Monday, November 19, 2007

And now, a glance around the league

Continuing with my previous posting which graded all the Raptors. Let me take a quick glance at the 5 teams in the NBA that are stepping up after 10 Raptor games, the 5 teams that are doing exactly what is expected, and the 5 teams that have yet to bring that which we expected them to bring.

Bringing the goods

1) Orlando Magic - Rashard Lewis was still overpayed. But who can complain about the results so far? It’s hard to get too excited about this team as last season they started off in a similar fashion to all of a sudden crumble. But with a new scorer in Lewis, with Howard looking like he is taking the next step, with Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu playing much better then they did last season, and most importantly, a new quality coach in Stan Van Gundy, this team just might very well be legit. With the win vs Boston yesterday, the Magic have defied expectations and are currently the team to beat in the east.

2) New Orleans Hornets - And the West keeps getting better. With the big three of the Mavs/Suns/Spurs still playing like the big three, and with the Rockets/Jazz/Nuggets all playing great basketball, who would have thought that the Hornets would be the team that would threaten the most to turn the West from the big three into the big four. I thought they would be better, but to jump over 3 teams in the West pecking order is pretty impressive. That being said, it is still early. Paul is already out with injuries and the reality is that this team has only played 3 quality opponents, beating the Nuggets and the Lakers while losing to the Spurs. For New Orleans, it is a so far so good type of vibe but this team has yet to prove itself worthy of the big 4 label.

3) Los Angles Lakers - They are still going to be in the 6-9 spot in the conference and they are still going to be out in the first round, but they are winning games right now when everyone thought they were going to be a basement dweller with all that preseason drama. The reality has been that this team is not AS bad as Kobe Bryant thinks it is. They have young talent which is to be expected when they trade a superstar in Shaq. But now the Kobe trade talk is quiet and the Lakers are on somewhat of a roll. Of course, wait until that big losing streak, when Kobe then decides the team needs him to jack up 30-40 shots and we are going to be back to the same old drama, but gotta give credit where credit is due for today.

4) Los Angles Clippers - Remember when you heard that Elton Brand was going to be out for at least 3 months? Remember when you thought it would be a battle at that point between the Clips, Sonics and Wolves for the number one pick in the draft? Well not so fast. Seems like coach Dunleavy has decided to be smart for once, and has allowed Tim Thomas and Corey Maggette to do there thing, which Sam Cassell keeps pushing back father time to give one more year. Throw in a comeback season so far for Chris Kaman, and here is a team that might, JUST MIGHT be able to survive until Elton Brand gets back. They are in the tough and tumble Western conference, and really, I doubt anyone expects them to survive, but again, credit where credit is due.

5) Charlotte Bobcats - They have yet to beat a quality opponent, but this team each season takes one step closer to the playoffs. And here is the thing, the East is not as strong as we thought it would be. Sure there is some East teams that are underachieving at this point and should turn it around sooner rather then later, BUT this is still a golden opportunity for the Bobcats as they are playing well and have the drive to survive. Let’s hope the injury bug, which has already hit them, stays away for the remaining 72. It would be a nice surprise to see them get swept out of the first round.

Status quo
(Sure a lot of teams could fit in here, but let’s talk about 5 of them)

1) Phoenix Suns - Some picked this team to be the team to beat on the quest for a championship, and so far, the Suns looks like one of the teams to beat on the quest for a championship. Amare is looking like he is going to be healthy. Grant Hill is playing like it’s 1998. And Barbosa…WHAT is going on there??? At this rate, Barbosa might be the MVP of the team. The Suns are strong right now, and posed to make the big push next April/May and yes, June.

2) Denver Nuggets - They said that they needed a training camp to get everything organized, and so far, that looks like that was true. Now this team is on a roll currently, but how this team handles a rough patch, a 3 game losing streak for example, will be how we determine this teams playoff chances.

3) Cleveland Cavs - What did we think before the season? This team will be a playoff team, based on the play of potential MVP Lebron James, and that they might make the second round but will have no chance in making the finals again. After 10 games, I think it’s fair to say that we are thinking the exact same thing.

4) Portland Trailblazers - Did Portland have a chance for playoffs with Oden? Tough to tell, but this team does have talent. Brandon Roy is slightly inconsistent this season but still playing strong over all, LaMarcus Aldridge is doing his Greg Oden impressions and this team over all is playing like a team that is full of potential but not enough experience to make the playoffs. That is what we thought about this team WITH Oden, so I guess they are status quo based on the early summer predictions.

5) Atlanta Hawks - Stormed out of the gates, as they always do, this team is again looking like that team that has potential but will just miss the playoffs. Questionable attitudes on the team might hurt them down the road when it is down the road that they are looking to make the push.

Below the belt

1) Washington Wizards - As with most of the teams on this list, injuries have prevented them from getting off to a quick start, and the majority here should still be seeing playoff action. But regardless of what SHOULD happen, we do know what so far HAS happened and that is some team underachieving. Arenas is just starting to regain form, and of course, so has the Wizards, 4-0 after a 0-5 start. But are they just on a hot streak that will quickly turn back cold? Or were they just this years version of last years Suns/Mavs team?

2) New Jersey Nets - Charles Barkley’s team to win the East. What is that guy thinking? Regardless, this team is off to another slow start, after making a vow to get it going quicker this year. Sure Vince has missed some games, but it’s not like this team was looking strong before he went down.

3) Golden State Warriors - Again, at this point this team is not playing well. But that can change quickly with Jackson back and Harrington back in the starting 5. The problem with this team is that it’s style of play can lead to streaky play, which will make it tough to dig out of a early season hole. This team will be life and death for that 8th spot come playoffs, but if we see another Dallas vs Warriors matchup…that’s going to be special.

4) Chicago Bulls - Unlike these other teams that can blame injuries/suspensions for it’s troubles, the Bulls are just flat out sucking. And here is the team that a lot (me included) felt were the team to beat in the East. But Tyrus Thomas has taken a large step back. Deng has not taken that next step forward. Wallace is looking battling Shaq for quickest drop off in the center position. And Kirk Hinrich is just flat out playing horribly. This team can easily turn things around, and with Nocioni in the starting 5, that will help them overall, but this team has shown enough cracks to easily take them out of “Best in the East” consideration.

5) Miami Heat - Speaking of Shaq, here is Miami, who couldn’t win a game during preseason and pretty much couldn’t win during the regular season. Dwayne Wade is back, and the guy is a force ala Lebron, but just like the Cavs, this team will only go so far with one man carrying the team on his back. And sorry, but Shaq daddy is done.

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