With all teams playing at least 30 games at this point of the 18-19 season, we take a look at some of the teams that have fallen short of preseason expectations, and what teams have shot above and beyond what was expected of them heading into this year.
Western Conference Disappointment : Utah Jazz (15-17)
After finishing 5th in the Western Conference in the 2017-18 season, a young Utah Jazz team that was led by high flying Donovan Mitchell, consistent Rudy Gobert, and stout defense, had high expectations coming into a season full of storylines out of the West. Coming into this season, Gobert had just collected a Defensive Player of the year trophy, Donovan Mitchell was arguably the hottest prospect in the league, and coach Quin Snyder had instilled a defense-first identity to the Jazz.
Despite the momentum coming into the season, Utah has started bland, posting a 15-17 record, sitting second-bottom to last place in the Western Conference.with only the Phoenix Suns having more losses. In their latest game, the Jazz were able to get a win over the Golden State Warriors, possibly sparking a change in the direction of the season.
Eastern Conference Disappointment : Washington Wizards (12-20)
After adding Dwight Howard in late 2018, the expectations for the Wizards have been higher than ever, with an experienced coach in Scott Brooks calling the shots for a peaking and highly talented roster. Howard has missed the last 3 weeks of action, and the Beal/Wall combo has been unable to stack any kind of significant numbers in the win column. The Eastern Conference has improved vastly from a year ago, a season in which the Wizards easily qualified for the playoffs, but never posed a threat in advancing past their own conference. It seems as if the front office has noticed the sub-par performance up to this point, as they’ve officially acquired Trevor Ariza via trade with the Phoenix Suns.
Biggest Surprise : Denver Nuggets
It was no surprise that the Nuggets were going to be good this season, but no one expected Denver to have the lead of the Western Conference at this point of the season. Young talents Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have been exponentially productive, with Jokic leading the team in scoring, assists, rebounds, and steals. Murray is a reliable 17 points a night, while being able to handle the ball and dictate pace of play. Defensive vets like Paul Millsap add a physical presence that is a different dynamic in a Western Conference that is becoming more and more run-and-gun style. Denver has looked strong so far, especially at home. It seems that this team is no flook, and will be within the top 3 in the tight Western Conference come the end of the season.