Around the Hill: Who Will Be the Surprise NBA Team This Year?

Jake Rosenstein, Maroon-News Staff

As the NBA season comes every November, so do surprise title contenders. Last season it was Mike Budenholzer’s Hawks, working their way into the number one seed in the East before being knocked out by the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Championship. The question at hand is: who will be this years surprise contender? I believe that it will be the New Orleans Pelicans.

A poll around the league showed that a majority of the team’s owners would, if given the choice, build a franchise around  the Pelican’s Anthony Davis. The star forward is entering his fourth season in the NBA and is already widely regarded as one of the best in the game. However, as Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks have proven, one man does not make a championship team. Davis took his Pelicans to the playoffs last year as the eighth seed in a strong West and is poised to do better this season, but he didn’t do it alone. He has a star back court in Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday, a former all star with the 76ers. Omer Asik provides a strong defensive presence in the frontcourt. The Pelicans also have excellent depth in Tyreke Evans and Ryan Andersen. With their overall balance coupled with the star power of Anthony Davis, the Pelicans are a force to be reckoned with. Watch out for the hard-nosed Pelicans to make a deep playoff run in the highly competitive western conference.

Ian Beck, Maroon-News Staff

Looking ahead to the 2015-16 NBA season, there is going to be one team that is going to make heads turn: the L.A. Lakers. While it may be tough for the young squad to get through the tough Western Conference, they have a team that can make some noise. Kobe Bryant, coming off a disappointing year taken away due to a tear in his rotator cuff, is looking to add one more ring to match Jordan and cement his legacy. This is definitely not out of the question. But the 37 year-old veteran will not do it alone. Julius Randle showed lots of promise at Kentucky averaging 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. If he works well with key acquisition Roy Hibbert, they could be a dominant force down low. Another key acquisition was Lou Williams, a solid shooting guard who could provide solid off-the-bench scoring. The key for the Lakers will be the 2015 number 2 overall pick: D’Angelo Russell. At Ohio State, Russell showed what great intelligence, ball skills and length can do. Given his tools, he could bring all of the pieces the Lakers have together and create a real contender in the West. While this team has a lot of talent, there are many issues that could arise. For one, they have no experience playing alongside each other, and given Kobe’s intense nature, the rookies may crumble under his harshness. Nonetheless they have the pieces, and I believe that Byron Scott and Kobe can get their team to the playoffs this year.

Conor Oliver, Maroon-News Staff

The NBA season is finally underway, and the contenders from previous years are back. The Cleveland Cavaliers, seeing the return of a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, look to take another shot at a Championship. Half of the Western Conference teams look like contenders, led by the dominate Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. The heavyweights are clear, promising to dominate the league this season.

Will there be any surprises, any teams able to spoil the season of a true contender? Right now, in the West, there isn’t just the talent at the top – many of the lower tier teams, from the Kings to the Pelicans, promise a rapid ascension in the next few years with their promising young rosters. This year looks like the year the Pelicans could finally break out. Last year, as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the Pelicans had the pleasure of being swept by the Warriors in the first round. With the continued growth of Anthony Davis, that doesn’t look likely to happen again. At only 22 years old, Davis already looks like one of the best players in the league. It seems a superstar talent like Davis will give the Pelicans an edge this season as they compete for a higher seed in the playoffs. Jrue Holiday, Gordon Hayward and Tyreke Evans all look like serviceable and even promising teammates for Davis. In the competitive Western Conference, the New Orleans Pelicans could be poised for a breakout season, throwing their hat into the ring as a top team.