It's been a wild start to the 2017 NBA season.
Season-ending injuries on opening night, good teams underperforming, and apparent lottery teams doing better than expected have all defined this season as a huge mystery. But in a season so full of surprises, how do we know what's for real?
It's not like we haven't seen this before. A team/player comes out of the gates firing, only to return to reality a few weeks or months later, or a team/player starting off slow, only to pick up steam and finish strong later in the season. The early NBA season often fools many.
And in this list, we determine whether not teams and players currently off to unexpected starts will sustain the path they've started on, or if things will change down the road. Who is for real?
Detroit Pistons: 5-2 (1st in East)
Through seven games, the Pistons have beaten the Hornets, Knicks, Timberwolves, Clippers, and (shockingly) the Warriors. Tobias Harris is averaging over 20 points per game, Avery Bradley is averaging almost 16, all while Andre Drummond is snagging over 14 rebounds per game. Regarding awesome starts, the Pistons are undoubtedly having one right now.
All the players are doing what they're supposed to do, and they've gotten some quality W's in the process. This is what the team is supposed to look like.
But, as is the case with this time of year, we need to pump the brakes. Chances are, reality will show that the Pistons are what we thought they were all along: mediocre. There's no way Tobias Harris can keep scoring like that.
And with Andre Drummond failing to become the offensive focal point, the team can't use him to remain atop the East.
Ultimately, this is a fluke. Time will eventually bring reality back to Detroit. The team certainly isn't bad, but they are absolutely not number-1 seed material.
Golden State Warriors: 4-3 (6th in West)
Before the season even started, many were ready to crown the Warriors as the 2018 NBA Champs. Building on what they had last year, it seemed almost impossible to think anybody could beat them in a seven-game series.
But after just seven games into the season, doubts are starting to creep in for this star-studded franchise. They've suffered some real head-scratching losses so far this year, and they just don't seem to have the same magic they had in years past.
With all that being true, however, don't expect any of it to last. The Warriors have two of the top 10 best players in the universe, 4 of the top 20 players in the universe, and a bench that can keep up with the best of them. The champs aren't concerned with the regular season, they don't care what happens in October.
So if it looks like the Warriors are on cruise control, it's probably because they are. They learned the hard way, back in 2016, that nothing matters in the regular season if you don't perform in the playoffs. Don't worry about the Dubs, they're just fine. Their "rough start" doesn't mean a thing... yet.
Cleveland Cavaliers: 3-4 (10th in East)
You know your team is doing badly if you have to keep reminding yourself it's still early in the season. Seriously, what the heck is going on in Cleveland? In a span of 9 days, the Cavs have lost to the Magic, Nets, Pelicans, and Knicks. Their defense has looked atrocious, their offense has looked stagnant, and even LeBron James has looked a step slower in the last couple of games.
And if I told you that that's about how it will go for the rest of the year, would you believe me?
Look, the Cavaliers have a lot of pieces. But most of them are injury prone, past-their-prime, or has-beens. LeBron James is getting up there in age, and they miss the presence of Kyrie Irving.
Fact is, the Cavs are not what they were since the return of LeBron James three years ago. Their older, slower, and just don't seem to have the talent they once had. The jury is still out, but things could be changing for LeBron and the Cavaliers.
Orlando Magic: 4-2 (3rd in East)
So, what can be said here?
The Magic have impressed so far, yeah. They've blown out the Cavs and Spurs, are 4-2, and sit at 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Aaron Gordon has played shockingly well, averaging 22 points per game.
But how long can this really last?
Truth be told... no. The Magic have a knack for losing strong starts, they did it two years ago, starting 19-13 before eventually missing out on the playoffs, and they will probably do it again this year. The Magic just don't have enough talent to keep this up, it's that simple.
Los Angeles Clippers: 4-1 (2nd in West)
Admittedly, this is a bit of a stretch. Not even a season removed from losing their All-Star point guard, the Clippers were expected to take a huge step back. Without Jamal Crawford and J.J. Reddick, much of those setbacks would be on the offensive end.
But so far, they've looked pretty good.
Blake Griffin has become an early MVP candidate, leading the Clips to a respectable 4-1 record. As for the rest of the team, they all look to be great fits. Patrick Beverley is his old self, and Danilo Gallinari is giving them just enough shooting.
They probably aren't the 2nd best team in the West, no. But they could be a whole lot better than people think, maybe even top-4 material.