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NBA Early Season Surprises

NBA Early Season Surprises

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, good, bad and ugly.

Cavaliers: We can't call a team that went to the NBA Finals two years ago a surprise, but we can call their new uptempo offense a revelation. LeBron James has always wanted (needed, really) another offensive threat alongside him. The move for 25-year old point guard Mo Williams has been an early Xmas present for King James.The Cavs are second in the East in points and tops in field goal shooting. Last week they attacked the NY Knicks' up-tempo style while exploiting matchup advantages everywhere on offense. The Cavs totally dominated, with seven different players scoring in double figures, rolling up a 34-point lead. That game sailed over the total, part of an 8-3 over the total run by the "new look" Cleveland offense.

Knicks: Speaking of NY, the Knicks have a long way to go, but this team is much better under new coach Mike D'Antonio. Their run-and-gun style leads the league in scoring at 105 points per game. Quentin Richardson led the Knicks with 34 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Washington last week.
The new coach is building around Richardson and David Lee, and just traded for Al Harrington and Tim Thomas. Harrington and Thomas appear to be natural fits in D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense. With all the changes, a .500 start is better than could be expected. They are also on a 6-1 run over the total with that uptempo attack. They can struggle as a dog, but NY started 4-1 SU/ATS as chalk.

Hawks: Atlanta struggled to win 37 games last season, then took eventual-champion Boston to 7 games in the playoffs. Everyone wondered what Atlanta team would show up this season. Overall, they've been good, with a young, athletic bunch, stabilized by veteran guard Mike Bibby.
However, they've been overvalued since starting 6-0, when they were the talk of the young season, going 2-7 ATS after. Injuries have been a part of the problem. The Hawks want to get through the early grind of the season with its core group returning to health. That includes Joe Johnson (foot), Al Horford (sprained ankle) as well as starting power forward Josh Smith, who has played just four games (high ankle sprain).

Blazers: This is a deep, talented young team for coach Nate McMillan. There's probably too much focus and high expectations for Greg Oden, who is a rookie after missing all of last season. In a game last week, Oden started against the Kings and had just 3 points, 6 rebounds, 4 turnovers and 3 fouls in 20 minutes. The real story was 29-year old Center Joel Przybilla, who was outstanding with 10 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 28 minutes. He's shooting 82% on the season!
Role players can be just as significant as stars on winning teams. Portland has been on a 5-2 run under the total, though they still have a long way to go defensively, allowing over 46% shooting, one of the worst marks in the league. In their defense, they started 5-0 SU, 3-2 ATS at home (common with young teams) and have played a terrible schedule, with 15 of their first 22 games on the road until December 7.

Clippers: Let's see, the Clippers have three big men (Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Al Thornton) combing for 24 rebounds per game, added a superstar offensive player in the offseason in Baron Davis (17 ppg, 8 apg) and just traded for 6-10 Zach Randolph. Sounds like a team going places!Going to last place in what has been a train wreck season already. This is a great example of mismatched parts and no defense. LA is getting outscored by 10 ppg, battling Oklahoma City for worst in the NBA. Last week the Nets' five starters were all in double figures, just the way the 76ers were the previous game. Asked about acquiring Zach Randolph, Camby said, "It remains to be seen. Somebody's going to be the odd man out."

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