Posted on: October 13, 2010 3:07 pm
2010-2011 NBA Atlantic Division Preview
As the phrase has long been applied to life is recited: for every action there is a reaction. Three teams in this division were greatly affected by free agency this summer, even though they all ended up empty handed when it came to their pursuit of any of the prized free agents this July. Two of the teams, though, plotted for two years with hopes of landing LeBron James, only to be spurned as he left for the Miami Heat. Another one of the teams had one of the prized free agents, and his leaving for the Miami Heat left them in freelance as well. Meanwhile, the three-time defending Atlantic Champions lost in the NBA Finals and had to react promptly. The loss of Kendrick Perkins did not help either in the NBA Finals or at the start of this season, and the Celtics looked to add to their list of established veterans for what feels like one last run at a championship. And then there’s the Philadelphia 76ers. After years of being an afterthought in the league, one of the league’s most prominent cities is taking huge steps towards relevance again. They reached back and hired Doug Collins to return to Philadelphia to help advance this process and it will be interesting to see how those new players mesh.
All in all, the Atlantic Division had a lot of turnover on most of the rosters and could see significantly new change among the production of three of the worst teams from last season in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. With all three of those teams now positioning themselves for victory and with Boston continuing to add players primed for one last run, the change could be even more evident in the coming seasons. But even though there’s a reaction for every action, the Celtics reacted accordingly to last year’s NBA Finals loss to the Lakers, and are still the team to beat in the Atlantic Division.
1) Boston Celtics
Incoming Players: Avery Bradley, Luke Harangody, Semih Urden, Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Von Wafer, Delonte West
Outgoing Players: Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, Michael Finley, Shelden Williams
Team Report: The Celtics walk into this season as the clear favorites in the division and are among the favorites for an NBA Championship this season as well. The Celtics were up by 13 points in the 3rd quarter of last season’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals before conceding to the Lakers in a heartbreaking defeat. A lot has been made of their age in recent years, but they showed last postseason that they’re one of the few teams capable of flipping a switch on and off. Whether they would want to walk that tightrope again this season remains to be seen, but the players on the team don’t necessarily give any encouragement of a change of the times coming in Beantown.
Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal are the most high profile additions to the team. The two big men fit right into what the Celtics are looking for: smart, seasoned veterans willing to use what’s left of their ability to contribute to the ultimate goal of the team. Both come at an opportune time as well with the injury to Kendrick Perkins. Perkins injured his knee in Game 6 of last year’s NBA Finals and should be out until January. His loss will be greatly felt across the board in Boston, but the Celtics will hope it’s offset by the continued improvement from point guard Rajon Rondo. While it’s hard to argue that at least Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett aren’t more important to a championship for the Celtics, it’s also hard to argue that Rondo isn’t currently the team’s most talented player. Overall, the Celtics still enter this season with a chip on their shoulder and with a lot to prove. They also are the most stable of the rest of the teams in the division, and that’s why they’ll be winning the division title come next April.
2) New York Knicks
Incoming Players: Larry Fields, Andy Rautins, Jerome Jordan, Timofey Mozgov, Kelenna Azubuike, Patrick Ewing, Jr., Raymond Felton, Roger Mason, Jr., Anthony Randolph, Amar’e Stoudemire, Ronny Turiaf, Shawne Williams
Outgoing Players: Earl Barron, David Lee, Chris Duhon, Sergio Rodriguez, J.R. Giddens, Al Harrington, Jonathan Bender, Tracy McGrady, Eddie House
Team Analysis: The Knicks have been bad for years now, it seems. Since 2004, the Knicks have regularly been among the worst teams in the league. A fantastic city and fan base has really been negated by the lack of overall production on the court and the turmoil that occurred off of it. However, after Isaiah Thomas left New York, Donnie Walsh was hired to clean the mess. He hired Mike D’Antoni, rid himself of some of the ridiculous contracts on the team, and built towards the famed 2010 NBA Free Agent class. The Knicks have been telling their fans to accept defeat the last two seasons, a hard sell to New Yorkers, because a great star was on the horizon. After whiffing on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the team signed Amar’e Stoudemire to a big max contract this offseason instead. It still may be a hard sell to New Yorkers that he was worthy of being the light at the end of the tunnel.
But the Knicks made other moves this offseason to reshape the roster. They brought in the extremely promising Anthony Randolph over in a trade with Golden State and hope that he can partner up with Stoudemire to create the ideal frontcourt for head coach Mike D’Antoni. But, for the first time since D’Antoni was hired in 2008, the pressure is now on for him to win in New York. After being patient with a struggling team the last two seasons, the Knicks were told they would be much better in 2010. It’s fair to say they will be much better, but it’s debatable if they’re a lock to make the postseason. D’Antoni has h is work cut out for him, as do the rest of the Knicks franchise.
3) Philadelphia 76ers
Incoming Players: Evan Turner, Tony Battie, Craig Brackins, Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni, Darius Songaila
Outgoing Players: Samuel Dalembert, Rodney Carney, Willie Green, Jason Smith, Francisco Elson, Allen Iverson
Team Analysis: The Philadelphia 76ers traded Allen Iverson in 2006 and have been largely irrelevant since. Sure they’ve made the playoffs a couple times since that trade, but they’ve been no real threats among the NBA’s elite and the team really wasn’t in Iverson’s last years with the team either. So it seems a tad ironic now that the 76ers are building towards and selling hope; again at a time when Iverson is leaving. The 76ers brought Iverson back last season in an attempt to sell tickets and regain relevance, but it went for nothing as Iverson couldn’t stay on the court due to injuries and other factors and was a large non factor in the team’s horrendous 27-55 season. After only one season, Eddie Jordan was fired and the 76ers again went back to the drawing board.
The Sixers interviewed a lot of candidates and wound up with Doug Collins as the team’s new head coach coming into this season. Collins isn’t “new” by any means. He’s been a coach for three different franchises before and had mild success with all of them. His name is largely important because of his broadcasting gig with TNT moreso than what anyone remembers him doing as a coach. But Collins is a 76er at heart. He was drafted by Philadelphia and made an NBA Finals with the team in 1977. He wants, just as much as the rest of the city, for the 76ers to be relevant. How quickly that happens will largely land on the shoulders of second overall pick Evan Turner. Turner is a “do-it-all” type talent who led the Big 10 in scoring and rebounding last season. The Sixers will look to him to possibly spearhead a new era in Philadelphia. Andre Iguodala remains the man in Philadelphia, but for how long is anyone’s guess. How he and Turner mesh this season will go a long way towards determining how quickly Philadelphia can turn around in a shallow Eastern Conference. The 76ers are still a team with a lot of uncertainty, but they’ll take that as long as it can generate a lot of excitement.
4) New Jersey Nets
Incoming Players: Derrick Favors, Damion James, Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Troy Murphy, Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro, Joe Smith
Outgoing Players: Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Chris Quinn, Josh Boone, Trenton Hassell, Bobby Simmons, Keyon Dooling, Tony Battie, Jarvis Hayes
Team Analysis: The Nets were close to becoming, historically, the worst team in NBA history last season. A late season “surge” by the Nets helped them avoid the NBA’s futility mark and allowed the team to finish 12-70 last season. There wasn’t a lot to be happy about in Jersey last season, but at least there’s hope on the horizon for this upcoming season. The Nets have a new owner now in the hugely interesting and insanely rich Mikhail Prokhorov as their brand new owner, the impending move to Brooklyn (which seems like it’s been in the works forever) is finally going to happen by 2012, and they’ve introduced a new coach to the team in Avery Johnson. Johnson, who won an NBA Championship as a player with the Spurs and went to the NBA Finals as a coach for Dallas, will at least command the attention and respect of the young talent in New Jersey.
Speaking of that new talent, nobody is more promising on the team than the third overall pick in the draft: Georgia Tech PF Derrick Favors. Favors has drawn early comparisons to Dwight Howard in terms of body structure and athletic ability, but is still very raw and will be brought along slowly by the Nets. The team lacked a lot of fortitude last season, and it’s no guarantee that they’ll develop that toughness just from the presence of their new coach. But they will be better. Troy Murphy, Jordan Farmar, Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow all make great additions to the team. Will it be enough to make them a playoff team? Probably not. But after last season’s 12 win season, everything is looking up for New Jersey.
5) Toronto Raptors
Incoming Players: Ed Davis, Solomon Alabi, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, Julian Wright
Outgoing Players: Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Marco Belinelli, Rasho Nesterovic, Patrick O’Bryant, Antoine Wright
Play Analysis: Although the Knicks and Nets cut salary and lost games on purpose to be players this offseason, the Raptors signed and traded for talent to please one player who was going to be on the market: Chris Bosh. Bosh, however, never was going to stay in Toronto and he now resides in South Beach. The Raptors didn’t respond as harshly as Cleveland did with LeBron, but they’re going to move along with life after Bosh anyways. The talent that the team acquired last season did not gel at all, and with more turnover this season as well, chemistry will still be a huge problem with this Toronto team.
With the selection of Ed Davis in the first round, the Raptors hope to have found Bosh’s replacement immediately. Davis is a North Carolina product who is a very solid offensive talent. However, they can’t expect him to replace Bosh’s production right away. Andrea Bargnani should be primed for a huge break out year for Toronto, but I feel like that’s been said for about three straight seasons. But the talent gap between him and the next best player on the team is huge. The Raptors deserve credit for not going into complete firesale mode without Bosh and trying to still compete even though they lost their best player. But the moves they made this offseason won’t do much to help the team make the postseason. Coaching, chemistry and defense were the biggest problems last year; they’re still problems this season.
Tags: 76ers, Al Harrington, Andre Iguodala, Andrea Bargnani, Andres Nocioni, Andy Rautins, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Randolph, Antoine Wright, Avery Bradley, Bobby Simmons, Brian Scalabrine, Celtics, Chris Bosh, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Chris Duhon, Chris Quinn, Courtney Lee, Craig Brackins, Damion James, Darius Songaila, David Lee, Delonte West, Derrick Favors, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Ed Davis, Eddie House, Evan Turner, Francisco Elson, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, J.R. Gidden, Jason Smith, Jerome Jordan, Joe Smith, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar, Julian Wright, Kelenna Azubuike, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Keyon Dooling, Knicks, Leandro Barbosa, LeBron James, Linas Kleiza, Luke Harangody, Marco Belinelli, Nets, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Raptors, Raymond Feleton, Rodney Carney, Ronny Turiaf, Samuel Dalembert, Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams, Solomon Alabi, Spencer Hawes, Spurs, Timofey Mozgov, Tony Allen, Tony Battie, Tracy McGrady, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, Von Wafer, Willie Green, Yi Jianlian
Posted on: May 19, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2010 3:17 pm
I figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason. Well now that we got our debates about whether or not 2007 was worth the #9 selection, I'm going to give in to my loyal readers and say I was probably wrong by putting the 2007 draft so low. I was so deadset on proving that it was a bad draft, that I let some really bad drafts off the hook. Be that as it may, I stand by my journalistic pride and proclaim that this draft was better than 2007, regardless of what I'm about to say. But here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the number 8 draft on our list is the 2006 NBA Draft which features some really bad trades (sorry Chicago and Minnesota fans), really questionable selections (I'm looking at you Atlanta) and overall, just not a deep talent pool.
Top Ten Drafts of the Last Ten Years
2006-2007 NBA Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy
2006-2007 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Tags: 76ers, Adam Morrison, Andrea Bargnani, Bobcats, Brandon Roy, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Quinn, Clippers, Craig Smith, Daniel Gibson, Derek Fisher, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, J.J. Redick, Jason Kidd, Jazz, Jordan Farmar, Jose Juan Barea, Josh Boone, Kenyon Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kyle Lowry, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Leon Powe, Magic, Marcus Williams, Mardy Collins, Mavericks, Nets, Nuggets, Oleksiy Pecherov, Pacers, Patrick O'Bryant, Paul Millsap, Pistons, Rajon Rondo, Randy Foye, Raptors, Renaldo Balkman, Rockets, Rodney Carney, Ronnie Brewer, Rudy Gay, Ryan Hollins, Sergio Rodriguez, Shane Battier, Shannon Brown, Shelden Williams, Steve Novak, Thabo Sefolosha, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Tyrus Thomas, Warriors, Wizards
Posted on: March 5, 2010 2:57 am
Wow I actually miss doing these. I used to do it every week last year and it really was a joy to put them out because they got so much attention on here. Now with teams having made their moves at the deadline and now that they've been able to incorporate those new players to a certain degree, this serves as an ideal time to return with the power rankings. We'll now evaluate who stands where at this point in time and who is prime to make a run, who's running out of gas and who is flying under the radar. So here's this season's first incarnation of GoHornets21's NBA Power Rankings.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-14) - LeBron James has been absolutely terrific this season in every way and there's nobody playing better in the league at this point in time. The injuries to Shaquille O'Neal and the "risky trade" of Zydrunas Ilgauskas really have hurt the frontcourt, and it's going to be difficult trying to get all of those players used to the rotation and back into the flow of things right at the postseason, but the Cavs have the best player in the league to help these players come along. Mo Williams has found his shot as of late and if he can get consistent at all this season, the Cavs will be even better. Antawn Jamison still looks like an odd fit, but he's putting up numbers and the Cavs could really use some scoring from the frontcourt positions so he has to be a welcome addition for Cleveland.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (46-16) - The team is still coming along slowly since Kobe Bryant's return to the lineup. That's not to say this team is better without him. If they're going to win a championship this season, they need Kobe in top form for the entire postseason. He is the player that puts them over the top. But players like Jordan Farmar, Pau Gasol and Shannon Brown were getting all kinds of touches and opportunities to create for themselves and others, that they're now having to regress back to earlier this season and allow Kobe to get his touches again. I think the confidence built up for Brown in Kobe's absence may have already gone to waste at this moment, but there's still time to build it back up. Lamar Odom continues to play some really solid basketball of late as well.
3. Denver Nuggets (40-21) - The Nuggets continue to be a mixed bag for me. Sometimes I think they look terrific and other times I think they don't have the mental toughness to be a championship team. But they've played some really inspired basketball since George Karl's cancer announcement and they continue to stand out, to me, as the Lakers' biggest threat in the Western Conference. But Dallas is hard on their heels and the Nuggets have to continue to bring it every single night.
4. Dallas Mavericks (41-21) - Currently the hottest team in the league, the Dallas Mavericks have been a completely different team since Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood entered the starting lineup. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd both have just played some really great basketball since the trade and the Mavericks look as good as they have since the year after their NBA Finals apperance. As we know, that team lost in the first round of the playoffs, though. I don't expect that to happen this season but the Mavericks still have to distance themselves from the postseason stink that surrounds that franchise. Is a clutter of assorted individual talents going to be enough to finally get Dallas over the hump? Only time will tell. But I think this group of players is a good enough fit for this team to make some kind of run. Getting that second seed is more important to them than it is to any other team in the Western Conference in my opinion so I don't see them letting up at any point the rest of this year. This is Dirk's new best chance to get that elusive championship ring. He's playing like it.
5. Orlando Magic (42-20) - I don't know what's happened in Orlando, but Dwight Howard has really came on as of late. After that dissapointing loss in New Orleans last week, the Magic have really looked focused out there and it shows in their play on the court. Rashard Lewis is slowly starting to come along this season (finally) and if he gets a consistent shot like he had last season, this team will again challenge Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. But they need Lewis to play better than he has this season. Jameer Nelson continues to be an enigma of sorts in Orlando but when he's on this team really gels. They need him to regain some kind of consistant form and when he and Lewis do, watch out.
6. Utah Jazz (39-22) - The Jazz have been flying under the radar all season but they're playing great basketball this season. They've finally learned how to win on the road this season and we all know how tough of a team they are when they're in Salt Lake City. Deron Williams really has to enter into some MVP talks with the way he's kept this team together, and Carlos Boozer is using this contract year to really step out and he is really playing hard to get paid this summer. I still think they lack the interior toughness that championship teams possess, but the Jazz shouldn't be underestimated.
7. Atlanta Hawks (39-21) - After these first six teams, it gets a little jumbled up to me. Atlanta stands out just because they have a terrific starting 5, a solid coach (I don't care what you Hawks fans say to the contrary) and a great 6th man. Also, they've beaten the only other team I would consider for this spot (Boston) four times this season, so I believe Atlanta deserves to be here. I usually roll my eyes when people say Joe Johnson is always an underrated superstar in this league, but this year is the first time I would really say that. He's been huge for the Hawks when they need it and he's had to handle a lot with Mike Bibby's struggles this year and with Jamal Crawford not really being a true point guard. But he's handled it well. Marvin Williams has played well the next couple of games, and if they can get him to play hard they'll be just fine in the playoffs. I don't know why he's been so bland this season. But this team has the starting five, they just need to start putting it together for the stretch run.
8. Boston Celtics (38-21) - The Celtics are trying to get fully healthy for the first time this season, and if they can do so the league better watch out. The Celtics really don't need home court advantage in the postseason. They've been there and done that when it comes to winning in the playoffs and all they need is a fully healthy roster. Neither Rasheed Wallace or Marquis Daniels turned out like they wanted this offseason in Boston, but picking up Nate Robinson at the deadline looks to be a good move. What happened to Glen Davis this season? After last year's run in the playoffs, I thought he was going to emerge as a great player off of Boston's bench this season. He's only had a couple good games that I can remember all season long. I guess some of it may be injury, but how much of it is possibly because he got paid this summer?
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (36-24) - Russell Westbrook continues to be in Kevin Durant's shadow this season but continues to play some of the most unheralded basketball in the league. However, there's still no equaling what Durant's doing this season. He's been the catalyst for this surprising team all season long and has absolutely no offensive weakness to his game. If you want someone to score a point for you down the stretch, I'd put him right up there with Kobe as someone who I would want to have the ball for that possession. And I whole heartedly mean that. He's been great. Jeff Green's stats have fallen off this year as opposed to last year, but I still think he's important as a glue guy for this team. He's really gotten lost in the praise shuffle in Oklahoma City, and I think his salary may be neglected this offseason and that may hurt the Thunder's progression. But there's no reason why this team can't win at least one playoff series this year.
10. Phoenix Suns (39-25) - The surprising resurgence in Phoenix continues even after a horrible month of January. Steve Nash is still playing good basketball, Amar'e Stoudemire has been terrific since the trade deadline (someone else looking to get paid this summer) and they've gotten great contributions from Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Goran Dragic all season long. Robin Lopez had about a week where he was putting up some terrific numbers but he's regressed a bit these past few games. The Suns will need him to consistently contribute on both sides of the court if they're going to make any noise in the postseason. He's shown that he's capable, it's up to him to still find ways to contribute even when teams now make an effort to guard him.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (37-27) - The team with the worst luck in the league is slowly getting back to health and when they do, they're one streak away from convincing me they can contend for a spot in the Western Conference Finals. They're not that far off. They're incredibly deep, they have a fantastic bench, a legit superstar in Brandon Roy and one of the best home courts in the league. Getting Marcus Camby at the deadline will do a lot to soften the blow of not having Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla for the rest of this season. Juwan Howard played admirably in their absence, but no legitimately good team is going to start him at center. He probably shouldn't even be getting the heavy minutes that he is, but Nate McMillan really has no other options. They have to find a way to get healthy this year if they want to make a run, but they can do it. I like their chances.
12. San Antonio Spurs (34-24) - The Spurs continue to impress you one night, make you sick the next when they take the court. I think a lot of the inconsistency across the board is Greg Popovich's fault. All things considered, and I think Pop is the second best coach in the league to Phil Jackon, this has been Pop's worst season as a head coach at San Antonio. The main reason for the Spurs inconsistency is Pop's inability to have any stable, set rotation this season. He's given big minutes to George Hill, and that seems to be the only player outside of the big three that Pop knows what he wants to do with them. He's started Richard Jefferson and brought him off the bench; done the same to Antonio McDyess, DeJuan Blair and Keith Bogans as well. He needs to set a rotation, know who he wants in the game and go with that already. He's hurting this team's chance to get in any rhythym before the playoffs.
13. Milwaukee Bucks (31-29) - I've really been driving the Milwaukee bandwagon as of late. Andrew Bogut has come down to Earth a little bit after a terrific stretch of basketball, but Scott Skiles and company just find ways to win basketball games. John Salmons has been indescribably huge for them since coming over at the trade deadline, and let's not forget the contributions Jerry Stackhouse has made for them off the bench since coming on board midway through the season. You look at their bench, they have Luke Ridnour, Stackhouse and Kurt Thomas, those are players that can contribute for you on a nightly basis. They're more talented than people give them credit for. If Brandon Jennings finds his jump shot again at any point the rest of the season, watch out for this team in the playoffs.
14. Toronto Raptors (31-28) - The Raptors started off playing some good basketball after Chris Bosh initially got injured, but have tailed off since; losing their last four games. I thought Hedo Turkoglu would be an ideal fit for this team and the way they play basketball, but he's just been so unreliable all season long. Andrea Bargnani really hasn't taken that step forward this season that I thought he would either. There's a lot of players who have dissapointed up North, but the team still finds itself above .500 and they're still a solid team with Chrsi Bosh in the lineup. I had bigger hopes for them, though. Now, I can't see them winning a playoff series. Then again, I was wrong with them once.
15. Memphis Grizzlies (32-30) - The Grizzlies started off slow, played great basketball, tailed off, and are now starting to play great again. The team really goes as Zach Randolph goes. When he plays great, the team is unstoppable. When he's simply going through the motions and is just putting up decent numbers, it reflects in everyone else's contributions. The bench is still horrendously thin and that's probably going to keep them out of the postseason. But the Grizzlies have taken a step forward this season and the franchise at least has a pulse now.
16. New Orleans Hornets (31-31) - This was a crucial week for New Orleans and any hopes they had of making the postseason and the team didn't respond very well. Losses at home to San Antonio and Memphis have great deteriorated the Hornets' playoff opportunity. Chris Paul is said to be coming back in roughly a week, and his presence will be welcomed back among Hornets players, coaches and fans alike. Darren Collison has been terrific in his absence, but his turnovers have cost the Hornets just as many games as he's won for them. Marcus Thornton continues to be a terrific find in the 2nd round for Interim Head Coach/General Manager Jeff Bower, and the Hornets are doing the right thing by developing their young talent. This offseason is going to be critical for the direction the Hornets take as a franchise.
17. Chicago Bulls (31-30) - I'm done trying to figure out what kind of team the Bulls are going to be this year. Outside of Derrick Rose, you don't know what you're getting out of anybody on any given night. Luol Deng has rebounded very nicely this season and is the clear cut second option, but is that necessarily a good thing? Joakim Noah's injury also is holding the team back a bit, since he was playing so well at the beginning of the season. Looking at Ronald Murray, Devin Brown and Jannero Pargo, the Bulls are probably wishing they had held on to John Salmons. Hakim Warrick has always put up good numbers on bad teams, but is now being asked to contribute for a team with postseason aspirations. He needs to deliver for Chicago.
18. Miami Heat (31-31) - The Heat's decision to not pursue a second option for Dwyane Wade may have been the right move financially, but it's really hurt the team on the court. Michael Beasley showed glimpses of being able to put it all together earlier this season but started bickering at reporters and has regressed ever since. Maybe a lot of you were right when you told me he didn't have the mental toughness to survive in this league. Outside of Beasley, who of these guys do you really want contributing nightly for your team? It's such a bad roster that I'm surprised Wade has them at .500. I know they have the money for him and another superstar, but does this team have the brass to really put a decent team together? Even if you add another great player, that's still a horrible group of players and now two good players. It won't make them a championship team.
19. Houston Rockets (30-30) - After the very publicized trade in Houston, Kevin Martin has come around to finding his shot for the Rockets. They've been without Kyle Lowry for about 9 games now (I think) and that's really been a big reason why the team has struggled as of late. They were playing so well at the beginning of the year, and with all the injury problems you kind of pulled for them to make some noise but they just don't have the talent to keep up. It doesn't seem likely, but hopefully Yao Ming returns healthy next season (long shot) and this team can make some kind of sustained run together. It's not a bad, little group of players.
20. Charlotte Bobcats (28-31) - For awhile there this team looked like a lock to make the postseason and was playing great basketball. As of late, they've really looked bad. Larry Brown hasn't been able to get a handle on this team in the two years he's been with Charlotte, and he doesn't look like he's enjoying the job either. Michael Jordan buying the team pumps some life into them, but this roster doesn't have any kind of cohesive feel to it. It's a great assortment of individual talent, but none of them look good together on the court. I still like the move to acquire Tyrus Thomas at the deadline and he can be huge off the bench for the Bobcats if he plays up to his potential. Miami is catchable, but their margin for error is slim and the team needs to get an identity and they need to do so quickly.
21. Sacramento Kings (21-40) - Even though the record isn't there, the effort, the hustle, the coaching and the potential is there to create some kind of excitement around Sacramento. The move to acquire Carl Landry while getting rid of Kevin Martin's contract was just ingenious. Tyreke Evans should run away with rookie of the year honors and overall this team has a fun feel to it. Paul Westphal is the perfect balance of discipline and structure that a group of unproven players needs, and this team can really make strides these next two seasons and be back in the playoffs by 2012.
22. Los Angeles Clippers (25-36) - The curious resigning of Mike Dunleavy and subsequent trades for cap space have once again made the Clippers a barely relevant basketball team, although their record says that they're now awful this season. This team continues to riddle even the most brilliant of basketball fans, as there's no reason for a team with that kind of talent to be as mediocre as they are. They have a good point guard, a good center, and good contributors at every position out there. But they just never can put it together. Hopefully, Blake Griffin comes back next season fully healthy and this team makes some kind of stride going forward. There's really no excuse anymore to not succeed.
23. Philadelphia 76ers (22-38) - Nobody's been able to figure out what's going on in Philadelphia all season long. Eddie Jordan just hasn't given this team any kind of identity or style and the play has been indicative of that. The Allen Iverson saga has become bigger than the franchise as of late (something that most teams wanted to avoid, which is why Iverson was so available for Philadelphia). They didn't make any moves at the deadline and I'm curious as to why they didn't, because they either need to get into rebuilding mode or spend ridiculous amounts of cash to be a playoff regular. Because there isn't a more stale team in the league than this 76ers squad.
24. New York Knicks (21-39) - The Knicks can put up numbers in bunches but still look like garbage some times on the court. That effort against the Cavaliers was pathetic but at least they rebounded to beat up on Detroit last night. David Lee has been one of the most consistent players on the court league wide and if not for him the Knicks would probably be in worst shape than they currently are. Bill Walker looks to be a great find off of Boston's bench (after hearing their interest in Michael Finley, you think they're regretting letting Walker go?) but then again, everyone looks to be a great find when they get in D'Antoni's gimmicked system. They have a bad team, but that's mainly because they've freed up the space to go after who they want this offseason. For the sake of their fans, they better get them, because if not this franchise is going to be in really bad shape.
25. Washington Wizards (21-37) - Moving Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler has been so great for this Washington franchise. It's not that those were bad players, they're really good players. In fact, their new teams are both in the top four of these power rankings. And their additions are a big reason why. But Washington needed a change in identity, and disassociating themselves from anybody involved with the team's playoff runs was a good thing for the future. Now without the constraints of commitments to veterans, Flip Saunders has taken the handcuffs off this team and their play has been indicative of such. Andray Blatche, especially, has been huge since the trade deadline and looks fantastic out on the court. They're still not a good team, but at least they're a team Wizards fans can be prouder of.
26. Detroit Pistons (21-40) - The Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva signings officially look awful. In fact, they look like some of the worst moves league wide in a long, long time. It's not as if this team has the cap space to improve, the coaching that gives me confidence things can turn around, or even the young talent that you know they can build around. Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye, Will Bynum, these are all nice players for good teams but they're not players you want to hitch the future of a franchise to. When you look at the paychecks that Gordon, Villanueva and Jason Maxiell are getting in Detroit, it's no wonder why this team is so average. They've invested in the wrong types of players and this franchise is in dire needs of a makeover.
27. Indiana Pacers (20-41) - They've really taken a step back this season and injuries have been a big part of it. Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy and even the likes of Jeff Foster and Tyler Hansbrough have all missed substantial time this season. It's not as if this team was stacked with talent to begin with, so the injuries just make things worse. Jim O'Brien looks as good as gone, and this is another team that really needs some kind of makeover. I look at the players Larry Bird has brought in and the players he's drafted, and I don't think he's done a bad job in Indiana. I just don't look at the roster as a whole and say "there's something to like here." Danny Granger hasn't been able to duplicate the success he had last season and neither has Troy Murphy for the most part. Those are probably the biggets reasons why Indiana has taken such a drastic step back.
28. Golden State Warriors (17-43) - Stephen Curry has really been a feel good story in the Bay City and has done a lot to lessen the blow that is how awful this team is out on the court. He's played all year and has done a fine job in his starting role, but Monta Ellis' recent injury problems have only added on to the long list of injured Warriors on the roster. This is now becoming a recurring theme every year for Golden State, and it confuses me as an observer from the outside. Why is it that all these players are getting hurt in Golden State every single year, regardless if the player has any kind of injury history or is even getting any substantial minutes to where this injury can occur. There's some kind of bad aura surrounding Golden State right now and it doesn't look bright for the Warriors.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-48) - Finally Corey Brewer has come around to being a servicable player in this league. Maybe still not worthy of the lottery pick the Timberwolves used on him, but a good player nonethless. Outside of him and Kevin Love, everybody that was on the team last season just has dissapeared this season. This bootleg triangle that Kurt Rambis is trying to opperate just is not working. Al Jefferson is nowhere near the player he was the last two seasons. Ryan Gomes would at least show glimpses of being a good player last year and he's been virtually non-existent this season. Jonny Flynn has put up good numbers but has done nothing to stand out in Minnesota as well. This is another team that's still a bit puzzling because you don't know when the true rebuilding stage is going to kick in. They're obviously not anywhere near playoff contention yet, but what gives you any indication they will be in the near future?
30. New Jersey Nets (6-54) - For awhile there I bought into the hype that the Nets could set the NBA record for futility and surpass the 76ers 9-63 record. After last week's win at Boston, I'm convinced this team will at least go 4- 19 over their last 23 games to get that elusive tenth victory. This team has no business being this bad, and for that reason I kind of feel as if they deserve to carry that loser label around with them. They don't try, they don't perform, they're undisciplined and they don't seem to care that they're so awful of a team. Poor Kiki Vandeweghe was told to firesale the roster with the hopes of acquiring LeBron James this offseason, but he's going to be blamed for how bad this roster is. Even with all this cap space, there's no reason for a player to want to go to New Jersey, the impending move to Brooklyn is still pending, and that Russian billionare who was going to buy the team still has yet to buy them. Even still, they shouldn't be anywhere near 9-63.
Tags: 76ers, Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andray Blatche, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bogut, Antawn Jamison, Antonio McDyess, Austin Daye, Ben Gordon, Bill Walker, Blake Griffin, Bobcats, Brandon Jennings, Brandon Roy, Brendan Haywood, Bucks, Bulls, Carl Landry, Carlos Boozer, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Channing Frye, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Clippers, Corey Brewer, Danny Granger, Darren Collison, David Lee, DeJuan Blair, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Devin Brorwn, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, George Hill, Glen Davis, Goran Dragic, Grant Hill, Greg Oden, Grizzlies, Hakim Warrick, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, Jamal Crawford, Jameer Nelson, Jannero Pargo, Jared Dudley, Jason Kidd, Jason Maxiell, Jazz, Jeff Foster, Jeff Green, Jerry Stackhouse, Joakim Noah, Joe Johnson, Joel Przybilla, John Salmons, Jonas Jerebko, Jonny Flynn, Jordan Farmar, Juwan Howard, Keith Bogans, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Kurt Thomas, Kyle Lowry, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LeBron James, Luke Ridnour, Luol Deng, Magic, Marcus Camby, Marcus Thornton, Marquis Daniels, Marvin Williams, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Mike Bibby, Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams, Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pau Gasol, Pistons, Raptors, Rashard Lewis, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Jefferson, Robin Lopez, Rockets, Rodney Stuckey, Ronald Murray, Russell Westbrook, Ryan Gomes, Shannon Brown, Shaquille O'Neal, Spurs, Stephen Curry, Steve Nash, Suns, Thunder, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Troy Murphy, Tyler Hansbrough, Tyreke Evans, Tyrus Thomas, Warriors, Will Bynum, Wizards, Yao Ming, Zach Randolph
Posted on: June 1, 2009 1:13 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2010 2:43 am
After correctly predicting the NBA finals in my review of the conference finals, I find it important that I hurry aboard to try and keep up my good name by predicting the NBA Finals. In all honesty, I couldn't be happier with this matchup. Not only did I pick it, these, in my opinion, are the two best teams that the NBA could offer at this point. Both of these teams have faced adversity. Both have taken shots in the media and Stan Van Gundy and Pau Gasol have been the most critiqued figures in the media since the postseason started. But how did they get here?
Key Player for the Magic: Rafer Alston has been really hit or miss this entire postseason, as well, but when he's been on, the Magic have won. Point guards have given the Lakers trouble all postseason and Alston isn't the most talented player at his position, but is a quick and smart player at the point guard position. His shot has been really streaky and sometimes he takes ill advised chances on the offensive side of the basketball, but if can keep his head in the game and knock down open jump shots then he can be a huge difference maker for the Magic. Derek Fisher has had a hard time on defense this postseason and has struggled with his jump shot, so this is a prime opportunity for Alston to take advantage of that and thoroughly outplay Fisher. If he does that, then the Magic will have the advantage to the championship.
Tags: Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum, Cavaliers, Celtics, Courtney Lee, Derek Fisher, Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jazz, Jordan Farmar, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LeBron James, Luke Walton, Magic, Mickael Pietrus, Nuggets, Pau Gasol, Rafer Alston, Rashard Lewis, Rockets, Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, Shaquille O'Neal, Thaddeus Young, Trevor Ariza, Yao Ming
Posted on: March 24, 2009 11:46 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2009 11:47 pm
Previous Team: Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the team with the best record in the Western Conference: the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers also throw two fantastic man defenders at you in Trevor Ariza and Kobe Bryant. Their defense as a real is hit and miss, but in crucial situations when they need to get a stop, they can rest knowing that they have two of the best that can at least slow down the opposing team's best wing man in critical times. Another thing that helps the Lakers is their sense of continuity amongst one another. This is a confident bunch that feeds off of the (I mean this in a good way) arrogance of their team captain. Kobe Bryant's never say die attitude feeds over to the team and they can really feed off of that.
Also, their defense is very inconsistent and always seems to pose a problem at inopportune times. Especially on the road, the Lakers really struggle to get a groove on the defensive side of the ball which puts a lot of pressure on the offense. The Lakers are very weak inside the paint which encourages a lot of players to simply play hard down in the paint on them. We saw it in last season's NBA finals, Pau Gasol isn't stopping anybody around the basket. Andrew Bynum is the best down low threat that they have on defense, and with his knee injury you don't even know if he'll be at enough strength to make much of a difference.
Why They Will Win It:
Why They Won't Win It:
Coming up next: the Boston Celtics.
Posted on: January 5, 2009 1:07 am
Edited on: April 16, 2009 11:56 pm
1. Los Angeles Lakers (4) - Rejoice, Los Angeles! The beloved Lakers have reclaimed their top position. The hottest team in the NBA is boasting one of its hottest players in Kobe Bryant. As of late, Kobe and Pau Gasol have elevated their play to around the level they were at around the postseason last year. The bench is getting good production even with Jordan Farmar missing time with his injury. I don't believe adding another point guard is critical for the moment but it wouldn't hurt if they could land one for cheap.
2. Atlanta Hawks (5) - The Hawks suffered a crushing loss with a near halfcourt heave at the buzzer from Vince Carter at New Jersey. That was only their second loss in twelve games. Victories over Cleveland, Denver, Houston and Detroit highlight that stretch and prove that this team is not a flash in the pan. I'm sure they won't maintain this level of competition all season long as the team is largely unproven, but don't try to dispute what they've accomplished so far this season. Not only is this team legitimate, they're talented.
3. Boston Celtics (2) - And just like that, with a loss to a depleted Portland team and to a bad New York team (coming off a week in which they lost their first game in forever in addition to a loss to a bad Golden State team) and the Celtics all of a sudden look vulnerable. I'm not going to jump off of the bandwagon and say that they're cooked, it's not a matter of if but when this team rights the ship and gets back to playing the defense that made them impossible to beat through November and December. Kevin Garnett has slowed a bit so far this season and Paul Pierce has had to carry this unit for basically the whole season. The role players have also slowed a tad, which is the main reason for the team's struggles but they'll get it back together and they'll still be there in the end.
4. Orlando Magic (3) - Something doesn't quite seem right with Hedo Turkoglu this season. All of his statistics have dropped from last season and his field goal percentage is at a laughable 38 percent. That's either meaning he's struggling to do too much in a contract year, or maybe last season was more of an aberration for the turkish born star. Overall, the Magic have been solid all season long and if he captures the form he showed last season then they'll be right up there at the top of the eastern confrence.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (1) - Rejoice, Cavs haters! Zydrunas Ilgauskas has gone down to injury and the Cavaliers dropped two games this week, including an embarassing defeat at the hands of Washington today. For at least a week anyways, the team looked like last season's team, which relied entirely too heavily on LeBron James. What's happened to Wally Szczerbiak this season? He's the definition of a non factor, and with his expiring contract, if he showed any bit of production they could get a really good player in return for Wally World. But so far his value is worth about the same as Eric Snow's.
6. San Antonio Spurs (6) - Manu Ginobili had a huge week for the Spurs. Greg Popovich has done a fine job with his roster and has seemingly settled on a nice rotation. Tim Duncan is having the best year he's had in the past two or three and Tony Parker is currently playing like their best player. They're a dangerous unit and they're going to be there in the end, regardless of their difficult start.
7. Denver Nuggets (7) - Carmelo Anthony played hero on two separate occasions for the Nuggets this season, even if they were underwhelming in barely defeated Oklahoma City and blowing a 26 point lead at home to New Orleans. An injury to Nene for the Oklahoma City game showed no immediate hamper on the Nuggets, but if he misses any prolonged period of time they're in bad shape. They lack serious depth in the frontcourt.
8. New Orleans Hornets (9) - They still lack the consistency that they showed for so much of last season but Chris Paul is playing the best ball of any player in the NBA. The fact that he's not up there with Kobe Bryant in all star voting is unbelievable and truly speaks to the knowledge of the average NBA fan. David West has really picked up his game as of late and don't look now, but the Hornets rank among the league's best at the defensive side of the ball.
9. Detroit Pistons (15) - I've ridden no team as hard this year as I have the Pistons, but Rodney Stuckey has resurrected what was a dead season for Detroit after the Allen Iverson trade. The readdition of Antonio McDyess is as much a factor as any in the team's current winning streak and even though they may not be blowing teams out, victories are victories and the Pistons are winning ball games.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (8) - Playing without Brandon Roy hurt this team this week as they looked bad against New Orleans and the Lakers. Overall, they managed to pull out a victory against Boston and they're still playing hard even without Roy in the lineup. McMillan will never let this team play a weak game but they can't win without their all star guard in the lineup.
11. Dallas Mavericks (11) - Today's loss at Memphis was embarassing but Dirk Nowitzki has carried the Mavericks to a very strong season thus far. They're a team of wing players and that will doom them in the playoffs, but they will exceed any expectations they were given this season. Rick Carlisle has done a really good job with the Mavericks this season.
12. Phoenix Suns (13) - Shaquille O'Neal is having his best year since his last year in Los Angeles for Phoenix and the team is maintaining a steady play so far this season. Jason Richardson hasn't added much since his addition, but the team continues to win so his presence alone must be enough for the Suns to get by.
13. Utah Jazz (12) - Word of Carlos Boozer now needing surgery has to demoralize this squad even with Paul Millsap playing as fantastic as he has this season (I forgot to mention him in my most improved players list last week). The C.J. Miles experiment has worked well with him playing so steady this season. He's never going to be more than an average starter in this league but he's solid enough to where the Jazz can continue to use Andrei Kirilenko on the bench, which has worked very well for them so far this season.
14. Miami Heat (14) - An injury to Shawn Marion has thrusted Daequan Cook into the starting lineup and I think with a shipping of Marion and his expiring contract at the deadline, that can be a nice spot for Cook. Michael Beasley has been underwhelming so far this season but has shown flashes of being a nice player in this league. It's safe to say that he was a tad overhyped coming into the draft, though.
15. Houston Rockets (10) - Tracy McGrady's play this season has been absolutely pathetic. He's beyond bad at this moment and Yao Ming is shooting a percentage in the low 40s the past few games as well. With Ron Artest in and out of the lineup as well, this team is currently in a great deal of turmoil and it's evident when you watch them out on the court. Aaron Brooks has tailed off considerably since his start this season but the talent is still there for this team to turn it around. You just have to wonder if their players are tough enough to do it.
16. New Jersey Nets (16) - They're incredibly inconsistent and continue to be without a victory when Devin Harris is out of the lineup, but the Nets still, week after week, find themselves in the picture in the NBA. Vince Carter has had his fair share of last second theatrics this season and that's been a major reason for the Nets' position at the moment. They have to wonder if a postseason appearance is worth a possible run at a championship in the next two or three seasons when it comes to Carter, but we'll see what it is they're offered for Vince.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (17) - The Bucks are a team that's so difficult to put a finger on, because they have no player who's consistently great every night and they don't really scare you in any facet of their play. Yet they've been near .500 all season long and they're still in the playoff race thus far. That speaks wonders for Scott Skiles, even though I'm confused at his reluctancy to give Ramon Sessions big minutes. I've seen an increase in Tyronn Lue as of late and I don't believe he's better than Sessions.
18. Toronto Raptors (23) - Two weeks ago the Raptors were left for dead, and since then they've had a very impressive past two weeks. Chris Bosh has found the form he displayed earlier this season and the team is winning ball games without Jermaine O'Neal and Jose Calderon in the lineup. Anthony Parker has been a steady player at the shooting guard position and the Raptors have found themselves back in the discussion as far as the playoffs are concerned. It's a nice turnaround for a team that I wrote off just two weeks earlier.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (19) - If you were to look up the word "bland" in the dictionary, you would see this team's photo right beside it. Their play hasn't inreased without Elton Brand (even though I thought it would) and maybe they are what they are, a below .500 team that can't score and that isn't even that special on the defensive side of the ball. It seems like the two years of momentum that was built up by this squad was ruined with possibly unfair expectations with the Elton Brand acquisition.
20. Chicago Bulls (18) - A loss at home to Minnesota highlights a woeful week for the Bulls which was heightened even further with a horrible showing by Derrick Rose. Ben Gordon deserves serious all star consideration this season beyond the three point shootout and he's been the team's steadiest, most consistent option thus far. That probably is why they're down here at 20, but he deserves a little bit of credit after the way he was blasted and treated this offseason. He may, yet, see his big payday this offseason.
21. Indiana Pacers (25) - Mike Dunleavy is set to debut this week for the Pacers and that should help a team that still is looking to make a run at sneaking into the last playoff spot. Danny Granger has been tremendous this season even in the dissapointing year for the Pacers and Jarrett Jack has been tremendous since being inserted into the starting lineup as of late. T.J. Ford has done fine off of the bench but you have to wonder if he's the type of player that would be content with coming off of the bench.
22. Charlotte Bobcats (22) - I still can't speak enough for Boris Diaw's play since coming over from Phoenix. This Bobcats team has raised its level of play since that trade and currently has shown that they can be a pesky bunch to put away. Adam Morrison, on the other hand, is now officially ready to be labeled as a bust. He was a horrible selection as a 3rd overall draft pick (don't even get me started on Sean May). Little known Matt Caroll is better at what Morrison does than Morrison is and that's why Morrison scored for the first time in six games Saturday night. I still remember when Dick Vitale said we were all stupid for saying J.J. Reddick and Morrison wouldn't be great in the NBA.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (20) - Darius Miles made his debut this week for the Grizzlies and Steve Francis may be set to dress up anytime soon. It's amazing that those two players found their way onto the Grizzlies roster, but it's safe to say both are in dire need to prove that their careers aren't over in the NBA.
24. New York Knicks (24) - The Knicks have lost all of the good will they built up with a strong opening to the season, but still continue to play hard for coach D'Antoni. Al Harrington off of the bench has payed huge dividends as of late, including a victory today over Boston. David Lee has been tremendous this season and if they package him with a contract of Jerome James or Eddy Curry they can get another building block for the rebuilding of this proud franchise.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (28) - The Timberwolves got back to back victories for the first time all season and got Mike Miller back from injury. Still, though, a lot is left to be done in Minnesota in order to get this team back to respectability. Kevin Love has been inconsistent in his performance this season and doesn't look like a great acquisition by Kevin McHale (and nobody honestly believed he would be) but I think, with the investment they made in him, that he needs to be shown more minutes as the season progresses.
26. Los Angeles Clippers (26) - Baron Davis, in addition to his pathetic displays on the court this season, caused controversy with a recent report of his wanting to return to the team he shafted just five months earlier. His homecoming has been nothing short of brutal but the team has got to be happy with the play of Marcus Camby and Eric Gordon as of late. They look like a team capable of hanging in tough games as long as Davis doesn't continue to shoot them out of ball games.
27. Washington Wizards (29) - The Wizards, with a run over Cleveland today, move out of the bottom two for the first time all season. Getting Caron Butler back this week has been good for the Wizards and the increase in minutes for Javaris Crittenton is a solid move by coach Tapscott. Andray Blatche has been a nice spot for what's been a dreadful season thus far and the Wizards are now starting to play harder each and every night. It's not going to amount to any kind of success this year, but it's a far cry from the team that regularly would get beat by 20 every night just a couple months prior.
28. Golden State Warriors (21) - With Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette now publicly speaking about trade requests the horrid season for the Warriors has now reached rock bottom. The dissapointing performance has taken a back seat to the fact that the group of players that they've assembled has now made the franchise one without any kind of positive direction. It's tough to be a loyal Warrior fan, and this season is a perfect explanation of why that's so.
29. Sacramento Kings (27) - Kevin Martin came back this season and looked fantastic in his return and Brad Miller has been a steady force all season for Sacramento, but they still continue to lose. This team looked like a team with a direction this season, but so far this season hasn't shown anything other than that they're a team without much talent or direction. It's tough to see what the future holds for this franchise.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - The Thunder are really playing good basketball as of late and I wanted to move them out of the last spot for the first time all season, but can't justifiably do so. Jeff Green, this season, has looked like a player that was worthy of the draft slot they used on him and Kevin Durant have played at a very high level as of late. They're playing with more intensity than they did earlier in the season and have showed signs of a team that's on the right path as of late. That's good for that loyal fan base.
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Adam Morrison, Al Harrington, Allen Iverson, Andray Blatche, Andrei Kirilenko, Anthony Parker, Antonio McDyess, Baron Davis, Ben Gordon, Bobcats, Boris Diaw, Brad Miller, Brandon Roy, Bucks, Bulls, C.J. Miles, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Clippers, Corey Maggette, Daequan Cook, Danny Granger, Darius Miles, David West, Derrick Rose, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Eddy Curry, Elton Brand, Eric Gordon, Eric Snow, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, Jarrett Jack, Jason Richardson, Javaris Crittenton, Jazz, Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal, Jerome James, Jordan Farmar, Jose Calderon, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, LeBron James, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Marcus Camby, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Miller, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pau Gasol, Paul Millsap, Paul Pierce, Pistons, Ramon Sessions, Raptors, Rockets, Rodney Stuckey, Ron Artest, Sean May, Shaquille O'Neal, Shawn Marion, Spurs, Stephen Jackson, Steve Francis, Suns, T.J. Ford, Thunder, Tim Duncan, Timberwolves, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Tyronn Lue, Vince Carter, Wally Szczerbiak, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Posted on: December 22, 2008 1:06 am
1. Boston Celtics (1) - There's no better team in the league than Boston and they're head and shoulders above the rest of the league. They're going to approach the NBA's record 72 wins in a season though I can't see them overtaking that record. It's not outside of the realm of possibility, though and they're the class of the league.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (3) - Delonte West has settled in extremely well at the shooting guard position for the Cavaliers. They're an unorthodox bunch, what with a 6'9" point guard, two big men (one who rebounds, one who scores) and two shooting guards but they find different ways to win. Mike Brown's insistence on defense has really done wonders for this team and everyone, including some Cavaliers players, are finally starting to see why this mentality is so critical to success. Just look at Boston. An aggressive, smart defense will always keep you in ball games. LeBron James will find ways to win many close ball games.
3. Orlando Magic (4) - They've really legitamized their placement atop the league this week with big victories over both San Antonio and the Lake show. This group is dangerous when everyone's connecting. They got Dwight Howard back from injury and had a tremendous week from Jameer Nelson and he was huge in both of the victories. They're a group of misfits but they find a way to work and they play hard. Stan Van Gundy has done a tremendous job with this organization.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (2) - Kobe Bryant has tried to do it all this week and for the first time all season, the Lakers look vulnerable. We know these tough patches come every year so I don't believe it's anything worth throwing up the white flag, but there is trouble with this team. Andrew Bynum isn't having the season he was supposed to have this year but they're getting really good production out of Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar off the bench. Lamar Odom doesn't seem as comfortable off of the bench as he did in the starting lineup. When he started against New York this week, he looked a lot like the player who was a huge contribution to last year's squad. I think Lakers fans really undervalued his importance but I doubt he'll start next season as a Laker.
5. New Orleans Hornets (8) - The Hornets are on a roll right now and are doing a tremendous job on the defensive side of the ball. Tyson Chandler has looked energized this week and James Posey continues to be a tremendous force off of the bench. Peja Stojakovic's injury is cause for concern and this week will be the true test as to if the Hornets run is legitimate, and they need a healthy Peja to really have a fair shake.
6. Atlanta Hawks (7) - Even though they loss to Boston this week (who hasn't) how strange was it to have people circling a game at Atlanta? This squad has the attention of the best team in the league and has had them on the verge of defeat two times this season. They ended the week with a strong defensive performance against Detroit and this team continues to overacheive. Al Horford has proved last season was no fluke.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (11) - I can't seem to get a firm enough understanding of this squad and I move them up between the top half of the league every week. Brandon Roy is right behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this season as far as MVP candidates are concerned and his 52 point performance against Phoenix Thursday night was amazing. The players play well as a team and they all know who the go to guy is. Minnesota fans have to look at Randy Foye and shake their head.
8. Houston Rockets (9) - Ron Artest seems pretty comfortable off of the bench and, honestly, Shane Battier's game may be better suited starting off for the Rockets. Rafer Alston's injury doesn't help matters but Aaron Brooks has done a fine job in the starting role. The team finds ways to win basketball games and Yao Ming deserves acclaim for his job so far this season as the anchor for this team.
9. Denver Nuggets (5) - This is the lowest the Nuggets have been since Chauncey Billups' arrival but they've hit a wall this week. After Carmelo Anthony's tremendous week last week, he shot horrible from the field this week. Their lack of explosiveness in the front court is crippling and they still seem to lack something to be taken serious as a Western confrence contender.
10. San Antonio Spurs (6) - I may have gotten too crazy with their run last week but the Spurs had two tough losses to New Orleans and Orlando this week. I'm shocked at the lack of minutes being distributed to Ime Udoka and Bruce Bowen but Popovich knows best about this squad. Kurt Thomas has seen a huge increase in minutes lately and I'm wondering if the Ian Mahinmi experiement is ever going to come to fruition.
11. Utah Jazz (10) - The Jazz organization is so caught up in the Carlos Boozer situation (his injury, whether or not he'll return next season) that they're letting it overshadow a very dissapointing start to this season for Utah. They've been very inconsistent this year and they still struggle on the road (unless they're playing Detroit). Deron Williams has yet to regain that level of play he's displayed the last two seasons but I see it only as a matter of time before he gets his feet back. When he does this team will take off, but it needs to happen soon.
12. Dallas Mavericks (12) - Dallas has had a quiet season but with the return of Josh Howard I think this team is ready to start taking strides. Jason Kidd can't do much at this stage in his career, but he can run an offense and Dirk Nowitzki's production with Kidd on the court is a testament to that. They take advantage of lesser competition and that's a huge upgrade from the beginning of the season. They just need to find ways to beat the better teams.
13. Phoenix Suns (14) - The Phoenix Suns have quietly had a huge week and a monster performance from Brandon Roy is all that kept it from perfect. I know Shaquille O'Neal is a punchline on these forums but his play this year has been solid for this team. I don't believe all that much has been lost from last season, but this talented bunch isn't having fun and I guess that means you complain regardless of record. I'm getting tired of the whining in Phoenix but that's a tradition Mike D'Antoni instilled that can never be replaced amongst that bunch.
14. Miami Heat (15) - Dwyane Wade had a tremendous week and this team as a whole had a tremendous week. A big Friday night victory against the Lakers was followed with a solid performance against New Jersey and this team seems to have finally developed some kind of a groove. Shawn Marion may not be playing up to his potential and Michael Beasley may be a huge dissapointment (statistically speaking) in the rookie class, but they have to love what they found in Mario Chalmers and I think Daequan Cook is doing a tremendous job in his important role off of the bench. They got a solid little team if they can get physical inside.
15. Detroit Pistons (13) - Rodney Stuckey has performed very well since his insertion into the starting lineup. They have, legitimately, no front court, though, and that bench that was so widely praised at the beginning of the season looks incredibly weak without Stuckey on it. Players like Aaron Afflalo, Walter Herrmann and Amir Johnson have dissapeared and have not lived up to preseason expectations. Jason Maxiell plays like a guy who received a huge contract instead of the guy who for the past couple of seasons looked like he was playing for his career. It's amazing to see how lackadaisical this team is. I don't think Flip Saunders was the problem.
16. Chicago Bulls (17) - Drew Gooden's injury is an inconvenience but the Bulls continue to play solid basketball. They may lack consistency but they're a legitimate playoff threat with Derrick Rose surprisingly playing at the current level of play he's displayed. They'll be around all season.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (20) - The Bucks have had a really solid week and have played well since Michael Redd's return from injury. They've been under the radar all season long but have to be pleased with the production that Scott Skiles has gotten out of this bunch. They're weirdly assembled but they play hard every night and that's reason enough to believe in them. Scott Skilles proves once again that he's a tremendous coach.
18. New Jersey Nets (16) - Devin Harris' performance against the Mavericks was unbelievable and New Jersey has to feel it made out like bandits with that trade. Eduardo Najera also played in that game against the Mavericks but quickly collected another DNP. They've gotten good minutes out of Ryan Anderson lately and Rod Thorn's done a good job building this team from the ground up. I can't see Vince Carter staying past the deadline if the Nets have an opportunity to trade him, and he's played well enough this season to where I can see some team taking a chance on him. They need to continue and complete the rebuilding cycle.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (21) - Well the destruction I wished on that franchise didn't happen and they've played well under new coach Tony DiLeo. Elton Brand's injury will show if this team is really better suited to run a spread out, fast court game. I think that fits the styles of their players better and I think they'll play well without Brand for a month.
20. New York Knicks (19) - Seven man rotations and no defense, D'Antoni ball is in full effect over in New York. All cheap shots aside, he's done a good job with that bunch and even though Al Harrington has cooled down considerably, Nate Robinson has picked it up with a very good week for the Knicks. They probably won't make the playoffs but the fact that people are believing they have a shot speaks for the job D'Antoni has done with this overacheiving bunch.
21. Los Angeles Clippers (23) - Marcus Camby has awoken this week and played at level that he displayed while with Denver. The Zach Randolph trade has worked out well for the Clippers but Baron Davis' play is holding this team back. You have to wonder if his priorities are in order, but I guess if you willingly sign for big money to play for the Clippers your priorities are already put into question. They can't move him, he has to work out there, but he can't continue to shoot this team out of ball games.
22. Indiana Pacers (24) - The unfortunate flu epidemic nailed the Pacers locker room and they played inspiring ball near the end of the week even though they were without three of their top four scorers in Marquis Daniels, Danny Granger and Troy Murphy. Jarrett Jack gave them a tremendous week as did T.J. Ford and overall, I'd say both Ford and Rasho Nesterovic have been nice additions to the Pacers team. They lack any kind of consistency but have talent over in Indiana. I just don't know if it will ever be fully tapped.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (22) - The Grizzlies lost both of their games in a quiet week and O.J. Mayo finally scored in single digits in a game. Yes, I know it was a quiet week in Memphis. I'd like to see Hakim Warrick start to get more minutes over in Memphis, though. He does well given the lack of opportunities he truly has.
24. Golden State Warriors (25) - Jamal Crawford single handedly got the Warriors a victory, and they're getting good production out of Marco Belinelli. Monta Ellis is gearing up to return sometimes in the next month but this team still lacks a true point guard. Hopefully, though, Ellis can return to form and give this Warriors fan base reason for excitement this season.
25. Charlotte Bobcats (27) - Boris Diaw looks rejuvenated in Larry Brown's offense and has done a fantastic job in his new starting role. Raja Bell looks unhappy in Charlotte and who can honestly blame him? Aside from that, though, the Bobcats look to be open to the thought of trading Raymond Felton. To me, it's amazing that he hasn't succeeded there but D.J. Augustin's performance is quietly pushing him out of favor with the organization.
26. Toronto Raptors (18) - The drop may be a tad drastic but this team is in awful shape. Chris Bosh is getting booed, they're losing to Oklahoma City and they don't play as a team anymore. Bryan Colangelo has truly done a bad job with this bunch but they're just not that talented to begin with. Jermaine O'Neal has done fine this season but it was fair to see all season that he just couldn't be that inside guy that Toronto truly needed. This team needs to do a lot of restructuring within the organization.
27. Sacramento Kings (26) - Reggie Theus' firing infuriated me but I'm not surprised. A team full of outcats from other organizations probably should be in playoff contention. When Brad Miller is your most consistent start you're not going to be in great shape and new coach Natt's 1-3 record since taking over isn't surprising. Theus deserved better for what he did last season and I don't think stressing that this team play hard and try to win should be overlooked simply for playing younger players and accepting poor performances.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (28) - The Timberwolves are reeling big time and Kevin McHale is winless as Minnesota's coach. Al Jefferson is a fine player but he can't do it all by himself. This shouldn't come as a surprise as, even in his last seasons, Kevin Garnett couldn't do it by himself in Minnesota. This is a poorly run organization and the team is horribly assembled. They may never get better with McHale at the helm.
29. Washington Wizards (29) - Mike James has played well since arriving in Washington but it's made no change to their record. Who can be surprised? Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are playing really hard and it's difficult to watch those two players fail but the organization as a whole just has no real direction. They're in a hole, too, with the contract that was given to Gilbert Arenas.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - They finally got a win this week! They're playing hard every night now, which is an upgrade, they just don't have the talent on the team to win. Kevin Durant has played fine ball since Brooks was introduced as interim coach but after him, nobody is consistent enough to really give this team a chance to win on a nightly basis. They're still a few years away.
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Harrington, Al Horford, Al Jefferson, Amir Johnson, Andrew Bynum, Antawn Jamison, Baron Davis, Bobcats, Boris Diaw, Brad Miller, Brandon Roy, Bruce Bowen, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Bosh, Clippers, D.J. Augustin, Daequan Cook, Danny Granger, Delonte West, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Drew Gooden, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Eduardo Najera, Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Grizzlies, Hakim Warrick, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Ian Mahinmi, Ime Udoka, Jamal Crawford, Jameer Nelson, James Posey, Jarrett Jack, Jason Kidd, Jason Maxiell, Jazz, Jermaine O'Neal, Jordan Farmar, Josh Howard, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Kurt Thomas, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LeBron James, Magic, Marco Belinelli, Marcus Camby, Mario Chalmers, Marquis Daniels, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Michael Redd, Mike James, Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson, Nets, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Peja Stojakovic, Pistons, Rafer Alston, Raja Bell, Randy Foye, Raptors, Rasho Nesterovic, Raymond Felton, Rockets, Rodney Stuckey, Ron Artest, Ryan Anderson, Shane Battier, Shaquille O'Neal, Shawn Marion, Spurs, Suns, T.J. Ford, Thunder, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Trevor Ariza, Troy Murphy, Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter, Walter Herrmann, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming, Zach Randolph
Posted on: November 10, 2008 2:34 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:23 am
1) Los Angeles Lakers - The preseason favorites to win the championship look unstoppable through their first five games. That bench is about as deep as I've ever seen and Jordan Farmar has been hugh off of the bench for them. The only thing that could possibly stop this team is injury because as of right now they look great.
4) New Orleans Hornets - The Hornets have had a good start to their season with impressive victories over Phoenix and Cleveland but need to get up for games against the likes of Atlanta and Charlotte. Bringing it every night is a priority for this team since they have the bullseye on their backs this season.
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Anderson Varejao, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Andrei Kirilenko, Andrew Bogut, Andris Biedrins, Antawn Jamison, Bobcats, Brad Miller, Brandon Roy, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Chris Bosh, Clippers, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Elton Brand, Gerald Green, Gerald Wallace, Gilbert Arenas, Greg Oden, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd, Jason Richardson, Jazz, Joe Johnson, Joe Smith, Jordan Farmar, Jose Calderon, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kings, Kirk Hinrich, Knicks, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Linas Kleiza, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Marquis Daniels, Matt Harpring, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Mike Dunleavy, Nets, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Pistons, Ramon Sessions, Raptors, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Ron Artest, Rudy Fernandez, Rudy Gay, Sean May, Shane Battier, Shawn Marion, Spencer Hawes, Spurs, Steve Nash, Suns, T.J. Ford, Thaddeus Young, Thunder, Tim Duncan, Timberwolves, Tony Allen, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming, Zach Randolph, Zydrunas Ilgauskas