Surprise NBA Gifts on the Eve of Christmas Eve

 

KG has been Santa for the Celtics this year, but what other surprise gifts has the rest of the NBA received so far this season? 

With no further ado, each team’s biggest surprise(s) from the first quarter of the season listed by record from best to worst (with my bias completely favoring the first and the last teams on the list):

  1. Boston Celtics: Bench contribution–namely in the form of Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Eddie House, and James Posey, with the slowly but surely returning-to-form Tony Allen starting to join the mix as well.  With Rajon Rondo’s continued steady play and slight improvement from starter Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics may find themselves hoisting Green 17 at the end of the year.
  2. San Antonio Spurs: Manu Ginobili’s incredible play off the bench–this might seem like a stretch but the guy has somehow gotten even better at such a late stage in his career (he’s 30).  His PER is at a career-high 25.40 right now, and his dynamic play enabled the Spurs to weather the storm while Tim Duncan was out and maintain their spot as the top team in the West.  After hurting himself tonight against the Clippers, it looks like it might be Duncan‘s turn to pick up the team with Ginobili out for a while.
  3. Detroit Pistons: Chauncey Billups and the bench–Chauncey is actually in the midst of producing his best season yet, as was highlighted by his winning the battle at the Garden the other night against the the team with the NBA’s best record, the Celtics.  Helping Chauncey out this season has been a solid supporting cast of bench players in the form of Jason Maxiell, Aaron Afflalo, Rodney Stuckey, Jarvis Hayes, Amir Johnson, and Flip Murray.  Lindsey Hunter hit a big three againt Boston this past Wednesday as well, and the team recently shed itself of Nazi Mohammad’s excess cap weight, picking up Primoz Brezec and Walter Herrmann in the process.  Detroit also appears to be the front-runner for Chris Webber’s services.  It appears the rich keep on getting richer in the Motor City.
  4. Phoenix Suns: Grant Hill–He’s been everything the Suns could have hoped for to this point without breaking down yet.  Unfortunately, what they really needed was to stop selling their picks and giving up key front line defenders to avoid paying the luxury tax.  Rajon Rondo and Kurt Thomas would sure look good in Phoenix‘s Orange and Purple right now…well, maybe not literally but you know what I mean.
  5. Dallas Mavericks: Josh Howard–When the Celtics were in line to get either Kevin Durant of Greg Oden to go with Big Al Jefferson, I thought a swap of Paul Pierce for Howard would make sense for both teams because Pierce could take the last shot if Nowitzki didn’t feel like it and Howard was a younger, slightly worse player.  After his outstanding start to the year, Howard has me rethinking that deal from Dallas‘s perspective.
  6. Orlando Magic: Hedo Turkgolu–the guy has essentially been everything the Magic paid Rashard Lewis to be: their second best player, a scorer and shooter, and a facilitator of the offense.
  7. New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul–he has ascended into unknown territory.  The guy is putting up one of the greatest seasons by a point guard ever, and he’s doing it at a listed height of only 6’0″.
  8. Los Angeles Lakers: The Young Lakers–Jordan Farmar and Andrew Bynum have looked fantastic, showing great promise at such young ages.  Throw in Javaris Crittenton, Trevor Ariza, and Ronny Turiaf and there’s a solid nucleus to start with should the team decided to ship Kobe and Lamar Odom out of Hollywood.
  9. Denver Nuggets: Anthony Carter and Kenyon Marin–After being mostly horrific during his career no one expected much out of the 32-year-old point guard, but Carter’s been solid and helped give the team some depth, while Martin has rebounded nicely from a second microfracture surgery to give the team some help down low.  On a side note, Von Wafer is posting his first career postive PER in three years, at 0.21 after posting an impressive -1.54 in his rookie season and an earth shattering -40.77 last season.
  10. Portland Trailblazers: Travis Outlaw–he’s stepped up as a solid third scoring option behind Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge.  This team is fire and adding Greg Oden and likely another lottery pick next year certainly won’t do anything but help that out.
  11. Golden State Warriors: Steven Jackson–admit it, you never thought he would be so vital.  Without him the team was foundering and winless; upon his return the team regained its frantic form that wreaked such havoc on #1 seed Dallas last year.
  12. Atlanta Hawks: Marvin Williams–he’s certainly no Chris Paul (or Deron Williams for that matter), but at least he’s finally showing he can help a decent team.
  13. Indiana Pacers: Everyone but Jermaine O’Neal–Jim O’Brien is working his magic again, turning a pretty terrible collection of players into a play-off contender.  Ike Diogu and Danny Granger have shown they’re two guys any team would love to have on its roster.
  14. Toronto Raptors: Kris Humphries–while some might point to Jose Calderon’s breakout season, Calderon is simply doing what he does, only this season he’s gotten more opportunity to showcase himself.  Humphries, on the other hand, has begun to take #1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani’s minutes, and rightfully so.  He’s been a physical force down on the blocks, perfectly complementing Chris Bosh, something Bargnani’s perimeter oriented style doesn’t do.  Looks like the Raptors may be wishing they could get a do-over on that pick.
  15. Utah Jazz: Ronnie Brewer’s emergence, Andrei Kirilenko’s return to form, and Carlos Boozers’s leap–Brewer has been a stud at the 2, filling out Utah’s starting line-up quite nicely, and Kirilenko has come back on fire, jotting his name all over the stat sheet like we had grown accustomed to before last season’s adjustment to playing the 3 and his off-season riff with Jerry Sloan, albeit with a lot less scoring than in the past.  Boozer is simply playing unreal.
  16. Washington Wizards: Caron Butler–is it possible that he could win the Most Improved Player award this year?  The guy has really stepped up with Agent 0 out for an extended period of time and is making Wizards fans reconsider who the alhpa male on that team ought to be.
  17. Houston Rockets: Bonzi Wells–if for no other reason than his 8.92 PER in 2006-2007 jumping back to a decent 15.15 this season, Bonzi is our man.  The fact that every other player earning significant minutes this season is underperforming doesn’t hurt Bonzi’s chances of being chosen here either.
  18. New Jersey: Richard Jefferson and Sean Williams–Jefferson apparently knew (like everyone else in the world) that Vice Carter would be taking the season off after signing a new extension worth over $60 million and decided he would have to take Carter’s roll as leading scorer.  Williams has also been a nice find in the middle of the first round for the Nets, but who knows how long it will be until the Five-Oh finds something growing in Williams’ basement.
  19. Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James–with Big Z as the only other player putting up a PER above 15.00 (league average) on the entire roster, LeBron has had to take his one man act that he showcased in last year’s play-offs to the regular season just to keep his team competetive.  This is bad news for Cleveland, and could land LeBron in Brooklyn, NYC, Los Angeles, or Chicago come 2010 when the King hits free agency for the first time.
  20. Sacramento: John Salmons, Beno Udrih, and Francisco Garcia–All three have either found or regained their form this season in Sacramento.  Their play is chiefly responsible for the Kings hovering a few games below .500 for the season, and I mean that in a good way.
  21. Milwaukee Bucks: Yi Jianlian–turns out the guy can shoot over and drive by actual players, as well as brooms and chairs.
  22. Philadelphia 76ers: Louis Williams–he’s been somewhat of a revelation.  Should the team do well in the draft, get something for Andre Miller, avoid giving silly money to Williams and Andre Iguodala, and lure a nice free agent this off-season, Louis might find himself on a team worth watching.  Yeah, that’s five IFs, but hey, that’s better than six.
  23. Charlotte Bobcats: Jared Dudley–their first round pick has shown he has a clue how to play NBA basketball, something last year’s #3 overall pick Adam Morrison has yet to do (to be fair the fact that he’s out for the entire season certainly hasn’t helped Morrison’s cause).
  24. Chicago Bulls: Aaron Gray and Joakim Noah–while the rest of the team has played like rookies, these two have at least played like somewhat decent rookies.
  25. Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Kaman–did anyone see the Caveman becoming a stud after that dud he threw out there last season?  I personally think the difference is his new haircut.
  26. New York Knicks: Randolph Morris–this is mostly a protest nomination, and seeing as Knicks fans have been doing quite a bit of protesting recently I figured I’d join in.  Morris has a 45.99 PER in a grand total of 5 minutes of burn this season.  David Lee is the only truly good player on the team; the situation down at MSG is pretty sad.
  27. Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay and Juan Carlos Navarro–Navarro has proved to be a solid option off the bench like the Grizz had hoped, while Gay has decided to give living up to his All-Star ability a chance.  It’s a good thing too, because Darko and Pau Gasol have decided to do the opposite this season.
  28. Seattle Supersonics: Chris Wilcox–on a team where almost every player has been worse than expected up to this point, Wilcox has been a solid contributor night-in, night-out, leading the team in PER. 
  29. Miami Heat: Chris Quinn, Dorrell Wright, and Daequan Cook–they’re all lesser known players who have been at least serviceable for the trainwreck they call the Miami Heat.  Oh, and for those who think this is all Shaq’s fault, his PER of 19.10 is still #13 in the league among centers (and that list includes several power forwards who moonlight at the center position), the real problem is that with his mammoth contract he needs to play more than 28 minutes a game.
  30. Minnesota Timberwolves: Craig Smith–I would love to mention Al Jefferson here, except that his success is no surprise.  Smith’s improvement, on the other hand, is quite impressive/somewhat surprising, as short power forwards can often be one hit wonders, and the Boston College product has shown that he will at least get out a second single before the world forgets him.  Sebastian Telfair and Antoine Walker have also been semi-decent, and that’s somewhat of a surprise for the Minny C’s.

One thing every team and all NBA fans can look forward to is the phenomenal draft class coming this summer.  Sweet stroking Eric Gordon, pure point guard Derrick Rose, showman scorer O.J. Mayo, and power forward beast Michael Beasley, owner of a lethal long range jumper that helped net him 40 points Saturday night, headline the incredible one-and-done talents that will be selected at the very top of the lottery should they choose to declare. Merry Christmas!

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One Response to Surprise NBA Gifts on the Eve of Christmas Eve

  1. nonsense729 says:

    Great list! A lot of young players playing unexpectedly well this year making an impact on playoff contenders.

    2004sox.worpdress.com

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