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NBA Power Rankings: Indiana Pacers and the Biggest Surprises in the NBA

Allen KimSenior Analyst IDecember 3, 2010

NBA Power Rankings: Indiana Pacers and the Biggest Surprises in the NBA

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Indiana Pacers have been one of the biggest surprises through the first quarter of the 2010-11 NBA season.

    However, they're not alone.

    There are a number of players and teams alike that have been pleasant surprises, with some making monumental leaps in their games since last season.

Indiana Pacers

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    The Indiana Pacers are over .500 and they're fresh off of wins against the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers.

    Many were anticipating coach Jim O'Brien getting the axe at some point this year, but he has the team playing some of their best basketball in years.

    The biggest reason for their success seems to fall on the shoulders of their center, Roy Hibbert. He was tagged as a breakout candidate by many, and he's exceeded expectations in the first quarter of the season.

    Indiana is ranked ninth in defensive efficiency and 10th in opponents points allowed.

    At this pace, they're sure to make the playoffs after a long drought.

Landry Fields

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    Selected 39th overall in the 2010 NBA draft, Landry Fields has been one of the most pleasant surprises for the New York Knicks in a long time.

    Fields was plugged into the starting two-guard slot on opening night and has responded with some amazing play. He is averaging 10.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. He leads all guards in rebounding and his 54.4 percent shooting is good for 11th in the league.

    Fields' efforts were good enough to earn him Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors for November.

    While his numbers don't stick out like those of John Wall and Blake Griffin, he's the third best rookie in his draft class. Also, a lot of his contributions to the team don't show up in the box score.

Blake Griffin

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    Blake Griffin came out of college as a highly touted prospect, drafted first overall in the 2009 NBA draft.

    He missed what was supposed to be his rookie season with a broken knee cap, but to say he's bounced back strong in his first season would be an understatement.

    For the year, he's putting up 20.7 points on 53.1 percent shooting, grabbing 11.6 rebounds and dishing out 2.7 assists.

    He's only one of three players to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. The other two players? Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Pretty good company for the rookie to be in.

    In a home game against the New York Knicks, he had a true coming out party where he recorded a career high 44 points.

    Right now, he's leading the Rookie of the Year race.

Eric Gordon

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    After playing for Team USA and winning a gold medal in the FIBA World Championships, Eric Gordon has turned over a new leaf.

    Gordon is playing at an All-Star caliber level averaging 24.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

    He's getting to the line 8.9 times a game and his aggressive offensive game has paid huge dividends.

    Gordon's 24.1 point scoring average is good enough for eight best in the league, just behind LeBron James and ahead of Carmelo Anthony.

New Orleans Hornets

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    With a new head coach in place and their star point guard supposedly unhappy, there were many questions facing the New Orleans Hornets and their playoff hopes for the season.

    They've answered all those questions with the fifth best record in the league, with 13 wins and five losses.

    New Orleans offensive efficiency is in the middle of the pack ranked 15th overall, but they've been winning on their defensive laurels. The team is tied with the Boston Celtics in defensive efficiency and they're allowing the second least amount of points.

    Chris Paul is leading the charge playing like the superstar we all know him to be. Paul is even a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

    The Hornets will be a dangerous team all season long and even more so in the playoffs.

Russell Westbrook

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    With Kevin Durant fighting through injuries and starting the season slow, it's been Russell Westbrook leading the team.

    Westbrook has exploded this season averaging 24.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 2.2 steals.

    He scored a career high 43 points against the Pacers just last week and he has five games of 30-plus points.

    The young point guard is getting to the line 9.5 times a game and he's knocking down 87.2 percent of his shots from the line.

    Right now, the Thunder owe most of their success to Westbrook.

Raymond Felton

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    Raymond Felton left the Charlotte Bobcats in free agency to sign with the New York Knicks.

    He was signed to a two-year contract as a stop-gap, but he's making a strong case to be the Knicks franchise point guard.

    For the year, Felton is averaging career highs across the board with 18.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 2.0 steals. He's even shooting 47.1 percent from the field and his 90.5 percent from the charity stripe is sixth highest in the league.

    Felton—not Amar'e Stoudemire—may very well be the Knicks MVP.

Rajon Rondo

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    We all knew Rajon Rondo could ball, but he's off to an amazing start.

    Rondo is averaging a career high 13.8 assists per game and he's leading the pack by a wide margin.

    On seven different occasions he has dished out 15-plus assists with his season high topping out at 24.

Michael Beasley

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    Michael Beasley was widely considered to be a bust after putting up sub-par stats while with the Miami Heat.

    After getting traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, he has broken out of his shell and he's become a force on the offensive end of the floor.

    His breakout game came against the Sacramento Kings where he scored a career high 42 points.

    Beasley is averaging 21.2 points per game, good enough for 17th highest in the league and just short of his former teammate, Dwyane Wade.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The San Antonio Spurs were seen as aging contenders past their prime.

    However, they've defied expectations early in the season.

    The Spurs have the best record in the NBA with 15 wins and three losses.

    San Antonio is third in offensive efficiency and seventh in defensive efficiency.

    What's most surprising is that Tim Duncan is off to the worst start of his illustrious career, yet the Spurs are destroying opponents. The team's 8.2 point differential is tied for tops in the league.

Dorrell Wright

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    Exiled out of Miami, Dorrell found a new home in Golden State where he has settled in as the team's starting small forward.

    Wright is nearly doubling his previous career high in scoring with a 15.1 average this year. He's also grabbing 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists while getting 1.9 steals-plus-blocks.

    Wright was known for his three-point shooting ability, but he's been lights out this season knocking down 2.3 threes per game at 41.5 percent.

    Last week against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wright scored a career high 30 points while setting a franchise record by hitting nine threes.

Shannon Brown

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    Shannon Brown is off to the best start to his career.

    Brown is averaging 10.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists. He's scored in double-digit figures 11 times this season and he's doing all of this in just under 19 minutes per game off the Lakers bench.

    The most surprising aspect of his game is the 1.6 threes per game he's making on an absurd 45.6 percent shooting.

    It looks like Brown is more than just a high flying dunker.

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