Monday, November 12, 2007

The NBA Beat - Week 1

A look back at the first two weeks of the NBA Season, with a closer look at a team from each NBA division...

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
Boston (5-0)
New Jersey (4-2)
Toronto (4-3)
New York (2-3)
Philadelphia (2-4)

Boston has lived up to its pre-season billing as a favorite in the Eastern Conference starting off the season with five straight wins. Blowing out Denver at home by 26 and defeating division rival New Jersey on the road by 11 are two of the early results that have impressed. Garnett has simply been unstoppable with a ridiculous line in the early going (22.6 ppg, 15.8 rpg, 6.0 apg, 2.8 spg, 1.6 bpg). He is clearly the leader of this team, which difuses any potential power struggle between him and Paul Pierce (23.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.6 apg) and Ray Allen (22.6 ppg, 51.3% 3P%). However, more important to the Celts success thus far has been the solid play of Rajon Rondo. Rondo isn't asked to do a ton for the team, its possible that he just needs to go out there and just not screw it up and they'll still win. As the season wears on this team is going to need more production from James Posey and Tony Allen off the bench, but come playoffs, if the Big 3 can play like they are now, the Celtics will be playing for the NBA title.

Central Division
Detroit (5-1)
Cleveland (4-3)
Indiana (3-3)
Milwaukee (2-4)
Chicago (1-5)

Chicago could be the surprise of the season, in a bad way. With losses to the Bucks, Sixers, and the Raptors by 30, the Bulls have been beyond unimpressive. I'm not sure they know the season has started yet. Their win over Detroit shows that they are a contender in the East, but whether or not the Kobe trade rumors has effected them, this team needs to grow up and stop being the Baby Bulls on the promise of greatness. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng have played solid to start the season, but can both improve. If Tyrus Thomas can become more consistent, and be a nightly double double threat, it will go a long way to help this team. Hinrich needs to wake up, shooting 31% to start the season. Most of these things will turn around, and the bench play will improve, but for the Bulls the most concerning thing has to be the play of Ben Wallace who is averaging 3.5 ppg and 4.8 rpg in what looks like a free agent signing that may end up crippling this team. To think, they could still have a 24 year old Tyson Chandler.

Southeast Division
Orlando (5-2)
Charlotte (3-3)
Atlanta (2-4)
Washington (1-5)
Miami (1-5)

For the second season in a row, Orlando has people talking after jumping out to a quick 5-2 start and looking impressive behind newcomer Rashard Lewis and coach Stan Van Gundy. However, a closer look shows losses to Phoenix and Detroit, and their best win is over the Toronto Raptors. So before I hop on the bandwagon I want to see any kind of proof that they are a contender in the East as oppose to the best of the rest. However, they could be there this season, with Dwight Howard continuing to look like one of the best post players in the league (21.3 ppg, 14.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg) and Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu averaging 20 ppg. If Turkoglu can continue to play at this level, and Orlando can get consistent play from Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo off the bench, this could be a team that opens some eyes during the year.

Western Conference
Northwest Division
Utah (5-2)
Denver (4-3)
Portland (3-3)
Minnesota (0-5)
Seattle (0-7)

They knew this season was going to be a long one in Seattle, but I don't think anyone thought they would start 0-7. With five of their seven losses coming by 7 points or less, Seattle is not far off from being a bad team as opposed to an awful one. While Kevin Durant has impressed this season he has done it by putting up more shots than Allen Iverson in his hey day. Durant is averaging 21.7 ppg while shooting 38.9%. His 20 plus shots a game are putting Seattle in a hole on a nightly basis. Outside of Durant, Seattle has relied on Chris Wilcox (16.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Damian Wilkens (15.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg). When your second and third options are Wilcox and Wilkens, you know you're in trouble. Seattle needs to find a fourth and fifth option to step up and get consistent play from any of the following: Jeff Green, Kurt Thomas, Wally Szczerbiak, Nick Collison, Delonte West, Earl Watson, Luke Ridnour. Until they do, you can expect more losses.

Pacific Division
Phoenix (5-2)
LA Clippers (5-2)
LA Lakers (3-2)
Sacramento (2-4)
Golden State (0-5)

The surprise team thus far certainly has to be the LA Clippers. Missing Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston all season, and Ruben Patterson and Cuttino Mobley only playing sparingly, the Clippers are a shocking 4-2. They've done it by getting contributions from someone new each night. Corey Maggette (20.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Cuttino Mobley, and Sam Cassell have all had big nights for the Clips. Chris Kaman has also had a great start to the season (18.8 ppg, 13.5 rpg). However, the Clippers have done their damage against the Eastern conference, and after starting the season 4-0, have lost their last two. The Clippers are just trying to hold the ship steady until Brand can return. But that won't be a while, and there's no guarantee they will be anywhere near contention before he gets back.

Southwest Division
Houston (6-1)
San Antonio (6-1)
New Orleans (5-2)
Dallas (5-2)
Memphis (1-4)

Easily the deepest division in the NBA, the Big Texas 3 this year has been joined by the upstart New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets have started the season well with wins over Portland at home and Denver and LA Lakers on the road. They have a solid 7 man rotation with David West (19.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg), Chris Paul (18.1 ppg, 11.1 apg), and Tyson Chandler (10.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg) leading the way. Morris Peterson is a crucial glue guy in their lineup that does everything, and Bobby Jackson and Rasual Butler coming off the bench. This team will play an extremely difficult schedule having to play Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas more than any team should. Much of how this team fares will be whether Peja Stojakovic can be a help or a hindrance. If he can play anything like the Peja of Sacramento and not the one that is currently shooting 39% from the field, this Hornets team could surprise some people out West.

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