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Tag:Rudy Fernandez
Posted on: May 25, 2010 5:27 pm
 

Top Ten Drafts Last Ten Years: # 4

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.  Sorry for the delay today, instead of working my usual nights I was asked to cover a morning shift and am just now getting on.  Don't worry, the countdown still goes on as usual.  Much like 2009, this draft that is coming in at number four is kind of hard to fully evaluate since it's only two years old (as opposed to 2009's one).  Early prognosis, however, is that this draft was really, really solid and should produce quite a bit of players who will produce for a long period of team.  In case I haven't given it away, the 2008 NBA Draft will be coming in at number four in our countdown.

Top Ten Drafts of the Last Ten Years
#10: 2000 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21869382

#9: 2007 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21895619

#8: 2006 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21928696

#7: 2001 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21957208

#6: 2002 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21979856

#5: 2009 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/22042511

#4: 2008 NBA Draft:

Round One:
1) Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose, PG, Memphis
2) Miami Heat - Michael Beasley, PF, Kansas State
3) Minnesota Timberwolves - O.J. Mayo, SG, USC (traded to the Grizzlies)
4) Seattle Supersonics - Russell Westbrook, PG, UCLA
5) Memphis Grizzlies - Kevin Love, PF, UCLA (traded to the Timberwolves)
6) New York Knicks - Danilo Gallinari, SF, Italy
7) Los Angeles Clippers - Eric Gordon, SG, Indiana
8) Milwaukee Bucks - Joe Alexander, SF, West Virginia
9) Charlotte Bobcats - D.J. Augustin, PG, Texas
10) New Jersey Nets - Brook Lopez, C, Stanford

Pretty impressive top ten overall.  After Rose's performance in the NCAA Tournament and with him being a Chicago born player, his selection was the Bulls was expected and he immediately stepped up his game upon entering the league.  Some people thought he was a couple years away from reaching his potential, but he's managed to become a stud already after only two years.  The same can't yet be said for Beasley, who was expected all along to be the consensus number one prior to the NCAA Tournament.  After supposed attitude issues arose during pre draft interviews, some wondered whether he would be taken at number 2 but the Heat stuck with him anyways.  He's showed flashes of being able to produce on the court, but he still lacks a defined position and has had off the court issues with depression and marijuana use.  On draft night, the Grizzlies and Timberwolves swapped Mayo and Love in a move that was largely panned on Minnesota's part.  However, Love has turned out to be a pretty serviceable, if largely unathletic, option at the power forward position.  Mayo is an explosive scorer, but isn't much of a volume scorer and doesn't do much else yet.  It's hard to say at this moment who won the trade, although if a gun were put to my head I'd say the Grizzlies did.  Westbrook may wind up being the best player in the entire draft when it's all said and done.  He became the starting point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who relocated from Seattle shortly after this draft, right away and has matured into the position.  Gallinari is still a promising prospect who has shown an incredibly impressive outside touch and a willingness to defend top stars.  Eric Gordon, like Mayo, is an explosive scorer and may be undersized for long term prospects at the shooting guard position.  But so far, he hasn't let it deter his offensive game.  D.J. Augustin had a very surprising rookie season with his play off the bench in Charlotte, although he suffered a bit of a sophomore slump this season.  On the other hand, Brook Lopez really stepped his game up this season (probably out of necessity) in New Jersey and looks to be a promising player at a league-wide very weak center position.  In fact, the only player out of this top ten who looks awful is Alexander, who has barely gotten on the court for either the Bucks or the Bulls (who he was traded to at the deadline).  Who knows what Milwaukee was thinking when they drafted him at 8.

11) Indiana Pacers - Jerryd Bayless, PG, Arizona (traded to the Trail Blazers)
12) Sacramento Kings - Jason Thompson, PF, Rider
13) Portland Trail Blazers - Brandon Rush, SG, Kansas (traded to the Pacers)
14) Golden State Warriors - Anthony Randolph, PF, LSU
15) Phoenix Suns - Robin Lopez, C, Stanford
16) Philadelphia 76ers - Marreese Speights, PF, Florida
17) Toronto Raptors - Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown (traded to the Pacers)
18) Washington Wizards - JaVale McGee, C, Nevada
19) Cleveland Cavaliers - J.J. Hickson, PF, North Carolina State
20) Charlotte Bobcats - Alexis Ajinca, C, France

Although this group isn't as impressive as the top ten list, it's still a good bunch of serviceable players.  A lot was expected of Bayless but he's been largely inconsistent in his two years in Portland.  He may need a chance of scenery already to continue his progression.  Thompson had a big rookie season after Sacramento was criticized for "reaching" for him.  He continued his stellar play this season, but hasn't shown that extra gear that may be needed to make him a starter for a very successful team.  Brandon Rush was a shooting specialist in college and was expected to do the same for Indiana, although he hasn't shown that touch yet much in his two years with the Pacers.  Anthony Randolph is a freakish athlete with a ton of potential, but has shown to be a bit injury prone his first two years in the league.  Robin Lopez, the twin brother of number ten pick Brook, was another criticized pick and looked, at times, downright lost on the court last season.  But he's emerged as the Suns starting center this season and his defensive prowress looks to make him a staple at that position for the future.  Speights has had some big games off the bench for Philadelphia but has shown a vulnerability to injuries as well.  Hibbert has rotated in and out of Indiana's starting lineup for his two seasons with the Pacers, and the team is still waiting for him to take the next step in his development.  McGee showed some signs this season for Washington after they went with a sort of youth movement, and could enter next season as the team's starting center.  Hickson became the second coming of Christ Jesus this season in Cleveland among their fanbase and was rumored in many trades at the deadline in an attempt for Cleveland to get more talent.  He's still on Cleveland's roster, though, and will most likely be a starter going forward next season.  Ajinca, meanwhile, has shown absolutely nothing thus far for Charlotte, and chances aren't good of him lasting past his four year rookie contract.

21) New Jersey Nets - Ryan Anderson, PF, Cal
22) Orlando Magic - Courtney Lee, SG, Western Kentucky
23) Utah Jazz - Kosta Koufos, C, Ohio State
24) Seattle Supersonics - Serge Ibaka, PF, Republic of Congo
25) Houston Rockets - Nicolas Batum, SF, France (traded to the Trail Blazers)
26) San Antonio Spurs - George Hill, PG, IUPUI
27) New Orleans Hornets - Darrell Arthur, PF, Kansas (traded to the Trail Blazers who then traded him to the Grizzlies)
28) Memphis Grizzlies - Donte Greene, PF, Syracuse (traded to the Rockets who then traded him to the Kings)
29) Detroit Pistons - D.J. White, PF, Indiana (traded to the Supersonics)
30) Boston Celtics - J.R. Giddens, SG, New Mexico

Even as the draft gets deeper, some really solid names are still on the list.  Anderson proved to be a serviceable scorer at the power forward position and is now playing for Orlando.  Meanwhile, Courtney Lee emerged as the starting shooting guard on an Orlando team that went to the NBA Finals but is now playing in New Jersey.  I just now put two and two together, and remebered that they were traded for eachother after their rookie seasons (well they were both involved in a trade anyways).  Koufos followed Greg Oden as an Ohio State freshman center taken in the first round, but even Oden's rookie season where he didn't play at all due to injury showed more promise than Koufos has in Utah.  Ibaka really came on strong this season for the Thunder and the team hopes that he can emerge as the center of the future.  Meanwhile, Batum has settled into Portland's starting rotation and doesn't yet seem to have tapped his potential.  The same can be said for George Hill, who is another one of San Antonio's rare finds in the draft and may be the team's starting point guard next season.  Arthur wound up settling in Memphis but hasn't yet showed a ton of promise.  The talent is there though.  Same can be said for Donte Greene, who wound up in Sacramento just before the start of the season and made some strides this season.  D.J. White didn't make it long in Detroit and didn't stick with Oklahoma City and is now playing in the NBDL.  Giddens doesn't seem too far behind.  He made no significant impact in Boston and after being traded to New York, never showed any staying power there either.

Round Two Notables:
34) Miami Heat - Mario Chalmers, PG, Kansas
35) Los Angeles Clippers - DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M
37) Milwaukee Bucks - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, SF, UCLA
39) Chicago Bulls - Sonny Weems, SG, Arkansas (traded to the Nuggets)
40) New Jersey Nets - Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG, Memphis
45) San Antonio Spurs - Goran Dragic, PG, Slovenia (traded to the Suns)
47) Washington Wizards - Bill Walker, SG, Kansas State (traded to the Celtics)

Another impressive list of finds here in the second round as well.  Chalmers started the entire season for Miami his rookie year.  He suffered a bit of a sophomore slump, but the 2008 NCAA Tournament MVP looks to have a bounce back year next season either off the bunch or starting for a team in the league.  Jordan is still a raw product who had the talent to be a lottery pick.  The Clippers hope he can partner with Blake Griffin to form a very formidable front court.  Mbah a Moute became a great defensive find for Milwaukee and has been, mostly, the team's starting small forward the last two seasons.  Weems is a great athlete who didn't really stick in Denver, but who showed a lot of promise and potential this past season with Toronto.  Douglas-Roberts has been inconsistent off the bench in New Jersey, but has had games where he looks like a good rotation player.  Dragic struggled big time last season but really came on this year and made a national name for himself with his Game 3 performance in the Western Conference Semifinals.  Just as Hickson is to Cleveland fans, Dragic is the second coming of Christ if you ask Phoenix funs.  Walker barely got on the court in his year and a half stint with Boston, but was traded to New York and showed a lot of promise the second half of this season.  He now figures to be in the team's future plans moving forward.

2008-2009 NBA Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose
All Stars from the 2008 NBA Draft: Derrick Rose

2008-2009 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Derrick Rose
O.J. Mayo
Russell Westbrook
Brook Lopez
Michael Beasley

2008-2009 NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Eric Gordon
Kevin Love
Mario Chalmers
Marc Gasol (who was originally drafted in 2007 by the Lakers before being traded to, and then signing with, the Grizzlies in 2008)
D.J. Augustin and Rudy Fernandez (who was originally drafted by the Suns in 2007 before being traded to, and then signing with, the Trail Blazers in 2008) tied for fifth on the second team.

Gosh I hate ties!

Posted on: May 18, 2010 1:10 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2010 1:17 pm
 

Top Ten Drafts Last Ten Years: # 9

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.  The draft lottery is tonight, so with the lukewarm reception I received with yesterday's submission (and yes I am using the term lukewarm very loosely), I wanted to get out # 9 before tonight's game.  Just to let you know, we can all agree that 2000 is the worst draft of the bunch, so everything after this is entirely subjective and, honestly, I can switch from 9 to 5 as often as I want and I won't feel comfortable with my list.  But comment, agree or disagree, whatever.  Here's number 9 on my top ten draft lists: the 2007 NBA Draft which features some good names but, overall, a lot of dissapointing performances from a lot of the top picks.

Top Ten Drafts of the Last Ten Years
#10: 2000 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/

entry/5993128/21869382?tag=pageContainer;blogInfoWrap

#9: 2007 NBA Draft

Round One:
1) Portland Trail Blazers - Greg Oden, C, Ohio State
2) Seattle Supersonics - Kevin Durant, SF, Texas
3) Atlanta Hawks - Al Horford, C, Florida
4) Memphis Grizzlies - Mike Conley, Jr., PG, Ohio State
5) Boston Celtics - Jeff Green, PF, Georgetown (traded to the Supersonics)
6) Milwaukee Bucks - Yi Jianlian, PF, China
7) Minnesota Timberwolves - Corey Brewer, SG, Florida
8) Charlotte Bobcats - Brandan Wright, PF, North Carolina (traded to the Warriors)
9) Chicago Bulls - Joakim Noah, C, Florida
10) Sacramento Kings - Spencer Hawes, C, Washington

Not a horrible list of top ten players.  Kevin Durant is a bonafide stud and looks to be the, unquestioned, star of this draft.  As one of the exciting young players in the league, Seattle definitely got right.  Portland, bless their hearts, took a chance on another big man over a solid wing player and look to be experiencing deja vu all over again, what with Greg Oden's injuries to both his right and his left knee, and he's missed 164 out of a possible 246 games.  Horford has become a nice pieces for the Hawks as has his Florida teammate Joakim Noah for the Bulls.  Both are probably playing out of position at center, but the league's small lineups have allowed both to become potential perennial all stars at their positions.  Their other Florida teammate, Corey Brewer, finally showed some life in Minnesota this season after two dull years while players like Conley and Yi Jianlian are still waiting to turn the corner and become good players.  Jianlian, especially, made a big deal about being drafted to Milwaukee and not wanting to play there, although he eventually did before being traded to New Jersey after his rookie season.  Jeff Green is another solid contributing piece to those very promising Oklahoma City teams now while players like Wright and Hawes have battled injuries and inconsistency, and haven't yet shown that they can be counted consistently on by either of their rebuilding squads.

11) Atlanta Hawks - Acie Law, PG, Texas A&M
12) Philadelphia 76ers - Thaddeus Young, SF, Georgia Tech
13) New Orleans Hornets - Julian Wright, SF, Kansas
14) Los Angeles Clippers - Al Thornton, SF, Florida State
15) Detroit Pistons - Rodney Stuckey, PG, Eastern Washington
16) Washington Wizards - Nick Young, SG, USC
17) New Jersey Nets - Sean Williams, C, Boston College
18) Golden State Warriors - Marco Belinelli, SG, Italy
19) Los Angeles Lakers - Javaris Crittenton, PG, Georgia Tech
20) Miami Heat - Jason Smith, PF, Colorado State (traded to the 76ers)

This list of 11 to 20 just reeks of mediocrity.  You can't really say anything horrible about any of the players on this list outside of Law and Williams, but nobody, maybe Young, Thornton or Stuckey, has shown they can be really good players in this league.  Law never got on the court in Atlanta and is now sitting as a back up in Chicago.  Young has shown some promise for Philadelphia, especially last season, but regressed badly this year.  Wright showed some potential his rookie season but has done nothing after that for New Orleans.  Thornton has put up the best numbers of this bunch but did so with no expectations for the Clippers and dissapeared after a midseason traded to Washington this year.  Stuckey has been hyped a lot in Detroit but hasn't lived up to his promise any season.  Players like Nick Young and Belinelli have shown in spots that they can be competent players in this league, but neither cashed in on their increased playing time this season.  Meanwhile Crittenton didn't even last the full year with the Lakers and got involved in the infamous Gilbert Arenas gun incident this season while Smith has been a forgettable player for the Sixers but has still stayed on the team.

21) Philadelphia 76ers - Daequan Cook, SG, Ohio State (traded to the Heat)
22) Charlotte Bobcats - Jared Dudley, SF, Boston College
23) New York Knicks - Wilson Chandler, SF, DePaul
24) Phoenix Suns - Rudy Fernandez, SG, Spain (traded to the Trail Blazers)
25) Utah Jazz - Morris Almond, PG, Rice
26) Houston Rockets - Aaron Brooks, PG, Oregon
27) Detroit Pistons - Arron Afflalo, SG, UCLA
28) San Antonio Spurs - Tiago Splitter, PF, Brazil
29) Phoenix Suns - Alando Tucker, SF, Wisconsin
30) Philadelphia 76ers - Petteri Koponen, PG, Finland (traded to the Trail Blazers)

This isn't a bad 21-30 list either.  Cook, Dudley and Afflalo became really solid contributing pieces for playoff teams this season.  Wilson Chandler and Rudy Fernandez have both shown some promise although neither has shown that they can be great.  Aaron Brooks won the Most Improved Player of the Year award this season and really broke out in last year's postseason after becoming the starting point guard for the Rockets.  Almond and Tucker never did work out in their respective organizations and are now no longer in the league (as far as I know).  Meanwhile, Splitter and Koponen are hyped prospects by both of their respective fanbases but are still playing overseas.  Splitter, especially, is being counted on to be the big man of the future in San Antonio, although all that has yet to be seen.  Rounding out the first one, there's a lot of nice, solid players on this list but Durant looks like the only great player in the first round.

Round Two Notables:
31) Seattle Supersonics - Carl Landry, PF, Purdue (traded to the Rockets)
35) Seattle Supersonics - Glen Davis, PF, LSU (traded to the Celtics)
48) Los Angeles Lakers - Marc Gasol, C, Spain
49) Chicago Bulls - Aaron Gray, C, Pittsburgh
56) Milwaukee Bucks - Ramon Sessions, PG, Nevada

Not a bad list of 2nd round guys.  Actually some really solid names on this list minus Gray, who I only put on here because he's still playing in the league and because he plays for the Hornets.  Landry has become the consumate tough guy, has lost almost all of his teeth playing basketball and become a really good player for the Rockets and then the Kings this season.  Big Baby Davis was part of the deal that sent Jeff Green to Seattle, and after an OK rookie season, really exploded in the playoffs last year and is a solid bench player for some great Boston teams.  Marc Gasol was used later that season in the trade that brought his brother Pau Gasol to the Lakers and Marc is now the starting center for the Memphis Grizzlies.  Meanwhile, Sessions has shown so much promise every single season that he plays, but is still struggling to put it all together consistently. 

2007-2008 NBA Rookie of the Year: Kevin Durant
All Stars from the 2007 NBA Draft: Kevin Durant, Al Horford

2007-2008 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Al Horford
Kevin Durant
Luis Scola (who was originally drafted in 2002 by the Spurs before finally being traded to, and then signing with, Houston in 2007)
Al Thornton
Jeff Green

2007-2008 NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Jamario Moon (who went undrafted in 2001 before finally signing with the Raptors in 2007)
Juan Carlos Navarro (who was originally drafted in 2002 by the Wizards before being traded to, and the signing with, Memphis in 2007)
Thaddeus Young
Rodney Stuckey
Carl Landry

Posted on: April 6, 2009 12:48 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Portland Trail Blazers

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

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 a proud franchise making its first appearance in the postseason since 2003: the Portland Trail Blazers.

Strengths
When you look at this Trail Blazers team, there isn't a really staggering amount of holes.  They're young, deep, hungry and versatile and can really attack you from all areas of the floor.  They have one of the most underrated players in the league in Brandon Roy and he is the catalyst for a squad that drives to the basket, shoots the three well and can really get hot at any given moment.  In Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge the Blazers have two consistent players who can score inside and outside and who really provide the leadership and energy for their teammates to feed off of. 

The Blazers are an energy, hustle team that really flourishes playing at home in Portland and that never takes their foot off of the pedal.  Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw spearhead a really talented bench and give tremendous energy whenever they step onto the court.  Coach Nate McMillan really has this team playing together as a unit, and they know how to attack the opposition and where to attack the opposition.  They're very well prepared, so even with their youth and reckless abandon, they're still organized and put their skills to good use.  Whenever the Blazers play at home, they're almost unstoppable and they can really put pressure on you to win at home.  If they steal a game on the road, they're in prime position when they return to Portland.  Also, this team is very good at rebounding the basketball, which helps start off on the breaks for the offense and limits second chance opportunities to the opponent.

Weaknesses
All things considered, the Trail Blazers don't have a true point guard or a truly dominant center.  Greg Oden has fought injuries for two seasons and still doesn't look like a very effective post player, although his presence on the defensive end of the floor can really affect opponents on their drives to the basket.  However, he's proved to be just average on offense and although he's not a liability, he's far from an asset with the offense is set into motion.  Joel Przybilla is basically the same story.  He's fantastic at rebounding the basketball and playing defense, but they're not going to go to him in crunch time and expect points in the paint.  That wouldn't be a problem if Aldridge didn't fall in love with the jump shot as often as he does.  So many times he forgets that he's needed under the basket, and teams can really cut off his moves to the paint and force him to be a jump shooter.  Then, it's just a matter of if Aldridge is on or not.

Steve Blake is solid, but he's not going to blow anyone away at the point guard position.  Brandon Roy is more effective with the basketball anyways, so this hasn't been a problem as of yet for Portland, but teams will really attack Roy in the postseason and the onus will be on Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriguez to not be liabilities out on the floor.  They're going to be relied on to hit big three pointers and Blake has shown that he can do it (even being the starting point guard on a Denver team that went to the postseason a couple of years ago).  Also, youth and inexperience can pose a huge problem for Portland.  As always, there seems to be a learning curve in a team's first season in the playoffs.  That doesn't mean a series victory or two is out of the question, but usually teams have to learn how to win in the postseason and nobody on this squad has any experience at being successful in the postseason.  So that could pose a problem when the squad is on the road and in tough situations in the postseason against teams that know how to win on an opponent's home floor.

Why They Will Win It
The Trail Blazers play a fun brand of basketball and have depth at every position.  They're young but they're hungry and they can play an up and down style of basketball and even have the shooters to succeed in a half court game.  They like to dictate the pace, but if push comes to shove and they can't, they won't be knocked out of contention because they can settle down and match up with what the other team is bringing to the table.  Brandon Roy is a huge asset in close situations, and the Blazers have a star that they can turn to in crucial situations of close out games.  That's a huge asset that a lot of teams just don't have.

Why They Won't Win It
Experience will be the biggest hurtle for this squad.  With inexperience comes a perceived lack of ability to win on the road and people just assuming that you will struggle in close situations.  The fact that the Blazers may become jump shooters could hurt them in the end, as a developed Greg Oden would be huge this year.  However, that's not the case and the Blazers may become overreliant on the jump shot.  Also, they have a tendency to struggle on defense in spells and that could really come back to haunt them in the postseason.

Conclusion
The talent is there in Portland for a big run and they could win a playoff series or two without surprising anyone.  However, they need to experience that learning curve like every other team does and inexperience may do them in in the postseason.  Top to bottom this is one of the deepest teams in the league but struggles on defense and in other team's home courts may prevent Portland from making a serious run at a championship.  They're a team on the rise and this year could be a year of surprises for fans in Portland (who really deserve it), but the Trail Blazers are still a year of growth away from having the Larry O'Brien Trophy being a realistic end goal.

Coming up next: the Utah Jazz.

Posted on: November 10, 2008 2:34 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:23 am
 

NBA Power Rankings Through November 9, 2008

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.

2) Boston Celtics - The only slip up of the season was a tough game at Indiana.  The Celtics look to be rolling similar to how they were last season, though they're doing it without much fanfare so far in the young season.  They seem to be more under the radar than last year and I think that's fine with them.  Tony Allen's play has been very encouraging off of the bench.

3) Atlanta Hawks - By virtue of being undefeated and having impressive victories over Orlando, Philadelphia and New Orleans, the Hawks find themselves in the top 3.  They probably won't hold up at this level for the rest of the season, but Joe Johnson has looked amazing and their team defense is 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.

5) Utah Jazz - A 5-1 start to any season is good, but the fact that they're doing it without Deron Williams and Matt Harpring is very impressive.  Andrei Kirilenko has fit in nicely in his role off of the bench and Carlos Boozer has carried this team through their first six games.  A dissapointing loss at New York isn't enough to drop them out of the top five.

6) Phoenix Suns - The Suns were an enigma of sorts coming into this season as you really couldn't predict what was going to happen with them.  But they have responded well to Terry Porter so far this season and even though Steve Nash's production has dipped slightly, they're getting encouraging play out of Shaquille O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire has played out of this world.  I think it's important to keep an eye on them throughout the season to see whether this team is for real or if they're playing off the emotion of a new coach right now.

7) Cleveland Cavaliers - LeBron James is playing amazing basketball right now and Anderson Varejao has been the anchor of that bench so far into the young season.  Zydrunas Ilgauskas is the key to whether this team will be in the finals or not, but so far they have a good team set in place and will play solid ball in the playoffs.  As long as LeBron's on the team they're a contender.

8) Orlando Magic - Dwight Howard has put up good number this season but his free throw  shooting needs to improve.  Something about this season seems different from last year's Magic squad, but we'll see in the next few weeks whether this team has gotten off to a slow start shooting or if they're for real. 

9) Detroit Pistons - The much hyped Allen Iverson trade has yet to bring results and it probably won't bring results until the offseason.  At least the trade shook up the team and fan base and put a little bit of excitement back into Detroit basketball.

10) Houston Rockets - They looked great in their victory at Dallas, but aside from that the Rockets haven't played solid ball this season.  They're getting by on talent and I think the team misses Shane Battier more than they let on.  Tracy McGrady has played good ball this year, but Ron Artest and Yao Ming have yet to get going consistently.  Of course, McGrady's health issues are going to be a problem throughout the season but they have to be happy with the play of Aaron Brooks so far this year.

11) Toronto Raptors - Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon alone have put this team as high up as they are.  Jermaine O'Neal had a solid first game but has yet to really put a stamp on his new team.  Chris Bosh is playing the best ball probably in the entire league (and I mean that) and Calderon has answered the challenge after being given the starting PG reigns.  Depth at the guard spots will probably keep this team from contending but they play together and as long as Chris Bosh is playing at this level, they should new the 45-50 win mark.

12) New York Knicks - Yes the Knicks start the season in the top 12.  I'm eating serious crow on my criticism of Mike D'Antoni as he's gotten this team (and especially Zach Randolph) to play some serious, inspired ball six games into the season.  They probably still won't make the playoffs, but it's given that city hope and Knicks fans have to love what they've seen so far.

13) Miami Heat - Shawn Marion has been a dissapointment so far into the season but Dwyane Wade is playing the best ball since the 2006 finals right now.  It'll be interesting to see if he holds up, but I think this team is better suited with Marion as the number two scorer instead of an unproven Michael Beasley.  Spoelstra has gotten the team to play solid defense as well so far this season.

14) Portland Trail Blazers - The loss of Greg Oden early in the season put a negative energy on what was supposed to be a promising start to the season, but the Blazers have responded to their tough schedule with an impressive 3-3 record.  LaMarcus Aldridge continues to blow me away and Brandon Roy is Brandon Roy.  So far Rudy Fernandez has been a great find as well.

15) Denver Nuggets - They've kind of coasted but I look for their play to improve once they get true point guard Chauncey Billups acclimated into the system.  Linas Kleiza, J.R. Smith and (surprisingly) Chris Andersen has solidified a solid bench and the Nuggets again look like they'll be heading to the playoffs.  A first round exit still seems likely, though.

16) Chicago Bulls - It's been a season of ups and downs so far for the Baby Bulls, and Kirk Hinrich's injury doesn't help matters but Derrick Rose has been playing some really good basketball so far this season.  They still lack good front court and I think that's going to hurt them in the future but so far they've been responding well to Vinny Del Negro and I think once Larry Hughes and Hinrich return they're going to make a serious push for the postseason.

17) Sacramento Kings - The Kings are 0-4 away from Arco and 3-0 at home in Sacramento.  That looks, roughly, like how the team will play all year.  They looked awful four games into the season but have calmed since returning home.  The return of Brad Miller allows them to play Spencer Hawes off of the bench and gives them incredible front court depth.  They're not great in any one category but they're solid in a bunch of them.  The playoffs don't seem likely but so far Reggie Theus has continued to get the most out of this squad.

18) Memphis Grizzlies - I'm surprised they've gone 3-4 so far this season but they've played good basketball together.  Rudy Gay has been playing great and O.J. Mayo will put up good numbers since he's going to get the minutes to give him those opportunities.  They may not have much of a front court but they still should frustrate teams all season long.

19) Milwaukee Bucks - Richard Jefferson has played solid to start the season.  They've responded well to Scott Skiles' style and now that Ramon Sessions is getting regular minutes I wouldn't be surprised to see him wind up as a candidate for Most Improved Player of the year.  They need to get more out of Andrew Bogut, though.  Especially after giving him that contract.

20) Indiana Pacers - A win at home against Boston puts them in the top 20 but they need to get Mike Dunleavy back healthy to be seen at full strength.  Marquis Daniels has played really well this year and T.J. Ford has responded to coach Jim O'Brien's system.  They'll be in the playoff hunt all year long.

21) Dallas Mavericks - It looks like firing Avery Johnson wasn't the right move.  There's not a more bland team in the league than the Mavericks.  The brightest spot so far has been the surprising play of Gerald Green, but they can't get a lineup set, Jason Kidd looks 50 out there and Dirk Nowitzki is all by himself out on the court.  That doesn't bode well for Dallas.

22) Philadelphia 76ers - So far the acquisition of Elton Brand has done nothing for this team.  Thaddeus Young has kept them respectable while Andre Iguodala has been atrocious and Andre Miller has yet to find a groove so far into the season.  Maurice Cheeks has to be feeling the pressure and I don't want to see him lose his job as he's one of the best guys in the league.

23) New Jersey Nets - For the lack of top tier talent on this team they sure have played solid basketball.  Devin Harris looks like a stud in New Jersey while Vince Carter has to love being the only go to option on a team again (like he was back in Toronto).  They won't last but it's nice to see them trying hard early in the season.

24) Charlotte Bobcats - A win against the Hornets last Friday has hid what's been a dissapointing start to the season for Larry Brown and company.  Sean May is healthy but overweight, Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson still look awkward playing together and rookie D.J. Augustin has been the most consistent player on the team.  It looks like another year of being on the outside looking in for Charlotte.

25) Golden State Warriors - This team is in total dissaray.  You have star players leaving, budding stars wrecking their mopeds, players asking for trades and players being hurt.  Don Nelson has to shake his head at this train wreck of an organization and the window has officially shut on the promise that was two seasons ago.  Andris Biedrins has looked like an all star so far this season.

26) San Antonio Spurs - No bones about it, they look awful.  A super hero-like performance from Tony Parker got the Spurs their only championship against lowly Minnesota and now that he's out, Tim Duncan is left on an island all alone.  Roger Mason's been a nice acquistion but you have to wonder if San Antonio will be too far out when Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker return.

27) Los Angeles Clippers - They've looked awful so far this year and have no gelled as a squad but they still may take 30-35 wins this year.  They need to get some continuity amongst the squad and they need to stay healthy.  But those are two tall tasks in Clipper nation and all the preseason hope has already evaporated for this squad.

28) Washington Wizards - Caron Butler has tried to do it all by himself by simply can't.  They have no point guard, no center, no flare, no Gilbert Arenas.  It's time for Eddie Jordan to leave and it's time for this team to do something.  Problem is that they can't since they invested so much into Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.  You're looking at this type of play from this team for years to come.

29) Minnesota Timberwolves - Same old Timberwolves.  Al Jefferson's been solid but that's about it.  The Kevin Love addition, though he has played good ball, still makes you scratch your head as he looks out of place playing alongside Jefferson.  This team is just a transaction nightmare and Kevin McHale has to go.

30) Oklahoma City Thunder - I didn't expect them to be worth a darn this year but I still expected better play than this.  Everyone minus Kevin Durant and (surprisingly) Joe Smith didn't get the memo that the season started already.  I thought they'd play better in front of the Oklahoma City crowd but I suppose if you don't have it, you just don't have it.  They played tough against Atlanta last night, though.

 
 
 
 
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