Checking Into The Scorer’s Table.

We’ve hit the quarter poll (a little passed that now) in this year’s NBA season, and were already starting to realize who’s taking shape, and who’s crumbling.  This is my first NBA column since the preview, since I’ve been busy with the NFL and MLB.

Just because I haven’t written about the NBA since October though, doesn’t mean I’ve haven’t watched it.  Here’s my main reactions from the still-early season:

The Grizzlies are a lot better than I expected

Every year there is predictions and things you say that end up looking really dumb later.  This was one of those.

I was really concerned about Memphis’ depth.  They are still pretty average on offense this year, ranked 12th in the league.  The Grizzlies though, make up for it on defense.  With their 4th ranked defense, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are both key factors.  Gasol protects the rim and puts up the baby shots, while Randolph shoots more outer shots and grabs the rebounds.  It works fine, and it’s obviously doing great so far this year.

Memphis’ guard play has improved dramatically, where they have tons of depth, unlike the front-court.  The Grizzlies’ guards may not score much, but they play excellent defense, featuring the magnificent Tony Allen.  Allen leads the team in steals, which he is known for.  Memphis is 19-4, and is second behind Golden State in the Western Conference.  There are better teams behind them, which is why I expect the seedings shake up the rest of year, but Memphis is playing better basketball than I imagined.  They won’t fall far.

The Eastern Conference is really bad

The 4th seeded team in the West (Portland) has a better winning percentage (.750) than the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

(Is that all you need to know?)

Nope.  I have pound out 250 words on this catastrophe.  It’s not really a catastrophe.  The NFC South is a catastrophe.

Anyways, this conference sucks.  Milwaukee is sitting at No.6 with a 12-12 record.  I mean good lord!  Milwaukee!  Where did this come from?  Are they really trying to win?

Miami and Brooklyn are barely hanging on right now.  The Heat are in better shape, but aren’t quite getting it together.  Chris Bosh has become the man down there, leading the Heat in points and rebounds.  He is the leader of this squad.  The assist-to-turnover ratio needs to improve for Miami, as it sits at 1.6.  It’s pretty little things for Miami that are adding up.  They’ll be okay, but playing better basketball would make it easier.

Now, that talk of playing better basketball has taken two massive hits.  Released earlier today, Chris Bosh has a strained calf, which will keep him out at least three weeks.  To go along with that, Miami lost Josh McRoberts, who they signed in the offseason, for the season with a torn meniscus.  These hits are huge, and suck.  This Heat team is hobbled, and it’s been a rough start.  The good news:  Below.

The East has six teams under 10 wins currently.  That’s not good, by the way.  Charlotte has to be the most disappointing team out of them all.  I have no idea what’s wrong there.  I thought Lance Stephenson was a great addition to the roster, and would expand that offense.  He’s played poorly, and hasn’t gotten any help.  The Hornets major problem is at the wing.  They have no one there; not even some one who could try to play there.  Losing out on Gordon Hayward in free agency has proved to fatal.  The position is a weak spot in the NBA, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to acquire some one.  Selling isn’t the key.  You have a great start, and so far it’s not coming together.  I really think this Hornets team is going to get hot at some point.  This can’t and won’t continue.

Could the 76ers win less than 10 games?

Yup.  This team is really bad.  Like really, really bad.  They’re trying to lose games, which sounds crazy, but yea, it’s true.  Philadelphia started 0-17 before pulling off a win in Minnesota on December 1st.  The only bright spot for them is that the lottery system didn’t get changed this summer, so they have a pretty good shot at getting No.1.

In the future though, this will be a great team.  Even though it’s a stupid strategy and it has to suck to be a fan of their’s, they will be a playoff team within the next four years.  Watch it happen.

They have lots of young guys who are playing overseas or injured right now. K.J. McDaniels looks like the steal of the 2014 Draft so far; at least Sixers fans get to watch him.

The MVP race has too many early contenders

Stephen Curry tops my ballot right now.  He’s leading the Warriors to the best record in the NBA.  Curry’s averaging 23 points per game, shooting 49% and 40% from three.  His defense has been so much better than past years, which is something the Warriors wanted him to work on.

Marc Gasol and James Harden have been very good this season.  Harden’s name is a shock, but with Dwight Howard out for the Rockets, it’s been Harden’s time to shine.

As I said above, the Grizzlies are blowing me away, and Marc Gasol has been phenomenal.  He’s averaging 19 points a game, with eight rebounds.  His offensive stats aren’t huge due to Zach Randolph’s presence, but Gasol’s defense is where shines.  His rim protection is outstanding, and that’s Memphis expects out of him.

This might be a year where Kevin Durant and Lebron James don’t appear on it.  That would be interesting.  I also have Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul on my list, but they’re a lot farther down.

Cleveland has gotten it together after the slow start

This isn’t a shock.  I mean, we knew they would get it together at some point.  It started out rough.  They started out around .500, being as low as two games below, but it wasn’t awful.  These guys knew it might be tough getting things sorted out.  When the Big 3 joined up Miami, they started 9-8.  It’s a chemistry thing.

Cleveland was riding an eight game win streak, but two back-to-back losses to Oklahoma City and New Orleans derailed it. Still, they are definitely hitting their stride.  There’s a good chance it won’t end.  I really think these guys are going to dominate.

Everyone is freaking out about Lebron James. We have to realize that he is getting older.  He’s not 2008 Lebron.  He’s still the best player in the league, but that margin is closing.  He also has more help than ever before.  He actually has big men now.  Guys he can pass it to down in the paint, and they’ll do the dirty work.  His stats are going down, and they will continue to do so, but he’s still the same guy.  He doesn’t have to work as hard as he did with his 1st stint with Cleveland.

To me, Kevin Love has been phenomenal, but not in ways I expected.  He claims he’s still finding his groove, which is fine, but boy, I love him on this team.  He’s averaging a double-double this season.  Love is taking less shots, but 1) He’s a big guy 2) Look who’s surrounding him.

I expect the Cavs to keep this up.  I don’t see it slowing down.  Barring an injury, they can cruise their way to the playoffs.  I mean, look at the conference they play in.

The Warriors could be the best team in the Western Conference

I’m being a total homer, but the Dubs sit at 1st in Western Conference, and own the league’s best record at 21-2.  They’re the fifth team in history to start a season with this record.

Golden State has been on fire offensively, but it’s not like were shocked.  The Warriors are 3rd in point per game, with Stephen Curry averaging 23.7 points.  Andrew Bogut has been huge, grabbing 9.3 rebounds and swatting two blocks a game.

Golden State has improved massively on defense, allowing 96.8 points a game.  The Warriors defense the past couple years has been sly, so this is a mild shock.  Klay Thompson has been great this year, and has improved, like his team, on defense.  Thompson is also shooting best from three on his team, at 42%.  He’s just below Curry in points, which shows you how dynamic the Splash Brothers are.

The most amazing thing about this season for the Dubs is the absence of David Lee.  Lee’s played in one game this year due to a foot injury, which is supposed to keep him out tomorrow. night and possibly beyond.  Lee is expected back soon, which is a thankful thing for my disastrous fantasy basketball team so far this year.  I may trade him though.

In place of David Lee, Draymond Green has been excellent.  Green is averaging 13.4 points per game and eight rebounds.  He’s shooting 46%, which is incredible for a stretch-4 player.  When he’s on the court, this is a different Warriors team.  He expands the floor, and will also increase the tempo.  Though he’s not a three point shooter, he make deeper shots on the right.  While looking at his shot chart, Green may not be a three point shooter, as said above, but he has made 51% of his three from the left wing.  That’s a weird but cool stat.

I watched the Dubs first game against the Clippers earlier this season.  It was their 4th game of the year, and my first time seeing them. After watching that game, I was automatically inclined that Draymond Green was going to go off this season.  He was incredible.  I knew though, that to start playing Green, someone had to go.

I expect the Dubs to trade David Lee at some point this year.  He is hurt every season, and hurts the team when he’s not playing well.  There has to be someone with open arms for him.  Even though Lee is greatly liked around the team and fans (trust me), this is strictly a basketball move.  Do it, and save yourself trouble.

The Western playoff picture has set up pretty close to how I predicted it

The Grizzlies are the biggest surprise for me, but besides their high ranking, the West is shaping up very nicely.  The only team who isn’t in the picture right now is the Thunder.  They’ve been plagued by injuries after Kevin Durant broke his foot in the pre-season, and then a hand injury kept Russell Westbrook out.  This team was awful for a stretch of time.  Oklahoma City was playing Perry Jones III in crunch-time!

It was bad, but now they have their stars back, and are playing much better basketball   They currently sit in 12th in the Western Conference.  The Thunder are climbing.  They will be fine.  I don’t expect the Thunder to be a top four seed anymore, but they’re in better shape than I thought they would be by now.

The rest of the West though, has some interesting seeds lining up.  San Antonio and Dallas sit at 6&7 in the conference.  They’re both great teams, we know that.  Youth though, is starting to show.  Younger teams like Portland, Golden State and Houston are winning more games.

The Spurs will be fine.  They are the defending champions.  There being careful this year.  The West is dicey, yea, but they have it figured out.  They may climb, or they could stay put.  Adding or trading for someone is unnecessary.   They know they can win with what they have.

If there is one team in the West that I’m worried about, it’s the Clippers.  Though they sit 5th in the conference, they aren’t playing great basketball.  It’s gotten better over the past week or so, mostly due to a tear that Chris Paul has been on.  The hype about Blake Griffin’s ascension was sky-high before the season.  He hasn’t taken that next step.  We expected him to work more on his outer game, and it just hasn’t been there.  I’ve seen flashes, as he hit a game-winning three a week ago against the Suns in overtime.  Griffin had 45 points that night.

Quick hits

  • The Sixers are really bad, but I want to watch them play after looking up K.J. McDaniels on Youtube
  • Hawks!  They are flying!
  • The Knicks, well….. aren’t good
  • Rajon Rondo is probably staying in Boston; they are decent, better than I thought
  • The Spurs do what they do, even though they are a little bit back in the standings
  • The Thunder are really lucky to be where they are, giving where they could have been without their stars
  • I refuse to talk about the Lakers
  • The Nets are old
  • Bullets Fever/Wizard Party!
  • Fly Pelican Fly!  C’mooonnnnnnn Pelican!
  • My Suns need to shine a bit brighter
  • Oh yea.  Kings: Your crazy.  Stauskas?