie.

With over half of the season still remaining, there is still potential for lots of change in the playoff picture, as many injuries still linger in the league and there is also time for roster change, as the NBA trade deadline is February 8, 2019 and struggling teams may be looking to make team-altering trades.