With the 2013-14 regular season reaching the conclusion of its first quarter, it’s time to look at some of the more surprising developments after the first 20-odd games. We haven’t yet reached Christmas and the lead-up to the 2014 All Star Game in New Orleans is still around two months away, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some developments that caught a lot of people off guard.
My, what an interesting start to the 2013-14 NBA season it has been.
You can’t convince me that nobody saw a few of these teams performing the way they have. Nobody could have seen the Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks playing this bad, nor could they have seen the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns performing well above expectations prior to the beginning of the season.
Sure, you got the usual suspects playing well: the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. And some of the teams expected to be bottom-feeders, the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz, are playing about how many predicted. But there have been a number of surprises this year, both positive and negative, that have intrigued even the most seasoned of NBA observers.
The plot thickens even more when you realize what the summer of 2014 entails. With so many teams having unpredictable starts and facing unforeseen ends, it’s going to be a while before the pieces begin to fall in place. Who will earn one of the top picks, who is most likely to strike in what’s going to be one of the most intense free agency periods since 2010, and who will compete later on in the playoffs, are all unanaswerable questions after the season’s first quarter.
One can’t even predict what will occur in either conference. Yeah, you can guess Miami and Indiana will end up representing out East, but a contest between those two is still up in the air, as is every matchup that’s set to occur out West.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Either way, the start of the season hasn’t produced a lot of entertainment, with the exception of a pair of games between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors, but there’s still reason to be intrigued early on with the over/underwhelming performances of certain teams.
I’ll take a look at 15 of these surprises and how they’ve possibly reversed what a majority of analaysts may have predicted going into the season.
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1. Michael Beasley: A Star Is Born Again
Not four months ago were we predicting that Michael Beasley might have squandered his last chance to prove himself a competent rotation player in the NBA.
The Miami Heat, where he started his NBA career in 2008, were the only team to listen to Beasley’s plea for one more chance. He proposed the idea of working on a non-guaranteed contract and has since earned the trust of the Heat coaching staff through inspired and active play.
All the reasons why the Heat originally allowed Beasley to walk in 2010 have seemingly been erased. What makes his story so intriguing is that he was relatively the same player in the two years he spent with Minnesota and the season with Phoenix; he was inefficient, looked lost when he wasn’t the focus of the offense, and wasn’t exactly an astute defender.
But there’s something about this Heat team that has brought out the best in the gears that make this machine churn. Whether it’s the veteran influence surrounding him, or buying entirely into coach Erik Spoelstra‘s energy-driven system, Beasley has been one of the league’s most improved players.
On top of averaging 11.4 points off the bench on 55 percent overall shooting and 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc, Beasley also has the third-highest net rating (the disparity between offensive and defensive rating) on the Heat. His effective field-goal percentage of 58.4 percent ranks 24th in the league.
Beasley has rose through the ranks from a possible training camp cut to a key rotation player off-the-bench. He won’t end up as the 20-point, 10-rebound a night guy we were expecting when he was drafted out of Kansas State, but it is evident that there is a career worth reviving, one that has already yielded the Heat untapped resources they haven’t had off their bench before.