Okay, so I totally blew the prediction with the Hornets, but nobody’s perfect (except for Arvydas Sabonis). We’ve seen some good (and some terribly awful basketball) over the last month and a half. Now it’s time to check in again and see what teams are doing better, as or worse than expected (*cough* Hornets *cough*) and make some predictions moving forward.
Are you knee deep in deer stock yet? You should be, because this team is magical. Jason Kidd is the artiste of roster mismatch. It does help that he has the human extendo to play with, but he has done some very creative shuffling in the first stages of the Milwaukee season to have me convinced. Imaginative rotation is not the only thing going well for this Bucks team. They’re young and they’re growing together. Every piece of news coming from the Bucks camp shows that the team has great chemistry. Overall, they have a solid starting 5 and a just enough talent on the bench to matter in the East.
Hallelujah, Bradley Beal is back! In addition to that, John Wall seems to be playing the best basketball of his career right now. With a good mix of veteran presence and young talent the Wizards are slowly putting together a nice run after a slow start. They have possibly one of the most dynamic point guards in the league, and as Wall’s jump shooting improves so do the Wizards. The big secret to their success is Wall’s maturation as a passer. He often uses his quickness to break down a defender, suck in help and then kick it to the wings.
The Raptors are currently sitting pretty near the top of the East (although not necessarily the NBA given how unforgiving the West is), but this is their big test. One can argue that Toronto had an easier opening schedule, with a favorable home stretch and some good match-ups. The test comes now, when the schedule improves (they’ve already lost to Dallas, Cleveland twice and the Lakers) and they have to play without one of their best players.
Golden State Warriors
David Lee is coming back, but it’s not like Golden State are in dire need of more help. They are (at the moment that I write this) on the longest winning streak right now and they combination of ruthlessness between Curry and Klay is just pure Evil. It’s like if Skeletor and Cruella de Vil had a child, and then that child became Bob Myers and built this Dubs roster. The biggest change is that they added some very free flowing offense. Steve Kerr really built on the defensive principles he inherited but added exciting schemes. It helps that the bench is playing the best we’ve ever seen. It’s scary to think what will happen when they get David Lees 20-10 numbers back.
Hotlanta has been very Jekyll and Hyde this year. I feel like their roster makes very little sense and it seems like it shouldn’t work as well as it does. Yet, they are up there in the southeast. Paul Milsap is once again playing like an All-Star and Lil’ Al Hortford is coming around to his pre-injury form. This team is also held together by the maturation of Jeff Teague, who just like John Wall, continues to expand his arsenal while building on the solid drive and dish game. I don’t think the Hawks have the depth to keep atop the East, but they have enough talent to push for the playoffs. Just don’t expect them to do something great.
Los Angeles Clippers
The early season slump is over and the Clips are once again looking like a menace to deal with. Blake Griffin slowly became one of the most well rounded PFs in the League, improving his jumper further and diversifying ways he can hurt you offensively. He also could do a lot worse than playing with Chris Paul. The LAC problems will always come back to the issue of depth. They don’t really have a reliable big off the bench, and while Jamal Crawford can handle the scoring, they also need to improve their second unit ball distribution. Until then, they are where they are.
Ironically, this is what Billy King is panning to do to pretty much everyone on that roster. While their roster isn’t particularly bad (for the East), it is painfully clear that this team is going quickly nowhere this year, and for a few years after that (on account of the whole not having any picks thing). This season has been an enigma for the Nets with the most entertaining moment being Lionel Hollins calling Brook “soft.” This is a team that has lost all identity and grit, has internal issues and unbelievably toxic contracts that prevent any kind of maneuverability. The only attractive piece right now is Williams, and it’s hard to justify trading for him once you see how much he gets paid. On the bright side, the Kings are kind of a one-team market for overpaid players lately.
New York Knicks
There is just something about the NYC area. It’s like it seeps ambition and talent out of all basketball and replaces it with poor decision-making. I am not sure what people expected from the Zen Master and Derek Fisher on the front lines because not much has chanced on this team. It’s still full of below-average NBA players with terrible basketball IQ. They’re asking players like J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudmire to play a system that is predicated on smart ball movement and sharp decision-making. They also lack the financial flexibility to make any moves or surround Melo with anyone who would fit his play style. Overall, this team is one disaster after another and I would recommend just staying away.
If there is one team that is sadder than the Philadelphia 76ers it’s the Detroit Pistons. Unlike Philly however, many people expected Detroit to take a step forward under Stan Van Gundy. I just have to say that they have underestimated the toxicity of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith. Even individually they’re both on the wrong side of agreeable, but together, I think their negativity has mutated into some sort of super villain that is just tanking the Pistons to the bottom. All of this team’s problems can be traced back safely to last year when they decided to pay both Smith and Jennings an outrageous amount of money for what they brought to the table. Now they’re sitting on one of the worst rosters in the league with no outside threats in site. They can’t even trade out of this predicament because they are paying all of their average players All Star level salaries. Overall, I feel bad for Andre Drummond.