NBA 2017-18: 5 Most Improved Teams
Now that the 2018 NBA Playoffs have concluded, it is pertinent to look back at the season and evaluate the progress some teams have made. There are very few things more gratifying in the NBA than seeing struggling young teams develop into playoff contenders.
The 2017-18 season saw several such teams which made significant improvements over the past season, either through intrasquad improvements or through free agency and trade additions.
Before we get started, there are a few teams that were close to making this list but couldn’t as they “only” improved by eight wins from the 2016-17 season.
Toronto Raptors- Eight Games (51-31 to 59-23)
It was supposed to be their year. The Toronto Raptors improved by eight games to go from the 3rd seed to a top-seeded NBA team. Yet, it felt like so much more. Their offensive system transformed from a Jurassic Park worthy isolation system to a modern offense replete with ball movement. Defensively, they continued to improve. Their bench became the best in the league. Rookie OJ Annouby added much-needed defense and shooting. DeMar DeRozan even started shooting threes. Then the playoffs happened.
The Raptors were walloped by LeBron James’ Cavs in a sweep for the second consecutive season. In the end, it felt as if eight games was overstating their improvement.
Brooklyn Nets - Eight Games (21-61 to 29-53)
The Nets improved in the same sense that Brian Scalabrine was preferable Smush Parker. That may be a tad unfair to the team from Brooklyn, but the reality is that the Nets continue to be one of the worst teams in the NBA. The fallout from the 2013 trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett continues as the Nets don't own their draft pick for the third consecutive year.
On the plus side, Brooklyn's coach Kenny Atkinson has shown great potential in making the most of this difficult roster. Spencer Dinwiddie's performances were also one of the stories of this season, as the point guard transformed from a bit-part player to the Nets' best guard. The Nets will be hoping for continued progress next year.
Portland Trail Blazers- Eight Games (41-41 to 49-33)
If this article was written before the playoffs, the Trail Blazers may have been given a special entry into the rankings based on their regular season success. Coach Terry Stotts had created a balanced team that was good on both ends of the floor. They were a team that did the “simple things” well- ranking third in free throw percentage and third in total rebounds. Their role players complemented their superstars, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Unfortunately for the Oregon team, all their progress came to naught in the playoffs where they were swept by the lower-seeded New Orleans Pelicans.