Early NBA Surprises And First-Month Notes From Across The Association


1. The Philadelphia 76ers are continuing the struggles they had last season. After a loss to the Portland Trailblazers last night, the 76ers are 0-14 on the season. I had a friend go to the game who paid $6 for his ticket. I actually saw two tickets on StubHub that were being sold for $2.26 a ticket and this included the proper fees.

The 76ers are second to last in the NBA with 89.9 points per game and had a -16 point differential, the worst in the NBA. Just two scorers in Troy Wroten [17.9] and Michael Carter-Williams [15.7] have double digit points per game numbers and Carter-Williams is returning from injury playing in half of the team’s games. I was hoping to see a bit more from Nerlens Noel but have been disappointed.

For me though Henry Sims has been a surprise. In his 24.9 minutes a game, he averages 9.5 points per game and as a center is an 81 percent free throw shooter, which is great considering his size. Sims is in his second season of getting looks as a starter but has done a great job this season.

Sims was one of three to score at least 20 points for Philadelphia Monday in a 114-104 loss to the Trailblazers. The 76ers did lead the game at halftime which is encouraging but in the end the only thing fans could cheer about was that they got half off Papa John’s pizzas. Brighter days are coming but this rebuilding will take time.

2. Another NBA look and this one at the points per game leaders. Kobe Bryant leads the NBA with 26.7 points per game after an injury plagued 2013. In previous years his injuries could have ended his career or at least made it where he could not compete at the level fans expected from him, but now he is once again there. Yes he is taking more shots than usual but with the general lack of players and Nick “Swaggy P” Young just coming back now, he has no choice.

Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans averages 26.3 points per game which is almost six points higher than last season’s total. Davis is shooting 57.8 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free throw line. Before he was known for his uni brow, but these past two seasons he has made a name for himself and now the Pelicans stand 7-5 and despite being fifth in the Southwest Division, this is the most competitive team since the 2010-11 season. The last three that round out the top five are James Harden [25.2], LeBron James [25.0] and Carmelo Anthony [23.2].

Harden is part of a Houston Rockets that is 11-3 and a game behind the Memphis Grizzlies team that has surprised many. Harden’s points per game average has taken a tumble each year but despite the off-season departure of Chandler Parsons, the Rockets have five players in double figures. Patrick Beverley has become more of an offensive weapon averaging 12.6 points per game. With an unknown timetable because of an injury the Rockets should take a hit.

Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks have underachieved. Cleveland is seventh in the NBA Eastern Conference playoff race while New York is 4-11 and 2.5 games back of the playoff chase. Both teams have plenty of work to do but have no reason to panic. First this is early in the season and there are plenty of games left. Second both teams are in a transition time. The Cavaliers are overusing LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to the extent that each of their minutes are in the top four in all of the NBA. Coach David Blatt will still need time. James earlier this season that his team “stinks”, probably the most honest soundbite you would hear. High expectations have been placed on them and that won’t change anytime soon. The Cavaliers will gel together but it will take time.

With the Knicks Carmelo Anthony was expected to thrive in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense but they have a -4.2 point differential. Additionally the Knicks are the third worst team in the NBA in rebounding. Tyson Chandler is clearly missed here even if he constantly was blamed. Samuel Dalembert is not a starting center for a team and he has proved that. Shane Larkin needs more seasoning as a point guard and Anthony’s numbers are down. Derek Fisher now understands how hard of an adjustment going from a player to a coach is. Some react and adjust quicker than others while it also may depend on the situation and the talent that is there. The Knicks need time and so does Fisher.