With the new year upon us, I thought I'd compare each team's performance so far with preseason expectations, and highlight a few reasons for their surprising or disappointing play. I'll be comparing their current win pace to the preseason Vegas over-unders, vjl110's preseason predictions, and my own expectations. I'll do the East today, and the West later today or this week.
- Vegas: 50.5 Wins
- vjl110: 1.2 Diff.
- Me: 48 Wins
- Current Pace: 38-44, -2.2 Diff
What happened? Everything wrong with the Celtics can be summed up with this link. When KG can't play, 19 minutes every night, they're horrible defensively, and everybody outside their big three has been a below average player. If Avery Bradley can give them above average production instead of Barbosa and Courtney Lee's awful campaigns, they might be able to sneak into the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, but it doesn't look good for the Celtics.
- Vegas: 46.5 Wins
- vj110: 2.6 Diff.
- Me: 46 Wins
- Current Pace: 56 Wins, 5.0 Diff
What happened? One of the league's biggest surprises, the Knicks' 39% three point shooting on a high number of attempts has facilitated the league's second best offense. Carmelo Anthony is having a career year playing at the 4, and Jason Kidd is having his best season in years. Essentially, they've become a slightly worse version of the 2010 Mavericks, fueled by super-efficiency from Chandler and Kidd. Their ability to keep this up seems dependant on their shooting, as their defense has slipped all the way to 20th, even with Amar'e on the sidelines.
- Vegas: 45.5 Wins
- vjl110: -2.6 Diff
- Me: 36 Wins
- Current Pace: 38 Wins, -2.4 Diff
What happened? The Sixers replaced Iggy, Lou, and Brand with Bynum, Nick Young, and Kwame Brown. They were banking on Bynum anchoring the offense, Jrue Holiday and/or Evan Turner making a leap, and Doug Collins propping up the defense. So far, Bynum's been MIA, and Thaddeus Young and Holiday have carried the team to near respectability against an easy schedule, but the supporting cast has been abysmal, and this has the potential to get ugly quickly.
- Vegas: 44.5 Wins
- vjl110: -0.3 Diff
- Me: 45 Wins
- Current Pace: 42 Wins, -0.3 Diff
What happened? The backcourt has been worse than expected, but Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche have been better than expected, so it's evened out. I can't think of anything dramatic to say about this team.
- Vegas: 33.5 Wins
- vjl110: 0.4 Diff
- Me: 34 Wins
- Current Pace: 29 Wins, -3.1 Diff
What happened? Way too much playing time given to absolutely abysmal players. Mickael Pietrus, Terrence Ross, Linas Kleiza, John Lucas, Landry Fields, Dominic McGuire, Aaron Gray, and Andrea Bargnani have been terrible and more than offset positive contributions from the rest of the roster. There are still pieces here, and the Raptors are a perfect candidate for a couple "AK-Wes=Durant" style pickups.
- Vegas: 51.5 Wins
- vjl110: 4.5 Diff
- Me: 53 Wins
- Current Pace: 48 wins, 1.5 Diff
What happened? Danny Granger got hurt, and the offense collapsed, but the defense has been great, which has kept them afloat. Roy Hibbert shooting 39% hasn't helped, either. That's pretty much it. Granger replacing the Gerald Green/Sam Young/Some Lance Stephenson trio of doom should help quite a bit.
- Vegas: 47.5 Wins
- vjl110: -2.3 Diff
- Me: 42 Wins
- Current Pace: 45 Wins, 0.8 Diff
What happened? Luol Deng and Joakim Noah have played literally every minute this season, which has kept the Bulls respectable despite losing Rose and their entire bench. Thibs has this group playing defense, and is riding them into the ground, as is his wont. Currently 25th in offense, 5th in defense, which tells you all you need to know.
- Vegas: 36.5 Wins
- vjl110: -1.8 Diff
- Me: 36 Wins
- Current Pace: 45 Wins, -0.2 Diff
What happened? Larry Sanders has come out of nowhere to become a fantastic long-armed, disruptive defender. Other than that, they are who we thought they were, including the offensive ineffectiveness suggested by the Jennings-Ellis backcourt, but Sanders' emergence has been enough to push Milwaukee into what will surely be an epic race for the East's 5 seed.
- Vegas: 31.5 Wins
- vjl110: -9.5 Diff
- Me: 22 Wins
- Current Pace: 29 Wins, -1.5 Diff
What happened? Andre Drummond's been fantastic. I liked him as a long-term prospect, but didn't think he's be good for a couple years. They're also outshooting opponents by 51 points from beyond the arc thanks to hot shooting from Brandon Knight and Charlie Villaneuva. That might regress somewhat.
- Vegas: 30.5 Wins
- vjl110: -2.1 Diff
- Me: 30 Wins
- Current Pace: 18 Wins, -5.5 Diff
What happened? Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao, when healthy, have been fantastic. The rest of the team, with the exception of Tristan Thompson on occasion, has been unwatchably bad. At least they'll probably get another chance to blow a #4 pick this year!
- Vegas: 60.5 Wins
- vjl110: 7.0 Diff
- Me: 63 Wins
- Current Pace: 59 Wins, 4.8 Diff
What happened? By all accounts, they been taking it easy every other night, and they are still the number one seed in the East. Only 18th in defense, it remains to be seen whether that's a function of effort, or Wade and Battier losing a step. Still overwhelming favorites in the East, due as much to the collapse of the rest of the conference as to their play so far this year.
- Vegas: 43.5 Wins
- vjl110: 1.2 Diff
- Me: 49 Wins
- Current pace: 55 Wins, 2.3 Diff
What happened? A bit lucky so far based on point differential, but most importantly, Lou Williams has been able to replace Joe Johnson adequately. Other than that, the Hawks remain the Hawks, and will continue to remain the Hawks in perpetuity.
- Vegas: 27.5 Wins
- vjl110: -2.5 Diff (before Wall injury)
- Me: 31 Wins
- Current Pace: 11 Wins, -7.9 Diff
What happened? I don't even want to talk about this team. Let's move on.
- Vegas: 23.5 Wins
- vjl110: -10.7 Diff
- Me: 22 Wins
- Current Pace: 32 Wins, -2.9 Diff
What happened? All hail Jacque Vaughn! Last year, the Magic finished 12th in defense. This year? 12th in defense. Nobody's been fantastic, but they play smart team defense, and have enough guys that are close enough to average (Afflalo, Redick, Vucevic, Nicholson, Davis) that they've stayed respectable.
- Vegas: 19.5 Wins
- vjl110: -14.9 Diff
- Me: 20 Wins
- Current Pace: 21 Wins, -8.4 Diff
What Happened? Baby steps. After the horror that was last year, the Bobcats have put together a collection of semi-decent, useful perimeter players in Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ben Gordon, Gerald Henderson, and Ramon Sessions. The front court has been just as horrible, though, preventing this team from being competitive every night.
Who has surprised you in the East this year?