5-on-5: First month surprises and disappointments

NBA Cold Hard Facts: Warriors edition

SportsCenter breaks down some keys facts of the Warriors' 16-0 start to the season.

It's hard to believe, but the 2015-16 NBA season is already 1-month-old. And while one month is a blink of an eye in the larger scheme of life, plenty has happened since the NBA tipped off its 70th season on Oct. 27: the Warriors have won every game they've played, the Sixers haven't won yet, one coach has already been given his walking papers and the Eastern Conference has 11 teams at or above .500 -- which is five more than the vaunted Western Conference.

So, what has surprised and disappointed our experts thus far? From Andrew to Zaza, from Gasol to George, from the defending champs to inevitability of the Spurs, see what has our panel talking.

1. Most surprising team of the first month?

Kevin Arnovitz: The Golden State Warriors. Launching a revolution usually means sustaining some casualties, but not for the Warriors. We knew they were taking league trends and perfecting them ... but did we have any idea they were perfect?

Tom Haberstroh: Has to be the Warriors. (BORING, I know). Between their up-and-down preseason and Steve Kerr's absence, few could have predicted the Warriors would make history ... like this. Actually, no one could have predicted. Not even Ethan Strauss.

Kevin Pelton: Indiana Pacers. Viva smallball! The Pacers have the East's second-best point differential, and they've done it in completely different fashion from the team that won 56 games two seasons ago. Indiana leads the league in 3-point percentage and is forcing turnovers at the second-best rate. Oh, and Paul George's leg appears fully healed.

Marc Stein: Pacers, Knicks, Mavs ... all are worthy nominees. But I have to go with Minnesota. We're so often told that young doesn't win in the NBA. Yet apparently no one told Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and the defiant pack of unproven Wolves around them, who are unexpectedly flirting with. 500 and can already claim impressive road wins in Denver, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. And you can't forget that they're doing all this with such heavy hearts after Flip Saunders so suddenly and sadly lost his battle with cancer right as the regular season was starting.

Brian Windhorst: Rockets. This is a stunning situation, being five games under .500 at this point with their talent level. A coaching change, James Harden being mired in a slump, Ty Lawson losing almost all of his playing time, defensive collapses, horrendous shooting. This was a vogue title pick at the start of the season and a month later they're a team in turmoil. That, my friends, is a surprise.

2. Most disappointing team of the first month?

Arnovtiz: Take a wild guess. I can't decide what's more surprising: That a defense anchored by Dwight Howard has fallen so far, or that an offense that predicated on efficiency with his beardness as the focus can't score. Either way, the Rockets entered Wednesday night bottom five in both categories, which is astounding.

Haberstroh: Houston Rockets. And unfortunately, Kevin McHale can vouch for this one. The Rockets went from a step away from the Finals to the basement of the West. It's early, but the Rockets' playoff surge looks more and more like a mirage. The team needs leadership from Harden and Howard, but they may need to make a change before it's too late.

Pelton: Houston Rockets. Their poor start cost McHale his job, and the coaching change doesn't seem to have done much to improve their defensive energy and focus. At this point, realistic preseason expectations of home-court advantage in the first round appear dashed. Just making the playoffs and salvaging something from this season is probably the goal now.

Stein: The Clippers have been crumbling since their collapse at home to Golden State just more than a week ago, but there can only be one answer here. The Rockets got McHale fired just 11 games into a new three-year contract by essentially quitting on him and could well be 0-4 since the coaching change if not for a frantic (and fortuitous) late comeback at home against a Portland team that's 6-10 and essentially starting over after losing four starters. What exactly has changed since J.B. Bickerstaff took over for McHale? Disappointment is putting it mildly.

Windhorst: The Clippers do several things very well, primarily at the offensive end. They also are the league leaders in pouting and they're fulfilling expectations in that area for sure. Even Paul Pierce at times seems like he can't believe how much his new teammates complain about officiating. And they've been pouting ever since they were beaten on their home floor by the Warriors. Chris Paul and J.J. Redick have been banged up but there's no excuse for this team to be under .500 at Thanksgiving.

3. Most surprising player of the first month?

Arnovtiz: Frank Vogel is right: Sixteen months removed from a ghastly leg injury in a Team USA scrimmage, Paul George is the best two-way player in the game this season. He's embraced the Pacers' upshift in gears offensively and he's the fulcrum of a defense that's faster and more versatile than it has ever been. George has officially become one of those guys whose health almost guarantees his team a playoff spot.

Haberstroh: Stephen Curry. Again, what a boring answer. But we're talking about a guy that has added 8.3 points to his scoring average after putting up 23.8 last season. Last five Most Improved Player award recipients can't even sniff that increase as they've averaged a plus-5.8 bump in the scoring column. An MVP following up with an MIP award? We've never seen anything like this.

Pelton: Kristaps Porzingis. The other KP was supposed to be a project, and not even his impressive translated European statistics portended that Porzingis would be so dominant right away -- especially given he's yet to shoot the ball well on a regular basis. If he gets it going beyond the arc, look out.

Stein: Zaza Pachulia. I think I made my admiration for Kristaps Porzingis clear last week, but we need to talk about Pachulia, too. He's affectionately known as Plan Z in Big D, having been acquired by the Mavericks via trade in the wake of the DeAndre Jordan fiasco, but the 31-year-old is averaging nearly a double-double as the starting center for a team that recently reeled off a thoroughly unexpected six-game win streak. The fact that Milwaukee could certainly use a veteran presence, in the wake of the offseason exits of Pachulia and Jared Dudley, only makes Zaza seem more valuable..

Windhorst: Paul George. Simply, he looks fantastic. He's never shot the ball better and it's fitting into the team's new scheme, leading them to get off to a great start. He's defending well again and it has massively helped the Pacers, who have improved their scoring while also improving their defense. After Curry, he's probably been the league's best offensive player to this point.

4. Most disappointing player of the first month?

Arnovitz: Marc Gasol. After taking the summer off from the Spanish national team, the Grizzlies center came into training camp looking pillowy. He's a big enough body and smart enough mind to compensate ... much of the time. But there have been too many instances during the first month of the season -- pick-and-roll coverage, weak side help, transition -- where he's a step slower than the game, and the Grizzlies don't have that kind of margin for error.

Haberstroh: Ty Lawson. We knew he had off-court issues that could have trickled into the playing floor, but his PER (7.4) is about a third of what it was a year ago and the defense is as bad as ever. I thought he'd be one of the best newcomers around, but he's the Lance Stephenson of 2015-16 thus far.

Pelton: Ty Lawson. The issues of playing Lawson off the ball when he's alongside the ball-dominant Harden are duly noted. But they don't explain why Lawson is averaging just 8.7 points per 36 minutes with a sickly 35.0 percent effective field-goal percentage when Harden is on the bench, per NBA.com/Stats. He doesn't look like the same player so far.

Stein: Harden. When we talk about McHale "losing the team," that's essentially code for McHale losing Harden, which is difficult to process so soon after Houston went all the way to the Western Conference finals. If the Rockets are going to get out of the huge hole they've dug, they desperately need a leader to step up and show the way. They need Harden to lead the way.

Windhorst: John Wall. Not that he's playing the worst, but he's really been underwhelming. There were some who considered him an MVP candidate to start the season as he was expected to lead a high-speed, open offense. Instead, his stats are down across the board and he's turning the ball over more than when he was a rookie. It's also been the worst he's shot the ball since he was a rookie. Lot of room for improvement here.

5. Best team - not named Golden State - of the first month?

Arnovitz: San Antonio is inextinguishable and that's not changing anytime soon. It'll manage minutes, nurse some injuries, continue to integrate LaMarcus Aldridge into the system, knead, stretch, pinch and pat, and repeat. The Spurs won't catch the Warriors in the regular season, but they're likely to be Golden State's toughest out next spring.

Haberstroh: San Antonio Spurs. Sure, Aldridge isn't putting up the numbers or living up to expectations at the moment, but no matter. Tim Duncan is eternal. Kawhi Leonard is beating the curve. Tony Parker is redeeming himself after a worrisome summer. They may not be the Warriors, but they're subtly great. Again.

Pelton: San Antonio Spurs. Sure, it's not 16-0, but the Spurs Borg has quietly won at an 80 percent clip while integrating Aldridge and managing minutes for their stars. Their point differential is the league's second-best and their second-ranked defense is better than ever. What less would you expect from Gregg Popovich's crew?

Stein: I know this isn't the answer you want, but there really isn't a good nomination in this category. So I'm passing. The Spurs are 12-3 but haven't been tested much yet. The 11-4 Cavaliers have lost four road games to fellow Eastern Conference residents and just called a players-only meeting, so you can't really attach any superlatives to their start, either. It's the Warriors' world right. And the other 29 teams are playing catch-up at the minute. Draw a thick line under the Dubs if we're making judgments purely on what we've seen in November.

Windhorst: Cavs. LeBron James has been disappointed with their inconsistency and even called a players-only meeting after a loss in Toronto this week. He's got a full-blown case of Warrior paranoia, just like the Clippers, and is worried as he compares his team. However, the Cavs have put together a strong start, especially Kevin Love, who is back to playing at an All-Star level. No one has been more banged up than the Cavs. They've been without starters Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert so far. And Timofey Mozgov, Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova have been out too. They started a fourth-string point guard Wednesday and they're 11-4. Not bad at all, non-GSW category.