It has been an exciting NBA season so far, but there won't be many surprised to see Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder topping the Eastern and Western Conferences as we near the halfway point in the 86 game season.
But there have been surprises - Here's where...
New York Knicks (2nd in East)
The Knicks were written off before the season; they let go of overnight sensation Jeremy Lin, and their acquisitions gave them the highest average-aged squad in the NBA. They have put the doubters firmly in their place by having a superb season so far, with their .658 record only second to the Heat's in the East. For a team which only sneaked into last year's playoffs, it's not a question of if, it's a matter of how high. Can they avoid injuries and keep their form? Can Carmelo Anthony keep playing at his current level?
LA Lakers (11th in West)
The Lakers' All-Star team had been tipped to not only win their conference but the championship too. Sadly the signing of Dwight Howard has somehow made them weaker and not stronger. Mike Brown was fired after a handful of games, but under Mike d'Antoni they look even worse. In their last loss to the Raptors they were dismal, and have a 17-23 record. If they can sneak into the top eight and a playoff spot, they will be a team many will want to avoid, but right now remarkably it appears as though that is far from a sure thing.
Charlotte Bobcats (13th in East)
Yes it's true, the Bobcats are not last. Instead last season's 'worst team in the NBA' are 13th out of 15, currently bettering both Cleveland and Washington. Last season they finished with a record of 7-59, the worst in NBA history, this campaign they have already won 10 games, and their .250 record is far better than their .106 one of last year. Small steps, but improvements nonetheless, and this has been achieved despite missing out on top draft pick Anthony Davis.
Dallas Mavericks (12th in West)
Hey Lakers fans, it could be worse. The Mavs are one place below LA's now second best team, and their fall from grace has been dramatic. They were crowned NBA champions in 2011/12, but this season already looks like a write-off. They sneaked into the playoffs last year, but we don't foresee that happening this time on current form, and maybe that'd be a good thing, allowing them to rip up the team and start again. Star man Dirk Nowitski has been inconsistent, and there is even talk the Mavs should cash in and trade him.
Golden State Warriors (5th in West)
Somebody's loss, is another's gain, and the Warriors are testifying to that right now. They have a .615 24-15 record, which would see them third best in the east. This is all despite losing star man Monta Ellis in a trade last year. There is a worry though, they are on the slide, losing five of their last seven, and they need to halt this negative momentum if they are to avoid slipping back into obscurity.
LA Clippers (2nd in West)
Perhaps this isn't shocking, the Clippers (32-9) are outstanding. But the fact they are outperforming the Spurs (32-11) is to me, a shock based on my expectations going into the year. Chris Paul is a candidate for MVP, and their signing of Jamal Crawford is up there for the very best of the season. They are undisputedly the best team in LA right now, yet before the season they barely got a look in thanks to all the buzz around the Lakers signing Howard and Nash. They have to be taken seriously as real contenders come playoff time.
Brooklyn Nets (4th in East)
Brooklyn Nets, where did they finish last season? Nowhere, they were the New Jersey Nets instead. The team relocated and had a truck load of cash to spend, but their key move was keeping hold of Deron Williams. Co-owner Jay Z will be thrilled with their start to life in the NBA. The New Jersey Nets finished 12th last year, and it was expected there would be improvement, but not this much. They stand in fourth - above a Rose-less Bulls and have won eight of their last 10.
Which team is the biggest surprise for you?
image: © davidcjones