1) The Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis has been a surprise this season. While everyone expected them to be a strong playoff team, an 8-2 start from the young squad has amazed. With bookend losses to the Clippers and Nuggets, they have beaten teams like defending NBA Champions Miami, Western Conference Champions Oklahoma City, and the mighty New York Knicks. Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph are a great 1-2 punch.Gay is averaging 20 points per game, while Randolph is averaging a double double with 16.7 points and 13.8 rebounds.With complimentary pieces like Mike Connely Jr. and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies will be a force all season long.
2) The Miami Heat: The defending champs have three losses on the year to The Knicks, Grizzlies, and Clippers. It should be noted that Dwayne Wade has missed a handful of games, and this has effected Miami’s game. Despite missing Wade, the Heat still boast the NBA’s top offense, averaging 103.5 points per game. LeBron James has been a major factor, providing the team with 24.5 points. Defense is what has really hampered Miami, with the team 21st in the league in points allowed.
3) The New York Knicks: After a roller coaster season in 2011-2012, New York is playing above expectations through nine games. The Knicks are fifth in the NBA in scoring, and are the leagues best defensive team, allowing only 88.9 points per game. They have done this without the services of Amare Stoudemire in the lineup. The teams biggest obstacle this year might be figuring out what to do with the aging all star upon his return. Carmelo Anthony leads the team with 24.2 points per game. The addition of Tyson Chandler in the offseason has also given the Knicks a presence in the paint. New York is a contender this year.
4) Oklahoma City Thunder: They lost 6th Man of the Year James Hardin to the Rockets in a trade just before the seasons start, but are still a scoring monster. The dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook account for over 44 points per game. OKC comes in just behind Miami with 101.7 points per game, but are a much better defensive team. With the versatility of both Durant and Westbrook, factored in with the inside domination of Surge Ibaka, The Thunder are still the favorites in the Western Conference.
5) L.A. Clippers: Lob City is legit. They have followed last years strong season with an even stronger start to the 2012-2013 campaign. The Clippers have taken down San Antonio twice, and also have wins over The Lakers, Heat, and Bulls. Their two losses came to Golden State and Cleveland. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Jamal Crawford are leading the way for the Clippers, and Chauncey Billups is expected back in the coming weeks, which will only make them that much stronger.
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