Fan map of the NBA
In every sport whenever a new season is about to tip off every team has high expectations for their squad. But after the first couple weeks of the NBA season I feel like we can already tell how each team will play out for the rest of the year. In this column I will be talking about the most surprising teams to begin the NBA year, and the most disappointing teams. I will also touch upon who are the real contenders/pretenders of each league, ending this article with my prediction of who will make it to each conference final. So tighten up your shoe strings and keep an open mind because you may love/hate what I am about to say about your local team.
• The Biggest Surprises: Eastern Conference
From the Eastern Conference, the teams that come to my mind when I think about the biggest surprises to start the year have to be the Milwaukee Bucks, the Charlotte Bobcats, and the New York Knicks.
• After the first couple weeks into the year the Milwaukee Bucks find themselves with the sole position lead of the central division with a record of 6-2. Led by guards Monta Ellis and Barandon Jennings, the Bucks have equipped themselves with one of the most explosive backcourts in the league. Maintaining the division lead won’t be as tough for the Bucks this year either as their only true contender in the central is the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls, as he’ll be out at least until January. And we all know how mediocre of a team the Bulls are without their MVP guard.
• The Charlotte Bobcats have made this list because how historically bad they were the year before. In the shortened season last year the Charlotte Bobcats found themselves winning only seven out of the 66 games they played. They were considered historically the worst basketball team to ever play the game, losing the last 23 games of their season. This year, the bobcats have won four of the first seven games they’ve played, and find themselves in 2nd place behind the Miami Heat in the Southeast division. 2nd overall pick Michael-Kidd Gilchrist has been everything the Bobcats have asked for and more and second year player Kemba Walker looks like the Kemba we all knew when he played college ball at UConn.
• Now I know some of you are wondering why the New York Knicks are on this list because they were a good team coming into the year. Well I agree, but after the first couple weeks I didn’t know they’ll be the only-team- that- was- left- unbeaten- good. At first I didn’t believe the Knicks would be real contenders of the East, but after watching the Knicks play against Miami, I think they’ll be the Heat’s toughest test come playoff time. I was always a Raymond Felton fan, I believed and still believe he is a better overall point guard than Jeremy Lin for the Knicks. But top to bottom this team is loaded with talent, they may be old, but they still do have talent. And with Carmelo Anthony agreeing to take initiative as the leader of this team, and with Amare yet to play a second of a game this year, I think the Knicks can be a top 2 seed in the east once the season ends.
• The Biggest Surprises: Western Conference
After the first couple weeks into the season, I believe the most surprising teams in the west have been the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets.
• Finally s Memphis Grizzlies team that is living up to its potential. For the past three years I have been waiting patiently for this Memphis Grizzlies team to blossom into a title contender, and after the first couple weeks into this season, that’s what it is looking like. I believe they have one of the best front court duos in basketball with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. And with players like Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, and Tony Allen closing out their starting five, I also believe they have the most complete starting five in basketball. Their 8-1 start this year is the best start in franchise history and has them sitting in first place in the Southwest division. Now we have to see if this team can keep it up.
• The reason why the Houston Rockets made my list is because of one person and two words: James Harden. When I use to watch him play for the Thunder I use to wonder to myself how good of a player he would be if he was not on a team with super star players like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. And now I finally know, and to my surprise, he is actually an MVP type player. ESPN basketball analyst Jalen Rose called Harden the best offensive scorer in the league. He’s changed the image of the Houston Rockets, from a team no one was interested in seeing to a team that has become a fan favorite, well for me at least. The Rockets are sitting with a 4-4 record, and if he Harden can get his team into the playoffs, you’ll start hearing chants of MVP coming soon from the Rocket fans.
• Biggest Disappointment: Eastern Conference
• The biggest disappointing team thus far from the Eastern Conference has to be the Indiana Pacers. I understand the Detroit Pistons just got their first win, and the Washington Wizards are still winless, but those teams were bad coming into the year. But the 4-6 Pacers do not look like the #3 seed from last year who gave the champions Miami Heat all they can ask for in the second round of the playoffs. They don’t seem like they’re playing with that will to win as they did last year. All-star center Roy Hibbert is looking like he has forgotten how to be one of the elite big men of the league. And I have to blame the point guard position. I was disappointed to see that the Pacers didn’t do all they can in resigning point guard Darren Collison as he went to Dallas. Instead they replaced Collison with D.J. Augustin, who I believe is a huge drop off to Collison. You can think I’m crazy all you want, but I believe Collison was the real key to the Pacers success last season.
• Biggest Disappoint: Western Conference
• I guess this may not come to a surprise to many when I say the Los Angeles Lakers are the most disappointing team coming from the Western Conference. I mean c’mon lets be real, you sign one of the best point guards in the league and clearly the best center in the league, and mix them in with two all-stars and all you can come with so far is a 4-5 record. Now trust me, I understand its way too early in the season to be making any assumptions, because I am actually a believer that the Lakers will figure their problems out and be a title contender by the end of the year. But it’s the way they’ve been losing that disturbs me. With a team that’s full of talent and experience, they look like a team that is uncomfortable playing with one another. These guys are veteran players with championship experience, this shouldn’t be happening. But on the bright side I was happy to hear that they fired head coach Mike Brown. No offense, but I believe no player should have more respect than a coach in any team, and it felt that way with a numerous of players on the Lakers squad when Brown was there. I definitely wanted to see Phil Jackson back though, I’m not so sure about Mike D’Antoni is the right guy and buying into his scheme of things. Mike D’Antoni is an offensive minded coach, and the Lakers were having problems on offense and defense. But then again that is why I am here writing articles while Mitch Kupchak is making millions with a plenty of championship rings to his name.
In this segment I will be talking about the division leaders of each conference and if I believe they will be pretenders or contenders come playoff time.
• Eastern Conference: Atlantic Division: New York Knicks
As I have said before this is a team loaded with veteran talent and I believe will be the defending champion Miami Heat’s toughest test come playoff time. Contenders
• Central Division: Milwaukee Bucks
They have great guard play and a rookie in Drew Henson who I believe will be a huge part of this team’s success once he starts playing. But I believe the experience factor will have a negative effect on this team come playoff time. They are an exciting team to watch, but will also be that top seeded team in the east that lower seeds would want to face. Pretenders
• Southeast Division: Miami Heat
How can a championship team get even better the next year? By adding guard Ray Allen can help, and basically keeping the same team as last year helps also. This team is full of superstar talent that knows how to play together. That is a formula for disaster for any team coming in Miami’s way during playoff time. Contenders
• Western Conference: Northwest division: Oklahoma City Thunder
Coming off a trip to the finals has this Oklahoma City team starting this year with very high expectations. But they are in a conference that I believe has four other teams that are built to defeat this Thunder squad (Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies, and Spurs). I also believe they took a huge step backward not being able to resign James Harden. They may win their division, but that is not what the Thunder are shooting for, as I believe a championship season is out of grasps for this year’s team. Pretender
• Pacific Division: Los Angeles Clippers
Have they finally earned the right to say they are the best team in the city of Los Angeles? I believe so. As a franchise they took a huge step forward last season by making it to the second round of the playoffs, and adding key veteran acquisitions like Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, and resigning guard Chauncey Billups will bring the experience this Clippers team needs to take them over the top. Contenders
• Southwest division: Memphis Grizzlies
Probably the most impressive all around team in the NBA thus far. In this early year that have had wins against the Bucks, the Thunder, the Heat, and the Knicks, four out of the five other current division leaders. Contender
For the Eastern Conference Finals I have the New York Knicks playing visitors to the defending champions Miami Heat. There is too much talent and superstars across the board for both teams.
• And for the west I believe it will all come down to how teams seed themselves, but if everything falls into place, I believe we will have a rematch of one of the second round matchups last year in the Los Angeles Clippers vs. the San Antonio Spurs.