Thursday, January 26, 2012

NBA 5 Up and Down

As of yesterday, the NBA season is a month old.  I thought it would be a good time to check in on some teams and players doing well so far, and others who aren't.

High Five

Philadelphia 76ers
A .500 team last year currently sitting at the top of the Atlantic Divsion ahead of the Knicks and Celtics.  The Sixers are a true "team" in the sense that they have a plethora of versatile players/ like Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, and Jodie Meeks. No team in the Eastern Conference can match Philly's depth, a strength that should continue to serve them well over the course of the compressed schedule.  This is a young, athletic, defensive-minded team on the rise, and it looks like Head Coach Doug Collins has helped his players harness their potential and play together as a unit.  Don't expect another first round playoff exit come spring.

Indiana Pacers
The Pacers went 37-45 last year but are off to a 12-5 start, second in their division behind only the Chicago Bulls.   Much like the Sixers, this team plays hard-nosed defense and emphasizes spreading the ball (seven players are averaging at least 9.5 points per game).  Newcomer David West is still getting used to the new system, but on offense he teams up with breakout center Roy Hibbert to pack a powerful 1-2 punch in the paint.  With Tyler Hansborough and George Hill providing plenty of firepower off the bench, Indiana is almost as deep as Philly.

Kobe Bryant
The Black Mamba has firmly re-established himself as one of the game's top three players, in case you had forgotten or thought he was washed up.  He may very well fade after this hot start, but for now he looks like vintage Kobe.

Ricky Rubio
Proving all the doubters wrong with each passing game.  His shot still leaves plenty to be desired and he'll be lucky to average more than a dozen points per games this year, but he makes up for his lack of scoring with superlative passing and truckloads of steals.  Look for him to put up Jason Kidd/Rajon Rondo numbers the rest of the way, even with Luke Ridnour lending a helping hand in Minnesota's backcourt.

Danilo Gallinari
The Italian Stallion just signed a $42 million extension with Denver and is putting up career numbers across the board.

Five down

Boston Celtics
Playing better as of late, but are still wallowing under .500 despite having one of the easiest schedules to date.  I thought another run with the same core was a bad idea, especially since the team already looked too old last year and didn't get any younger during the lockout.  They're already dinged up, as Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen have all missed games.  This team, with its paper-thin bench that desperately needs Jeff Green, simply can't withstand those losses anymore.  Ainge needs to shake things up and bring in some help if the front office is serious about the team contending for a championship this year.  Otherwise, it might be time to blow up the Big Three.

New Orleans Hornets
NOLA's dynamic pick and pop duo of Chris Paul (traded to Lob City) and David West (free agency) is gone, and building block Eric Gordon has been taken out of commission by a knee injury.  The results have been disastrous; the team that won 46 games last year and made the playoffs is off to a brutal 3-15 start.  With Gordon out for another three to six weeks, things don't figure to improve much.

Vince Carter
Half-Man/Half-Amazing is disappearing right before our eyes in Dallas.  Seriously, at this stage in his career I'd rather have a cardboard cutout on my team instead of him.  The decline that began after he left New Jersey has accelerated to the point where he's averaging fewer than ten points per game.  Oh, and he turned 35 today.

Lamar Odom
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is losing playing time to Shawn Marion, misses LA and is struggling through the worst season of his career.  Hey, at least he's still married to a Kardashian, which is more than Kris Humphries can say.

J.R. Smith
Still trapped in China.

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