The Brooklyn Nets' current record is misleading.
The 2013-14 NBA season features a handful of teams with rather deceptive win-loss records. Who are such squads and what should we ultimately make of them?
For some ballclubs, injuries and poor initial chemistry often contribute to a small tally of wins that is misleading. Or perhaps a young team overachieves initially, culminating in an excessive win total that likely won't persist.
Occasionally, a veteran-laden team appears to lack motivation during the 82-game grind of the regular season. Case in point: The Boston Celtics during the "Big Three" era. They had numerous campaigns in which they were slightly above-average during the regular season but turned things up a notch come the playoffs.
The following teams currently possess a record that is deceptive in one of the aforementioned manners. Let's highlight these organizations and analyze how we should truly view them.
The Brooklyn Nets encountered every conceivable occurrence that contributes to a lackluster start.
New faces, primarily Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, integrating with an already-talented starting lineup instigated chemistry issues. Injuries have also been an ongoing issue. Further, rookie head coach Jason Kidd has been often-criticized for his tactics (or lack thereof).
The Nets were supposed to potentially be the Miami Heat's biggest challenger in the Eastern Conference, but their 10-21 beginning raised unquestionable doubts about that.
However, they've now won eight of nine contests and appear to be developing fluidity while finding more of their identity.
In recent weeks, they've seen a handful of guys thrive outside of their main weapons, as players like Andray Blatche and Shaun Livingston have embraced integral roles.
As a result, they suddenly are forming into a potent squad with an array of threats. Their record, even with the recent surge, remains deceptive because they haven't even cracked the .500 mark. Yet, they are a bunch who foes in the East will not want to greet in the playoffs.
With their veterans and rising chemistry, they should keep getting better and better. Expect them to easily finish over .500 and wind up with around 45 wins.
The Phoenix Suns have shocked many with their impressive early-season run. Prior to the season, the Suns figured to be destined for the lottery with a youthful team and a new coach in Jeff Hornacek.
Yet, they've not only been competitive, they've played like a team that can make the playoffs in a remarkably deep Western Conference. Their recent thrashing of an elite squad like the Indiana Pacers is evidence of this. They deserve a great deal of credit for what they've already revealed.
With that said, their 24-17 record is deceptive because they'll likely struggle as the season progresses. Their inexperience will bite them at some point. In fact, they've already dropped six of their past 11 games.
Some of this is surely because of Eric Bledsoe's absence due to injury, but they overall don't have the firepower to remain with the big guns in the Western Conference.
It's probable that they'll remain in the playoff hunt for a while because of their exceptional start, but sooner or later, they'll likely be surpassed by teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets.
The likelihood is that they'll end up with a win total around 40, narrowly missing the playoffs as the West's ninth or 10th seed. They've been a neat story thus far, but their current record communicates that they're better than what they really are.
Losing the Defensive Player of the Year for an extended period of time is a difficult pill to swallow, but the Memphis Grizzlies have now welcomed Marc Gasol back into the mix and should be regaining their form from a year ago.
What's more, the addition of Courtney Lee has provided them with an added dimension on the perimeter.
Remember that the Grizzlies reached the Western Conference Finals last spring. Even with a different coach on board this campaign (Dave Joerger), the main faces of this crew remain, and they're more than capable of giving any team in the West problems.
This is at the core of why their current 20-20 record is an inaccurate gauge of what their potential is. While a young team like the Suns should fade, a veteran team with playoff experience like the Grizz should rise, especially now that Gasol has returned.
Currently, Memphis sits outside of the playoffs, but this should change in the coming weeks. Anticipate the team notching around 45 wins and snagging the sixth or seventh seed in the West.
One thing is for sure: The Grizzlies won't be an easy out come the playoffs with their gritty style of play.
The Toronto Raptors entered the 2013-14 season looking like a subpar team that wouldn't make the playoffs. Then they traded their most skilled player in Rudy Gay. The upcoming months didn't look bright for Toronto fans. "Tanking" appeared in the works.
Strangely, the Raptors have excelled since the Gay trade, going 15-8 and showcasing a more unified approach.
They've played so well that they could potentially even snatch home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Veteran Kyle Lowry and emerging youngster DeMar DeRozan have keyed this quality stretch.
While the Raps have raised eyebrows, let's keep in mind a couple of things. First of all, the Eastern Conference is terrible, so we were bound to witness a team overachieve in some capacity. Toronto epitomizes this.
The Raptors are by no means a bad squad, but they're also definitely not a threat in any way to the Heat or Pacers. They're honestly not a team that should even be above .500, but this simply illustrates how weak the East is. Put Toronto in the West, and it likely doesn't even have 15 wins.
Secondly, the Raptors have been riding the best spurts of Lowry and DeRozan's careers. Maybe these two individuals will keep up the impressive outputs, but don't be surprised if they cool off a bit, resulting in less frequent wins for the Raps.
Come the season's end, Toronto will almost surely be in the playoffs because of how bad the East is. However, even in its lowly conference, expect the team to slowly drop down the standings and finish below .500, with the seventh or eighth seed and matching up immediately with Miami or Indiana.
The Golden State Warriors are definitely one of the most fun teams to watch. Their shooting and the playmaking and quick-trigger of Stephen Curry make this bunch a thrill.
What's scary to think about is that this team is even better than what the record shows, and 26-17 isn't shabby.
Newcomer Andre Iguodala has already made his impact known, providing them with a lockdown defensive wing as well as another offensive threat who frequently sets up Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee with open looks.
Unfortunately, Iguodala missed 12 games, and Golden State sputtered along during that span, going 5-7. Therefore, when he's in uniform, he takes them to a completely different level.
As the season unfolds, the Warriors should slowly creep up the West standings, passing squads such as the Los Angeles Clippers (particularly since Chris Paul is sidelined), the Houston Rockets and maybe even the Portland Trail Blazers. Such a surge should begin promptly since they play eight of their next 10 prior to the All-Star break at home.
Golden State, when healthy and firing on all cylinders, is a legitimate threat to not only win the conference, but also take home the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
The Warriors should finish between 50 and 55 wins and land a top-four seed in the playoffs, where they'll be a major factor.
This is a tough one, because there's much to love about the Portland Trail Blazers. They won 33 games during 2012-13. They now boast 31 wins, and we're not even to February. How do you explain such a transformation?
Coach Terry Stotts has done a phenomenal job in his second year with the Blazers, and it's clear that all five of their starters have relished their given roles.
Initially, it was easy to wonder if their hot start would soon fizzle, but they've just kept right on rolling. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are performing at an All-Star level, Nicolas Batum does a little bit of everything, and Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez are producing at an unexpectedly efficient rate.
The Blazers have convinced seemingly everyone that they're "for real" in the sense of being a playoff team. However, 31-11 screams title contender, and it's premature to rush to this conclusion.
The second half of the season will unveil how formidable Portland really is, and it's likely that the team will trickle down the standings as efficiency wanes and the wear and tear of the season presents itself.
In the deep Western Conference, it wouldn't be surprising if Portland fell out of the top four seeds, still making the playoffs but looking less like a team poised for a title run.
The Blazers are currently on pace for 60-plus wins, but it's more realistic that they'll attain 55 or so, which is still downright impressive considering that they didn't even sniff the playoffs a year ago.