Blog Entry

Pop Quiz: What teams are flying under the radar?

Posted on: September 2, 2010 1:17 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2010 1:22 pm
Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question.. .

What teams might people be sleeping on?

When the season starts, everyone is in first place. And when the season starts, everyone has the hopes of being that sleeper team that comes out of nowhere to shock the basketball world. Everyone thinks their team could be the next Oklahoma City Thunder, the next Tampa Bay Rays, the next New Orleans Saints. Even the most pessimistic fan has that small bone in their body that thinks, "What if?"

But for some squads, it's just not realistic. Just like there has to be a best team, there also has to be a worst team. We've already tried to focus in on that really, really bad team. But what about the squads maybe flying under the radar? Not just teams that might come out of nowhere and make a playoff run, but teams like last season's Memphis Grizzlies who were simply just better than expected. Or teams that people simply aren't giving enough credence to. So, who are this season's sleeper candidates?

Sacramento Kings
The Kings are almost approaching "trendy pick" territory, which is extremely dangerous. That's the area the Clippers were in last season and where teams like the Houston Texans have perpetually been stationed. It's like sports purgatory. You're better than terrible, probably mediocre, but because of elevated expecations, you're set up to be a disappointment. It's a really odd place. And the Kings might be in that category.

But the reality is, there's a ton of talent on that roster. Tyreke Evans is obviously waiting to break out into superstardom, smart moves brought in Carl Landry and Samuel Dalembert, two players that help a lot and of course drafting maybe the most talented player last June in DeMarcus Cousins helps. The roster has talent, and lots of it, but it's about overcoming youth and learning to win. The Thunder figured those things out last season as they put together an unexpected 50-win season. That expectation might be a little high for this young Sacramento squad, but seeing them as a potential .500 team or maybe even pushing for the postseason in March isn't too hard to picture. 

Indiana Pacers
By playing much better basketball and finishing the last two months of the season 12-10, the Pacers played themselves out of a higher lottery pick. But what they might have done, is played themselves into a better 2010-11 campaign. Momentum heading into an offseason is always a good thing and even with a rag-tag roster that didn't feature a real point guard, the Pacers were able to compete. Now with Darren Collison, a proven point man, Indiana has something to get a little more excited about.

Of course losing Troy Murphy stings. Stings a lot in fact. Indiana is desperately searching for an interior replacement for Murphy, but for now, the Pacers will try and survive on Danny Granger's scoring, Collison's creating and the continued development of Roy Hibbert. The Eastern Conference is looking at a changing of the guard with teams like Cleveland falling down the line a bit. The eighth spot is wide open in the East, and the Pacers might just have enough to get there.

New Jersey Nets
Don't laugh. Seriously, don't. Everyone knows the Nets weren't truly as bad as their record indicated last season. It was a snowball effect that started in training camp and eventually led to the team flirting with the worst record ever. Simply put, that roster was just too good to win only 14 games last year.

But with the additions of Jordan Farmar, Travis Outlaw and Troy Murphy, there has definitely been a talent upgrade. An interior duo of Brook Lopez and Murphy is definitely one of the best combos in the East. Add in rookie Derrick Favors whose ceiling is so high even he can't touch it and the Nets are a lock to be better. Will they be a playoff team? Probably not. But can they be a vastly improved squad that at least can talk a little postseason around February and March? Definitely.

Portland Trail Blazers
What are they doing on here? Well, hear me out. Most aren't considering the Blazers a true Western contender this season. Most don't think Portland has what it takes to get to the Western finals. Playoff team? Certainly. But a team to be reckoned with? Hardly.

And that's where I think people might be wrong.

Everyone knows the well chronicled injury issues the Blazers faced last year. Starters missed lots of games, bench players missed lots of games, everyone missed lots of games. The team was ripped apart with injuries, but yet somehow, someway, made it into the playoffs and won over 50 games. So imagine that Blazer roster at full tilt. Of course that's a big if, because assuming Greg Oden will be healthy for a full season is like assuming Gary Busey won't say something crazy on TV. But even just having Brandon Roy, Joel Pryzbilla, Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum all together for a full 82 means that's a pretty scary roster. Is this your traditional sleeper? Not really because everyone already knows they're good. But the question is, just how good?


Since: Nov 7, 2006
Posted on: September 3, 2010 7:08 pm

Pop Quiz: What teams are flying under the radar?

Don't laugh. Seriously, don't. Everyone knows the Nets weren't truly as bad as their record indicated last season. It was a snowball effect that started in training camp and eventually led to the team flirting with the worst record ever. Simply put, that roster was just too good to win only 14 games last year.

What in the hell is he talking about? How was that roster just too good to only win 14 games? What is he basing that analysis on?  The Nets were EXACTLY as bad as their record indicated.  Let me support that with some facts (unlike the author of this nonesense). 

the Nets ranked 30th in scoring (out of 30)
the Nets ranked 29th in point differential
the Nets ranked 30th in fg %
the Nets ranked 27th in opponents fg %
the Nets ranked 29th in 3pt %
the Nets ranked 25th in opponents 3pt %
the Nets ranked 30th in assists

But with the additions of , and Troy Murphy, there has definitely been a talent upgrade

Taking nothing away from Murphy...but when Farmar and Outlaw are considered a DEFINITE talent upgrade then guess what? You must not have had much talent in their place.

I have nothing against the Nets (why would I or anyone else?) but i'm becoming more and more certain that this guy doesn't know what he is talking about, he's just talking and unlike the rest of us, he is getting paid for it (lord only knows why).

Since: Sep 4, 2007
Posted on: September 3, 2010 1:13 pm

Pop Quiz: What teams are flying under the radar?

I think the Blazers are a big question mark this year too.  There has been a lot of negetive talk about injuries there.  I think that a healthy Batum alone is going to be huge...just look at what he's been doing on the France team.  That kid needs more minutes as a Blazer and more shots.

Of course the big question mark is Oden...but the time table on Pryzbilla is actually longer and his return from injury more in question in my opinion.  However, you forgot to mention Marcus Camby, getting up there in age, but still an effective interior presence and shot blocker.  This year the Blazers have 3 bigs they can rotate and hopefully limit minutes on each other.  Add in some luck, and a healthy season from that position will also do huge things for the Blazers.

Perhaps another concern though is Roy.  Yeah he returned in the playoffs last year but you could tell his knee was banged up.  The kid could barely jump, cut and drive to the hole like he always has.  Is this a recurring problem for roy?  Also, will his back continue to cause him problems due to overuse?  The question I have though is, do the Blazers really need Roy anymore to put up all star numbers.  You've got a much more developed team around him and perhaps he doesn't need to ball hog as much as he did in his first 3 years and can now focus on getting people involved, and being that deathly touch at the end of games.

Lastly, you forgot to mention Lamarcus Aldridge, possibly the most consistent player on the team, that has shown himself to be very durable as well.  He runs the floor well, has a good stroke and has improved on his defense.  If he can add 2 more rebounds per game and 1 block he's going to be all star quality.  This guy is a different personality from the stars in the league.  He needs the coach and players to build him up, stay positive with him, to keep his self-esteem high.  As he continues to age and mature this will become more natural to him.  He needs to realize that he is on the brink of being an all star player in this league and will the loss of boozer and stoudamire from the west, it may just be his time.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or