By: Monte Perez
The NBA Season is back and in full swing. Between Fan Duel and the NBA TV I am watching more games than ever. There are certain trends that if you know a little basketball ,you can see developing. Each week I will provide 5 things that are trending in the NBA. I will also include my top 7 Power Rankings.
#5) Atlanta and Toronto- Last year on what is the best NBA Podcast in the country… Buckets and Dimes I said both the Hawks and Raptors will give their fans a quality regular season. I like the fact that fans are supporting these two teams in cities that are not considered “basketball towns”. But let’s be honest here, there is not one person on either team that scares me if I am facing them in the playoffs. Toronto’s SG, Demar DeRozen (22.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game) and PG, Kyle Lowry (18.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game) are both good players but they can’t carry a team to an NBA Finals. The same goes for Atlanta’s PG, Jeff Teague (18.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game) and F/C, Al Horford (16.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game). No one is staying up late at night trying to figure out how to stop these guys. Enjoy the regular season, but both of these teams are like the Arizona Cardinals in football. Well coached, play hard every night but don’t have enough talent to win a championship.
#4) The Kobe Bryant contract is the worst in all of sports- Bryant is making $25 million this season. In my Morpheus voice…
“What if I told you that a 37 year old shooting guard who has played a total of 41 games over the past two seasons, was the highest paid player in the NBA?” Bryant is averaging 16.5 points per game shooting 32% from the field and 25% from the from 3. There is talk now that Kobe wants to play on the next Olympic team. Let us all calm down. Being on the Olympic basketball team is a privilege not a right. The Lakers already gave Bryant a contract based on a lifetime achievement award. Hopefully, Greg Popovich won’t make the same mistake when selecting players to represent the United States. If you are a Lakers fan it is not about the farewell tour for Bryant, it is about the development of young players like Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell.
3) This is not James Dolan’s New York Knicks- Over the past 15 years the New York Knicks have won 1 playoff Series. Where most teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors build through the draft, the Knicks haven’t done this under owner James Dolan. New York has only drafted 1 player who made an all-star game under the controversial owner’s regime. That player was David Lee and the Knicks traded him the following year. New York hasn’t had one draft pick that has been with the team for more than 5 years since the year 2000. It has always been a “quick fix” and Dolan has always traded away the team’s future for aging, overpaid players who didn’t produce. Dolan has this calm demeanor but he has been the definition of insanity “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Knicks President Phil Jackson put a stop to all that this past off-season. He didn’t overspend in free agency and he added some key pieces to the Knicks roster. New York has one of the most productive benches in the NBA. Combo Guard Langston Galloway is leading the NBA in 3 point shooting percentage (62.1) and Jerian Grant leads the team in assists (4.0). Derrick Williams, Lance Thomas and Kyle O’Quinn average a combined 26 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. This is not to say the Knicks don’t have problems, until Arron Afflalo comes of the injured list, they have one of the worst defensive backcourts maybe ever, in Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic. Robin Lopez has been solid at the Center Position averaging 11 points, 5.8 rebounds and shooting over 51%. But the biggest eye opener so far during the young season has been 19 year old Kristaps Porziņģis. The Power Forward has become a human highlight reel with his put back dunks. He can stretch the floor and shoot the three and is leading the Knicks, averaging 8.3 rebounds per game. Although he has a frail frame he is very aggressive and will continue to get stronger as the year goes on. Over the summer, I wrote Porzingis would eventually be an all-star, for 10 years or more with New York (if he stays healthy). Nothing has changed my mind so far. How good has he been? In his first 7 Games Porzingis had 86 points, 60 rebounds, 9 steals and 9 blocks. Only two other players have put up these type of numbers in their rookie seasons, Patrick Ewing 1985-86 and David Robinson 1989-90.
#2) Are we looking at a Dynasty in Golden State? The Warriors have started the season 8-0. They seem to be blowing teams out and resting their starters by the 3rd quarter. The “Dubs” have outscored their opponents by 142 points. That is the 4th greatest differential to start the season in the history of the NBA. 2 out of those 4 teams went on to win the NBA Championship. Last year’s MVP Winner, Stephen Curry seems to have gotten better (If that is possible). Curry is averaging 32.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. He is putting up mind boggling numbers and has been sitting the 4th quarter because Golden State is embarrassing opponents. The NBA has become “small ball” and so far, no one does it better than the Warriors. In a brutal Western Conference they are head and shoulders above everyone else right now.
#1) The Cleveland Cavaliers are on cruise control- PG Mo Williams, SG J.R. Smith, SF Richard Jefferson, PF Anderson Varejao and C Tristan Thompson make up the Cavaliers bench. This unit would win 45 games in the Eastern Conference this year. Cleveland is two deep at every position and they will wear teams out over the course of a playoff series. The Cavs can win 70 games this year but they won’t. The only thing that matters is resting their players and making sure everyone is healthy for a title run. If I am David Blatt, no one on this team plays more than 68 games this year. LeBron James is in first gear right now and he’s averaging 25 points, 6.6 points and 6.6 assists per game. Kevin Love is thriving so far without Kyrie Iriving, the talented Power Forward is averaging 17.5 points and 12 rebounds per game. Cleveland will get to the NBA Finals this year, it will be LeBron’s 6th straight appearance.
Top 7 Power Rankings:
7) Miami Heat- Hassan Whiteside is averaging 15.3 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. The Heat have a very talented starting lineup with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh trying to beat father time. Rookie Justise Winslow has provided some offense (7.3 points per game) and defense off the bench. This is a good role for him because he will never be asked to score 20 points per game. He will grow with this team and should get better as the season goes on.
6) Los Angeles Clippers- Blake Griffin is having an MVP like season. 28.6 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists per game. LA will win 50 plus games this year but they are not a legitimate contender for an NBA Title
5) Atlanta Hawks– The Hawks have 6 players averaging double digits. Jeff Teague leads the team in points and assists.
4) Oklahoma City Thunder- As long as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook play in 60 games and are healthy at the end of the year they have a shot to overtake the Golden State Warriors. Billy Donovan may win coach of the year.
3) San Antonio Spurs- LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard are averaging a combined 37 points and 17 rebounds. It is amazing how this team never seems to miss a beat. Former leaders and “Go-to-Guys” Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are now role players who can still dominate games from time to time. As long as Gregg Popovich is on the sidelines,the Spurs are always a threat for a championship.
2) Golden State Warriors– The Warriors seem to be playing with a sense of anger. I think it is ridiculous that some experts criticized them last year. Yes, the Cavs were injured in the Finals but GS won the title and had 6th best record of all time 67-15.
1) Cleveland Cavaliers- The may have the deepest front court ever. Mo Williams is a borderline all- star and he will be the Cavs backup when Kyrie Irving comes back. Kevin Love can stretch the defensive by shooting the three and get a double/double every night. The Cavs should win 60 games easy.
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