What feels good, bad, and oh so right in the NBA after a week of action.
1. Orlando Magic
Do you enjoy watching young talent? How about hilarious upsets? Well then, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your 2013-14 Orlando Magic! Many had this team pegged in the bottom five of the league all season long, strapped into the tank and headed straight for the lottery. But wait! Could the young core of Victor Oladipo, Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic actually make an impact in the NBA? The young buck Tobias Harris returns soon. Arron Afflalo is hitting 3s, Jameer Nelson is point guarding, and Orlando is playing exciting basketball. The magic of low expectations is in full effect.
Disclaimer: This team will probably be pretty fun to watch this year, but we shouldn’t up our expectations here. Let them be young and restless! [Insert clip of Fun - We are Young] Just kidding, I wouldn’t do that to anybody.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Rookie sensation? Check. Last place prediction; first place in division? Check. Massive upset over defending champions? Check! Philly is truly playing with nothing to lose and, ironically, doing nothing but winning. Evan Turner looks good. Evan Turner looks good. This team is capable of anything. This will never stop, right? There’s no inevitable crash here. Nope, this team is headed for the playoffs. Move along. No narrative can contain this team!
Disclaimer: We’re already starting to see some of the rust under the glamour after a couple of less than pretty losses. The rookie wall looms. Evan Turner is shooting 12% over his career average. But they’re playing the Cavs twice in a row next! Even this disclaimer can’t hide the irrational exuberance.
3. New York Knicks
Pee-eew! Something smells foul in Madison Square Garden. It’s your 2013-14 New York Knicks! The four boroughs collectively facepalmed Tuesday night when Tyson Chandler went down with a knee injury against the Bobcats, who promptly went on to highlight the immediate effects of losing your only competent rebounder and defensive anchor by upsetting the Knicks at home. The replacement frontcourt is a tire fire, and we should be legitimately scared to see Andrea Bargnani attempt to rebound basketballs. Looks like there will be some small ball in the Big Apple, which means plenty of Metta World Peace for 3. Can’t wait to hear Clyde Frazier describe this process.
Disclaimer: Well, this new lineup could… Um, New York’s got a lot of… Hmm… You know, this team could actually be very bad in the future. Melo to ______ (insert your contender)!
4. Denver Nuggets
How does a team go from 57 wins and a playoff berth to looking like a bottom feeder in one summer? George Karl will be sorely missed in Denver. If a basketball team in Denver doesn’t run and gun, can they still be called the Nuggets? Defense? Yawn. Interior play? Zzzzz. Give me fast break 3s and Kenneth Faried dunks!
Disclaimer: The Nuggets are in transition with a new coach and critical lineup pieces injured. The addition of Wilson Chandler and eventually Danilo Gallinari to the wings coupled with a defined big man rotation should smooth things out in Denver as Brian Shaw works in his system.
5. Chicago Bulls
It’s panic time in Chi city! There aren’t enough panic buttons for the Bulls fanbase to collectively punch right now as they watch the triumphant return of their superstar fizzle into a pile of ugly losses. Delusions of grandeur had stirred a long dormant fanbase to be less than fastidious in their early season expectations, prompting statements such as "Jimmy Butler can score from the wing" and "Carlos Boozer will anchor the interior." But the big question – what’s eating Derrick Rose – has captured the NBA on the precipice of fear and imagination like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Can anybody score but Rose? If not the Bulls, who will challenge Miami? Will we ever get over Carlos Boozer’s hair? Paul George has sucked all the hot air out of the Central division superstar discussion while Rose struggles to pump up his deflated Chicago offense. Expectations work both ways, and they were lofty to say the least at the start of the season. The Bulls have some climbing ahead to match preseason predictions.
Disclaimer: Rose’s return was always going to take some adjustment, the Bulls won’t always shoot 42%, and the defense is as good as always. They’ll turn it around.
*These rankings claim not to be wholly accurate or meaningful and are not liable for any opinions shaped as a result of reading them.
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