Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Which team most surprises you in the West at this point: Clippers, Jazz or Suns?
Steve Aschburner: Utah. In winning five straight through Tuesday and six of their last seven, the Jazz are navigating close ones and blowouts, high-scoring tilts such as the 113-105 pasting of Cleveland and grinders like their 85-73 victory over Milwaukee last week. The ball is moving – even through notorious stopper Al Jefferson, a great guy with something to prove. They’re also getting quality work from contributors young (Alec Burks, Derrick Favors) and old (Earl Watson, Josh Howard).
Fran Blinebury: After the Jazz opened up the schedule getting clobbered in three of their first four games by an average of 15.6 points, it certainly looked like the first full season P.S. (Post Sloan) was going to bring nothing but misery. Instead coach Tyrone Corbin has shown a stubbornness to stick with the ancient Raja Bell in his starting backcourt and a willingness to let his kiddie corp — Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks — learn on the run. It’s paid off with some fun, aggressive ball. The Jazz are in deep Northwest Division water with OKC, Portland and Denver, but it looks like they’ll be able to tread water until ready to make a splash in the future.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Slight edge to the Jazz because they have recovered from a slow start despite having the farthest to go. The Clippers were always going to be good and the Suns were always going to be competitive, but Utah has been particularly encouraging with such a young roster.
Shaun Powell: Not really surprised by any of the teams and their records, just some of the situations. Thought Utah would give more time to Derrick Favors (just 23 minutes a night). Thought the Clippers’ backcourt would be a bit more vulnerable defensively, with three smallish point guards in the rotation (CP3, Mo Williams, Chauncey Billups). Thought the Suns would trade Steve Nash by now, and maybe they will in two months. Biggest team surprise in the West is Memphis. That playoff stretch last spring seems like it happened years ago.
John Schuhmann: Phoenix. The Clippers have been inconsistent on both ends of the floor and I think Utah’s record is inflated because of some close wins over bad teams. The Suns actually have a better point differential than both of them, despite playing one of the tougher schedules in the league. Marcin Gortat has proven himself to be a valuable defensive anchor, and his presence in the starting lineup has the Suns in the top 10 defensively thus far. Really, the Suns! I thought this team was going to stink this season, so any signs of life, especially defensively, are surprising.
Sekou Smith: The Clippers are supposed to play well with the moves they’ve made. And while I love what Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Alvin Gentry continue to do in Phoenix, the Suns don’t strike me as a team built for the long haul. What I do know is that the Jazz are doing things right now, five wins in a row, that not even the die-hards in Utah thought was possible out of this bunch. The Jazz are easily the biggest surprise of these three outfits, right now.