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NBA Surprises: Bobcats, Raymond Felton among league's early shockers

The Hook presents a few of its stunners of the early season, including the decent (!) Bobcats and a solid (!!) Raymond Felton.


SB Nation's collection of NBA blogs is talking about the early season surprises in the league. We joined the fun. Presenting ... The Hook's NBA Surprises!


The Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats are 5-4, and while it's early, bless Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the still-young Ramon Sessions for giving fans hope. Rookie coach Mike Dunlap has Charlotte playing up-tempo with the No. 8 pace in the league, and in a major coup the young squad is No. 6 in turnover rate. All hail the double point guard line-up. (See below.) The Bobcats will almost assuredly crash back closer to mediocre than average soon enough. They are absolutely horrible on the defensive glass (which will soften up their surprisingly decent defense in the end) and still among the league's worst shooting teams. But hey, five wins and counting before December? No one saw that coming.

Raymond Felton

The Knicks are winning at a ridiculous clip because J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd are shooting like a nephrologist at a Golden Corral, because Carmelo Anthony has been excellent at power forward, because Mike Woodson can defense one helluva defense and because Raymond Felton is playing like a legitimate starting point guard. An NBA starting point guard. I like to think every person in Portland has been completely distracted from the Blazers' own season due to Felton's stunning turnaround.

The thing is, unlike most other Knicks, Felton isn't shooting at some ridiculous clip this season. His three-point shooting will likely revert to below 40 percent based on his career numbers, and his field goal percentage might dip too. But he looks like a whole new man running the team. Is having Jason Kidd there most of the time a huge playmaking relief? (Kidd has been on the court for about 2/3rds of Felton's minutes this season.) Felton has never had a turnover rate close to this low -- last season in PDX he was turning the ball over on nearly 20 percent of his possessions. He's at 12 percent this season which, combined with his 34 percent assist rate, is really efficient. Based on his career numbers, we expected Felton to have the same turnover problems Jeremy Lin did, but without the scoring punch and high playmaking level. But Felton's kept the turnovers down, helping the Knicks offense thrive. He's also been a serious piece of New York's defensive aptitude.

Raymond Felton, solid NBA starter. After last season, this is a stunner.

Two PG Line-ups

The two aforementioned surprises line up on this one: two point guard line-ups are rocking the league. Felton-Kidd in New York, Sessions-Walker in Charlotte, Andre Miller-Ty Lawson in Denver ... even Mo Williams-Jamaal Tinsley in Utah! (Mo-Maal are +60 in 80 minutes this season.) Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry are doing good things together in Oakland. Monta Ellis isn't really a point guard, but he does have point guard tendencies. He and Brandon Jennings have been break-even this season, which is something like a coup based on Ellis' early Milwaukee play last season.

As noted above, the Knicks and Bobcats have been incredible at limiting turnovers. Having two point guards on the floor much of the game can't hurt that. You're seeing other teams succeed offensively with a traditional point guard and a combo guard on the court with them -- think the Nets with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson (No. 5 in offense), the Mavericks with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo (No. 10) and the Rockets with Jeremy Lin and James Harden (No. 15). If Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook signaled the triumph of the impure point guard, today's NBA signals the glory of having multiple ballhandlers on the floor.

Two dual-PG combos I'd like to see a whole lot more of: George Hill-D.J. Augustin, and Eric Bledsoe-Chris Paul. One dual-PG combo I never ever want to see again: Aaron Brooks-Isaiah Thomas. (Yes, that has happened. Thankfully, for only two seconds.)

The Sacramento Kings

How a team that re-signed Jason Thompson, traded for James Johnson and drafted Thomas Robinson didn't make a huge jump in the Western pecking order is completely beyond me. Geoff Petrie did everything he could to get this team out of its six-year slump. I mean, the Maloofs even ponied up enough money to boost the Kings to the No. 27 payroll in the NBA! I think the team is cursed. That's the only explanation.

Note: the Kings subscribe to the theory that it's best to have no ballhandlers on the floor.

Firing squad

It's been a weird start to the season for NBA coaches. Only one has fallen (Mike Brown). A couple that could have been in dicey situations (Scott Skiles, Avery Johnson, Vinny Del Negro, Lionel Hollins, Alvin Gentry) have seen their teams perform up to or above expectations. The worst teams (Raptors, Pistons, Wizards, Kings) have coaches who are either new and high profile enough to be safe for this season (Dwane Casey, Lawrence Frank) or who just received extensions in the offseason (Randy Wittmann, Keith Smart). Finding the next coach to fall is difficult right now.

After an insanely quick trigger on Brown in L.A., it's possible we won't see another head roll before the All-Star break.

The utter lack of David Stern

People, David Stern is going away in 15 months. Why in the Hades is he not giving a press conference every day? We know the man likes to be celebrated. Time is running out. We need blogs dedicated to his every move. I volunteer to be the David Stern pool reporter for the next year and change. Treasure this angry little man! I fear we won't know what we've lost until we're stuck listening to Adam Silver calmly, dispassionately explain the intricacies of revenue sharing.


The Hook is an NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.