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Which NBA Storyline Has Been The Most Unexpected?

Here, we've got some surprising developments to consider—some of which will last and some of which won't. In all cases, these early storylines defy expectations.

The Milwaukee Bucks' Defensive Struggles

Who knew the Milwaukee Bucks' entire defensive system depended on Jrue Holiday's rear-view contests? That's only a half-serious analysis of what's been missing during Milwaukee's bizarre opening stretch, during which it has allowed bushels of points en route to a bottom-five defensive rating. This is a team with three top-four finishes on D across the previous five years. The Bucks' worst finish in that stretch, 14th in 2021-22, had more to do with hot opponent shooting on mid-rangers and non-corner threes than any systemic failure.


Philadelphia's Seamless Post-Harden Transition

Only the most blindly optimistic Philadelphia 76ers fans could have envisioned a start this smooth. The rest of us expected the James Harden stalemate to linger, poisoning the season for as long as it lasted, circulating bad vibes that could eventually frustrate Joel Embiid to the point of a trade request. The bench was also depleted with Georges Niang, Shake Milton and Jalen McDaniels departing in free agency and Montrezl Harrell going down with a torn ACL before the season.


Scottie Barnes' Resumed Ascent

Other than the facts that he's 22 years old and not so far removed from narrowly snatching Rookie of the Year honors away from Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes didn't start this season with many positive indicators. Remember, the Toronto Raptors forward effectively stalled out in his sophomore campaign last year, shooting the ball worse from two-point range and falling all the way to 28.1 percent on his threes. Those were major red flags for a player who entered the league surrounded by questions about his shooting form.


Kevin Durant is the Healthiest Suns Star

The Phoenix Suns have yet to get their top three players on the floor together in a regular-season game, which isn't some great shock given the injury histories of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Beal, who has averaged just 51 games played over the past four years, missed the Suns' first seven games with a sore back. Booker has played just twice because of foot, ankle and calf issues. He's played 70 games just once since 2016-17.


Chris Paul's Perfect Fit

Even if you thought the whole "Chris Paul as sixth man" gambit might work, you had to acknowledge the potential for hiccups when he joined the Golden State Warriors. Paul had started each of his previous 1,214 career games while generally operating as a ball-dominant pick-and-roll spammer, very often against these same Warriors in high-stakes, hotly contested games. From role to playing style to personality clashes, strife of all stripes was foreseeable. That's to say nothing of the possibility that Paul, in his 19th season and trending steadily downward over the last several years, might be washed up.

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Bucks Defensive Struggles


76ers Post-Harden Transition


Scottie's Ascent


KD's Healthiness


CP3's Perfect Fit

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