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NBA Surprise Teams

   by Al McMordie - 02/09/2005

Every year there are surprises in sports, some good, some bad. Sometimes key players join a team and make a big difference. Other times a team with young talent begins to turn a corner as the players mature and begin to click. Still, other times a team can go from being a bad defensive team one year, to a strong team the next, especially if there’s a coaching change. Let’s take a look at some of the NBA surprise teams.

Wizards: Washington has done it with offense, averaging 102 points per game, third best in the NBA. Gilbert Arenas (24 ppg) has been joined by newcomer Antawn Jamison (20 ppg) to provide some young legs for this group, while Kwame Brown and Brandon Hayward are content to be role players under the boards. Role players can be just as important as stars (look what happened to the Lakers in the Finals last June – too many stars who wanted the ball, too few role players to do the dirty work). The young Wizards do most of their damage at home, at 17-7 where they average 105 ppg. Notice that this young team wins the games they’re supposed to, but fails often when stepping up in competition: Washington is 21-2 SU, 15-8 ATS as a favorite, but 6-17 SU, 9-13 ATS as an underdog.

Bulls: Another young team that has turned a corner fast. This team has been so bad since Michael Jordan retired they’ve been able to stockpile high draft picks. It seems to be finally paying off. Chicago has Kirk Hinrich, averaging 7 assists per game, dishing the ball to Eddie Curry, and rookie Ben Gordon. 7-foot Tyson Chandler has stepped up his game on the boards, blocking shots and averaging 8.9 rebounds per game. The most impressive thing that stands out is that the young Bulls play brilliant defense, allowing .415% -- No. 1 in the NBA! Chicago allows 90 ppg at home where they are 15-10 SU, 14-11 ATS. Sports bettors take note: this team is 18-7 “under the totalâ€쳌 at home.

Sonics: Seattle has been a big surprise, running their way to a strong first half of the season. While Ray Allen gets much of the attention for his scoring, often overlooked is the fact that Seattle has four big guys who rotate down low and crash the boards. Danny Fortson (6 rpg), Nick Collison and Rashard Lewis pound the glass, and did you know that Reggie Evans is grabbing 9 rebounds per game? It will be interesting to see how these guys fair in the playoffs against a physical team like San Antonio.

Clippers: The Clippers? All right, so LA is still a long shot to make the playoffs, but they are a .500 team that has been a surprise, especially at home where they’re 17-10 SU/ATS. Los Angeles has turned into a physical team under the boards this season, led by workhorse Elton Brand. They still struggle badly on the road, but at home they’ve been making noise, recently topping Dallas 97-87, Miami 114-112 and Seattle 103-92 as home dogs. They may not make the playoffs in the rugged West, but notice the Clippers feast on teams from the weak East at 10-5 SU and 11-4 ATS!

Grizzlies: Memphis has played much better since Mike Fratello took over for Hubie Brown as head coach. Fratello has a reputation for being able to teach defense, and notice that Memphis is 20-5 “under the totalâ€쳌 at home!

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