Tanking in the NBA? Says who…
A little over two weeks into the regular season, there have been many surprises throughout the league, from certain players and teams. Teams being accused of tanking all summer long have been competitive and some of the labeled contenders have struggled early on. Below, we take a look at the biggest surprises of the season so far. Also, be sure to check back at the end of the month for HoopsHabit’s first edition of Contender or Pretender.
Philadelphia leads the Atlantic division
The Sixers are the only team in the division with a winning record at 5-4. They were accused of tanking all summer long after trading away Jrue Holliday (an All-Star) for a draft pick, and basically told that draft pick to take a year off and not rush back from injury (Nerlens Noel). The team has signature wins over Miami, Chicago, and Houston. Michael Carter-Williams (Rookie of the Year) and Evan Turner (Most Improved Player) have emerged as potential award winners as well. It goes to show you that ownership and a general manager may want to tank, but tanking is not even a thought process for players. Major props to rookie coach Brett Brown for coaching up the young players on the roster. The players recognize they have a paycheck to earn, and for a team with extremely low expectations, they are starting to build a reputation for themselves.
Minnesota looks like a definite lock to make the playoffs
Kevin Love‘s been nothing short of sensational in his return from a fractured hand last season, putting up MVP-caliber numbers. Are there any questions as to who the best power forward in the game is? Love is playing with one of the top assist men in the league with Ricky Rubio and they have formed great chemistry together. The two are joined by Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, and the team has perfect role players in Corey Brewer, J.J. Barea, and Derrick Williams. Chase Budinger will also return from injury soon.
Brooklyn is last in the Atlantic division
After having the biggest offseason of any team, the Nets are projected by many to win the division and be a team that could win the Eastern conference as well. And yet, they’re sitting at 2-5 to start the season. They had a big statement win against Miami but have wet the bed since in blowout losses to Orlando and Sacramento. Deron Williams, the face of the franchise, is only averaging 11.1 points and 7.4 assists per game. This is a guy who has the ability to score quick, fast, in a hurry, which is what he’s done throughout his career. He scored 42 points last season against Washington and 57 two years ago against Charlotte (yes, I know it’s Charlotte we’re talking about). The point is he has averaged 17.7 PPG and 9.0 APG for his career. If the Nets are going to make a deep playoff push, Williams needs to be the scoring threat that he’s always been.
Jeff Teague may be an All-Star
Outside of Kyrie Irving, there has not been a more impressive point guard in the Eastern conference than Teague. He’s putting up 18.1 PPG and 9.9 APG, both up from last season. Atlanta should remain in the thick of things for a playoff spot and the 25-year-old Teague is one of the catalysts behind the playoff expectations.
The Eastern conference only has three teams above .500
Philadelphia, Miami, and Indiana are the only teams in the conference with winning records above .500. The Pacers remain the only undefeated team in the league at 8-0. Remember the beginning of the season when it looked like Brooklyn, Detroit, Cleveland and Washington were going to make a move? So much for that. The Western conference though is highly competitive, led by the 8-1 San Antonio Spurs.