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Surprise Teams in the Eastern Conference

Surprise Teams in the Eastern Conference

Almost a quarter of the way through the NBA season, there’s been many surprise teams in both conferences that have shocked fans. This week, TGH will take a look into surprising teams from the Eastern and Western conferences, why these teams have been so successful and what to look from them going forward.

Over the last decade, the Eastern Conference has had a reputation to have less competition than the West. The 2020-21 season has finally changed that. There have been teams that have cemented themselves as contender’s year in and year out. This year is it a little different.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Being from Northeast Ohio, slipping the Cavs into this list was a must (things could change quickly so enjoy their success while it lasts Cavs fans).

Cleveland has been off to a strong start so far, compiling a record of 8-8. Perhaps the biggest reason for this team’s success is due to the play of Collin Sexton. Sexton’s biggest game of the season came last week when the Cavs beat the Brooklyn Nets in double overtime.

Surprise Teams in the Eastern Conference
Photo Courtesy of

The third year point guard from Alabama has been a leader for this team; not surprising knowing his past experiences in college and high school.

For Cleveland to continue their success down the road, they’ll have to rely on the stellar play of Sexton and their big man rotation, which could be one of the best in the league.

New York Knicks

The Knicks have been known to be the laughingstock of the NBA since their last winning season in 2012-13. Ever since, it’s been losing season after another, with the inability to draft great collegiate talent.

Surprise Teams in the Eastern Conference
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But the narrative for New York might be changing this year. One of the most underrated signings of the offseason was first year Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau built up his resumé as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 2010 to 2015.  It’s still unknown if Thibodeau is a small piece to help fix the chaos that is the New York Knicks organization, but there’s promise.

Finally, the play of Julius Randle has elevated this year in his second season with New York. He’s leading the team in points (22.7), rebounds (11.3) and assists (6.1). Don’t be surprised if he makes his first all-star appearance this year, if he keeps up this play.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers have proven to be a consistently solid team in the East over the last few seasons. But you could be asking: if they’re always a top team, why are they on the “surprise teams” list?

Well, the answers don’t come as simple as the scenarios in Cleveland or New York, where they were bad teams and have started to appear on the radar. You’d have to dive deeper to see why Philly is a surprise this year.

Surprise Teams in the Eastern Conference
Courtesy of Eric Hartline/ USA TODAY Sports

In the NBA Bubble last year, the 76ers were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics. They then fired their longtime head coach Brett Brown. The abilities of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were questioned.

But then Doc Rivers swooped in to take the vacant head coaching job, off-season signings of Danny Green, Seth Curry and Dwight Howard were important for the bench, and Joel Embiid is now playing like the player we all thought he could be.

The result: the Philadelphia 76ers are atop the Eastern Conference standings, and they could finally change the narrative of a great regular season team and easy playoff bounce to Finals contender.

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