I was going to take a look around the league at the halfway mark. Then I figured since the trade deadline was so close I’d wait because that would change everything. Little did I know I could have written 95% of it and added a little blurb about JJ Redick afterwards since he was by far the biggest name that got moved. Anyway here’s how each team is looking with about 25 games left in the season.
Miami Heat – Miami was only a few games ahead of the pack for the first half of the season. Now it looks like they are going to run away with the #1 seed as everyone expected. It helps that LeBron had a ridiculous streak of 6 straight games of scoring over 30 points while shooting over 60%. That streak ended with him scoring 39 points but only shooting 58%. What a slacker. Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem haven’t even been playing well so this team has the potential to get even better down the stretch. They get outrebounded often but at 39-14 and 5 ½ games ahead of Indiana I don’t think that’s a huge concern.
Indiana Pacers – Paul George stepped up in Danny Granger’s absence. Granger came back a game ago to further improve the 2nd place Pacers. The only concern is their max contract center, Roy Hibbert, who is averaging 10 and 8. Their last four wins have come at an average of 27 points a game which is impressive since they are one of the lowest scoring teams in the NBA.
New York Knicks – It looks like the Knicks trolled their fans with fast, crisp ball movement, excellent 3-point shooting, unselfish play, lockdown defense and an 18-5 start. The last 33 games they are 17 and 16 since, can’t defend any guard in the league, play iso-ball and forgot how to shoot. At the trade deadline, they gave Ronnie Brewer away and signed Kenyon Martin, making them even more hilariously old while not addressing their frontcourt defense problems. Knick nation is in a complete panic after a four game losing streak, two blowouts against playoff teams and two losses to the Raptors.
Brooklyn Nets – Brook Lopez has emerged as possibly the best center in the East. Deron Williams is playing through pain in his ankles, getting his 3rd cortisone injection of the season the other day which explains his up and down play. The Nets are up and down as well, but in the East, that’s good enough for a top 5 seed.
Chicago Bulls – What is the real story, Derrick Rose not coming back because he thinks the Bulls aren’t good enough or him just not being ready? And how many All Stars would his brother like on the team? The Bulls have a size advantage over most teams, but really need another scorer on the floor. If Rose comes back, this team is downright scary. Without them they can still advance a round in the playoffs.
Atlanta Hawks – Their efforts to trade Josh Smith were in vein and now the Hawks remain the Hawks. A decent team that will lose in the first round or two. Pretty much the same story as the last 6 seasons. It will be interesting to see if they overpay for Smith this summer, get another max free agent, or end up getting neither and become a lottery team again.
Boston Celtics – Season ending injuries to Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa haven’t slowed the Celtics down. They’ve actually played much better since the Rondo injury and somehow turned Barbosa into Jordan Crawford at the trade deadline. They still only have 11 healthy players, but if they can avoid another injury they’ll be a team no one wants to see in the 1st round of the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks – They got JJ Redick, at least for the rest of the season, but still have little continuity on offense. This is the one team in the East that even has a chance of falling out of the playoff picture. We’ve seen this story two or three years in a row; quick start and a 9th place finish. If they aren’t careful, it’ll happen again this season.
Philadelphia 76ers – Andrew Bynum’s first practice of the season depressed Doug Collins. Looks like their big gamble really blew up in their face. Lets not forget he can walk after this season too. Philly is only 3 1/2 games out of the playoffs right now but it might as well be 20. They have 19 road games left and are 6-17 on the road so far.
Toronto Raptors – This is the team to keep an eye on. Since trading for Rudy Gay, they’ve been playing really well and have the best chance of catching the Bucks for the right to get swept by the Heat. It would still be a huge accomplishment considering they were projected to be somewhere between terrible and horrible this season.
Detroit Pistons – They finally traded away the last piece of their championship team in Prince. While Calderon is a nice piece to have, he doesn’t really give the Pistons what they need to win. Of course there aren’t many players in the league who do and they’ll need to make about six moves to resemble a playoff team. Their front line of Drummond and Monroe looks good, but they need to upgrade every other position.
Charlotte Bobcats – After a shocking 7-5 start they are a very Bobcat like 6-38. No clue what Jordan is trying to assemble here. Does the fact that Michael Jordan beat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in one on one say more about how amazing Jordan is or about how bad the Bobcats are?
Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving is amazing. The rest of the team… The fact that Cleveland has 18 wins shows how good Irving is. Without him they’d be in Bobcats territory.
Washington Wizards – They resemble and NBA team now that John Wall has returned and have a number of victories against playoff teams. They actually seem to play better against playoff teams. Maybe the top seeds are sleeping on them and assuming an easy win?
Orlando Magic – Vucevic has been the best player in the Bynum/Howard trade so far. The Magic got decimated by injuries, destroying their hope to finish in 10th place in the East, but giving themselves a great chance at the 1st pick in David Stern’s completely not fixed lottery.