Surprises: Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors
I think we all knew the Heat were a playoff team going into the year with the experience of Wade and Bosh and the signing of Luol Deng. But did we think they were going to be as good as they are now? With two big wins at the beginning of the year against the Raptors and Wizards, the Heat have made a statement in saying that they are not going let these much younger and very talented teams move up in the east easily. Wade has been saying that he feels as healthy as ever, Bosh is averaging a double double per game, and Luol Deng is averaging almost 16 points a game. The Heat also went into Dallas and beat the Mavericks by 9 in a game in which they were 8 point underdogs. Erik Spoelstra has to be happy about the Heat’s start to the season.
Jason Kidd means business in Milwaukee. The Bucks are the 3rd best defensive team in the league at the start of the year, allowing just 92 points per game. 8 games in the Bucks are at .500 and are 2-0 against the western conference, the big win coming against the undefeated Memphis Grizzlies. However, they are 0-3 against top eastern conference teams. The Bucks will need to win against the cream of the crop in the east if they want to be in playoff contention at the end of the year. Playing good defense will help them achieve that goal. Good job so far in Milwaukee.
The Raptors are the team to beat in the east right now with Derrick Rose playing every other game for the Bulls and the Cavs trying to figure out what they are doing on the court. Kyle Lowry could put up a triple double on any given night and DeMar DeRozan is bringing back the days of Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady to Toronto. The Raptors have the leagues best offense averaging 107 points per game and the leagues 8th best defense letting up only 96 points per game. Coming over from the Mavericks in 2011, head coach Dwayne Casey has turned the Raptors from a no name team in the east, to a team competing for the top spot. Tonight, we will see if the Raptors can compete with the best in the east when they face the Bulls on TNT.
Disappointments: Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks
What a mess we have in Cleveland. Reports have already surfaced of Kevin Love interested in leaving to go to LA, Lebron and Kyrie have struggled to work together, and David Blatt looks like he has no control of what his team is doing on the court. Granted, it is only 6 games into the season and we should expect to give them time to adjust to each other. However, if Love is talking about leaving already, then there’s definitely more issues in Cleveland then we think. The Cavs have started out 3-3 and are not playing defense, which is something that we should expect them to be doing if their offense isn’t clicking. They are 25th worst in the NBA averaging giving up 103 points per game. It will be interesting to see how the next couple weeks go in Cleveland.
We all thought the Charlotte Hornets were going to be good this year right? After signing the triple double threat Lance Stephenson, the Hornets were going to be a playoff team in the east right? Kemba Walker is going to be the next Russell Westbrook right? Wrong so far. Kemba and Lance have started off the year cold shooting both 39% and 32% respectively and Al Jefferson isn’t the double double machine we saw last year only 7 rebounds per game. Along with that the Hornets aren’t playing much defense letting up 99 points per game. MJ can’t be too excited about the Hornets start to the year. We may see him put on a uniform if these numbers aren’t improved after another sub .500 2 weeks.
The Knicks suck. Being a New York Knicks fan is the worst thing in the world. They never play good basketball. Phil must be cringing in his office watching the Knicks trying to execute the triangle offense. It seems like no one knows their job on the court. The Knicks have started out 2-6 and sport the 3 worst offense in the league. You would think with Carmelo Anthony that this couldn’t be possible, but Melo’s offensive efficiency is awful in every game he plays. I’ve never seen anything more classic than a 8 for 20 or 9 for 22 night shooting from Melo. He can’t seem to get to 42 or 43% shooting ever. He is, however improving his rebounding and assists numbers, which means he’s helping out his teammates more. For the Knicks to be in contention for the playoffs, Melo needs to be more efficient and the team needs to figure out how to run the triangle correctly.
Surprises: Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies
With victories against the Suns, Clippers and Blazers, the Sacramento Kings are the most surprising team in the west. The Kings have started off 5-3 and look like they are going to be in it in the west this year. They don’t seem to be missing Isaiah Thomas who was traded to the Suns in the offseason. Darren Collison has came in as a replacement and has taken charge of the offense. Along with that, DeMarcus Cousins is an early MVP candidate, and Rudy Gay is all over the court. They are also taking the ball to the whole very nicely and are averaging 36 free throw attempts per game. If they keep taking the ball nicely to the whole, and drawing fouls, the Kings should be a tough beat in the west.
The Houston Rockets are playing well together and are playing some defense at the start of the season. James Harden has added the assist to his stat line averaging over 7 a game. Dwight Howard is averaging a double double and is blocking 2 shots a game. Trevor Ariza and Terrence Jones are providing some quality minutes for the team. The Rockets were 6-0 until they ran into the sharp shooting Warriors. They are the NBA’s second best defensive team right behind the team at the top of the west, the Memphis Grizzlies. Dwight deserves a cookie for the Rockets nice start to the season.
The top team in the West is the Memphis Grizzlies after 8 games. The Grizzlies are playing the best defense in the NBA letting up 89 points per game. The duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are unstoppable down low on offense and they aren’t letting up any easy baskets in the paint. The Grizzlies have started off well, but they have not played any good competition except for an 11 point win against the Suns. We’ll see how they fare against the Rockets this Monday.
Disappointments: Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers
Prior to the start of the NBA season, the Clippers were one of my picks to reach the western conference finals. Now, I don’t see them as much of a contender in the West. With only one quality win against the Blazers and embarrassing losses in which they were leading going into the 4th against the Spurs and Kings, the Clippers are not playing good basketball. A team led by Chris Paul and coached by Doc Rivers should thrive in the 4th quarter not get worse. Blake Griffin is averaging under 7 rebounds a game and isn’t being very efficient for a big man, shooting 47% from the field. For the Clippers to be at the top of the west, Chris Paul needs to be more aggressive on offense and look for his shot more and Blake needs to be more fundamentally sound in the paint.
The Spurs aren’t really that much of a disappointment, but a 4-3 is not the start to the season you should see from a defending champion. The Spurs look old and not really in sync yet. There offense is 23rd in the NBA averaging 95 points per game. Two big wins against the Warriors and Clippers could turn things around. I have full confidence that the Spurs will still be at the top of the west as the number 1 seed when the season is over.
Last Thursday night, Charles Barkley was quoted on TNT in saying, “I will not eat until the Lakers win a basketball game.” I think the idea of Charles not having a meal motivated the Lakers as they got their first win against the disappointing Charlotte Hornets on Sunday. After their win, forward Ed Davis had something to say to Charles.
There are so many issues with this Laker team. To start they should have never offered Kobe the max contract they did a couple years ago. Jeremy Lin is overpaid as well. The Lakers don’t have a very good supporting cast to help Kobe, and thus Kobe ends up channeling is inner Allen Iverson every game, trying to make something out of nothing on the court. The Lakers are screwed for many years to come until Kobe’s contract is over or until the Lakers sign their next superstar.