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Biggest surprise at the halfway point of the season?
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Steve Aschburner: So many nominees, so hard to choose. I’ve been surprised by the Celtics’ resiliency in not just surviving but thriving after the Gordon Hayward injury, by Toronto’s offensive overhaul, and by the Bulls’ anti-tanking performances and solid play by the guys they got back in the Jimmy Butler trade. I’m surprised Houston had such little trouble meshing All-Stars and that Oklahoma City did. I’m surprised neither the Wizards nor the Bucks has demonstrated proper urgency for their ambitions. It surprises me that the Lakers have let this Big Baller nonsense fester so deep into the season, and that current players and referees think the tension between their groups is some sort of millennial problem, rather than the natural order that has ebbed and flowed across decades. But my No. 1 surprise based on 2017-18’s first half is how quickly and effectively Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis shut up the wailers about the OKC-Indiana deal built around that other guy.
Shaun Powell: I'm surprised how well the Pacers and Bulls emerged -- victorious, maybe? -- from losing franchise players in offseason deals. Notice how you're not hearing anyone slam the Bulls for what they received for Jimmy Butler and especially the Pacers for their Paul George haul. All the noise is gone, now that both teams have good young (and cheaper) replacements that are already triggering a turnaround
John Schuhmann: Honorable mention goes to the Pacers, who didn't look playoff team after trading Paul George. But the biggest surprise to me this season is that Tyreke Evans has been the Grizzlies' best player. Evans has put up good numbers on bad teams before, but this has been quite a comeback season for him after playing just 65 games over the last two years. With the highest usage rate of his career, he has scored much more efficiently than he ever has, and (as a guy who had an awful shooting form prior to this season) has been one of the league's best 3-point shooters off the dribble. He's been starting with Mike Conley out, but now looks like a guy that good teams will see as a very useful sixth man going forward.
Sekou Smith: The Boston Celtics sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings with a cushion is easily the biggest surprise for me.It's not that I am shocked that Brad Steven has his team playing at a high level, that was a given. Doing it after losing Gordon Hayward jut five minutes and 15 seconds into the very first game of the season, is what is really shocking. I was prepared to remove the Celtics from my list of challengers. It made sense, in the moment. But not in the minutes, days and weeks since then. Stevens continues to push all the right buttons with players up and down the roster. Cleveland's issues and the fact that playoff fatigue might finally be starting to take a toll on LeBron James and his crew, makes me believe that the Celtics really could squash plans for Warrior-Cavaliers part IV in The Finals.