Wednesday, March 5, 2014
It is no secret that Jimmer Fredette had a rocky time during his days with the Sacramento Kings. Ever since his rookie season, it had been more than obvious that the Kings didn't want him around. The blossoming of young point guard Isaiah Thomas was one of the earliest signs that this team didn't want him around, but even aside from that, they never really gave him a chance to shine and do his thing which is score the basketball. But now that he is out of California's state capital and on a new team with the Chicago Bulls, he can put those ugly days in Sacramento to rest and start afresh in the Windy City. While it may take a little bit of time for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to break Jimmer Fredette into the rotation, Jimmer's stop in Chicago is an opportunity for him to show that the Kings made a mistake in giving up on him, and prove that he belongs in the NBA has one of the better scorers in the game. If he can't establish that in Chicago, he may be forced to face the music that he is destined to be a bench warmer for the rest of his career.
The main reason I say this is because Chicago should be a great fit for him. The Bulls need scoring, 3-point shooting, and also depth at the point guard position without Derrick Rose. Plus, the Bulls defend so well that they should be able to mask Jimmer's one weakness which is on-the-ball defending. If the Bulls can't find Jimmer a comfortable role on their team with their needs and also their primary strength, it's gonna look really bad for Jimmer Fredette going forward.
Now as to what I think will happen, I think that Jimmer Fredette will eventually find a nice little role on this team. I don't say "little" to make it come off like he won't do much, but "little" as in he will fulfill his small role nicely which is to come off the bench and score in addition to running the point. D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich are the only capable point guards on the Bulls right now, which should mean that Jimmer Fredette will eventually see some solid minutes at the point guard position. Hinrich and Augustin are good enough that if Jimmer struggles, they will take over the point position without him if needed, but Tom Thibodeau would love to give those guys more rest if Jimmer Fredette could produce. That is why I think Jimmer will get a fair shot with the Bulls, which thus means I think he will succeed. Getting a fair shot is all that Jimmer has needed and now that he will get one on the Bulls, I expect him to succeed and prove himself capable of helping out other teams in the future should he not end up on the Bulls for the long term.
In conclusion, Jimmer Fredette has a golden opportunity to prove himself in Chicago and put his rocky past in Sacramento behind him. He is on a good team with a good coach who has the resources he needs to succeed and also the need for a player like him to come along. Chicago on paper should be a nice fit for Jimmer, which is why now is the time for Jimmer Fredette to produce and prove to the NBA who he actually is.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Monday, February 17, 2014
I haven't done Power Rankings in a while, but don't fear, they're back in time for the All-Star Break! Here is how all the teams stack up at the All-Star Break!
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-12): The Thunder are playing the best basketball of any team in the NBA right now, and what's scary is that they're doing this without the help of Russell Westbrook, who may be back this Thursday. Kevin Durant is averaging 31.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game and is hands down the MVP of the NBA this season. If he is able to play like this with a healthy Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are going to be the team to beat in the Western Conference.
2. Indiana Pacers (40-12): The Pacers are in the bottom third in points per game (98.5) and yet they are #1 in the NBA in average point differential (+8.2). That speaks to their defensive ability and in my opinion makes them the #1 defense in the NBA hands down. If they can secure home court in the Eastern Conference, I expect Paul George to take the Pacers all the way to the NBA Finals in June.
3. Miami Heat (37-14): LeBron James' game winner in Oakland to beat the Warriors sort of was his way of saying "Don't forget what I can do!" when it comes to being a guy who can close games. He may not be winning MVP this season, but he still is the best player in the NBA and will once again be the only guy that stands in the way of the Pacers and a championship. The road to a title still goes through Miami until somebody knocks them off.
4. Houston Rockets (36-17): Before the season started, the Rockets were viewed by many as a sleeper pick to win the West. Now that they've won 7 straight games, with wins over the Spurs, Mavericks, and Suns, the Rockets may be starting to find their stride at the right time.
5. San Antonio Spurs (38-15): The Spurs are quietly still a top 5 team in the NBA, and are currently the #2 team in the West behind the Thunder. By quietly I mean very quietly. Like a ninja sneaking through a dark forest kinda quiet. Don't be shocked if they pounce on everybody in the West and once again reach the Finals.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (37-18): Chris Paul is back and they hardly missed a beat with him gone. That has to greatly concern their other Western Conference foes.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (36-17): In the past month they've fallen to the Rockets, Thunder, Warriors, Grizzlies, Wizards, Pacers, and Clippers. I'm not saying they aren't contenders, but they gotta start getting some wins over those teams before the playoffs start to regain some confidence.
8. Phoenix Suns (30-21): At some point you just gotta say that this team isn't a fluke and that there is something to their success. They still may miss the playoffs, but it won't be because they were a fluke. This team is good, and I expect Goran Dragic to play with a chip on his shoulder as a result of getting snubbed from the All-Star Game. Ironically, getting snubbed may end up doing the Suns more good than had he made the team.
9. Golden State Warriors (31-22): The Warriors have a better record at this point of the season than they did last season, so I'm not sure why Mark Jackson's seat is "hot". I'm confused.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (29-23): This team is just waiting to get everybody back healthy. Specifically Mike Conley, Jr. and Tony Allen. It'll be interesting to see if this team makes any more trades before the deadline or if the are confident that they can make some noise with what they have.
11. Dallas Mavericks (32-22): Old man Dirk Nowitzki is still playing really well, earning another All-Star Game appearance thanks to his 21.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He and Monta Ellis certainly seem to be forming a solid one-two punch.
12. Chicago Bulls (27-25): For the second year in a row this team faces an uphill battle without Derrick Rose and they'll once again make the playoffs and probably win a series because they simply play harder than their opponents. Make no mistake, trading Luol Deng wasn't waiving the white flag, it was actually just allowing room for the arrival of Nikola Mirotic, who has been playing really well in Spain for Real Madrid. This team won't go down without a fight.
13. Toronto Raptors (28-24): Due to the horrible nature of the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division specifically, the Raptors suddenly realize they are actually sorta kinda a contender since they are leading their division. As a result, Kyle Lowry probably stays past the trade deadline unless somebody really gives them an offer that they can't refuse.
14. Atlanta Hawks (26-27): The acquisition of Paul Millsap truly has been mutually beneficial both for Millsap and the Hawks. Millsap gets an All-Star appearance and the Hawks get a guy who can keep the team motoring along without Al Horford. This team won't make any noise in the playoffs, but they should feel good having Paul Millsap locked up for the foreseeable future.
15. Washington Wizards (25-27): This really isn't that bad of a team. John Wall and Bradley Beal are forming a fantastic young back court and Nene is a solid guy in the front court. What nobody is talking about though is how disappointing Otto Porter, Jr. has been (1.6 points, 1.5 rebounds, and .4 assists). The dude was supposed to be the most "NBA ready" rookie in the draft class of 2013.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (25-28): In my previous blog post, I suggested the Timberwolves strike a deal with the Suns that would get Kevin Love off their hands in exchange for some nice assets. I don't think it will happen, but if the Wolves had any brains, they'd pull the trigger on such a deal.
17. Charlotte Bobcats (23-30): I still think this is a team capable of being above .500 if they can stay healthy. The Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Al Jefferson, and Gerald Henderson quartette is actually pretty solid especially in the East. They currently sit as the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference, but don't be shocked if they gain a little ground and catch the Hawks to get into that #5 spot.
18. Brooklyn Nets (24-27): Their ceiling remains rather limited with Brook Lopez done for the year, but I'm happy to see them wake up and start playing decent basketball. They'll make the playoffs without a doubt, and possibly win a series if they can avoid the #7 or #8 spot.
19. New Orleans Pelicans (23-29): The team itself may not be very good, but Anthony Davis sure is. They have to like their future purely because they have him. Now they just need to figure out if the want to hang on to both Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. Of course, the absence of Jrue Holiday hasn't helped so perhaps they'll just wanna see what they got for the rest of the year and not make any trades at the deadline.
20. Denver Nuggets (24-27): The Nuggets banishing Andre Miller has to be one of the weirdest stories in all of sports right now and certainly the strangest story in the NBA this season. Nate Robinson has torn his ACL, Danilo Gallinari is done for the year due to his ACL, JaVale McGee is likely done for the year due to the stress fracture in his leg, and the team still won't bring back Andre Miller. They also are thinking about trading Kenneth Faried. I don't know where in heaven's name this team is going, but it certainly doesn't look promising.
21. Detroit Pistons (22-30): I don't think Mo Cheeks deserved to be fired. The reality is that management overpaid for Josh Smith and have put together a team that doesn't properly suit the talents of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond who are forming a very formidable front court.
22. Utah Jazz (19-33): Since Trey Burke's return from his hand injury, the Jazz are playing close to .500 ball on the year. They certainly seem to have found their franchise point guard and in the process have quality pieces around him. This team should take comfort in knowing that failing to get a top 3 or even top 5 pick in this upcoming draft wouldn't be the end of the world.
23. New York Knicks (20-32): The Knicks should feel embarrassed about their poor performance this season. Andrea Bargnani was obviously a waste of money and the acquisition of Metta World Peace was truly a dud.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-33): This whole franchise is a train-wreck and it starts with their moronic owner Dan Gilbert. I don't see Kyrie Irving sticking with this team. Not because of the city or the fans, but because of Gilbert and his idiotic behavior.
25. Boston Celtics (19-35): They clearly need Rajon Rondo to be healthy. This team is running on fumes.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (18-35): Being lottery bound might be the best thing for this team for the future. Goodbye Kobe Bryant, hello Jabari Parker?
27. Sacramento Kings (18-35): DeMarcus Cousins is the only reason for this team to have any faith in a prosperous future.
28. Orlando Magic (16-38): They're heading for a top 5 pick it looks like, which for them wouldn't be all that bad.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (15-39): They are likely going to trade either Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, or Thaddeus Young for draft picks. Possibly all three or at least a couple of them. This team is looking to build around Michael Carter-Williams and hopefully Nerlens Noel.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (9-43): This team is so bad that they truly deserve the #1 pick. This city needs a basketball B12 shot in their arms, and getting the #1 pick would do the trick.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Sunday, February 9, 2014
The Minnesota Timberwolves are having another frustrating season and are currently sitting at the #11 spot in the Western Conference with a sub .500 record. While the team around him is struggling, Kevin Love has been playing like a Super Star, averaging 25.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. It's no secret that Kevin Love is the only reason the Timberwolves have gone from being a cellar-dweller of the NBA to being a team that is "kind of in the mix for a playoff spot, but not really". If their sub-par play wasn't enough of an indicator, the broken thumb of Kevin Martin should be enough to indicate for all intents and purposes that the Timberwolves are not making the playoffs this season.
With that in mind, and Kevin Love being able to opt-out of his contract in the Summer of 2015, the Timberwolves are faced with the exact same dilemma that the Utah Jazz faced with Deron Williams back in the 2010-11 NBA season. The dilemma is do you try to keep Love all the way until free agency and cross your fingers that you can convince him to re-sign with the risk of losing him for nothing or do you face the music and realize that you must trade him so as not get the "LeBron James treatment" which is what happened when the Cavaliers lost LeBron James to free agency without getting anything substantial in return. I personally think that the Timberwolves' front office captained by Flip Saunders is smart enough to realize that Love isn't going to re-sign with the team unless a miracle happens such as winning a first round playoff series. Since that miracle isn't going to happen, I will argue that there are very good odds that the Timberwolves trade Kevin Love before the deadline with the Phoenix Suns being his destination.
Now it should be noted that the idea of Kevin Love going to the Suns isn't stemming from any rumor that I've heard but rather has come from my own intuition and personal trade radar or "trade-dar" or whatever you want to call it. The reason why I think the Valley of the Sun is a possible destination for Kevin Love is because the Phoenix Suns have already been rumored to be interested in acquiring a quality big man such as the Lakers' Pau Gasol or the Grizzlies' Zach Randolph at the trade deadline. More importantly, they also have the assets to pull off such a deal due to the fact that they have four first round picks and the expiring contract of Emeka Okafor to dangle out in front of teams. It should be noted that two of those first round picks are heavily protected, but even so, that doesn't take away from the fact that they have some attractive assets to offer teams in order to land a star such as Zach Randolph, Pau Gasol, or as I would like to put forth, Kevin Love.
Now while the Suns do have the assets to acquire Kevin Love in a trade with the Timberwolves, why would they roll the dice on a guy who could just opt out in 2015 and leave them high and dry for the Lakers, which is his rumored destination preference? The answer lies in the fact that the Suns are showing much more signs of promise than the Timberwolves are largely due to having an upgrade at the point guard position in Goran Dragic who can actually score the basketball unlike Ricky Rubio. The Phoenix Suns should feel confident in their ability to retain Kevin Love in free agency if they make the playoffs with him and make some noise in the first round. They could convince him that he is the missing ingredient to competitive playoff basketball in Phoenix and could be what gets them back into the mix of being a championship contending team. What Kevin Love seems to be most frustrated with in Minnesota is the front office, and I think if he landed in Phoenix, he would quickly warm to both their front office and excellent rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek.
The bottom line of all this is that if Kevin Love does get traded to the Suns, just tell people you first heard it from me! It doesn't have a high probability of happening since there aren't any real rumors to back this up, but this is the kind of deal that smells of being one of those trades where you wake up in the morning and are like "Did that seriously just happen?" as was the case for me when the Jazz traded away Deron Williams. However, what we do know is that the Suns are eager to trade away their assets to acquire a big name player on the front court and the Timberwolves are starting to face the music that Kevin Love isn't going to stick around past free agency. The Timberwolves could look at the Suns and tell themselves that the Suns can offer as good of a deal as they can expect for Love with their four draft picks, expiring contract of Emeka Okafor, and maybe even some promising young players like Miles Plumlee and/or Alex Len. The respective goals of each front office could create the perfect storm for a stunning trade at the trade deadline.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Monday, February 3, 2014
As the 2013-14 NBA season began, the Utah Jazz were viewed as one of the teams bound for the draft lottery and likely a top three pick in the NBA Draft. That was viewed as a good thing since this upcoming draft is beyond stacked with talent. But while they are still lottery bound, they don't appear to be heading for the very bottom of the standings either, which means that they likely will not get a top three pick in the draft. After starting the season 1-14, the Jazz have played just about .500 ball since, with a 15-16 record over their last 31 games. But while this may seem terrible for the Jazz since they are likely missing out on Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, I will argue why it is actually good that they are winning games, and not losing games to rack up ping-pong balls for the lottery.
The first reason why it is good that they are winning games is the fact that they are winning games with their young and promising players leading the way. This isn't like last season where Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were leading the way to victories, rather it is the young group of Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter. According 82games.com, that lineup is the most successful unit for the Jazz, which means that the Jazz already have a quality young core of guys to build around. It appears as though the addition of Trey Burke at point guard was all that this young Jazz team needed in order to become competitive for the long haul.
Secondly, the Jazz have already built this team through the draft. At some point, you no longer need more draft picks, but you just need your young players to grow and develop. That seems to be the case here. I mean, what do the Jazz need now? They don't need a point guard, a shooting guard, a small forward, a power forward, or a center. What they actually need is a more quality bench to back those guys up, not another super talented rookie to develop. Don't get me wrong, the Jazz would welcome Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, or Dante Exum with open arms, but they aren't in the same level of crisis mode as the Milwaukee Bucks, who are doing everything in their power to tank. The Bucks need somebody to have hope for the future in, whereas the Jazz already have five guys in Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors, and Kanter!
Finally, the Jazz are still going to miss the playoffs, which last I checked still gives them a shot for a top 3 pick. Teams with the worst record in the NBA have only a 25% chance of winning the #1 pick, and it isn't any higher than that. The lottery is designed to help the bad teams out, but also discourage tanking in the process. Teams with the worst records frequently get burned and don't end up with the #1 or even #2 pick. Heck, the Chicago Bulls won the 2008 NBA Draft lottery to get Derrick Rose with a 1.7 percent chance of winning!! So if the Jazz go into the lottery with even a 15 percent chance of winning the lottery, they still could win it or at the very least get a top three pick.
The bottom line is that the Jazz should be happy with how the season is going. They're winning games with their young players, building for the future, and still giving themselves a chance to get a high lottery pick. What would better than for the Jazz than to actually win some games, build confidence in these young guys, and in the process get the top pick? That would be the best outcome, and that outcome could very well happen. So while many people around the league and people in the state of Utah are grumbling about the Jazz winning, just remember that this winning is good for the development of these young players who are the future of the franchise. The future of the Jazz is on the court right now and it looks pretty pretty good as it is. Jazz fans really shouldn't be fretting about not getting a high pick in this year's draft unless they know that the next LeBron James is in this draft, which doesn't appear to be the case.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Kevin Durant is a lock to win the 2014 NBA MVP award. That's right, he's a LOCK. The odds that anybody besides Kevin Durant wins the 2014 NBA MVP Award is at 0% and it isn't going to change. You might be thinking to yourselves that LeBron James or Paul George has a chance to win the award over the course of the second half of the season, but you would be wrong to think that. Dead wrong. The fact of the matter is that a combination of Durant's sensational play, the lack of support from Russell Westbrook, and NBA history is what makes Durant a lock to win the MVP award. I will explain how these three elements combine to make him a lock to win the award.
First, let's address his sensational play. Over the last 5 games, Durant has had games of 54 points, 30 points, 46 points, 36 points, and 32 points. Not only is he scoring at ridiculous rates, but he's doing it while sharing the ball. He has combined for 34 assists over these past 5 games, which amounts to an average of 39.6 points and 6.8 assists. Over the course of the season, he's averaging a league high 31.1 points per game to go along with 7.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.5 steals. He's the ultimate fantasy basketball player, and more importantly the most valuable player in the NBA right now. Nobody else is playing nearly as well he is. Not even LeBron James.
Not only are his stats the best in the NBA, but he's also leading his team to the best record in the Western Conference with a 35-10 record. More impressively, he's done this without the help of Russell Westbrook, who has only played in 25 of those 45 games. Durant has had to carry the team on his back for the past month and a half, and he's done far better than anybody could have anticipated. One of the key ingredients for having an MVP season is carrying a team on your back and winning in the process. Especially if you do it with a key member of the team getting hurt. If you can win games with your #2 player sidelined and carry the team, MVP voters take strong notice of that when they cast their votes.
Not only is Durant playing out of his mind and in the process carrying the team on his back to the best record in the NBA, but he's also DUE for an MVP award. That's right folks, the NBA MVP Award isn't always about who the best player in the NBA is. Over the course of the NBA's history, the MVP award has been traditionally passed around and given to different players each season. While the NBA MVP Award has gone to Michael Jordan 5 times and LeBron James 4 times, the award is frequently given to the best of players only once or twice in their careers even if they are deserving of it more than once. Players like Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant all won MVP Awards once when they probably could have won it more than once, but didn't due to other guys being "due".
More importantly in Durant's case, the NBA MVP Award is rarely given to players multiple times in a row, and as it happens, LeBron James has won the award two seasons in a row and four out of the last five seasons. Rarely has anybody won it for a third straight time such as Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain, who are the only three guys to ever accomplish that feat. Winning it back to back years isn't terribly uncommon since Steve Nash, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan have all accomplished that feat, but winning it 3 times is very very rare. One cannot expect LeBron James to win the award for a third straight season based on history alone, and then when somebody like Durant comes along and out performs him, one might as well say that LeBron James won't win the MVP Award.
In conclusion, the reason why Kevin Durant is a lock to win MVP is because he's putting up the best numbers, leading his team to the top of the standings with Westbrook sidelined, and LeBron James has had the spotlight four out of the last five seasons. Those three factors combine to form an airtight case for not only why Kevin Durant should win MVP, but more importantly why he will win MVP. It's that simple.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord
Friday, January 17, 2014
Why Anthony Bennett Is Not A Bust, But Rather The Victim Of A Horrible Decision Made By The Cavaliers
Cavaliers rookie power forward Anthony Bennett is having the worst statistical season of any overall #1 pick. Basketball-Reference.com released an image of the PERs (Player Efficiency Rating) of all #1 draft picks over the past 24 seasons to give us some perspective on how bad Bennett is playing. What the image showed was that Bennett's PER is 1.1 and Kwame Brown (considered by many to be the worst #1 pick of all-time) had a PER of 11.2 during his rookie season. With these kinds of numbers, many basketball analysts are already saying that Anthony Bennett is the worst #1 overall pick of all time and thus the greatest bust of any #1 overall pick. While I agree that he very well may be the worst #1 overall pick of all time, I don't think it is fair to call him a "bust". What I will do is explain why Anthony Bennett isn't a "bust", but rather the victim of a horrible decision made by the Cavaliers' front office.
Before I explain why Bennett isn't a bust, I should probably first define what "bust" means. "Bust" is a word used to define a player who fails to live up to his or her expectations, with those expectations usually being lofty. Players who are expected to be franchise changing players and fail to live up to those expectations are usually the players who are categorized as "busts" due to their high expectations. Players under this category are Greg Oden, Shawn Bradley, and sadly Len Bias. To use examples from the NFL, Quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell of the Raiders and Ryan Leaf of the Chargers meet this criteria as well. These are guys who were drafted with tremendous hype from not only the teams that drafted them, but all of the media and analysts. These were players who were "can't miss" players who were sure to turn around their franchises in a very short period of time. These were guys expected to turn their respective franchises into championship caliber teams.
With this definition now in mind, it suddenly doesn't seem as though Anthony Bennett really is a bust. As a matter of fact, he isn't even in the discussion. Bennett being drafted #1 overall and failing to deliver isn't the same as being hyped by all the media as the second coming of Karl Malone and failing to deliver. If Bennett had been viewed by all of the media and draft analysts as this "can't miss player" like another Karl Malone, then he would certainly be a "bust". But he wasn't. As a matter of fact, he was a viewed a borderline top ten pick in a weak NBA draft.
In my mock draft (not that I'm a draft expert), I had Bennett going #10 overall to the Portland Trail Blazers. In other mock drafts, I saw him going anywhere from 5 to 10. When he went #1 overall, everybody was shocked and couldn't believe it. Certainly Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, or Victor Oladipo would go #1 overall. But no, the Cavaliers instead decided to role the dice on Bennet, which up to this point has blown up in their face. To make things worse, Bennett is suddenly being compared to all #1 overall picks ever taken when he shouldn't even be in the same conversation as them. But being picked #1 overall suddenly has his name being brought up in conversations that include LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal, Patrick Ewing, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Among #1 picks that didn't pan out, he's suddenly the new Kwame Brown or Michael Olowokandi.
Those of us in sports media world need to be careful how we view Bennett's struggles as a #1 overall pick. Rather than focusing all of our energy and attention on him, we need to instead focus our attention on the Cleveland Cavaliers and their moronic front office. Specifically their general manager Chris Grant and owner Dan Gilbert. These guys need to take all the heat and blame for drafting a kid #1 overall when the rest of the basketball world didn't feel as though he was that kind of talent. If the Cavaliers really wanted him, why didn't they trade down to get him and get more picks? By drafting him #1 overall they had to know that there would be a ton of hype on him that wasn't warranted, making this selection an incredibly horrible PR move in addition to being a stupid basketball decision. The story of Bennett's struggles as a #1 overall pick shouldn't be treated as a #1 overall pick failing to deliver. It should rather be treated as a front office failing to show competence at properly evaluating NBA talent.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord for the latest NBA news.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
To kick off the New Year, I figured I would release a fresh slate of power rankings!
1. Indiana Pacers (25-5): The Pacers are riding a very nice 5 game winning streak right now, I don't see a realistic loss until maybe the 18th of January against the Clippers at home. After that, they have a trip out west where they could lose at maybe Golden State and Denver. The point is, the Pacers are going to continue to win, and continue to make a strong push for the #1 seed in the East. The biggest thing Frank Vogel needs to figure out right now is how to work Danny Granger into the rotation due to the emergence of Lance Stephenson as a legit wing partner to accompany Paul George.
2. Portland Trail Blazers (25-7): The Trail Blazers aren't slowing down at all, and I don't see them slowing down any time soon if at all. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are forming the best point guard/power forward duo since Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, who were the best point guard/power forward duo since John Stockton and Karl Malone. That kind of duo has been proven to be successful in the NBA, and when you add good wing guys like Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, you got a recipe for championship success.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (25-6): The key for the Thunder will be to weather the storm until Russell Westbrook returns after the All-Star break. They have to find a way to keep Kevin Durant fresh enough for the last 6 minutes of the game so that he can go to work and close games. This means guys like Jeremy Lamb have to step up.
4. Miami Heat (24-7): When healthy, this is still the best team in the NBA. But if Dwayne Wade can't stay healthy, they are in serious trouble. But this is more of the overarching narrative of their season. As of right now, they are still playing really well, and LeBron James is playing like an MVP. However, so long as the Pacers remain ahead of them in the standings, they have to be worried about their 3-peat odds.
5. San Antonio Spurs (25-7): The Spurs are 0-6 against the Thunder, Trail Blazers, Rockets, and Clippers this season, which means they are 25-1 against the rest of the NBA. The point is, they are playing really well, but not against the teams they will have to beat to reach the NBA finals. While they are still viewed as the team to beat out West, they'll want to beat some of these teams before the playoffs start to validate their status as such.
6. Phoenix Suns (19-11): The key to the Phoenix Suns' success is quality coaching, unselfish play, and a sound frontcourt and backcourt. These Suns aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Look for them to be a playoff team come April.
7. Golden State Warriors (20-13): The Warriors have won 6 straight games including a stomping of the Nuggets in Denver. The return of Andre Iguodala seems to have made a big difference to this team. If they're healthy, look out. They have a nice balance of scoring with David Lee, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and defense with Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut. However, their bench is a bit of a concern outside of Harrison Barnes, which is why its imperative for them that their starting five stays healthy.
8. Houston Rockets (21-13): They've overall held their own against the best teams in the Western Conference this season. With as deep as the West is, it's hard to see them reach the NBA Finals, but if Dwight Howard can average 25 points per game or more in the playoffs, they'll be able to make a run.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (21-12): Getting spanked at home by the Suns is actually pretty alarming despite the success that the Suns are having. Doc Rivers is trying to light a fire in the belly of his team by telling them they haven't done anything yet and also saying they are still a "work in progress". He doesn't want his team to start thinking they are entitled to championship level respect from opponents. I like what Rivers is doing, and now it's time to see if his team responds well to his words.
10. Dallas Mavericks (19-13): Given the ridiculous depth of the Western Conference, it's easy for a quality team like the Mavericks to get lost in the shuffle. This team has tremendous offensive potency and can hang with anybody on the offensive end. They just need to shore up their defense a bit by getting Samuel Dalembert rolling.
11. Atlanta Hawks (18-14): With Al Horford out for the season, they're going to need Paul Millsap to step up even more. He's averaging a solid 17.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game right now, but if he can have games like he did on Tuesday (34 points and 15 rebounds), the Hawks will be able to hang on to the #3 seed in the East. Of course, he won't be able to have games like that all the time, but if he can put up around 23 points and 10+ rebounds a game, that should be enough to keep them where they are at. Of course, the loss of Horford takes away any remote chance of advancing past the 2nd round of the playoffs.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-16): Kevin Love not getting the call when Shawn Marion fouled him at the end of their game against the Mavericks was a sad reminder to the Timberwolves that Kevin Love is yet to earn superstar status, even though he plays better than half of the "superstars" in the NBA.
13. Toronto Raptors (14-15): They lead the Atlantic Division, which I guess speaks for something. Trading away Rudy Gay doesn't seem to be hurting their playoff odds at the moment, and rumor has it that Masai Ujiri isn't done making moves.
14. Washington Wizards (14-15): This team is much better when Bradley Beal is in the backcourt to accompany their budding all-star point guard John Wall. If Wall and Beal stays healthy, they'll easily be a playoff team in the horrible Eastern Conference.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (14-15): They went 1-4 on this their 5 game road trip against the Nuggets, Warriors, Clippers, Trail Blazers, and Kings. Not too pretty right now for the Pelicans.
16. Charlotte Bobcats (14-18): I'm convinced that a Kemba Walker/Al Jefferson duo has a lot of promise. The record says otherwise, but I expect these guys to get above .500 by season's end.
17. Denver Nuggets (14-16): The Nuggets are missing the presence of Danilo Gallinari. Hopefully he can come back soon.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (13-17): The return of Marc Gasol will be a big boost to this team. But will it be a big enough boost to vault them into the playoffs?
19. Detroit Pistons (14-19): If Josh Smith is only going to average 15 points and 6.5 rebounds, they might as well trade him. They would be better off to focus on running a heavier dose of pick and roll basketball with Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond/Greg Monroe.
20. Boston Celtics (13-18): The return of Rajon Rondo is coming soon. If the rest of their division continues to flounder, look for the return of Rondo to get them into the playoffs by winning the Atlantic Division.
21. Chicago Bulls (12-18): Losing Luol Deng for any extended period of time is beyond disastrous for this team after Derrick Rose going down. Hopefully with Deng back playing, they don't have to play any more games without him.
22. Los Angeles Lakers (13-19): The Lakers front office looks incredibly incompetent right now with the way they overpaid Kobe Bryant and also tried to convince their fans that they are building a contender around him. It's almost laughable.
23. Sacramento Kings (10-20): Rudy Gay and the Kings could be a nice fit together. The Kings need another all-star and Rudy Gay needs a permanent home.
24. Brooklyn Nets (10-21): Is there anything positive to say about this team? Brook Lopez is done for the season, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are pissed off, and Jason Kidd is counting the days until he is fired. This team is beyond a disaster.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-21): With Andrew Bynum suspended from the team, it's back to the lottery for this team.
26. Orlando Magic (10-21): Arron Afflalo wants to get all-star consideration, but with this kind of record, it'll be hard for him to get any consideration from coaches, though I do think he deserves serious consideration.
27. New York Knicks (9-21): The Knicks are an embarrassment to the mecca of basketball that is Madison Square Garden.
28. Utah Jazz (10-24): If this team were in the East, they'd be a playoff team. No joke. Trey Burke is playing really well, Alec Burks is proving to be a really nice fit in the back court and Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are showing why there is so much hype around them. Of course, they play in the monstrously tough Western Conference, so they aren't going to get a lot of wins to show for it.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (9-21): They have fallen back to earth. After their hot start, they've dropped back into the range where we thought they'd be. Of course, given the pathetic state of their division and the Eastern Conference, they are only 5.5 games out of the division lead and 3.5 games back of the #8 seed in the East.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (7-24): Brandon Knight's 37 points against the Lakers on New Year's Eve gives this team a flicker of hope for future success in a season that has them winning the race for the most ping pong balls in the NBA Draft Lottery.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord