Current Record: 2-5
Why It’s Misleading: It’s easy to write off a team that’s been so crappy in recent years and that is already off to a seemingly bad start, but consider this odd factoid: even with their 2-5 record, the Timberwolves actually have a positive Margin of Victory for the season (+2.64). This means they’re barely losing games while blowing out opponents when they get their W’s, a good predictor of future success. Those teams they barely lost to include Oklahoma City by 4, Miami by 2, and Memphis by 4. Those big wins are by 17 over the Mavericks and by 10 over the Spurs – not too shabby. Throw in the fact that free agent pickup J.J. Barea has only played in 3 contests due to a tweaked hamstring and 5 of their next 7 contests come against bottom-of-the-barrel clubs (Was, Tor, NO, Sac, Det), and Minnesota should be poised to move up in the standings.
New York Knicks
Current Record: 3-4
Why It’s Misleading: The Knicks have played arguably the easiest schedule up to this point, facing only one team with a winning record (the 5-4 Lakers) and having played only one back-to-back. Other than a blowout of the reeling Kings, New York’s victories were a 2-point, come-from-behind job over the exposed Celtics and a down-to-the-wire nailbiter over the horrid Wizards. Sure Amar’e has missed 2 games, but they’re 2-3 with him in the lineup. With an absolutely dreadful defense—surprise, your top two players are Carmelo and Stoudemire—and little rebounding to speak of, the Knicks are in a bad spot that only hard work and an attention to doing the little things will solve, but again there’s that whole Carmelo-Amar’e thing in the way.
Current Record: 4-2
Why It’s Misleading: The Sixers' record isn't so much misleading as it is accurate and telling compared to what most fans would assume at this point in the season. They have the #2 Offensive Rating in the league, the #3 Defensive Rating, have played at home only once, their losses are by a combined 7 points (at 5-2 Portland and at 4-3 Utah), their closest victory was by 8, and the other 3 wins were all by 20 or more. Everything I just said points toward a team whose record will (surprisingly) get better. Center Spencer Hawes is playing out of his mind, but he’s also 23 and getting 30-plus minutes per game for the first time in his career. His production will likely slip a little, but there are plenty of Sixers who have underperformed so far whose improvement will more than make up for it.
Current Record: 5-3
Why It’s Misleading: The Magic have been mired in should-be-contenders-but-not-quite limbo for a few years now, and most people assume the franchise is waiting to see how the early season goes before deciding on Dwight Howard’s future. Well they’ve faced only 2 decent teams to judge their contender status by, OKC and Chicago, and Orlando never made a game of either. The rest of their schedule has been absolutely putrid (2-5 Houston, 2-6 New Jersey, 2-5 Charlotte, 3-4 Toronto, 2-5 Detroit, 0-7 Washington), so don’t be impressed by their home-heavy record. If they can do anything against Portland, San Antonio, or the Lakers in the next couple weeks, or even come out ahead on their upcoming 4-game road trip, that would be more of a sign than their current standing.