A little over a week into the new NBA season, just one team – the Philadelphia 76ers – remained unbeaten. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, the Golden State Warriors were 1-3 and former MVP Stephen Curry suffered a broken hand. The LeBron James-Anthony Davis dynamic is starting to take shape in Los Angeles and the whole James Harden-Russell Westbrook thing in Houston is going as expected. Here’s what NBA basketball previews and predictions might have missed.
The Heat Is On While it was expected that Philadelphia would challenge last year’s Eastern Conference regular-season winner Milwaukee, the word in Miami was simply “maybe.” Five games into the new season and the Heat are 4-1 with an impressive win over the Bucks already. The bigger surprise might be rookie point guard Kendrick Nunn.
Undrafted out of Oakland University a year ago, Nunn spent most of his season last year playing in the G League. In preseason camp this year, Nunn went off scoring 40 points in a preseason game with Houston. Now, he is Miami’s leading scorer averaging 22.4 points per game. The Heat’s lineup is deep with veteran Goran Dragic (16.4 ppg) and fellow rookie Tyler Herro (16.4 ppg). Star Jimmy Butler just returned to the lineup after watching the birth of his new daughter.
Miami missed the postseason last year but has the kind of talent built for a playoff run. Barring injury, the Heat should continue to surprise in the East.
The Un-Superstar Jazz Their number of superstars is zero, but the Utah Jazz is currently the best team in the Western Conference. Donovan Mitchell leads the Jazz with 24.0 points a game and Bojan Bogdanovic (21.3 ppg) is nearing stardom, but Utah is made up of role players. Seven-footer Rudy Gobert (9.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg) is the NBA’s defending Defensive Player of the Year and new acquisition Mike Conley (12.0 ppg, 4.4 apg) is the point guard Utah needs to put it over the hump.
Still, the Jazz lack star power, but they remain tough enough to be a force in the West. The lineup is deep too with Emmanuel Mudiay, Royce O’Neale, Jeff Green, and Joe Ingles. Utah was the best defensive team in the league last year and is well on its way – the Jazz allow just 92.4 points per game – to repeating in 2019-20.
Got It Wrong? Offshore bookie reviews might have gotten the Minnesota Timberwolves all wrong. Not much was expected of the T-Wolves in 2019-20. Most so-called experts picked Minnesota among the bottom feeders in the Western Conference. Thanks to Karl-Anthony Towns’ 27.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, the T-Wolves are off to a great (3-1) start.
Towns and Andrew Wiggins (20.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) will carry Minnesota. The question will be if the rest of the lineup can overachieve for a good part of the regular season. If so, the T-Wolves have a chance at a playoff berth.
Suns Up Most experts probably didn’t see Phoenix opening the season 3-2, but that is exactly what the Suns have done. They have done it, at least most of it, without C DeAndre Ayton who was suspended for 25 games for violation of the NBA’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
The Suns best offseason acquisition was not Ricky Rubio or Dario Saric or even Kelly Oubre. It was head coach Monty Williams. The Suns beat the Los Angeles Clippers, the favorite to win the Western Conference, without Ayton and Rubio thanks to the talents of Williams.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.