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Sunday Topic: NBA’s Most Surprising Team?
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On December 9, 2012 @ 3:03 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Every Sunday, HOOPSWORLD’s analysts weigh in on an NBA-related topic. Get in on the debate by leaving your thoughts in a comment. Here’s this week’s Sunday Topic.
Five weeks into the 2012-13 NBA season, there have been a number of surprising teams. Some of these teams have exceeded expectations while others have failed to live up to preseason hype, which brings us to this week’s Sunday Topic:
“Which team has been the biggest surprise so far this season?”
“New York Knicks. Over the offseason, the Knicks were criticized for letting Jeremy Lin leave as a free agent for and for signing several of the oldest players in the league. However, their critics are dead silent right now, as New York is currently the best team in the Eastern Conference with a 14-5 record.
Even though they have plenty of new faces in their locker room, veterans such as Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace have adjusted quickly and emerged as significant contributors for New York.
The Knicks have exceeded all expectations and look like legitimate contenders right now. Entering this season, it seemed like the Miami HEAT wouldn’t have any competition in the East. However, New York embarrassed Miami in their two meetings this season, winning both games by 20 points.
New York’s dominance has been a big surprise and their best basketball may still be ahead of them when they get Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert back.” – Alex Kennedy
“Los Angeles Lakers. Despite assembling a super team in the offseason determined to reclaim the Western Conference throne and give the reigning champion Miami HEAT a run for their money, the Lakers have had a disastrous start to the season. I jokingly referred to L.A. as the “Preseason Champion” in October, but the Lakers have sputtered dramatically through one month of the season.
Prized acquisition Steve Nash has been on the shelf since the second game of the year and L.A. has already gone through a head coach – firing Mike Brown just five games into the season. Without Nash and while incorporating head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense to go along with a bevy of new faces in the Lakers’ locker room, it’s been a process to say the least in L.A. Tack on the underwhelming play of former All Star Pau Gasol and the Lakers find themselves as merely an also-ran in the highly competitive West.
As of Sunday morning, Los Angeles sits at just 9-11 overall – losers of three out of their last four contests - and on the outside looking in right now in the Western Conference playoff hunt. Because of the talent in place, and the fact that’s it’s only December, there’s no doubt L.A. has time to rebound, but as of now they have to be considered the most disappointing and surprising team in the NBA.” – Derek Page
“Charlotte Bobcats. Normally one wouldn’t include an NBA team with a 7-12 record in the “Most Surprising” category, but an exception must be made for the Bobcats. Look past the current seven-game losing streak for now; the fact they already tied the number of wins in last years’ 66-game season (making league history, with a lowest-ever .106 winning percentage) is noteworthy alone. They may well end up with a really bad record when the season ends next April, but the word “success” will be tied to the Bobcats’ franchise when their season is evaluated.
Few believed they would be markedly improved this season, but new head coach Mike Dunlap, rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and new players Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions, not to mention the improvement of Kemba Walker and Byron Mullens, have started to turn things around. Six players are averaging double-digit scoring. As a team, they are averaging 6.4 three-pointers per game now compared to 3.98 last year. Here are the two biggies: The Bobcats are averaging 95.9 points per game vs. 87.0 last year, and the margin of victory presently averages -5.89 over a -13.51 MOV last season. Fans are buying into the buzz as their attendance has jumped to a 13th ranking from 26th last season. They are tenth-ranked in the Eastern Conference and third in their division. Clearly, they’ve got a long way to go and a ton of games left to play, but a foundation is being built. The losses may keep stacking up, but the improvements are real and evident – and surprising to have come so soon.” – Susan Bible
“Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets entered the 2012-13 campaign with raised expectations. The franchise’s postseason streak currently stands at nine and before the season most predicted the club would take the next step and be among the top three teams in the Western Conference. However, if the playoffs started today, the team would be clinging to one of the final two playoff spots in the conference.
The Nuggets’ .500 start through their first 20 games has been disappointing on numerous levels. All-Star forward Andre Iguodala was acquired by the team in the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade before the season and while the veteran is having a solid season on both ends of the floor, his presence hasn’t netted the team victories in the win column.
One of the primary issues holding the Nuggets back from achieving their goal of joining the ranks of the league’s elite is their efficiency, or lack thereof, on the defensive side of the ball.
The Nuggets have allowed over 100 points ten times this season and holds a woeful 2-8 record in those contests. Compounding the team’s issues is their performance versus sub .500 franchises during the early going at just 6-8.
Way too early in the season to hit the panic button on the franchise, but clearly this isn’t the type of performance most expected from the team before the start of the campaign.” – Lang Greene
“Houston Rockets. Houston blew it all up after three consecutive seasons of being just not quite good enough to make the postseason. Gone were likely starters on most other teams like Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic and Samuel Dalembert. Reserves Marcus Camby, Jordan Hill, Hasheem Thabeet and Chase Budinger also found new teams. Replacing the veteran roster is four rookies, three sophomores and four third-year players. In all, 11 players who are 24 years old and younger now take up the bulk of the Rockets’ roster. With this being a rebuilding year in Houston, expectations were not high in October.
One month into the season, however, the Rockets are hanging around the playoff picture and have every reason to believe they can stay there. James Harden is fifth in scoring overall and has become the first option he would never have been in Oklahoma City. The $25 million, three-year deal given to Omer Asik is looking like a bargain as the big man has become a double-double machine. Jeremy Lin’s $25 million deal hasn’t been the home run that Asik’s has, but the young point guard is producing and the team is winning, so there can’t be many complaints here either. The rookies might not be playing much, but everything else has been coming together nicely in Houston.
This isn’t a case of a soft schedule obscuring the results; the Rockets have already beaten the Lakers, Jazz, Knicks, Bulls and Hawks this season. Taking a hard look at the teams the Rockets have faced, they should have a record more like Portland or Phoenix and be several games out of the playoff picture.” – Stephen Brotherston
“Toronto Raptors. Coming into the 2012-13 NBA season, it looked like this would finally be the year that the Raptors returned to respectability. A playoff berth for a team with so many new pieces might have been a stretch, but they certainly looked like a team that was ready to push for postseason play.
It’s still early, of course, but a little over a month into the new season, the Raptors don’t look any closer to being a playoff team than they were last season. This is despite adding an All-Star-caliber point guard in Kyle Lowry, a highly-touted European big man in Jonas Valanciunas, as well as some nice supporting pieces under head coach Dwane Casey, who was an important part of Rick Carlisle’s championship staff just three seasons ago.
The Raptors have the pieces to be a playoff team, but it does appear that one piece needs to be switched out. Until the Raptors can find a taker for Andrea Bargnani, who simply doesn’t appear to fit the mold of the Casey’s vision for the team, Toronto is going to continue to struggle to live up to their not insignificant potential.” – Bill Ingram
Which team has been the biggest surprise? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
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