Analyzing the early surprises: Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, and Phoenix Suns
This is understandable. After all, who doesn’t enjoy an underdog challenging a contender, a veteran rediscovering his past form, a role player blossoming into a star, and a young rookie proving he’s prime-time? A month into the NBA season and a few of the above storylines have started materializing. In this edition of ‘Listed’, HoopsVibe The Blog is counting off the best early surprises of 2009-10. As always, read the post, form your opinion, and get at us with thoughts in the comment box below …
HoopsVibe The Blog regularly drops a basketball related list for fans to weigh-in on. We call it ‘Listed’ …
Fans love a surprise.
This is understandable. After all, who doesn’t enjoy an underdog challenging a contender, a veteran rediscovering his past form, a role player blossoming into a star, and a young rookie proving he’s prime-time?
A month into the NBA season and a few of the above storylines have started materializing. In this edition of ‘Listed’, HoopsVibe The Blog is counting off the best early surprises of 2009-10. As always, read the post, form your opinion, and get at us with thoughts in the comment box below.
#5) The Milwaukee Bucks …
They’re 8-3. And the buzz coming from the state of Wisconsin has nothing to do with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
The Bucks’ renaissance can be attributed to jitterbug point guard Brandon Jennings, who, with his southpaw style, reminds fans of Kenny Anderson and Nick Van Exel. Just a month into his rookie season, Jennings has scored 55 points in a game, shown a rare fearlessness at the end of games, and, best of all, wants to be coached.
If Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd get their bodies right, then Milwaukee will factor into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
#4) The Indiana Pacers …
Mike Dunleavy hasn’t suited up for a game. Post Troy Murphy has been in and out the line-up, while rookie Tyler Hansbrough has also battled injuries.
So the Pacers, who were expected to struggle in 2009-10, have to be happy with a 5-5 record. Of course, All-Star Danny Granger has performed, dropping an impressive 25 points and 7 rebounds, but lockdown guy Dahntay Jones and young post Roy Hibbert are the real surprises.
Jones, who was signed as a free agent for his defense, is averaging over 17.0 points per game and Hibbert will become a double-double fixture. When they get a full roster, Indiana should compete for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
#3) The Houston Rockets …
Chemistry trumps talent. The Rockets, without Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, have jumped out to an 8-6 start because of strong chemistry.
Trevor Ariza, Shane Battier, Aaron Brooks, Chuck Hayes and Luis Scola form a nice starting line-up, while David Anderson, Chase Budinger, and Carl Landry are contributing off the bench. Collectively, they’re a balanced and tough bunch -something that was noticeably absent for most of the disappointing ‘T-Mac’ era.
#2) The Atlanta Hawks …
On paper, ’The ATL’ is strong. Joe Johnson is the NBA’s most underrated player, while the starting line-up has talent like Berry Gordy’s old Motown. Over the summer, veterans Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith were signed to bolster the bench.
History is hard to overcome, though. For years, Atlanta was dysfunctional, with fans and players seeing it as a Siberia for millionaire ballers. Recently, there had been progress, but questions arouse when Johnson and coach Mike Woodson entered training camp without contracts past this year.
History and contracts be damned. Currently, the Hawks sit atop the entire league and seem capable of challenging Eastern Conference heavyweights like the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Orlando Magic.
#1) The Phoenix Suns …
Don’t call it a comeback. Do call it a return to form, or a return to Seven Seconds to Shoot.
Last year, Phoenix endured several mini feuds, a bizarre mid season coaching change, and an identity crisis. Not surprisingly, the club struggled, missing the playoffs for the first time in several seasons. And the ‘Valley of the Sun’ was seen by many, including myself, as dead.
Well, we were wrong.
This year, they’ve returned to their runnin’-and-gunnin’ ways, which has been instrumental in the club’s stellar 10-3 record. While continuing to set the pace in the Western Conference is probably unrealistic, Steve Nash and the Suns will be relevant come playoff time.
What has been the biggest surprise of the NBA season? Get at us in the comment box below and follow Oly on HoopsVibe The Blog and Twitter. Photo courtesy of Keith Allison.