By: Rob Botts
To quote the great NFL football coach Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are.” Far be it from me to disagree with the “The Tuna” on this one, but since this isn’t football, he isn’t within an earshot and has absolutely no idea who I am, let’s do some disagreeing.
There is something to be said about teams having really good records, but have played a soft schedule and are not as good as advertised. Or there are some teams that have weak records but have played a brutal stretch or have been bitten by the good ‘ol injury bug. These aren’t excuses, they are reasons. Numbers can give us some insight, but they aren’t the end all be all by any stretch. Some where Billy Bean and Daryl Morey are convulsing. We are gonna take a team by team ride with the top 8 teams in each conference and tell you how they are REALLY doing.
Golden State Warriors: 59-6
They are buzzing along like a swarm of psychotic bees that have realized that the breaking of the Chicago Bulls 72-10 record is just the opening of the lid of the back to back championship honey pot.
San Antonio Spurs: 56-10
They are strong inside, outside and on the break with a superstar in the making in Kawhi Leonard punishing dudes who try to check him as the team pushes forward. Big free agent addition LaMarcus Aldridge has been an exclamation point all season, but will he turn into a question mark once the bright lights of expectation come on by the championship Riverwalk?
Oklahoma City Thunder: 44-22
Can Kevin Durant score and take over the game when it counts? Yes. Can Russell Westbrook score and take over the game when it counts? Yes. Can the team play lock down defense when it absolutely needs a stop? The answer has been and still is NO.
Los Angeles Clippers: 42-23
They have played well without MMA wanna be Blake Griffin as he recovers from a terribly dumb decision. Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan have been in sync all season as J.J. Reddick has been draining every three pointer in sight. However, this might be the highlight of this year’s team and Doc Rivers knows it.
Memphis Grizzlies: 39-27
The Grindhouse is now just becoming a grind. Injuries to Marc Gasol and others this season have not helped, but their offense has looked very pedestrian. Elvis hasn’t left the building yet but his seat keeps getting closer and closer to the exit though.
Portland Trailblazers: 35-32
That backcourt up in the pacific northwest is quickly becoming one of the best in the league. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are single handedly feeding their opponents lunch to them on a regular basis. But, backcourt tough, ain’t enough in the Western Conference.
Houston Rockets: 33-33
Daryl Morey might at this very moment be burning every piece of analytic information he as in favor of a bunch of old school talent scouts be immediately put on a bus to begin the off season talent search tour. There is a whole lot of ME going on in Houston right now and they really need a whole lot more of WE.
Dallas Mavericks: 33-33
This team spent a bunch of money on a really, really good shooter and pretty decent player in Wesley Matthews from Portland. But Deron Williams is a shell of his former self and the great Dirk Nowitzki has a big game only every once in a while this season.
Cleveland Cavaliers: 47-18
Tyronn Lue is the right young coach for this team at the right time. When they are on their game, nobody in the east and most of the western conference can check them. They are really figuring each other out and can play shut ‘em down defense when needed.
Toronto Raptors: 44-20
That backcourt north of the border has been hunting down teams all season long. They have a strong front court and bench but it is the two main Raptors Kyle Lowery and DeMar DeRozan doing most of the chomping. “Clever boys.”
Boston Celtics: 39-27
Brad Stevens has this team rounding out into form just in time for the tournament. The NBA tournament that is. They are really built like one of his former Butler teams. Hard defense and a smart offense with a couple of playmakers who keep everyone involved. The young coach’s brilliant inbounds plays don’t hurt either.
Miami Heat: 38-28
The Godfather, Miami team president Pat Riley decided to not move mercurial front court star in the making Hassan Whiteside and he has rewarded the slick haired one by broadsiding every baller in sight. Recent pick up Joe Johnson will provide some extra offensive punch when D. Wade needs some rest time down there in South Beach.
Charlotte Hornets: 37-28
Michael Jordan is NOT walking through that door. Well, not right now anyway. The team is creeping out of the owner’s shadow and have begun to mold their own on the floor identity with a few nice winning streaks lately. Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker are leading the squad in very different ways as Marvin Williams hard off season work is paying off.
Atlanta Hawks: 38-29
The Hawks might have flown as high as they are capable of flying last season. Point guard Jeff Teague is trying to hold together their season but everybody in Atlanta knows that this team is about to be broken up. Let the mending of the wings begin.
Indiana Pacers: 35-31
The two Georges have played very well as of late. That would be of course team leader Paul George and backcourt slasher George Hill. This team still needs another scoring option even though they have some nice young pieces upfront. They will be one and done if they make it to the second season.
Detroit Pistons: 34-32
Head coach Stan Van Gundy has gone from being “The Master of Panic” to the “The Master of the Picnic.” This version of the Pistons is going nowhere fast and he has known this for awhile now. The last and final 8th playoff spot is a mirage. What is real, are the images of the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls moving across the NBA desert to come take their place.