We’ve made it through the first week. Obviously nobody has played enough games to draw any significant conclusions about who is great and who is terrible, but we’ve seen a few noteworthy games already.
Orlando looks like giant killers right now. Without Rashard, without Pietrus, with Carter playing just 1.5 games, integrating 3 new starters, they are unbeaten and impressive looking in victory. Sure the only playoff team they faced was Phili, but they handled them easily. When this team gets all its pieces back, look out.
Boston has integrated Rasheed already. He’s killing it with the deep pick and pop, and he seems to get the defensive rotations as well. Marquis Daniels is already playing a role as well. Ainge signed Rondo long-term, which eliminates a potential distraction. All they need to do is stay healthy. Of course that’s all they needed to do last year too. They’re the only team at 4 – 0 thus far, and they have a meaningless 4 game point differential over 19.
Denver is another unbeaten team coming into tonight. As we’ve mentioned, Carmelo looks fantastic. Also of note, Ty Lawson has made a difference with his speed, and the team has beaten division rivals Portland and Utah without ace gunner JR Smith. They have not been dominant, but they also don’t look like a mirage.
The Miami Heat have been a surprise in a good way. They are 3 – 0, and Wade hasn’t had to kill himself to make it happen. Haslem has embraced his 6th man role, and Jermaine O’Neal has had some very nice games. Nobody has talked much about the Carlos Arroyo pick up, but he gives the Heat a nice change up as the first guard off the bench with his creativity backing up the steady Mario Chalmers. If they can keep up this sort of team effort and win 50 games or better add Wade to the list of legit MVP candidates.
Phoenix is the last remaining unbeaten. Coach Gentry has them running and gunning, and Grant Hill seems to have spent the summer lounging in the fountain of youth watching old Shawn Marion clips. He’s crushing the boards and running the floor like the Matrix in the early going. Oh and Steve Nash may have stuck his toes in that fountain of youth too, cause he’s dropping 14 dimes a game through three.
The Lakers and Cavs are obviously better teams than some of the unbeatens, but for one week they can give up top-billing. LA dropped a game to the Mavs who ran a small lineup with Dirk at the 5 and Marion at the 4. Otherwise they’ve been tough without Gasol. They’re going to get stronger as the season goes along. The Cavs are having some trouble figuring out how to work with Shaq. We’re all assuming they’ll get it for now. If they don’t he could turn into the Big Distraction.
Houston has been another pleasant surprise. Hand it to GM Morley and Coach Adelman, this crew just plays great basketball. They set mean screens, make good cuts, pass and move, stay within themselves, defend, and scrap for extra possessions. Feel good story of the early season.
The teams that have been having the toughest time in the early going are the Nets, the Clippers, the Warriors, and the Pacers. New Jersey has had to go it without their star player, Devon Harris, and Los Angeles lost #1 overall pick Blake Griffin one day before the start of the season. Both teams have shown some effort, but neither has been able to get over the hump. The Warriors are trying to dump Stephen Jackson and his ridiculous contract on a team in need of one talented vet to put them in contention. The Pacers are also without their first round draft pick and their second best player, Hansbrough and Dunleavy, and they’ve only lost to superior teams, but it’s no fun to go a big 0fer in the first week.