Five NBA early-season surprises include the historically poor offense of the Lakers and the curious road turnaround of the Warriors.

Five NBA early-season surprises include the historically poor offense of the Lakers and the curious road turnaround of the Warriors
Five NBA early-season surprises include the historically poor offense of the Lakers and the curious road turnaround of the Warriors

Sports are exciting in part because they are unpredictable. We’ve scouted the teams, completed all the research, and acted out every scenario.

Even so, it happens very infrequently for a game or season to unfold exactly how we had anticipated.

It makes gamblers understandably insane, but it also explains why, in contrast to most other forms of entertainment, sporting events generate excitement.

The 2023–24 NBA season hasn’t started off any differently. Of course, some results were expected: Joel Embiid leads the league in scoring, the Nuggets and Celtics are both fantastic teams, and the Grizzlies have struggled without Ja Morant.

However, there are also events occurring that very few, if any, could have anticipated.

Here are five unexpected things that happened in the first few weeks of the 2023–24 NBA season:

1. First, Road Warriors

The Warriors didn’t win their fifth away game until January 16 of the previous season. On Nov. 6, this year’s version achieved its fifth victory away from home.

The team’s chemistry has improved from what Draymond Green called “horsesh–” last season to incredibly cohesive so far in 2023–24, and that mark tells you everything you need to know about it.

But it’s not just the kumbaya locker room that accounts for the quick turnaround. Chris Paul’s arrival has stabilized the second unit, enabling Golden State to sustain or extend leads when Stephen Curry is on the bench—something that hasn’t happened much since Kevin Durant’s departure.

When Curry’s box score was minus-5 or lower during the preceding three seasons, the Warriors had a 2-46 record. This season, they have already prevailed in one such matchup, defeating the Sacramento Kings despite Curry’s minus-6 performance.

Compare this season to the previous ones to see the striking difference in the Warriors’ offensive output when Curry was sitting.

Additionally, the defense has been crucial, giving up less than 112 points per 100 possessions away from home this season as opposed to 118.3 the previous year.

After the offseason adjustments and Green’s preseason injury, even Steve Kerr estimated that the Warriors would need about 20 games to find their footing.

However, it seems like things have clicked more quickly than anticipated.

2. Establishing Tempo

If you ask an average NBA fan which team has the best offensive unit in the league, they’ll probably say the Warriors led by Steph Curry, the Suns by Kevin Durant, or even Joel Embiid’s 76ers. Great guesses all, but they would all be off. The Indiana Pacers lead the NBA in offensive efficiency going into Friday night, by a significant margin.

They are more than three points ahead of the Nuggets in second place and far above the record-setting Sacramento Kings offense from the previous campaign, with 121.5 points per 100 possessions.

The Pacers have already scored 134, 143, and 152 points in just nine games. With 114 points per 100 possessions during the previous campaign, they placed 21st in the NBA.

Dynamic point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who averages 24 points and a league-high 11.6 assists per game while shooting 40% from three-point range, is the leader of head coach Rick Carlisle’s explosive offense.

In addition to his infectious energy, he has a thing for clutch buckets.

The scoring is split evenly with seven players averaging double figures outside of Haliburton. Indiana’s offensive assault has been nearly unstoppable thus far this season, leading the team to a 6-3 record.

3. Sluggish Pacers

Although we anticipated occasional slowdowns from the Los Angeles Lakers offense, we didn’t anticipate this level of difficulty.

Only 106.6 points per 100 possessions have they scored so far this season, which ranks them 28th out of 30 NBA teams.


Everything began with, well, their beginnings. After being outscored by 74 points in the first quarter of eight games, the 3-5 Lakers are the worst first-quarter team in NBA history. And that’s only the very beginning.

As the first NBA team to ever shoot a worse 3-point percentage and make fewer 3-pointers than their opponent in each of their first eight games, they have also established another unfavorable record for futility.

Several factors, including injuries and a low free throw percentage, were mentioned by our Sam Quinn in his analysis of the Lakers’ early struggles. But it’s mind-boggling how a team that features LeBron James and Anthony Davis can’t seem to get the ball in the hoop.

4. Smart Kids

Although they aren’t winning many games just yet, the Wizards have undoubtedly altered their approach. With an average of just over 99 possessions per game, Washington was almost a bottom-10 team in terms of pace the previous season.

They’ve increased that to an exciting 106 possessions per game this season, which has put them atop the NBA standings.

This is an especially intriguing development in light of the fact that their head coach remained the same. Still in command, Wes Unseld Jr. has made it abundantly evident to his staff that speed is preferable.

To give the other players more room to maneuver, they even began using Danilo Gallinari as Daniel Gafford’s backup center.

Because of its quickness, the NBA’s transition offense is ranked sixth, according to Synergy Sports.

Moving forward reports that with an average of two points per possession, Deni Avdija is the league’s most effective transition scorer thus far this season.

We’ll see what kind of results Unseld gets in a larger sample size, but it’s evident that he considered his team when deciding to step things up this season.

5. Action, Lights, Camera

If you look at the top NBA scorers of this season, Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell, and Steph Curry are all common faces.

But if you slightly shift your gaze downward, you’ll see what appears to be an unfamiliar name.

Cameron Thomas.

With almost 27 points per game, the Brooklyn Nets guard was just outside the top-10 in scoring going into Friday night’s game.

While Thomas has demonstrated flashes of his microwave scoring ability (he scored at least 43 points in four games during the previous campaign), it is quite an accomplishment for him to do so consistently while receiving more defensive attention.

The method by which he is getting his buckets is even more impressive than his point totals.

Though that hasn’t been the case, most would assume that he has become more adept from the 3-point range.

Rather, he has dominated from the midrange and in the paint, which is unusual for a 6-foot-3 guard.

Against the Bucks on Monday, he scored a season-high 45 points and shot 11 of 17 from two-point range.

This season, Thomas is shooting 55% of his 2-pointers from beyond the restricted area, including 49% from midrange and 50% from inside the paint.

Those numbers put him on par with All-NBA players like Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and De’Aaron Fox when volume is taken into account.

According to Synergy Sports, Thomas is 76th in the league in terms of creativity and floaters in the paint, where he scores some of his most effectively.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *