NBA stock watch: Can Celtics, Jazz and Rockets turn around their seasons?
NBA stock watch: Can Celtics, Jazz and Rockets turn around their seasons?
There have been plenty of surprises and disappointments to start the 2018-19 NBA season, so let's take stock of them through a quarter of the campaign.
We're about a quarter of the way through the 2018-19 NBA season, and as always, there have been a fair share of surprises and disappointments. While the Toronto Raptors sitting atop the Eastern Conference is no big shock, it would be hard to find anybody who had the Los Angeles Clippers on top of the cutthroat Western Conference at this point. There have been other pleasant surprises in the form of up-and-coming young teams, while several supposed contenders have faltered in the early going, with some in epic fashion. Let's take a look at some of these teams and take a stab at whether these quarter-season trends will hold. [All win totals are from the Westgate LV SuperBook](https://www.betchicago.com/nba-title-odds-win-totals-bulls-2018) from right before the start of the regular season, and all stats are from [NBA.com.](https://stats.nba.com/teams/advanced/?sort=W&dir=-1) ## Surprises ### Sacramento Kings __Westgate win total: 26__ __Current record: 10-10__ The Kings were projected to be the second-worst team in the NBA, but they've managed a .500 record after 20 games and currently hold the No. 8 seed in the West. Sacramento is playing a fast and fun style of basketball (second in pace) led by second-year point guard De'Aaron Fox. Backcourt mate Buddy Hield is enjoying a career season and shooting over 45 percent on 3-pointers, and there's a lot of other young talent on this roster. This group is likely at least a year away from making real noise, though. The Kings are statistically mediocre on both ends of the floor and are still so young, which makes them ripe for a fade as the season goes on. Still, while I'm selling them keeping this up, they should still blow past their projected win total. Just don't be dumb and fire Dave Joerger. ### Orlando Magic __Westgate win total: 30.5__ __Current record: 10-11__ Like the long-suffering Kings, the Magic have been bad for years and were expected to be bad again. Also like the Kings, the Magic have surprised early on and hold the No. 8 seed in their conference. Nikola Vucevic is playing the best basketball of his life as part of a frontcourt that has a ton of young talent. Orlando's offense still isn't any good thanks to below-average point guard play, and the defense has been nothing special either. The Magic rank 23rd in net rating, which is lower than Sacramento. However, I'm lukewarmly buying Orlando's ability to stick close to .500 and fight for a playoff spot, simply because the lower half of the East is so weak. ### Memphis Grizzlies __Westgate win total: 33.5__ __Current record: 12-8__ The Grizzlies were a disaster last season, winning just 22 games as part of an injury-ravaged campaign that also saw the firing of head coach David Fizdale midseason. Memphis has brought back Grit 'n' Grind under J.B. Bickerstaff, though, with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley making waves again. Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. has also been a stud when he hasn't been fouling everybody, helping boster a fifth-ranked defense. While Gasol and Conley are stalwarts of this franchise, will this formula hold up in the tough West over the course of a long season? There's concern about Gasol and Conley breaking down and the lack of elite wing options. The Grizzlies are going to compete and stick around, but I'm not totally sold on them as a surefire playoff team. ### Los Angeles Clippers __Westgate win total: 37.5__ __Current record: 13-6__ The Clippers were a nice story last season when they nearly made the playoffs with patchwork lineups after the Blake Griffin trade. The Lob City era is officially a thing of the past, but LA is having a ton of success with a fun, hard-working roster led by Tobias Harris. The Clippers boast the sixth-best offense thanks in part to their stellar shooting and a ton of free throws. LA isn't going to get the No. 1 seed in the West, but I'm buying these guys as a playoff team. Harris has become a legit stud, while Lou Williams remains as crafty and as clutch as ever. Danilo Gallinari staying healthy is a question mark, but there's a lot of depth and hunger on this squad. Montrezl Harrell may embody that hunger more than anybody else. ## Disappointments ### Boston Celtics __Westgate win total: 59.5__ __Current record: 11-10__ I thought the Celtics were going to win over 60 games this season, and now to get to 60 they'd have to go 49-12 the rest of the way. Some chemistry issues were to be expected with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward coming back, but Boston having the 25th-ranked offense is a shocker. Hayward has struggled and is now coming off the bench, while Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have been bad. This being said, there's just way too much talent here for this not to come around. The Celtics may not be the clear front-runner many expected them to be, but they should be a force to be reckoned once the postseason rolls around. ### Houston Rockets __Westgate win total: 57__ __Current record: 9-10__ The Rockets were bound to regress after a 65-win campaign, but they're already more than halfway to their loss total from last season. Injuries, a Chris Paul suspension and a disastrous Carmelo Anthony experience (among other poor offseason moves) have all contributed to this rocky start. Houston's offense has crawled back into the top 10 on the back of James Harden's heroics, and this team should remain elite offensively if Harden and CP3 are healthy. The defense has taken a nosedive, though, and it's unclear if it can get back to the elite levels of last season. The Rockets will make tweaks to the roster and should make the playoffs, but I'm hesitant to buy a massive turnaround to legit title contender status. ### Utah Jazz __Westgate win total: 50__ __Current record: 9-12__ The Jazz were a trendy pick to challenge the Golden State Warriors in the West, but things haven't gone as planned. Donovan Mitchell is going through something of a sophomore slump, leading to a woeful 27th-ranked offense. With Mitchell struggling and also dealing with injuries, Utah doesn't have another high-level creator to keep the offense going, and the defense has taken a major step back. The Jazz should improve, especially with their defense (13th) and 3-point shooting (29th in 3P%), but I'm buying more into this slow start than Houston's. There's no reason to hit the panic button yet given Utah struggled to start last season before going on a tear, but there should be some cause for concern. Getting to 50 wins feels like a long shot at this point. ### Washington Wizards __Westgate win total: 46__ __Current record: 8-12__ While the Wizards are a talented bunch, they've also been a dysfunctional one that has never actually won anything. So who could have guessed that things would go horribly wrong to start this season after adding Dwight Howard, Austin Rivers and Jeff Green in the offseason? A Dwight Howard butt injury, horrible defense and a bunch of losses were the name of the game at the outset, and then came all the reports of locker room drama and practice squabbles. Washington has actually turned things around to get to 8-12, but this group is a ticking time bomb. The calls to blow it up have already gone out, and a shakeup is warranted. The Wizards can hang around in the playoff race because of the weak lower half of the bracket, but they're not winning anything.2018-11-28T13:45:43.202Z2018-11-28T06:00-07:00