Biggest Surprises And Disappointments 3 Weeks Into The NBA Season
Its only been three weeks into the 2013-2014 NBA season and so far it has vastly surpassed all expectations.
Who would’ve guessed the 76ers had the talent to beat the Heat, Rockets and Bulls? Or that the Grizzlies were going to regress as a team defensively even with Randolph and Gasol completely unscathed?
We all knew the Jazz would be a bad team this year but to think they’d have to play 9 games to get a victory? I thought that was the 76ers’ job…
This season has definitely been a shocker for NBA fans and the best part is we’re still in store for many more surprises. So as we head into early stages of the season let’s take a look at the most mind blowing occurrences so far this year:
*All stats and info from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference
So far this season the former South Dakota State Jackrabbit is third in scoring (8.9), second in assists (5.3) and second in minutes (32.6) out of all rookies. More importantly he’s showing he can protect the ball in heavy minutes having an impressive 5-1 assist to turnover ratio.
It’s unclear how much longer Wolter’s tenure as a starting point guard will last with Luke Ridnour and Brandon Knight returning soon from injuries, but after his impressive performance in the early season he’s more than proven he belongs in this league.
Michael Carter-Williams and the entire Philadelphia 76ers roster
It wasn’t long ago when the Sixers were being referred to as nothing better than a college team and drawing comparisons to the 2011-2012 Bobcats (Yes the one’s that posted the worst record in league history).
Then came Michael Carter-Williams.
The 6’6 point guard out of Syracuse has completely blown away all scouts’ expectations for this season leading all rookies in scoring (17.4) and assists (7.6) while shooting 39.5% from the perimeter which was supposed to be his biggest weakness.
His stellar play is rubbing off on teammates Spencer Hawes (17.4 ppg) and Evan Turner (23.0 ppg) who are both having career years and guiding the team to an unfathomable first place in the Atlantic Division.
It won’t be too much longer until the Sixers get back to reality and start piling up the losses but it’s clear Philadelphia won’t settle for last place in the eastern conference (Or at least until GM Sam Hinkie trades away most of the teams key players).
Kevin Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets
A lot of the burden falls on new coach Jason Kidd for failing to implement the right kind of system for a core of aging veterans, though you can’t help but notice how lackluster Kevin Garnett’s numbers have been so far.
In 22 minutes the Big Ticket is averaging 6 points and 6.9 rebounds on a dreadful 30.6% shooting. To make matters worse according to NBA.com, Brooklyn allows 107.6 points per 100 possessions with Garnett on the floor, tied with the lowly Sacramento Kings for the worst defense in the league.
It’s a little too soon to call Garnett a complete bust for the Nets but his defense is supposed to be one of his biggest strengths. If he can’t pick up his production soon Brooklyn may find itself struggling to become one of the elite teams in a relatively weak Eastern Conference.
As mentioned earlier the Grizzlies are struggling mightily this year and it’s all because of their uninspiring defense.
Last year under Coach Lionel Hollins, Memphis was renowned across the league for their intimidating defense holding opponents to a league best of 89.3 points per game and ranking second in overall defensive rating (100.3).
Despite this success, Hollins ended up getting fired in the offseason even though he led the team to their first Western Conference Finals appearance and was the winningest coach in franchise history (still not understanding why he was fired).
To fill his shoes is lead assistant David Joerger and so far he hasn’t fit into them very well at all.
As of today the Grizzlies defensive rating ranks 22nd and they sit near the bottom of the Western Conference with a 3-5 record. Joerger still has plenty of time to turn this sinking ship around before its too late but you can’t help but feel the team would’ve been better off keeping Hollins as head coach.
Former Suns GM Lance Blanks made a lot of questionable decisions over his 3 year stint: signing Michael Beasley to a lucrative contract, trading for draft bust Wesley Johnson, replacing Alvin Gentry with Lindsey Hunter, drafting Kendall Marshall… the list goes on and on.
But if there was one move Banks got right during his forgettable time with the Suns, it was drafting Markieff Morris with the 13th overall pick.
This year Morris has been on a rampage after struggling his first 2 seasons, averaging 15.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 28.4 minutes. Better yet he’s become a much more proficient player with an insane player efficiency rating of 26.0 ranking 9th in the league.
With the combined efforts of Morris along with new point guard/shooting guard Eric Bledsoe (depends if Goran Dragic is playing or not) who’s off to a hot start (averaging 21.1 points and 7.1 assists) the Suns have become one of the biggest surprises in the powerful Western Conference.
Follow Evan Caulfield on Twitter @caulfieldhoops