SI's Chris Mannix solicited nominations for the biggest surprises of the season's first week—and chipped in with a pick of his own
A Player's Take
"The Blazers may be 0--3 [through Sunday], but they've shown me something. Teams will sleep on them because Greg Oden is out for the year [after right knee surgery], but the guys they have now play hard and they play fast; they had us winded. LaMarcus Aldridge (left) is a beast, and he runs the court as well as any big man in the game today. Last season he mostly played away from the basket, but now he's got a post-up game too. You saw what he did to Tim Duncan? [ Aldridge scored 27 points against the Spurs.] That's not easy."
A Head Coach's Take
"The problem for the Hawks last year was injuries—their top eight guys only played together for five games. We had them internally as a serious playoff contender coming into this season, but they could be better than even we thought. They go two-deep at every position, and almost everyone on the team is improving. Joe Johnson (right) is a b---- to guard, Josh Smith is a nightmare, and they can put a five-man lineup on the floor where everyone is 6'7" or taller. That was a statement win they had against Dallas last week."
An Executive's Take
"The [3--0] Pacers are doing the same things that Jim O'Brien had success with in Boston: protecting the rim, taking the first open shot and shooting the three-pointer. He believes in the three and they have guys who can shoot it; I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger lead the league in attempts this season. O'Brien absolutely loves Jamaal Tinsley, and he didn't want any part of moving Jermaine O'Neal (left). O'Neal isn't as mobile as he once was, but he is twice the player Mark Blount was in Boston."
A Scout's Take
" Chris Paul (right) looks scary good. He's got that Steve Nash--like ability to probe defenses. He makes a living in the lane and he is shooting the hell out of the ball right now, which was probably his biggest weakness. I wasn't sure how he was going to do after being injured [ Paul missed 17 games last season with a right ankle sprain], but he's playing like he has something to prove. It helps that he has all his weapons back and healthy: Peja Stojakovic and Mo Peterson are keeping defenses honest and the lane open for him."
"I saw Washington as a sleeper, but the Wizards have completely fallen apart. They supposedly made a commitment to defense in training camp, but they are still in the bottom third of the league in points allowed [105.3 per game]. Worse, this season they can't outscore anyone, averaging only 91.7 points in their three losses. Coach Eddie Jordan (left) may get fired before the end of the season, and with Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison able to leave as free agents next summer, this team could be in line for an overhaul."