Hello, and welcome back to Post Up. In today’s article we will be looking at who the most surprisingly impressive team was this year in the NBA, and who was the biggest disappointment. While we could throw this into our “NBA Mock Award Show,” we will not because the NBA does not give out an award for such things. However, this will not stop me from using the FUBAR award, because I can and I will. With that being said, let us dive into who we at Post Up believe is the most impressively surprising team in the 2013-2014 NBA season.
Most Surprisingly Impressive Team:
Right now the Phoenix Suns are sitting in 9th in the Western Conference in a dead heat tie with the Dallas Mavericks and the Memphis Grizzlies for the last playoff spot. That is right, THE PHOENIX SUNS ARE IN THE PLAYOFF PICTURE. How many of you reading this can honestly say that at the beginning of the season the Suns would be in this position, I know I cannot. At the beginning of the season, the creators of Post Up were discussing who the worst team in the NBA could be this year, and my honest to God vote was for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns, a week before we had this discussion, had traded away Marcin Gortat for next to nothing. The Suns did not have a recognizable star player on their team, let alone a superstar. Here is what their team looked like on opening night:
- PG: Goran Dragic, Ish Smith
- SG: Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin, Dionte Christmas
- SF: P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green
- PF: Channing Frye, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris
- C: Miles Plumlee, Alex Len, Slava Kravtsov
Since opening night, the Suns have removed Slava Kravtsov in favor of Shavlik Randolph. Pretty hefty of a move, am I right? But, in all honesty, look at that line up. Kravtsov, Randolph, and Christmas hardly play. Of the guys on this list that have two years or less under their belt and play decent minutes, we have: Len, Goodwin, the Morris Brothers, and P.J. Tucker. Eric Bledsoe and Ish Smith have 3 years experience, but Ish has never played significant minutes in his short career, and Bledsoe has never been a starter. Gerald Green and Channing Frye are the veterans on this team playing 6 and 7 years respectively. Green has been an okay journeyman at best in his career, and Channing Frye has been just a decent player whether as a starter or bench player. Then there is Goran Dragic, or Steve Nash 2.0. He played for the Suns early in his career and was essentially loaned out to a Texas team for a short time, then brought back, like a certain Steve Nash. Dragic was thrust into the starter role last season with a stat line of:
- 14.7 PPG, 7.4 AST, 3.1 REB, 1.6 STL, 0.3 BLK, 44.3% FG, 31.9% 3PT
They were decent numbers, but nothing special. It is amazing to think at the beginning of the season, he was the Suns best player, hands down, and he was playing slightly above-average at best. This is exactly why I chose the Suns as the team I thought was going to do the worst this year. They were a very young and inexperienced team, with a new coach and a big draft coming up in 2014. You trade away, arguably your best player at the time in Gortat for nothing. All signs pointed to tanking for someone like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, etc.
Boy, was I wrong.
The Suns have been terrific this year, and by no means is that an overstatement, if anything it is an understatement. Dragic has taken his play to another level and is in star, if not superstar form with a stat line of:
- 20.4 PPG, 6.0 AST, 3.2 REB, 1.3 STL, 0.3 BLK, 50.9% FG, 41.6 3PT
WOW! Dragic has been superb this year and is arguably the most improved player this past season. Dragic has not been the only one playing well, however, but the whole team has been playing well. I am not going to dive too much into details, but Bledsoe, when healthy, is shooting well and scoring in bunches. Markieff Morris has been a Sixth Man of the Year candidate all year. Len and Plumlee have done very well in filling the void Gortat left behind. Ish Smith has been an extremely surprising and more than serviceable back-up PG. Gerald Green is having career years in nearly every category. The Suns are sitting at 13 games over .500 and the fact of the matter is, that is amazing.
There is also one person who deserves A LOT of credit for what has happened with the Suns this year, and no it is not their training staff (everyone already knows that is amazing). Jokes aside, the man I am looking to call out and give a ton of credit to is Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek has been beyond words this year and it is pretty obvious to see why. The Suns had arguably a better team last year and they managed to only go 25-57 under Alvin Gentry and Lindsey Hunter. Now I am not going to sit here and pretend like I watch the Suns whenever I can, because I do not. Therefore, I am sure Suns fans know exactly what Hornacek has done to fix this team exactly, but I do not. However, I can say this, whatever you are doing young man, keep it up. I cannot praise Hornacek enough and there is a reason why he is more than likely going to be a finalist for the Coach of the Year Award. From top to bottom, the Suns have been playing well above expectations this year and that is why they are Post Up’s pick for Most Surprisingly Impressive Team.
FUBAR Award (Most Disappointing Team)
New York Knicks
This was a much harder choice to make than the Most Surprisingly Impressive Team. With the Suns, they were a much more clear-cut choice than, lets say the Raptors, Wizards, Bobcats, or Trail Blazers. The reason for this is because they had a much more inexperienced team to go along with an inexperienced head coach. Choosing the Knicks was not the same, however. The struggle had been choosing between the Knicks and Nuggets. Both were playoff teams by far last year and both have been decimated by injuries this year. The only major differences that tipped the Knicks to win this award was that they do not have a new head coach, and they are in the East.
The Nuggets having a new head coach should be an obvious disadvantage for the Nuggets, especially because Brain Shaw was following the legendary Hall of Famer in George Karl. Karl was very involved with the Nuggets organization and the teams was structured to his style of play. The idea of changing coaches seamlessly is a bit of a pipe dream, especially with someone like Karl being the previous coach (is that not right Manchester Untied fans)? The other object that I mentioned that tipped the scale in the Knicks favor was them being in the East. What does that have to do with anything, some of you may be thinking? It changes everything. The fact of the matter is, if the Nuggets were in the East they would be fighting for the last playoff spot with the Knicks, instead of already being out of it in the West. Both teams have been bad this year, but the fact that I might see the Knicks in the playoffs angers me.
Neither team deserves to make the playoffs, and to be honest I do not know who would deserve the last playoff spot in the East, that is an argument for another article, but certainly not the Knicks. The Knicks have been an extremely depressing team this year. They have been going from massive losing streak to losing streak and then ultimately pulled it together long enough to fight back and be the 8th seed currently in the East. This is a team whose only issue has been injuries this year, but at the same time only had one key injury in Tyson Chandler. Amar’e, Smith and Carmelo have all been healthy most of the year, and yet they still cannot play good basketball. Woodson is a good coach, and I have no idea what has happened with him this year but he has also taken a step back. The fact of the matter is, without Carmelo on this team, the Knicks would be sitting around 76ers, Bucks territory. I understand that the 76ers and Bucks have not been good, or even average this year but, let me ask you this: where they supposed to be? The Knicks were expected to be around the 4th or 5th seed in the East and have an above .500 record by at least five games, the 76ers and Bucks were never expected to do that. That is why, even with all of the 76ers and Bucks failures, Post Up has chosen the New York Knicks for the FUBAR Award of the Most Disappointing Team.
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All statistics were provided by basketball-reference.com