Running around to Give you the Reacharound
Retrospecticus: NBA 08-09 1st Half
First of all, reach out to Joey's work on the NBA's season thus far. The truth he speaks on the inherent predictable nature of the NBA answers many a question as to why fantasy basketball sucks compared to its' football and baseball counterparts.
Say you have two situations:
Situation 1: The NBA's final four teams at the end of the playoffs are San Antonio, Cleveland, Boston and the Lakers.
Situation 2: The NBA's final four teams include someone not mentioned in that above group.
Gun to your head, if you had to guess right now, which of the above situations seems more likely? This is some MLB-type eliteness at the top of the food chain. And the thing isn't that each of the above teams don't have some flaw that could hurt them in May; but, that I don't see any others moving up to this group. The most likely contenders?
Orlando: Take it from a Hawks fan. The Anthony Johnson-Tyronn Lue PG combo ain't gonna play. Dwight Howard still can't take over a game in crunch time; mainly because without Nelson, he doesn't have a playmaker that can spread the floor enough to get him the ball. And oh yes, his free throw shooting is still a detriment as well. This year's Hornets.
Atlanta: Nuff said. But more on this later.
Miami/Detroit: Definitely have the playoff experience to give Cleveland or Boston a series, but unless Jermaine O'Neal can ratchet it up a notch to a level unseen in a few years, Miami doesn't have the depth or defensive presence to compete with either squad. Of any of these teams, I think Detroit could upset one of those teams, but they have to figure out that whole AI/Rip substitution pattern thing. Their post presence is severely diminished as well, as 'Sheed and McDyess are more washed up than an OCD following a trip to a public restroom. Affalo, Amir and Maxiell still haven't cashed in on their considerable upside, and very well could join Carlos Delfino and Darko in the "Never Will" panthenon of Pistons Potential.
Denver: Love the Billups trade obviously, but we've seen a few times now that these guys can not compete with the Spurs in the playoffs. As good as that trade was, it ain't changing that.
Speaking of that trade, what does it say about AI that, once again, he wasn't able to make it work (playoff wins-style) with yet another high scoring talent. So off the top of my head, we got Stackhouse, Hughes, KVH, Glenn Robinson, CWeBB and now Melo. The deepest he went into the playoffs were with those role-player heavy teams featuring Aaron McKie, Mutombo, ESnow, George Lynch and the like. Now they're having rotation issues in Detroit with AI while Denver is thriving with Billups? I've loved watching AI since Georgetown, but it may be time to admit he a team prominently featuring him in the crunch time lineup isn't winning a title.
Portland: Too young. Tho unlike many giving up on Greg Oden already, I do see him developing into an elite NBA center. Dude missed a year with an injury and is a rookie. He's 20. And he's averaging 9.3 and 7.8 on a playoff team. Calm down. He'll be fine.
Phoenix: Call me crazy, but I still see these guys as contenders. I'll won't waste anymore pixels typing about them until I see what they do with Amare.
Utah: Yeah, they're probably not beating LA/SA in a seven game series, but once again, mad dap to Jerry Sloan. His all-star power forward misses damn near the whole year, he's trotting out Deron Williams and a bunch of overachieving role players, and yet they remain in solid running for the division.
New Orleans: Yeah, that was a fun one year run. Maybe in retrospect (or even at the time, jeezus that was terrible) signing Peja to 20mil more than anyone was offering wasn't the brightest of moves. Anyways, in their current financial quagmire, do you trade Chandler or David West? The team plays .500 ball w/o Chandler and his 10 games over .500 with him. His defensive presence is clearly significant. West is their only low post scoring presence and makes three years left. Tough choice.
Along the lines of what I said earlier about Dwight Howard, I don't see a team with Chris Paul as the best player/number one option ever winning an NBA title. For one, dude is a bitch. Second of all, he would need a legit big -- I'm talking stud all-star, not a solid David West type -- to feed the ball to down low. He can run those pretty pick and rolls with high-flying forwards all day, but unless he has someone that's a threat to draw the defense down to the basket and allow him some time to set up shop and either create or take his own shot on the perimeter, his teams will always hit a brick wall against a good defensive squad. However, after today's trade, we won't have to worry about that for awhile.
Dallas: The dream is dead. Dirk can pass his "oh-so-fucking-close" title to Howard/Paul as truly elite, maybe even Hall-of-Fame caliber players that will never lead a team to a title. However, this squad ain't his fault. The depth and high-powered offense that defined the Mavericks in the earlier part of this decade is long gone, and with it any hope of Dallas making it back to the western finals or beyond.
Houston: OBJ and our buddy C-Los swear they're contenders. I say T-Mac is Penny Hardaway from five years ago and Ron Artest hasn't been able to stay on the court consistently all year. Yao Ming's inevitable injury has yet to come. Yes, I realize that Shane Battier is now the best player on the team, but whatever. Moneyball don't translate to basketball like it does to baseball (another topic, another time).
Speaking of Yao...how much does that guy really have left in the tank? I mean, big guy plays 50-70 games for the Rockets every year, then he's got his offseason commitments for the Chinese team. Does anyone play more basketball then this guy? If he isn't playin' ball, he's rehabbing basketball-related injuries. Does this guy have any semblance of a life off the court? Has anyone seen a picture of his wife? Is it some 6'6 basketball star from China that the Red Folk have forced him to get with? For being one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, we really know NOTHING about this dude. And in this day and age, that's pretty cool.
So anyways, back to the point at the top...do you see any of those teams knocking off one of the big four? I can't. So who ends up playing for the title in June?
I like the Lakers over the Spurs in the west. The Spurs really just have JACK SHIT outside of their Big 3. Matt Bonner getting crunch time minutes is weak. Finley, I'm finally sorry to say, is washed up. "OBERTO" sucks. And Bruce Bowen...jeez, enough with the praise for this guy. He is an average at best defender at this point. And that's his strength. He's truly one of the worst starters in the Lig. Outside of my beloved Hawks, I'm rooting for these guys to win another title, because I love everything about how this team has been built and the swagger they carry themselves with, but I don't think they can roll with the Lakers this year. Kobe finally doesn't have to carry the team for nine months but can defer to his teammates more often than he ever has or likely feels comfortable with. He'll be fresh and ready to carry the offensive load come playoff time. His teammates will have more experience having parts of the offense run through them. They got this.
And that 'bout says it all. Whether Boston or Cleveland (in Cleveland's case, barring a major trade...Boston has no deal in them) wins the east, the title will run through LA this season. Of course, I thought the same thing last year, so what do I know?
I intended for this to end as a Hawks related post, but I doubt you want to read 3,000 of my words, much less 7,000...so that post will come later on. Methinks this west coast trip will leave us Hawks bloggers ripe for some bitchin'.