Who Will Be the Biggest Surprise in This Year’s Playoffs?

We all know the favorites, but each year, there is one team that makes some noise

Grantland

With Kevin Durant slated to return right before the playoffs while teams are disrespecting the Celtics to the point where they’re being crowned the worst top seed of all time, people already have their minds made up on how the playoffs will go. LeBron and company will rally together like some sort of underdog team in a mildly entertaining sports movie while the stage is set for the Spurs and the Warriors to give us a bloodbath of a Western Conference Finals. Fast forward to June, skip the spring, and get on with it.

Even though the the NBA is more top heavy than Katy Perry, there’s always one team that gives us a little more of a showing than we originally thought. Instead of taking their beating like the first round is simulated in a video game, teams come out and impress every single basketball fan that originally refused to give them a chance. While everyone gawks over how many threes the Warriors can possibly fire off in a given game or over analyze how the Cavs may make a run based on how many times LeBron sneezed during a timeout he didn’t call himself, here are the teams that could shock you this postseason.

Utah Jazz

For years, people have given the Clippers more credit than they deserve. Ever since they raised the ceilings in the Staple Center for Lob City, people expected Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and company to make a run as a serious contender. It’s time for the Utah Jazz to slay that beast once and for all.

These teams are heading in opposite directions, giving a perfect opportunity for a coming out party for the Jazz. There is no team in the league that the common fan knows less about than Utah. Granted, Jazz basketball hasn’t exactly been relevant since John Stockton and his short-shorts were putting on pick and roll clinics with Karl Malone on a daily basis.

It’s almost to the point where it’s cliche to talk about how underrated this team is, but it truly seems like everywhere you look on this roster there’s another player that’s underrated. George Hill has been quietly hovering around as a top 10 point guard this season without anyone mentioning him once. Rodney Hood is a more than serviceable 3-and-D player, and Rudy Gobert a.k.a The Stifle Tower is going to win Defensive Player of the Year without anyone even noticing.

Then, there’s the best player on the team, Gordon Hayward. Hayward is the All-Star no one talks about, and is aggressively putting people on posters on a regular basis and will not stop until justice is had.

He is not here for your weak or your hungry. He is not here for your tired or your sick. It is your corrupt that Gordon Hayward claims. He’s going to dunk on all of your favorite teams until you give the Jazz some recognition, and there’s nothing you can do to stop him.

Gobert deserves more credit as the rim protector he is and Hayward still deserves credit as a bad, bad man, but it’s this team as a whole is truly dangerous. It’s a storyline as old as time. Defense wins championships. Guess who’s the best defensive team outside of San Antonio and Golden State? Get ready, NBA fans. The Jazz are coming.

Basketball Reference.com

Toronto Raptors

The Warriors aren’t the only team that’s getting an All-Star back. Granted, Durant is coming back to a team that has 60+ wins, but there’s a whole new dynamic being added to the Raptors when Kyle Lowry returns.

Since his departure, Toronto hasn’t just tread water. They’ve still performed better than the majority of the East, with a 14–6 record since Lowry went down with a wrist injury. They have had the luxury of beating up on the bottom of the barrel during a soft stretch of their schedule, but not many teams can double their loss total with arguably their best player sitting on the bench.

The simple fact that this team has been that good without Lowry is not good for any other Eastern Conference team. With Lowry on the court, this team is plus-8.1 points 100 possessions when he’s on the court. On top of that, people are forgetting that this team added Serge Ibaka. A starting five of Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas has not even taken the court together. Nobody on the planet knows just how good this team is going to be when their best five are on the court, including the Raptors.

For all those hipsters out there looking for teams with plenty of room on the bandwagon, look no further than these two. Get ready to ride these dark horses way deeper than everyone thinks.