* * *
Thinking only in terms of win-loss record, what’s the biggest surprise of the season so far?
* * *
David Aldridge: Detroit, for sure. A 10-3 mark out of the gate is stunning, no matter the opposition, for the Pistons. I love Avery Bradley and what he brings to any team, but his presence alone can’t explain how Tobias Harris is playing at an All-Star pace and how Andre Drummond has improved so significantly from the foul line (though he is beginning to regress from his ridiculous numbers the first week/week and a half). But, the Pistons’ upcoming schedule is formidable: at Milwaukee tonight, a Minnesota/Cleveland back-to-back next Sunday and Monday and road games at OKC, Boston, Philly, Washington, San Antonio and Milwaukee through the first week of December — followed by home tilts with Golden State and Boston. Yikes.
Steve Aschburner: If someone had told you a month ago the Detroit Pistons would win 10 of their first 13 games, you would have raised a hand, stopped him in mid-sentence and politely asked if you could switch the conversation to Russian election conspiracies. But it’s true, and the Pistons’ happy back-to-back set out West a couple weeks back (beating the LA Clippers and the Golden State Warriors) isn’t the only reason. Point guard Reggie Jackson is healthy, forward Tobias Harris is East player of the week-worthy with a burgeoning 3-point game and center Andre Drummond is playing up to his max contract now. Detroit’s offensive improvement unexpectedly makes it a Top 10 team on both ends. Now if only folks would show up in greater numbers to new Little Caesars Arena; a team that’s 7-1 at home should rank higher than 13th in NBA attendance.
Shaun Powell: The Cavaliers sitting at the break-even point is the choice, mainly because they’re in the East. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a surprise if they had embarked on a long West Coast trip and got snagged by a bit of unfortunate scheduling, but not this. They didn’t lose their seventh game last season until Dec. 26, one day after beating the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, curiously on a Kyrie Irving buzzer beater.
John Schuhmann: The Boston Celtics have won 13 straight games … and the Detroit Pistons are just one game in the loss column behind them in the Eastern Conference. Before the season, I had the Sixers edging out the Pistons for a playoff spot, believing that Detroit would be improved, but still not sure that both Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond would rebound from last season. They’ve done that and Tobias Harris has been terrific. The Pistons have had one of the easier schedules in the East, so we’ll know more about them in mid-December. Nine of their next 11 games are on the road and 10 of their next 14 are against other teams that currently have winning records. Still, how sharp they’ve been so far, with their win at Golden State obviously being the highlight, is a pleasant surprise.
Sekou Smith: Five minutes into the season things appeared bleak for the Boston Celtics. Gordon Hayward’s season was over and a team that had earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference the previous season and played in the conference finals was no longer identifiable. Two losses later, people starting writing the Celtics’ obit for this season, relegating them to a playoff hopeful rather than a contender. Some 13 straight wins later, the first time in NBA history a team that started 0-2 has run off this many consecutive wins, it’s fair to discuss the Celtics as the best team in basketball. The best test, though, comes Thursday night on TNT, when the reigning champion Golden State Warriors hit TD Garden. Still, what Brad Stevens and his crew have done in the wake of that devastating Hayward injury is nothing short of remarkable.
* * *