“You’re only as good as your record” is the not-so-famous-but-occasionally-uttered phrase.
That might be the case 50/60 games into the year but at the start of this 2019-20 season, some things can be blown out of proportion – such as the defensively talented Los Angeles Clippers letting two teams score more than 120 points, or the three-point efficiency God James Harden shooting 28 percent from behind the arc.
In fact, there are three teams so far this season that are producing intriguing results for different reasons. But you shouldn’t get too excited or be too put off by their records so far.
San Antonio Spurs
One of a small number of undefeated teams to start the year, this San Antonio Spurs squad is showing the early signs associated with this team once again making the playoffs.
As mentioned in a recent article, the Spurs understand that in order to reach nearly 50 wins, you simply have to beat the bad teams and win at home. The best teams beat others with a winning record and do it on the road, but this year’s San Antonio roster just doesn’t have that level of talent.
And that’s where you shouldn’t be fooled by what Gregg Popovich has achieved in the win-loss column so far. Based on his team’s opponents, the Spurs have the record they are probably supposed to have, but the way in which they’ve got there is not promising.
A two point victory over the Washington Wizards followed a struggle of a win over the New York Knicks. Both teams have players, but neither are expected to reach the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference, so to only have a combined margin of victory of 13 might be overlooking the ability to get easy shots.
The Spurs also started slooooowly against the Portland Trail Blazers. Coming back to win after being down 25-8 in the first quarter is a great sign of a team with fantastic defensive instinctual players, but the shots being launched by the starting unit left a sour taste in the mouth.
Perhaps it’s simply that players are not in midseason form and are getting their eye in from a shooting perspective, but the home crowd helped this Spurs team come back from behind, as well as good defense, and they’ll only be in San Antonio 38 more times.
Call it bad luck. Call it half-expected, self-imposed destructive behavior built in to the DNA of a franchise that has been mis-managed for a generation and a half. But whatever you call it, the Phoenix Suns have the record everyone expected, but possibly don’t deserve.
In the competitive Western Conference, the Valley Boyz (worst nickname ever) are likely to finish well outside the playoff race. But this year is different to the previous nine. This year they have an actual roster, with proper NBA players who can genuinely do things on the basketball court.
Devin Booker has been cooking so far and out-duelled the best defensive guard in the league, Patrick Beverley. Monty Williams has the team playing something called defense, which is a new concept to Phoenix basketball players and might catch on. And even though they are without one of the best young centers in the game today for 25 games because of a drug policy violation, people wonder whether the addition of a point guard, the acquisition of a solid wing and an array of useful tall players with championship experience might help win games.
They could have been 4-0, and even though the Suns are 2-2, it could be, and has been, a lot worse.
The lack of optimism (or some might call it a dose of realism) about the Chicago Bulls hopes this season has been well documented on this website. And the results they have produced during the first games of the season have shown just how far this team has to go.
Barely losing to the Charlotte Hornets in the season opener, barely beating the Memphis Grizzlies a game later, and being walloped by the reigning champion Toronto Raptors, then failing to get past the New York Knicks – these all show why the excited previews for this team were slightly ahead of schedule.
In the long term, this core group of Lauri Markkanen, Zach Lavine, Tomas Satoransky, and the addition of Coby White, will benefit hugely from Jim Boylen’s coaching. But this is the first full season in this system. And even for those players who have been present, the important ones have suffered season-shortening injuries.
There is no chemistry, little trust and nothing in previous years worth building on. However, there is talent, good coaching and a bunch of guys that act like grown-ups, unlike some previous seasons.
Towards the end of this year, the Bulls could be stringing wins together, but of the teams listed here, Chicago might just be as good as their record.
Featured photo –