Photo from NBA.com
The 2017-2018 NBA season, as advertised, is turning out to be a crazy rollercoaster ride that has been nothing short of exhilarating. With almost a month of NBA action to digest, let’s check out the early surprises of the season.
Porzingis proved early in his rookie year that his skills are extraordinary, earning him the “unicorn” tag. But this season, as the Knicks’ go-to guy, Porzingis is showing that he is more than a rare specie of basketball talent—he is a legit star. In nine games, the 7-foot-3 Latvian is averaging 30 points, eight rebounds, and a couple of blocks per game for New York. He has scored 30 or more points seven times in nine games, recently dumping a career-high 40 points on the Indiana Pacers. The best part: the Knicks, which everyone expected to be bad this year, flaunt a 5-4 win-loss record. If he keeps this up, he would be the Knicks’ first All-Star in four straight years not named Carmelo Anthony.
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DETROIT PISTONS AND ORLANDO MAGIC
The Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic weren’t on anyone’s preseason list to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers championship reign in the East. But 10 games in, and the Pistons and Magic are second and third, respectively, in the Eastern Conference standings. One of the Pistons’ victims were the defending champs Golden State Warriors while the Magic scored wins over several strong teams, namely the San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Cavs. It’s a long season and it’s too early to tell if these two teams can sustain the winning rate, but right now, the Pistons and Magic are the biggest surprise teams to beat in the East.
Blake Griffin has been unleashed. With the departure of Chris Paul, Griffin assumed full responsibility of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise. In nine games, Griffin is averaging 24 points per game and 4.4 assists per game, both team-highs. He is also hitting at least two 3-pointers per game, to add his name to a growing list of big men taking their game outside the arc. In a close game against the Portland Trail Blazers, with his team down two points, Griffin confidently took a step-back game-winning 3 at the buzzer to win it for LA. If you say you predicted something like that would happen before the season started, you’re lying.
The Cavs are simply not playing championship basketball. The LeBron James-led squad already dropped six of its first 10 games, losing four of those games at home. The Cavs were one of the teams involved in the offseason’s biggest trade, so there’s still room to fine-tune the new parts. But they will have to figure it out soon, before their prized point guard Isaiah Thomas returns from injury in January—their East Coast rivals, the Boston Celtics, are alone at the top of the standings with an 8-2 win-loss record. LeBron has been carrying the load for the Cavs (he scored a season-high 57 points in a game against Washington), but he will need to conserve his energy if the Cavs want to survive another deep run in the playoffs.
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