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Winners and Losers One Month into the NBA Season

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With group play of the In-Season Tournament passing, the NBA is just over a month into the 2023-24 season. Over the course of the month, there have been plenty of exciting games and moments, as well as good and bad surprises from teams and players. With that being said, here’s a look at some of the biggest winners and losers one month into the NBA season.  

 

Orlando Magic: Winners

 

One of the biggest surprises this season is the Orlando Magic. 18 games into their season, the Magic are 13-5, with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. The team is currently on an eight-game win streak, with notable wins over the Pacers, Nuggets, and Celtics. Everyone on the team has taken a step forward this season. After a rough October, sophomore Paolo Banchero is averaging 19.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 4.6 APG as he looks to earn his first All-Star nod. Franz Wagner is leading all Magic players with 20.2 PPG, alongside 5.6 RPG and 3.2 APG. Coming off back-to-back 30+ point games, Franz has established himself as one of the best young forwards in the game. There have been many surprises on this young team so far this season. Cole Anthony has looked like a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year while Jalen Suggs has impressed as a starter when many were ready to write him off. While the Magic haven’t had the hardest schedule so far, they have beat several contenders early on. While there is no telling if the Magic this up for the entire season, they have been one of the bright spots early on. 

 

Detroit Pistons: Losers

 

Many expected the Detroit Pistons to take a step toward the Play-In Tournament, but they instead took another huge step toward a top pick in the 2024 Draft. Detroit is currently on a 16-game losing streak, but the team has been struggling for a long time. Going all the way back to February, Detroit has gone an extremely disappointing 6-43. This team is young, and everyone is struggling to shoot as well as defend. The Pistons rank near the bottom of the league in both offensive and defensive rating as well as numerous stats including three-pointers attempted and made per game, turnovers per game, and steals per game. New head coach Monty Williams has called out his players for their play, saying they lack fight in their games. Sophomore Jaden Ivey has struggled early on, being benched by Williams. Cade Cunningham is one of two players averaging over 30 MPG, and the only player averaging over 15.0 PPG. Looking ahead, Detroit’s season will more than likely get worse. Through the end of the year, Detroit has games against Orlando, Indiana, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Boston. For the Pistons, their season is already over, unfortunately. 

 

Oklahoma City Thunder: Winners

After making it to the Play-In Tournament at the end of the last season, many expected the Oklahoma City Thunder to take a step. Nobody expected the Thunder to take such a big leap though. OKC currently sits atop four in the Western Conference with a 12-6 record. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has led the charge, looking like a contender for MVP averaging 30.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 6.1 APG. Rookie Chet Holmgren has looked like the Rookie of the Year early in the season, averaging 17.9 PPG and 8.0 RPG. Jalen Williams has quickly established himself as a part of the Thunder’s young core, only his is second season. OKC has proven to be one of the best teams on both sides of the ball, having a top-seven offense and defense. OKC has had several great wins this season including back-to-back wins over the Warriors, Phoenix, and blowouts against Chicago, San Antonio, and Portland. With several teams in the West falling below expectations, the Thunder could finish near the top of the West and make a deep playoff run. With the core so young and the ridiculous amount of assets the Thunder still have, this is only the beginning for this team. 

 

Chicago Bulls: Losers

No team in the league has been more embarrassing than the Chicago Bulls. Currently sitting at 6-14, the Bulls are one of the worst teams in the league. Chicago is one of, if not the worst first quarter and first half teams. In numerous games this season, Chicago has scored under 15 points in the first quarter and just over 30 in the first half. The trio of Zach Lavine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic does not work and will never work. Both the Bulls and Zach Lavine are open to a trade, but there are very few suitors due to Lavine’s below-average play to start the season, as well as his big contract. Most players are not available to be traded until December 15th, so Lavine will be with the team for another couple of weeks at minimum. Vucevic has begun to fall off after receiving a new deal this past offseason. Patrick Williams has continued to struggle while new additions Jevon Carter and Torey Craig have not made much of an impact. At this point, it’s not if, it’s when the first domino falls in the Bulls rebuild. Head coach Billy Donovan and Arturas Karnisovas have been heavily criticized by the fanbase, but the Reinsdorfs have publicly supported both. Nearly 20 games into the season, Chicago cannot come back from the bottom and is better off blowing it up and tanking for a high draft pick. 

 

The In-Season Tournament: Winner

The inaugural In-Season Tournament has been great for the league thus far. The viewership is up compared to the same time as last year, the games have been exciting, and both the players and fans see more value in these pre-Christmas games. There have been a few criticisms of the tournament though. The courts have been criticized by several players for their appearance as well as being slippery, increasing the risk of potential injuries. Point differential has also become an issue in some cases. In Tuesday’s matchup between the Celtics and Bulls, head coaches Joe Mazzulla and Billy Donovan got into a heated discussion as the Celtics were keeping their starters in to ensure a 23+ point victory. Reports came out saying that Mazzulla would apologize to Billy Donovan post-game as well as apologizing to Bulls Center Andre Drummond to using the “Hack-a-Drummond” strategy to limit Chicago’s scoring. Many have sided with Mazzulla, saying he did nothing wrong and was doing what was needed for the Celtics to win their group, while others have argued point differentials are an issue within the group play stage. Even with those criticisms, the In-Season Tournament has been a great success for the league so far.

 

Golden State Warriors: Losers

The Golden State Warriors start and end with superstar Stephen Curry. Curry has shown why he’s one of the best players in the league at the age of 35, averaging 29.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 4.1 APG. Other than Steph, there are not a lot of positives for the Warriors. The opposite of last season, the Warriors are struggling at home and are better on the road. They have a top-15 offensive and bottom-15 defense. Klay Thompson has taken a major step back and contract talks have not helped his play. Andrew Wiggins has struggled to start the season, averaging under 13.0 PPG. Chris Paul has had some success off the bench, but he’s regressed as well. As for Draymond Green, he continues to be one of the most controversial players in the league, recently returning from his five-game suspension. Golden State is in a bad spot, not only now, but going forward as well. The Warriors need to maximize the remaining years of Curry’s prime. A drastic move may be needed to keep the Warriors as contenders, a move that fans and players may not like. 

 

Minnesota Timberwolves: Winners

The biggest surprise in the Western Conference so far this season is the first-seed Minnesota Timberwolves. Many questioned this team, the Rudy Gobert trade, and if Karl-Anthony Towns was still a fit on this team. The Timberwolves are proving everyone wrong, showing they have what it takes to compete with the best in the league. Anthony Edwards has made it clear he’s the number one option on this team, averaging 26.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 5.0 APG. KAT has had a bounce-back year so far, while Gobert has led Minnesota’s league-best defense. So far this season, Minnesota has had convincing wins over the defending Champion Nuggets, Boston, Golden State, New York and Philadelphia. The Wolves have been dominant at home, winning nine of their ten games played in Minnesota. Against their conference foes, the Wolves have only lost two of 11 games. Looking at the rest of the calendar year, Minnesota has a rough month ahead of them. If Minnesota can go into the new year maintaining their current play, they should be seen as a serious playoff contender.

 

Jordan Poole: Loser

No player has had a rougher season than Washington Wizards guard Jordan Poole. When Poole was traded from the Golden State Warriors to Washington, many thought he was going to have a standout season and win the league in scoring. Unfortunately, it’s been the opposite for Poole. Currently averaging 17.4 PPG, 3.5 APG, and 2.27 RPG, shooting splits of 39.8% from the field and 29.8% from beyond the arc, almost all of Poole’s stats have fallen across the board. Many have criticized Poole for acting like his former teammate Stephen Curry, something that has led to many comical moments and lowlights on the court. He has been described as reckless and a bad decision-maker, playing a significant role in the Wizards’ 3-15 start. While some reports suggested the Wizards were going to try to flip Jordan Poole for assets, he has only hurt any trade value he has right now. The season may only be a month in, but it already looks over for both Poole and the Wizards.

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