NBA Early Season Surprises
By: Jim Feist
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
NBA Early Season Surprises
By Jim Feist
Preseason prognosticators and handicapping analysis
focuses in on what they expect to happen, based on the draft and offseason
moves, but there are always surprises at the start of each season. Here's
a look at some of the early NBA surprises.
Bulls: Chicago had a makeover, letting go of
longtime stars Joakim Noah and Derrek Rose. However, the new-look Bulls are
Jimmy Butler's team, helped out in the backcourt by newcomers veterans Dwyane
Wade and Rajon Rondo.
Most impressive is that this team plays
excellent defense for Coach Fred Hoiberg, Top 11 in points allowed and field
goal shooting defense. Despite the addition of Rondo, the Bulls are also one of
the best free throw shooting teams in the league, which helps win close games
and close covers. Chicago is also 12-4 under the total after a spread
NY Knicks: The Knicks don't play much defense,
but they have certainly improved in other areas. Carmelo Anthony and 21-year
old wunderkind Kristaps Porzingis provide the offense, while newcomers Rose and
Noah add some veteran role playing ability. If the group stays healthy you get
the sense they can make a run at some point in the weak East. The Knicks are
6-0 ATS against losing teams, plus 5-0 ATS against the West.
Lakers: Where did these kids come from? Los
Angeles is loaded with youth after the Kobe Bryant show mercifully ended last
season. It's an impressive guard-oriented offense behind 20-year old D'Angelo
Russell, Louis Williams and 24-year old Jordan Clarkson. Throw in 6-9 21-year
old Julius Randle up front and the table is set for a quick young team that is
starting to make some waves in the West.
The kids are alright -- in some areas,
but there are major weak points on defense and at the free throw line, both
common with young squads. An up and coming team on the rise? Yes, according to
Gregg Popovich. San Antonio won at Los Angeles last month, 116-107, but it was
a close until the final minutes, with Popovich praising the job of Coach Luke
Walton. The Lakers outrebounded the Spurs 48-39, but allowed San Antonio to
Jazz: The team few want to play! Up and coming
Utah remains competitive with a ferocious defense, tops in the NBA in points
allowed. Veteran points guard George Hill has been a fine addition, while 7-1
Rudy Gobert and 6-8 Gordon Hayward crash the glass and make things difficult
for opposing shooters. Utah started the season with a losing home record but a
winning road mark, the latter a good indicator of a young team on the rise.
Utah is 13-4 ATS at home against a team with a winning road record.
Thunder: So superstar Kevin Durant leaves town
and Oklahoma City is....well, still pretty good. Russell Westbrook may take a
million shots and average a triple double, but he's gotten some help with
24-year old Victor Oladipo and the two-headed monsters at center in Enas Kanter
and Steven Adams. OKC also plays pretty good defense for Billy Donovan,
11-4 under the total on the road.
Hornets: Young Charlotte has impressed behind
guards Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum. Defense is their calling card, though,
Top 10 in points allowed and field goal shooting. They've had a strong start on
the road and started 6-2 against the spread playing on no rest. Charlotte had a
nice winning run broken by a trip to Cleveland, a 100-93 loss, a close one all
the way. That's a good barometer but it still shows who the team to beat
is in the East. In that game the Cavaliers set an NBA record by hitting at
least 10 3-pointers in each of the first nine games of the season.
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