Original artwork by Steve McPherson
Yay! Round Tables Over Everything! The season’s still early, but our writers have OPINIONS. And these OPINIONS will be heard, DAMMIT. Enjoy the sportsical stylings of Derek, Jordan, Raffers, Caleb, Bo, Ananth, Jack, Eric, Robby, Noam, and Andrew. You know what’s crazy? That’s still not everyone who writes here. Good gravy.
1. Which team that you thought would tank up a storm this season is surprising you the most?
Derek: The Sixers haven’t realized that what they’re doing is the opposite of tanking.
Jordan: I can’t decide between Philadelphia or Phoenix. The 76ers were supposed to be putrid, but Brett Brown is some kind of supreme warlock and has Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes playing out of their damn minds. Seriously, look at Turner’s stats! He’s actually good-ish this year! The Suns, meanwhile, should have been even more tanktastic after the Gortat trade, but lo and behold, Eric Bledsoe’s actually better than anyone thought he’d be as a full-time starter, Markieff Morris is scorching, and Gerald Green isn’t awful. I’m confused and scared.
Raffers: Philadelphia 76ers. No doubt about it. I thought they’d 2011-2012 Charlotte Bobcats bad. Instead, they’ve got the third best record in the East. They could still end up being 2011-2012 Bobcats bad, though.
Caleb: The Suns turning Miles (Mason? I can’t remember which is which) Plumlee into a competent player on both ends has to be some kind of avant garde practical joke in which the joke is on everyone and no one at the same time.
Bo: Phoenix. I thought they would be really bad, but Markieff Morris is making it look like his dominant Summer League performance wasn’t a fluke. Also, Eric freaking Bledsoe.
Ananth: The 76ers are surprising everyone because they have a team made up of mainly randoms – remember their coach before the season started said they only had 6 NBA players – and are working together to get wins. The Suns are also in this conversation but they have some players so it kind of makes sense.
Jack: Phoenix. The Suns don’t have a win better than Philly’s over Miami or Houston, but have been far more consistent than their Eastern Conference counterparts. Phoenix +3.6 scoring margin, put major scares into San Antonio and Oklahoma City on the road, and came within a missed Eric Bledsoe layup of a win in Portland last night. The Suns are 5-3, but could easily be 7-1; they might actually be good.
Eric: The over/under on the number of wins for the 76ers this year was 9.5. It’s November 14, and they’re nearly 30% of the way to hitting the over. They’re currently the #3 seed in the East and stand 0.5 game back of Miami. Their record already boasts wins over three teams that many picked to make deep playoff runs in the Heat, Bulls, and Rockets. Yeah, it’s Philly.
Robby: The Sixers with honorable mention to the Suns. I thought they had finally come back to Earth after that incredible first week and before last night when they beat the Rockets and James Anderson (!!!) dropped 36.
Noam: It’s pretty much everybody, is it not? Philly’s run-run-running all over the place, the Suns inexplicably have 4 legitimate MIP candidates in Bledsoe, Markieff, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee, Orlando are in seemingly every game with their youthful bunch and even the Celtics, who seemed to be tanking perfectly, are rattling off an inexplicable win streak. Really, the only tanker that has stayed the course is Utah. It’s a shame Jamaal Tinsley couldn’t see the whole campaign through.
Andrew: The Sixers, though it’s not necessarily because of the results. The strategies that they’re employing are kind of writing the book on what it means to be an underdog and what a team must do in order to give themselves the best shot of beating superior competition. The Suns have outpaced their expectations, but I think a lot of that is more tactical than it is strategic.
2. Which team that you thought would be competent and competitive but can’t seem to tie its own shoes is surprising you the most?
Derek: Never trust the Wizards, Derek. C’mon, you know better, so be better. With that being said I still have some faint optimism for them so early on in the season.
Jordan: The Cavaliers. So much talent, so little production. Wherefore art thou, Kyrie Irving?
Raffers: The Cavaliers are a mess right now. They’re 3-6, they’ve lost to the Bobcats, Bucks and 76ers and Kyrie Irving can’t buy a bucket. Also, CJ Miles’ PER is 21.9 – the best on the team. That’s not a recipe for success.
Caleb: The Pellies just make me sad. Just so sad.
Bo: Brooklyn. KG and Paul Pierce are obviously old, but I thought this would be a great situation for them to come in and be secondary options. Pierce hasn’t been bad, but KG looks like he’s done.
Ananth: Expected a better start from the Cavs but the season is still relatively young, and they are a young-ish team so they could turn it around.
Jack: Brooklyn. The Nets were bound to struggle for an extended period at some point this season, but prevailing notions were that it would come during the tireless grind of December or January. That Brooklyn’s been so poor on both ends of the floor to kick off the year in’t just shocking, but major, major cause for concern going forward. Worse: Kevin Garnett looks done. I weep.
Eric: Aside from Kyrie Irving’s efficiency going down the drain, Anderson Varejao regressing mightily from last year, Jarrett Jack’s shot selection being questionable at best, number one pick Anthony Bennett shooting 12.5% from the field, Andrew Bynum contemplating retirement, and Dion Waiters continuing to do Dion Waiters things that drive Cavs fans nuts, the Cavs have been pretty good this year.
Robby: Brooklyn Nets. Projected by most everyone to be top 4 in the East, instead KG’s shot is broken and they’re getting stomped by the Kings.
Noam: I don’t get how the Pelicans are so bad. I honestly thought their success pretty much hinged on how big a leap Davis could make and how healthy Eric Gordon would be. Despite being two for two on those things – Davis has been so preposterously good that they might be three for two – they’ve been horrible. Get back soon, Ryan Anderson.
Andrew: The Pelicans. I’m hoping that turns around when Ryan Anderson makes his way back onto the court, because I can’t stand to see Anthony Davis play on a lottery team. He must make it to the playoffs. HE MUST.
3. To continue the coaching carousel that started this offseason, which coach is most at-risk for a midseason departure?
Derek: Logically, Mike Woodson, right? But the Knicks aren’t always logical. So, Woodson will go on making setting lineups look like rocket surgery and brain science. Wait, I said that wrong…
Jordan: Randy Wittman. Management went all-in (probably too all-in, because, sure, that’s a thing), on making the playoffs this year, sacrificing their future to do so. Wittman’s failed to show that he’s the guy that can execute this faulty strategy.
Raffers: Randy Wittman. Reason why: Look at what Jordan wrote. He took the words right out of my mouth.
Caleb: Randy Wittman was the obvious choice at the start of the year, and he remains a solid candidate, but we’re quickly reaching the point where Monty Williams needs to prove something or else. That loss to Utah was just unacceptable for a team that went out and pushed their chips into the middle over the summer. I’ve always regarded Monty as a solid coach, but now I’m not so sure.
Bo: It’s not really fair, but Mike Woodson. That roster is a trainwreck, but James Dolan doesn’t care. He’ll get rid of Woody and act like a new coach will actually make a difference.
Ananth: Anthony Davis is playing like one of the top 10 players in the league yet Monty Williams can’t seem to figure out how to use Davis and the rest of the Pelicans to actually produce wins. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans are new pieces so it make some time to adjust but Williams is not getting the most out of his team.
Jack: Randy Wittman. Washington is in absolute win-now mode but continues to pile up losses. This roster’s lack of flexibility means the blame from ownership must fall elsewhere, and Wittman has shown little during his time with the Wizards to inspire confidence in trying times. He’s the coach most likely to get axed, but keep an eye on Monty Williams, too – the severity of the Pelicans’ overall struggles has been masked by Anthony Davis.
Eric: After Randy Wittman’s firing over the summer, I think the next coach to be fir…wait what’s that? He’s still there? Really? No kidding? Huh.
Robby: Sticking with my answer from the HP Preview and saying Woodson.
Noam: It is NOT looking good for Mike Woodson right now.
Andrew: Randy Mike Monty Wittman Woodson Williams. That’s a person, right?
4. Who’s your favorite sophomore so far?
Derek: Despite the Pelicans’ start, I’ve really been impressed by some of the numbers Anthony Davis has put up.
Jordan: Anthony Davis. He’s terrifying, and it’s beautiful
Raffers: I can’t get over how good Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is defensively and while his jump-shot is still broken, the rest of his offense is coming. Tony Wroten has been a joy to watch, too.
Caleb: I have been and will continue driving the #FreeMarquisTeague bandwagon, but how could the answer to this question possibly be anyone but Anthony Davis. I mean, yeesh. The Brow is indeed quite fearsome.
Bo: <3 you, Bradley Beal. He hasn’t been as good as Anthony Davis or Damian Lillard, but you asked for my favorite and I love Beal’s three-point shot so much.
Ananth: Anthony Davis has been a lot of fun to watch, especially since he was mainly injured last year and we never got a good look at what he can do.
Jack: Best? Anthony Davis and it’s not close. Favorite? Probably Anthony Davis, but I’ll hedge and say Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Still without any range beyond 10-feet to speak of whatsoever, MKG is playing the best ball of his young career.
Eric: Other than a drop in FG% from last year, Anthony Davis’s numbers are up across the board. He’s averaging around 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks per 36 minutes which is decidedly not terrible. And most of all, he’s just plain FUN to watch play the game of basketball. Davis is quickly becoming everything New Orleans thought that they were getting with the top overall pick in the draft last year.
Robby: Anthony Davis. He’s so much fun despite how sad New Orleans has been this year.
Noam: Davis has been blowing everybody out of the water, but Damian Lillard has been sneakily impressive as well. His per game numbers look similar to last years, but he’s getting to the line way more, taking better care of the ball, and in general seems to be much better at balancing his considerable scoring chops and managing what has been a very potent Blazer offense.
Andrew: Anthony Davis. This is not close. Though Miles Plumlee gets bonus homerism points.
5. Who’s got the best bench in the league?
Derek: Not sure if it’s the Blazers’, but at 6-2, their bench should be frontrunner for most improved bench.
Jordan: The Pacers. It’s amazing what having not-D.J. Augustin will do for your second unit.
Raffers: The L.A. Lakers. Seriously. They do.
Caleb: The Bulls have a couple of veteran leaders in Kirk Hinrich and Nazr Mohammed that have… /bursts into tears/ /runs out of room screaming “I MISS YOU SO MUCH KYLE KORVER AND OMER ASIK”
Bo: The Hawks. I sit on it regularly before games, it’s very comfortable. Seriously, it’s probably the Pacers. Chris Copeland can’t even get off the bench with how well the guys in front of him are playing. I don’t know how the starting line up is going to work once Granger gets back, but the bench will definitely get better when he does.
Ananth: Right now, I’ll give the nod to the Phoenix Suns aka the “Bench Mob” as their broadcaster calls them. They have been a lot of fun with the Morris bros and Gerald Green is having a strong start. Be interesting to see if they are able to sustain it throughout the season.
Jack: Not the Pacers – their bench is much-improved, but most Indy lineups featuring a majority of reserves are still getting soundly outplayed. Is Miami a fair answer? LeBron-centric bench units have been their normally dominant selves, but that success has carried over to lineups with Dwyane Wade in James’ place this season, too. Norris Cole looks better than ever, Ray Allen suddenly spry, and Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley something close to playable. The rich get richer.
Eric: Indiana. The Pacers have had one of the better starting five man units over the past two years, but their inability to get past the Heat in the playoffs could be traced directly back to an unbelievably ineffective bench. They’ve traded Tyler Hansbrough, DJ Augustin, and Sam Young out for Luis Scola, CJ Watson, and Donald Sloan which has helped maintain and expand leads that the starters built. The Pacers have arguably the most complete team that they’ve ever had, and they are lapping the competition in the Eastern Conference through the initial weeks of the season as a result.
Robby: Pacers. They’re so deep and barely skip a beat when the starters leave the court.
Noam: I do not expect DeJuan Blair and Jae Crowder to remain this good for an entire season, but so far they’ve been phenomenal coming off the bench for the Mavs. With Vince Carter and Gal Mekel (so happy to see how well he’s adjusted to the speed of the NBA game), they round out a very nice 2nd unit, and that’s with Brandan Wright and Devin Harris on the injury list.
Andrew: The Lakers. That might not be the numerically correct answer, but I don’t care. They’re the most fun, and right now, I’m conflating that with best.