The NBA's Most Surprising and Disappointing Players and Teams
Most Surprising Players
Even though Jennings has struggled recently, he is still the most surprising NBA player through the first quarter of the season. Jennings was the top high school prospect two years ago, but after his immense struggles in Europe last year, most scouts were not high on him. Even Jennings was not confident about his stock, as he did not attend the draft because he feared he would be the last player in the green room and fall out of the lottery.
Despite his small size, lack of strength, and questions about his maturity, the Milwaukee Bucks drafted him with the 10th pick. Immediately, Jennings surpassed all of his expectations as he has averaged 21 points, six assists, 3.8 rebounds, and one steal per game while shooting 42 percent from the field, 45 percent from the three-point line and 80 percent from the free-throw line. Finally, Jennings has helped lead the Bucks to an 11-11 record despite the team's star Michael Redd just averaging 10 points and playing in only six out of 22 games.
Artest's talent was never in question when he signed with the Lakers this past offseason, but how he would fit and whether he would be a distraction to the Lakers' repeat chances were big questions.
So far in 22 games, Artest has fit as well as any Lakers fan could have hoped, even though he has had a couple of small distractions. Artest has lived up to his reputation as a shut down defensive player as he has played both excellent one-on-one and team defense.
Artest has also been a willing passer, and accepted his much smaller role offensively compared to the last several seasons, as he has averaged four assists and only 10.7 field goal attempts compared to 15 and 17 shots the previous two seasons.
Overall, Artest is averaging 13 points, 4.7 rebounds, four assists, and 1.3 steals while shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from the three-point line.
Honorable Mention: Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings)
Most Disappointing Players
Hedo was signed to a huge five-year contract worth $52 million and then was traded to the Raptors to help Chris Bosh lead the Raptors back to the postseason and convince Bosh of resigning with the team after this season. However, he has not lived up to his expectations as he is only averaging 13.7 points, five rebounds, and four assists while shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 38 percent from the free-throw line compared to the 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists he averaged last season with the Orlando Magic.
Jefferson was the big offseason addition for the Spurs. H was expected to help the Spurs' big three with the scoring load and help diversify the offensive with another legitimate 20-point threat. However, even with Manu Ginobili missing five games and averaging only 13.8 points on 39 percent shooting from the field, and Tony Parker missing four games and having his points per game drop by five, Jefferson has not provided the boost the Spurs expected.
Jefferson is only averaging 13.6 points (six less than last season), 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 0.8 steals while shooting 45.7 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from the three-point line and a career low 67.8 percent from the free-throw line. His lack of production offensively is one of the main reasons the Spurs are only 11-9.
Honorable Mention: John Salmons (Chicago Bulls)
Most Surprising Teams
The Hawks have been improving over the last few years, as they went to seven games against the Celtics two years ago in the first round of the playoffs, then advanced to the second round last season. Even with this improvement, no one expected the Hawks to be tied for the third-best record in the league and tied with the Magic in the Southeast division.
Josh Smith has matured a lot since last season, improving his decision-making and shot selection. First-year Hawk Jamal Crawford is a leading contender for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Joe Smith is a valuable veteran big man off the bench. Along with Al Horford, these have been the reasons why the Hawks have improved so much.
The Rockets have been extremely competitive so far and have a respectable 13-10 record despite having $40 million out of their $73 million payroll on the sidelines due to the season ending-injury to Yao Ming and the injured knee of Tracy McGrady. The Rockets have won due to their main offseason addition Trevor Ariza averaging a career-high 18 points, Carl Landry averaging 16 points and six rebounds (both career-highs), and Aaron Brooks averaging a career-high 17.1 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line.
Honorable Mention: Phoenix Suns (16-8 record); missed playoffs last season
Most Disappointing Teams
The Wizards were the popular sleeper team in the league before the season started. Many experts and fans expected them to have the fourth seed in the East with the return of star guard Gilbert Arenas and starting center Brendan Haywood—who both missed the majority of last season—and the additions of Mike Miller, Randy Foye, and coach Flip Saunders. Yet, they are only 7-14 and are tied with the Knicks for the third-worst record in the East.
The team has lacked any team chemistry and has been surprisingly below average offensively. Despite their array of several big-time offensive players, the Wizards rank just 21st in the league in points per game and 24th in field goal percentage. Two-time all-star Caron Butler has had trouble adjusting to his role with Arenas back in the lineup and is averaging only 16 points per game on 42 percent from the field and 30 percent from the three-point line.
The Bulls were another team that was considered to be a sleeper in the East, especially after their great series against the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season and the potential of Derrick Rose following his Rookie of the Year campaign.
However, the team is just 8-14 so far in the season, and only 2-8 in their last 10 games as Rose has struggled with an ankle injury throughout the year.
The major reason the Bulls have been playing so poorly is dtheir pathetic offense, which ranks just 28th in the league in points as they average only 90.4 points per game and have scored 100 points in a game only twice. The Bulls have also been unable to replace Ben Gordon, who signed with the Pistons as a free agent and was the team's leading scorer last season.
Honorable Mention: San Antonio Spurs (11-9 record, tied for 8th seed in West)
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