Coming into the 2016-17 NBA season, the common theme was that this was a two-horse race between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. The first two months of the season are holding to form with that philosophy, but, there are a lot of intriguing stories. This season is anything but over. To quote John Belushi from the 1978 movie Animal House.
Bluto: What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Otter: [to Boon] Germans?
Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.
Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough…
[thinks hard of something to say
Bluto: The tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!
It is going to be interesting to see how the tougher teams rise to the top and chase the Cavs and GS.
Here is the Sports Whisperer’s Top 8 Power Rankings for the NBA:
8) New York Knicks (12-10): If you watched the Knicks lose to the Cavaliers last night,126-94, you wouldn’t think they were a playoff team. After starting off the season with a 3-6 record the Knicks have turned things around. Carmelo Anthony (23 points, 6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game) and Kristaps Porzingis (20.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game) appear to be a formidable duo. The problem here is that the Knicks just don’t get Porzingis enough touches on offense. They rarely run plays for him . They only run post-ups or a “pick and pop” situations. Jeff Hornacek’s offense still has way too many isolation plays for Derrick Rose and Melo. If the Knicks want to compete in the east, it is time to start transitioning the offense through more ball movement and get Porzingis more shots. The Knicks are 0-4 in back to back games because their core three of Melo, Rose, and Joakim Noah all have a ton of miles on their legs. Another reason to run the offense around their young player, Porzingis.
7) Toronto Raptors (14-7): The problem with the Raptors is that they just didn’t do enough this off-season to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They are led by DeMar DeRozan (28 points per game) and Kyle Lowry (20.6 points and 7.4 assists per game.) The are a good team that will win 50 games but they have hit their ceiling. They will never be able to beat the Cavs and if they run into a deep team like the Celtics or the Knicks in the playoffs, they could get bounced out early.
6) Houston Rockets (15-7): The Rockets are second in the league in scoring averaging just over 111 points per game. “The Beard” James Harden is having the best season of his career. Harden is averaging 28.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 11. 6 assists and is shooting 10 free throws per game. But, there are two problems with Houston.
- Other than Eric Gordon who is averaging a little more than 16 points per game, they have no one who is averaging in the teens. They have 5 players who score 7-12 PPG. That will not get it done come playoff time.
- Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, does not coach defense. He is the opposite of Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan who only coaches defense. D’Antoni believes you can win big games but outscoring teams. That is simply not the case. The Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors last season in Game 7 of the NBA finals by a score of 93-89. Houston can’t win if they don’t score over 100 consistently.
5) Oklahoma City Thunder (14-8): Russell Westbrook leads his team in minutes played, 35.7 min, 31 points, 10.9 rebounds, 11.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. I think he even leads the vendors in beer sales during the home games. Is there anything he can’t do in an arena? Victor Oladipo has done a good job, as of late, of being the #2 option. Oladipo is averaging 17 points, 3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. The problem with the Thunder is that their two “bigs” haven’t been productive enough. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams are combining 22 points and 13 rebounds per game. That is not getting it done. The Thunder need to start both Adams and Kanter and go big. They can’t beat the Warriors going small, so… play with size. Adams and Kanter need to average a combined 30 points and 22 rebounds for OKC to be a factor in the post-season.
4) LA Clippers (16-7): The three-headed monster of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan have started off the season playing very well. Paul is averaging 9 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Jordan is averaging 12 rebounds and Griffin is scoring 20 points and grabbing 9 boards per game. The problem with the Clippers is the same issue they have had for years. They don’t have enough scoring. J.J. Redick is usually amongst the league leaders in points scored in the first quarter. He is averaging 14 points per game but he only plays 22 minutes. Other than a perennial 6th man of the year Jamal Crawford there is no one the Clippers can rely on for bench scoring. This is a team that will win 55 games but they aren’t better than Golden State or the San Antonio Spurs.
3) San Antonio Spurs (18-4): The bad news for the Spurs is… last season they were 40-1 at home. This year they are 5-4 at AT&T Center. The good news for the Spurs is… they are 13-0 on the road. The Spurs have a bunch of new players contributing on their roster so it would make sense that they would play better at home. That has not been the case. The Spurs have been dominating on the road. Kawhi Leonard is now the face of the franchise and he is on pace to be 1st team All-NBA. Leonard is averaging 24 points 6 rebounds and 2. steals per game. I would like to see that rebound total get closer to 9, as the season continues.
2) Golden State Warriors (19-3): When your 3rd option, Klay Thompson, scores 60 points in under 30 minutes in an NBA game, your team is pretty damn deep. GS in on pace to win about 70 games. The problem they have is no interior presence at all. Draymond Green is the odd man out as of late. His numbers are down from last year, he is averaging 10.8 points, 8 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game. As expected there are just not enough shots to go around. Green has been more of a facilitator instead of a scorer. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Thompson are averaging 73 points per game combined. All four players mentioned above are averaging 33 minutes per game. Kerr has got to get more production out of his bench or they will all wear down late in the seasons.
1) Cleveland Cavaliers (15-5): The Cavs hit a bump in the road last week losing a few games. They bounced back by trouncing the Knicks at Madison Square Garden 126-94. Per ESPN ,the Cavs are 3rd on offense in team efficiency, 3rd in points per game with 111, 2nd in three-point attempts and first in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting over 40%. This is a team that is just playing against themselves and boredom. When Kevin Love was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves I told anyone who would listen in articles, radio shows, and podcasts that he would be one of the best 3rd options of all-time. Love is averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds per game and is shooting over 42% from three. LeBron James has changed his role this season and is not scoring as much but is leading the team in assists with 9 per game. Kyrie Irving continues to improve daily. We saw how good he can be in last year’s NBA Finals. The Former Duke star is averaging 24 points per game and shoots 41% from behind the arc.
- Russell Westbrook
- Lebron James
- Kawhi Leonard
- James Harden
- Kevin Durant
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