Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Chris Paul Trade Debacle

Well, where do I begin? I guess I should start by saying that news that the NBA would be blocking the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers has me incredulous and extremely angry (full disclosure I am a diehard Los Angeles Lakers fan). I cannot remember an instance where I have been more incensed about something in the world of sport. Shortly after the news broke Thursday night I was driving with my brother to our softball game. The entire ride was comprised of me making flabbergasted noises, repeating a handful of statements a dozen or so times and yet more statements that didn't form actual sentences. This was all in an attempt to somehow make sense of it all. An hour and a half or so later I found myself back in the car repeating the exercise from the ride to the game.  So, instead of more Facebook status updates or an extended series of feed-clogging tweets I decided it would be best to vent in long form.
I'm sure this fiasco can be traced back further, but let's begin with the NBA taking ownership of the New Orleans Hornets. Obviously, this was not an ideal situation for anybody (with the possible exception of former Hornets owner George Shinn who got out of the business). In taking over New Orleans the NBA, its owners and Commissioner Stern, created a massive conflict of interest when it came to how the Hornets are allowed to do business (like trading Paul). How could a team make moves when all the other teams own that team? Stern however said publicly that New Orleans General Manager, Dell Demps, would be able to essentially run the Hornets like any other NBA team (with all the rumors swirling around about where Paul would end up, no one in the NBA stepped in to say word one about its ownership of the team and how it would need to approve any deal). Back to the franchise and its economic situation, it appears that Stern's intention is for any owner of the franchise to keep it in New Orleans, which does not appear to be so viable these days. Safe to say, the New Orleans ownership situation was in disarray before the Paul trade was accepted.
Which leads us to the NBA lockout. I thought the lockout/new CBA was supposed to address and solve the issues that were plaguing the league financially and otherwise. It's clear now that the new CBA is sort of a joke because within a few hours of it being signed the NBA vetoed the Paul trade, in part it appears because Stern and the owners don't want Paul to dictate where he is traded (I think this is outrageous on several fronts). Anyway, while the lockout was ongoing my enthusiasm for the NBA diminished to some degree. I can only read so many articles about billionaire owners arguing with millionaire players before I just get sick of the whole thing. Even with less enthusiasm for the league I always figured it would only be a short time before I was back to following the league as I always did. So, when the lockout was finally going to end a few weeks ago I was back for the most part. Once free agency and trade rumors surfaced, I was even more back. When the Lakers were rumored to possibly be in the running to get Chris Paul and/or Dwight Howard, I was even more back still. When it was announced that Chris Paul was going to be a Laker, I was all the way back plus some (who won out on the trade can be debated but as a basketball fan, a Lakers fan in particular, it surely was exciting; a legitimate big time blockbuster trade). Then came, what in my opinion will (and should) go down on the short list of the single most disastrous decisions the NBA has made in its history - the trade being blocked. Now I am a 0.5 out of 10 on the NBA enthusiasm meter. This after being 10/10 when the trade was announced.
The lockout did nothing to address the Hornets conundrum with Chris Paul. It really couldn't address it in a really significant way. Essentially, if Paul made his intentions clear to the organization that he wasn't going to sign an extension or as a free agent after this season (which he did), the Hornets had to trade him to get any real value back. We know what happens if you don't trade Chris Paul when he says he's not going to re-sign. You get nothing. You get Clevelanded. You get Torontoed. Paul had leverage and told the Hornets leadership he wasn't going to sign with the team and would like to be traded. Everyone knew that Chris Paul was on the trade block. How many teams were reportedly linked to a potential Chris Paul trade within the last week and a half? At least five. And all along the NBA was silent on any potential trade talk. Never once did they say that Paul was not tradable. Not once did they get in front of this disaster and make the point that any potential trade involving a player on the Hornets would be subject to league approval. Not once did they set parameters around a trade involving Paul or any Hornets player. No, they were silent. Where was the clamoring before the trade was accepted? Obviously, other teams/owners wanted Chris Paul on their team. Where was the foresight? At this point is there any way that New Orleans can trade him to a team that isn't the Lakers (from a PR standpoint)? How would that look for the league? I don't see how they can justify not allowing this trade, but even more so I don't see how they could justify a different trade to a different team. They have set a precedent. If they allow a different trade with different teams, they only dig a bigger hole. The conspiracy theories grow. David Stern and his billion-dollar owner cronies created this situation. They just spent five months apparently trying to solve the problems within their league, but this exact circumstance, in my estimation, is not solvable. Players are going to have leverage in these situations (AND THEY SHOULD!). If you think (or know) a player, a superstar in particular, on your team is going to leave when his contract is up, what are you going to do? It's an unfortunate situation, but if you plan on getting anything in return for losing that player you're going to have trade the player. Otherwise, the player is gone and the team has virtually nothing to show for it. The owners need to realize that players are going to have leverage (again they should) and that the owners simply are not all powerful (although it looks like they were in this case).
The trade itself. It seems rather fair for all teams involved. I don't feel that it is too lopsided in any direction. I certainly don't feel the trade should be under veto consideration. In talking to my friends and reading all sorts of columns, most people really liked the trade for New Orleans and many actually thought the Lakers were probably getting the worst end of the three-team trade. In dealing Pau Gasol, the Lakers were trading away a 4-time All-star and 3-time All NBAer. Lamar Odom is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Those guys can play ball and they've proven it (Quickish take: I actually liked the trade for the Lakers. As much as I like Gasol and Odom, the prospect of getting Paul was more than intriguing. He's easily one of the best three point guards in the game, is 26 years old, and instantly solves the Lakers lack of athleticism/penetration. Many people were pointing out that the Lakers were worse off after this trade. I would say that this was most likely the first move of at least a couple, maybe more. I believe the Lakers would have gotten another big man (or two) back through this trade (maybe another player would have been added), a separate trade (assisted by trade exceptions) or free agency. Then there was the possibility of acquiring Dwight Howard - something I believe would have been easier if the Paul trade had taken place).  Back to the trade. It was about as fair as an NBA trade gets these days. Unlike recent blockbusters which heavily involved salary dumps, there was legitimate talent leaving and coming to each team. It made logical sense. I haven't seen anyone other than David Stern (and assuredly other owners) say otherwise. That brings me to this, what is Dell Demps to do? By vetoing this trade the NBA is saying that he is not doing a good enough job in dealing Paul and getting appropriate value in return. Who is really making the decision to veto the trade? Stern, and presumably others in the Commissioner's Office are basically saying that they are better at Demps' jobs than he is. This is dangerous. Three GMs agreed to the deal, how is that not enough? Seriously, there has never been a precedent for vetoing perceived lopsided trades. Trust me, I realize that I am having more of an emotional response to this situation because I am a Lakers fan, but even as a basketball fan, how can you like this? Countless times trades have looked lopsided one way or another and they get passed every time. Just like the NBA owners are not guaranteed a profitable business or control over players for the lifetime of their career, there is no such guarantee that a trade will work out as it looks on paper. There is risk in every trade. Stern and the owners have signed off on all of these trades and free agent signings and now this one they believe is not enough in New Orleans' favor? It's nonsensical.
So, what were Stern and the owners on his side (in all likelihood the small market owners) thinking with this veto. What is the actual reasoning behind it? Not that they have their story straight, but it would appear that there are at least three reasons. First, it seems that the small market owners especially hated this deal. During the lockout there were numerous stories about the owners not being unified. Small market owners and big market owners weren't on the same page. When the CBA was finally agreed on, there were more stories that came out about some of the owners not liking the deal. David Stern had to do a lot just to get the owners to agree to the new CBA. On that front, it isn't very hard to see why the owners and Stern would want to play this card. Small market owners were reportedly furious about the prospect of the big market Lakers acquiring one of the league's superstars. So with less sway with the owners Stern probably fell under the pressure - though I'm fairly sure he wasn't too torn about killing the deal. The second reason Stern has given for vetoing the deal is that it's in the best interests of the Hornets to keep Chris Paul in a New Orleans uniform - at least if this is the deal that sees him leave. This makes absolutely no sense unless a potential owner (that has yet to surface) thinks he/she has a legitimate chance of keeping Paul in New Orleans after this season. Otherwise, it is in the best interest of the Hornets to trade Paul while they can still get some value in return. Chris Paul will not be a member of the New Orleans Hornets next year. Everyone can see this. Third, this (from Yahoo! Sports “In the end, David didn’t like that the players were dictating where they wanted to go, like Carmelo had, and he wasn’t going to let Chris Paul dictate where he wanted to go.” Did Chris Paul really dictate where he was going to go? In a way yes, he wasn't going to sign with New Orleans. Furthermore, he was said to only agree to extensions with certain teams. Doesn't Chris Paul have that right? In my opinion, he absolutely does. Instead of stringing New Orleans along and saying there was a possibility he would sign an extension or sign in free agency next season, he was clear with them. This is the system. Although I would disagree that Paul specifically dictated where he wanted to go in this case, he is six or seven months away from being able to go wherever he wants. This is the system. It was just officially passed on Thursday for at least six years! Just after signing the new rules for the league they pull this move because players can't dictate where they play?! While I understand the ownership situation in New Orleans, it seems that Stern and some of the owners are just making up the rules as they go. "Oh, we can't have Chris Paul going from the Hornets to the Lakers. Let's just squash the deal for..."basketball reasons"? Does that weightless phrase work for everyone? Yeah, you know, it does look like a decent trade for all involved, but players can't dictate where they go. If we allow Paul to go to a big market team this looks really bad for us with the lockout and all." Even with the ownership situation, which gives Stern and the owners more control over player movement when it comes to the Hornets, this doesn't pass the smell test. You know what it really felt like to me as I woke up Friday morning, this situation still fresh on my mind? Vince McMahon and the WWE. I can picture some sort of trade that rocks the wrestling world going down and then all of a's Vince McMahon's music. Vince comes out, chest puffed out as always, plays up the crowd's disdain for him for several minutes before announcing. "I VETO THIS TRADE!" He drops the microphone, gives an arrogant smirk. Cut to the wrestlers in the ring looking at each other in complete shock. Cut to black, WWE symbol. That is what this feels like. Am I supposed to take this seriously? Am I supposed to think the league has any credibility?
What I have come to realize with this situation is that I care too much about this. If you know me, you know I love sports. It's a true passion of mine. Sports can have meaning, sometimes sports have large meaning, but by and large it's entertainment. I realize this. I realize there are far more important things going on in the world. This situation has turned me off from the NBA at least for the time being. Sure, I care about how this whole thing ends, but I am seriously reevaluating how much I invest (time and money) in the NBA and sports in general. I might be done with the NBA - at least for a while. I know I shouldn't be this irate about something this meaningless. I need to take a step back.
Bullet points:
  • There are now reports out that the Lakers, Hornets, and Rockets are reengaged in trade talks. If the trade (original or altered) goes through, I'm not going to lie, I will reinvest in the NBA to some extent (my enthusiasm meter would move from 0.5 to 4 or 5) because the league would have eventually done the right thing. More accurately though I'll be relieved and drained from the experience. If there is no trade or if there is a trade where Paul ends up on another team, I may seriously be done with the NBA for a LONG time.
  • I think the only move the NBA has right now, that is if it has any sense whatsoever, is to allow an altered trade to be pushed through. It's the only way the league and Stern save face. They would at least be able to say that the deal was sweetened for New Orleans.
  • To all the Laker-haters out there: Say what you will about the Lakers, revel in the team's misfortunes when it has them, but how can you possibly support this decision as an NBA fan? As I said earlier, as a basketball fan this is a disgrace. The precedent it sets, the ability of Stern and the league to operate this way? This is not in the best interest of the NBA, period. This isn't about Lakers fans and non-Lakers fans, it's about the league playing dictator and not having any credibility. Again, just as basketball fans, this is an outrage.
  • Where is the NBA's PR team on this? How did they not get out in front of this in any way? Make it clear to the fans that any deal involving New Orleans is subject to league approval. Make it clear what the rules are to begin with. Proactive rather than reactive.
  • I'm really wondering how the players union feels about signing off on that shiny new CBA. About two hours after they sign off on the new deal, the owners/Stern pull off a straight dictator move on the players, granted on a team that it owns.
  • As I alluded to earlier I got sick of both the owners and the players during the lockout. I wasn't particularly supportive of either side. Well, after this, I am firmly on the players' side. This move proves to me that owners are seeking too much control.
  • This decision, if another trade is not forged, was franchise altering for the three teams involved. It has the potential to do long term damage to all three. How is that in any way in the best interest of the league?
  • Apologies for any typos, grammatical mistakes, etc. I haven't written anything in a while (this was not easy to write) and I wanted to get this posted ASAP.
I genuinely appreciate your time reading this.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NBA Power Rankings - Week 6

Week 6 Rankings:

*Record up to date as of posting

Due to time restraints, I am not going to have the opportunity to give comments to every team. Instead, I will give brief comments to the top 4 tiers only. Apologies.

Tier 1

1. San Antonio Spurs (2) 14-2: The new #1. Owners of the best record in the league, won 9 of 10.

2. Boston Celtics (4) 12-4: Steady.

3. Los Angeles Lakers (1) 13-4: Drop from #1 with 1-2 week. Play 9 of next 11 on the road.

4. Dallas Mavericks (5) 12-4: 5 game winning streak. Last three wins over OKC, San Antonio, and Miami.

5. Utah Jazz (6) 13-5: Also won 5 straight.

6. New Orleans Hornets (3) 12-4: Lost 3 of 4 facing teams in top half of Western Conference.

7. Chicago Bulls (9) 9-6: Tough. Finished Circus Trip with winning record.

Tier 3

8. Oklahoma City Thunder (7) 11-6: Injury having big effect on Durant? Only shooting 43% from field, 23% from 3 pt. line.

9. Orlando Magic (8) 12-4: Very unimpressive 12-4 record. Not buying them as true contender yet.

10. Denver Nuggets (13) 10-6: Came back strong after disappointing week. Won 4 straight.

Tier 4

11. Portland Trail Blazers (12) 8-8: Injuries, injuries, injuries.

12. Atlanta Hawks (11) 11-7: Streaky? 6 wins, 4 losses, 2 wins, 3 losses, 3 wins so far this season.

13. Indiana Pacers (17) 8-7: Sleeper team waking up. Looked great against the Lakers on the road, especially defensively.

14. Miami Heat (10) 9-8: Where do you start? Players (read: LeBron (and maybe Bosh) not getting along with coach. Big problem on offense is that both the players and the ball are not moving.

Tier 5

15. Phoenix Suns (16) 8-9:

16. Memphis Grizzlies (15) 7-10:

17. Golden State Warriors (14) 8-9:

Tier 6

18. Houston Rockets (22) 5-11:

19. New York Knicks (18) 9-9:

20. Cleveland Cavaliers (20) 7-9:

21. Milwaukee Bucks (19) 6-10:

22. Charlotte Bobcats (23) 6-11:

23. Detroit Pistons (27) 6-11:

Tier 7

24. Toronto Raptors (25) 6-11:

25. New Jersey Nets (24) 6-11:

26. Philadelphia 76ers (28) 4-13:

27. Los Angeles Clippers (30) 3-15:

28. Sacramento Kings (21) 4-11:

29. Washington Wizards (29) 5-10:

30. Minnesota Timberwolves (26) 4-13:

Monday, November 22, 2010

NBA Power Rankings - Week 5

Apologies for the one week hiatus. Now back with NBA power rankings for week 5:

*Record as of all games completed through 11/21.
**Last week ranking refers to week 3.

Tier 1

1. Los Angeles Lakers (1) 12-2: Would have dropped to 3 if there were rankings last week. This week L.A. bounced back by going 4-0 and winning all its games by double digits. Get a couple of legit tests in Chicago and @Utah this week.

2. San Antonio Spurs (7) 11-1: Have to give San Antonio a boost after 10 straight wins. 2nd in points for. 3rd in the NBA in point differential.

3. New Orleans Hornets (3) 11-1: 4 of next 5 on the road including Utah, Portland, and Oklahoma City. One home game during stretch against San Antonio. We'll be getting some answers in these next five. Recently acquired Jarrett Jack will give New Orleans steady backup to Paul.

4. Boston Celtics (2) 9-4: Have to drop Boston after home loss to Durant-less Thunder and loss to Toronto. Record and results not surprising for this type of veteran team. 

Tier 2

5. Dallas Mavericks (10) 8-4: Handed New Orleans its only loss. Went 2-2 during the week. Have two back-to-backs this week including second nights on the road against Oklahoma City and Miami.

6. Utah Jazz (12) 9-5: After ridiculous road trip Utah came back to earth by going 2-2 for the week. Wouldn't expect Jazz to only have a 0.9 point differential.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (11) 9-4: Impressed by the way Oklahoma City won two games on the road (Boston and Milwaukee) without Durant. Went down to the wire and let Russell Westbrook control things.

Tier 3:

8. Orlando Magic (5) 9-3: Have played three good teams (Miami, Atlanta, Utah) and have lost two (Miami, Utah). Let's see what Magic look like this week against San Antonio and Miami (for a second time).

9. Chicago Bulls (14) 7-4: 2-1 on "Circus Trip". Trip ends this week with games against the Lakers, Phoenix, Denver, and Sacramento. Team playing balanced.

10. Miami Heat (4) 8-5: Only two of Miami's eight wins were decided by single digits (9 against Toronto, 8 against Charlotte). The Heat's five losses were by 8, 3, 2, 5, 2. Simple translation: Miami is having trouble pulling out close games. What does it tell you about a team when you think its in deep trouble without Udonis Haslem?

11. Atlanta Hawks (6) 8-5: Lost five of last seven. Clearly look like a team that will win in the regular season, but is not equipped to win in the postseason.

Tier 4

12. Portland Trail Blazers (8) 8-6: A lot of bad news since the last rankings. Greg Oden will be out for the entire year. Brandon Roy's knee a serious concern as he's sat out three straight. Still, we've learned not to count Portland out.

13. Denver Nuggets (9) 7-6: Playing the waiting game with Carmelo. It's just a matter of time before something happens. While he's in Denver, they'll be dangerous and competitive.

Tier 5

14. Golden State Warriors (15) 7-6: In its last two games Golden State gave up 125 to New York and 117 to the Lakers (both losses). Lost four of five and finish month with a relatively difficult stretch.

15. Memphis Grizzlies (16) 5-9: Lost five straight in tough stretch before Rudy Gay's buzzer beater over Miami on Saturday. Gay's shooting the ball well (49 FG%, 40 3PT%, 85 FT%) while averaging almost 22 points per game.

16. Phoenix Suns (13) 6-7: Rough stretch for the Suns as Nash has missed last two and team has lost last three. Phoenix is giving up an average of 117 points and is losing by an average of 20.3 during stretch.

17. Indiana Pacers (21) 5-6: How sad is the East after the top five right now? Indiana, at 5-6, has the sixth best record in the conference. Hibbert watch: 16.7 PPG, 10 REB, 2.6 BLK.

Tier 6

18. New York Knicks (18) 6-8: Lost six straight before winning last three on West coast road trip, though those games were against Golden State, Sacramento, and the Clippers. Amare stepped up his defense when he came to L.A. and "only" allowed Blake Griffin to get off for 44 points and 15 rebounds.

19. Milwaukee Bucks (23) 5-8: Sometimes look great, particularly on defense. Right when you think Milwaukee a good team they look bad again.

20. Cleveland Cavaliers (19) 5-7: Not many thought Cleveland was capable of playing this well. However, the Cavs have lost four of five and have the second worst point differential in the East.

Tier 7

21. Sacramento Kings (17) 4-8: Have lost 7 of 8. Likely to make it 8 of 9 after going to Utah Monday night. For some reason Sacramento gets a national game on Thanksgiving against the Clippers.

22. Houston Rockets (20) 3-9: Worst case scenario being realized. Yao out again for extended period of time. Aaron Brooks also out. With what the Rockets have left, there's no reason it should lose to Toronto by double digits.

23. Charlotte Bobcats (27) 5-8: Going through a decent stretch going 4-2 in last six. At the same time those wins were against Toronto, Washington, Minnesota, and Phoenix while the losses were against Utah and Miami. Not buying what Charlotte is selling.

24. New Jersey Nets (25) 4-9: Despite going 1-3 on Western Conference road trip, New Jersey was competitive. Only lost to Utah by 10, Sacramento by five, and Denver by four.

25. Toronto Raptors (28) 5-9: Somehow Toronto has won three straight including a game against Boston after losing 9 of first 11. Still believe this is the single worst roster in the league, but have to give them credit for winning some games.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (30) 4-10: After embarrassing stretch have rebounded by going 3-3. For as much attention Kevin Love's rebounding prowess has received, Michael Beasley is averaging 31.3 points per game during this six game stretch.

27. Detroit Pistons (26) 5-8: 5-3 in last eight, but like Charlotte, not buying it.

28. Philadelphia 76ers (24) 3-10: Lost five straight before beating Milwaukee. After hot start, Brand's numbers have regressed some. Have talented players, but it's not coming together on the court.

29. Washington Wizards (29) 4-8: One of three teams with a point differential worse than -5.0. With John Wall out the past week, was there much reason to watch? 

30. Los Angeles Clippers (22) 1-13: As exciting and talented Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon are, your team still has to win every so often to stay out of the bottom spot. The Clippers own the worst point differential in the league at -9.7. The disconcerting thing is that with Griffin and Gordon alone the Clippers have enough talent to beat some East teams yet the Clips have lost to Detroit, New Jersey, and New York at home.

Monday, November 8, 2010

NBA Power Rankings - Week 3

Your NBA power rankings for week 3:

*Team records up to date as of posting time.

Tier 1

1. Los Angeles Lakers (1) 7-0: Look unbelievable. Undefeated, best in point differential and points per game. Faced a relatively soft schedule to this point. Need to see what they look like in Denver this Thursday.

2. Boston Celtics (2) 6-1: Rondo averaging a ridiculous 14.7 assists per game. "Big Baby" is getting significant minutes off the bench and is playing well. Not blowing teams out, but you wouldn't expect them to.

Tier 2

3. New Orleans Hornets (9) 6-0: Deserve another big jump in the rankings. Undefeated with impressive collection of wins over Milwaukee (twice), Denver, @San Antonio, @Houston, and Miami. Will it continue?

4. Miami Heat (3) 5-2: All five wins by double digits. Allowing a league best 86.4 points against. Shouldn't Chris Bosh be pulling down more than 5.3 rebounds per game?

5. Orlando Magic (5) 4-1: Got blown out in their only true test this season (@Miami). Need a lot more out of Rashard Lewis ($19.6 million this year) who is averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds on 38% shooting.

6. Atlanta Hawks (6) 6-1: Impressive record, but their opponents are a combined 15-30. Interested to see how much, if anything, has changed when they go to Orlando on Monday.

Tier 3

7. San Antonio Spurs (11) 4-1: Winning with offense (4th in points per game) rather than defense (24th in points allowed). Could Richard Jefferson be finding his way in this system (averaging 20 PPG shooting 65 FG%, 60 3P%)?

8. Portland Trail Blazers (4) 5-3: Schedule makers didn't do them any favors as three of their eight games have been on the road as the second game of a back-to-back. Still high on this team.

9. Denver Nuggets (10) 4-2: Nice start to season, especially when factoring in relatively tough schedule. Arron Afflalo is averaging 12.8 points per game on 57% from the field and 47% from three. Karl needs to find him minutes.

Tier 4

10. Dallas Mavericks (7) 3-2: Sluggish start. 1-2 home record. Alarming that they have faded in 4th quarter in both (home) losses being outscored 22-15 (Memphis) and 24-13 (Denver). Opponents a combined 9-17.

11. Oklahoma City Thunder (8) 3-3: Something is amiss. 20th in points per game, 23rd in points against, -5.3 differential. Durant off to a slow shooting start 39 FG%, 32% beyond the arc.

12. Utah Jazz (12) 3-3: Still trying to figure out exactly what this team is. We may get some answers this week when they go on the road to play Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, and Charlotte. Difficult enough? Games against Orlando and Charlotte are on second night of back-to-back. Brutal.

13. Phoenix Suns (17) 3-3: Only choice is to outscore opponents. Turkoglu largely M.I.A. so far (10.5 PPG, 7.8 FGA per game, 7 total FT attempts). Nash's scoring up, assists down.

14. Chicago Bulls (13) 2-3: Won't know what to make of this team until Boozer gets healthy. Still look like they'll need another outside shooter and size to consistently compete with East's best.

Tier 5

15. Golden State Warriors (23) 4-2: Nice start, but schedule hasn't been too challenging. Ellis is leading the league in scoring. David Lee's offensive output has to be a concern as he's only averaging 12 points per game while shooting 14% worse from the field and 11% worse from the line compared to last season.

16. Memphis Grizzlies (14) 3-4: Went 1-3 on Pacific Division road trip (didn't play Clippers). Don't understand the logic behind Mike Conley's extension (5 yrs./$45 million). Even with his impressive start, would he have been able to get that deal in the off-season? Even if he could, Memphis could have matched any offer (under current CBA rules).

17. Sacramento Kings (21) 3-3: Just about meeting expectations thus far. Will be interesting to see how Dalembert plays as starter and how Cousins responds coming off the bench. Cousins needs to address foul problems.

18. New York Knicks (19) 3-3: Like Sacramento, they're meeting expectations thus far. Toney Douglas (16.5 PPG) and Wilson Chandler (16.3 PPG) off to hot starts coming off the bench.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers (22) 3-3: Who's ready for the Mo-Hickson-Varejao show? With as bad as the bottom half of the East looks, don't count them out of the 7 or 8 playoff spot.

20. Houston Rockets (16) 1-5: Finally got in the win column against Minnesota. Discounting the T-Wolves, their opponents are a combined 25-5. Tough blow: Aaron Brooks is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks with a sprained ankle.

Tier 6

21. Indiana Pacers (15) 2-3: Went 0-2 last week. Darren Collison is off to a brutal start (29.4 mins., 37 FG%, 30 3P%, 14.2 PPG). Hibbert watch: Averaging 15.6 points, 10 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game.

22. Los Angeles Clippers (25) 1-6: Have faced most of the best in the West and have a 1-6 record to show for it. Baron Davis may want to get healed and in shape before Eric Bledsoe takes his job (not that Davis' contract would ever allow that to happen).

23. Milwaukee Bucks (18) 2-5: Only team to lose to hapless Minnesota. Dead last in points per game. The five players averaging at least 10 shots per game Jennings, Bogut, Delfino, Salmons, and Maggette are shooting 39%, 51%, 42%, 32%, and 36% respectively.

24. Philadelphia 76ers (27) 2-5: Have been more effective than their record would seem to indicate. Could Elton Brand be back? A tough week ahead as they hit the road for Oklahoma City, Dallas, and San Antonio.

Tier 7

25. New Jersey Nets (20) 2-4: Three of the four losses are against Miami and Orlando. Brook Lopez had a rough week shooting 28% from the field while only averaging 13 PPG/4.7 RPG. Someone needs to step up the scoring.

26. Detroit Pistons (30) 2-5: Starting a four game West coast road trip (Portland, Clippers, Sacramento, and Golden State). Hard to figure out who to rely on for scoring game to game.

27. Charlotte Bobcats (28) 1-5: Haven't faced too tough of a schedule. Putting up second worst point total per game in the league. Augustin, Jackson, and Diaw are all hovering around 43% from the field.

28. Toronto Raptors (29) 1-5: Just went 0-4 on tough Western Conference road trip (Sacramento, Utah, Lakers, Portland). Have tough road back-to-back this week against Orlando and Miami.

29. Washington Wizards (26) 1-4: Rank 29th in point differential, 22nd in points per game, 30th in rebounds per game, 22nd in assists per game, and 27th in points allowed. John Wall has been fun to watch (19.4 PPG, 9.6 APG), but he's also averaging almost six turnovers per game.

Tier 8

30. Minnesota Timberwolves (24) 1-6: My goodness this team is playing horrendously. Minnesota, at -17.1 point differential, is 5.5 points worse than Washington for dead last in the league. Granted, their last five games, all losses, have been against stiff competition, but they're not even competitive: Memphis 109-89, Miami 129-97, Orlando 128-86, Atlanta 113-103, and Houston 120-94. In this five game stretch they're giving up 119.8 points a game and scoring 93.8 for a -26 point differential. That has to be historical, right? Up next? @Lakers Tuesday.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NBA Power Rankings - Week 2

This week's Power Rankings:

Team, last week's ranking, record (as of Monday 11/1): 

Tier 1
1. Los Angeles Lakers (1) 3-0: Starting strong. Bench allowing starters to rest. Bryant has played 37, 34, and 27 minutes in first three games as he rests knee. How good could they be with a healthy Bynum?
2. Boston Celtics (2) 2-1: First two games (home win vs. Miami, road loss vs. Cleveland) a bit of a headscratcher, though on a back-to-back. Rondo averaging 16.7 assists through three games.

Tier 2
3. Miami Heat (3) 3-1: Looked terrible for most of the game vs. Celtics. Showed a glimpse of what they are capable of against Magic. It's going to take some time for them to figure each other out.
4. Portland Trailblazers (9) 3-0: Deserve big jump after two decent road wins against Clippers and Knicks. Have a serious attitude.
5. Orlando Magic (4) 1-1: What exactly was that against Miami? Defensively, need to help Howard stay out of foul trouble. Offensively, need to find him more shots.
6. Atlanta Hawks (11) 3-0: Good start out of the gate. High scoring. Whenever possible, should try to get bench more involved.

Tier 3
7. Dallas Mavericks (5) 2-1: Holding teams scoring down a good sign. Home loss to Memphis without Randolph not so much.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (6) 2-1: Narrow(ish) wins vs. Chicago and Detroit before getting blown out at home against the Jazz. Late 4th quarter surge vs. Chicago showed what they are capable of.
9. New Orleans Hornets (18) 3-0: Most impressive start to the season with wins against Milwaukee, Denver, and San Antonio on the road.
10. Denver Nuggets (13) 2-1: They'll be good as long as Carmelo is there and not creating distractions.
11. San Antonio Spurs (8) 1-1: Likely to move a few spots up and down in these rankings throughout the season.

Tier 4
12. Utah Jazz (7) 1-2: Looked flat against Denver and Phoenix, but blew out Oklahoma City on the road.
13. Chicago Bulls (12) 1-1: Need to find more offense while Boozer is out.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (16) 2-1: Playing well enough without Randolph. Good road win against Dallas.

Tier 5
15. Indiana Pacers (21) 2-1: Gave up a whopping 122 points in San Antonio, but bounced back with wins against Charlotte and Philadelphia. Hibbert watch: 18 & 10 through three games.
16. Houston Rockets (10) 0-3: Disappointing start. Nearly took out Lakers on the road, but followed up with losses to Golden State and Denver. Giving up 117 points per game. Danger zone.
17. Phoenix Suns (15) 1-2: Looked solid in Utah, but game against Lakers showed their weaknesses
18. Milwaukee Bucks (14) 1-2: Not as high on this team as most others, but East is only five deep.

Tier 6
19. New York Knicks (17) 1-2: Not sure what to make yet. Landry Fields a surprise at the outset.
20. New Jersey Nets (26) 2-1: Showing much more energy than last year. Lopez will put up big numbers.
21. Sacramento Kings (24) 2-1: Have gone 2-1 on the road against three weaker opponents.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers (27) 1-2: Happy to see them get up for game against Boston. Losses to Toronto (blowout) and Sacramento, not encouraging.
23. Golden State Warriors (25) 2-1: As usual they score a ton, but give up more. Stephen Curry day-to-day (ankle)

Tier 7
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (28) 1-2: They're trying to figure out who they want to play. Not a great sign.
25. Los Angeles Clippers (19) 0-3: Maybe they will be an exciting team that can't pull out wins. Problem not so much that they lost first three, but that they were blown out (-14.7 differential). At least Blake Griffin is good.
26. Washington Wizards (22) 0-2: Looked horrendous against Orlando.Tough to start on the road against Magic and Hawks though.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (20) 0-3: Seem to be uninspired by Doug Collins thus far.
28. Charlotte Bobcats (23) 0-3: Rough start. Team will divide if it continues.
29. Toronto Raptors (30) 1-1: Didn't expect a blowout win (against Cleveland) this early in the season. Reggie Evans is putting up odd stat lines gamely (averaging 1 point, 15 rebounds).
30. Detroit Pistons (29) 0-3: Tough to see what they can rely on.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NBA Power Rankings - Week 1 (start of the season)

The idea behind these power rankings is simple. Teams will be ranked, in order, by the quality of their roster (factoring injuries) and how well they are playing, at the time. Rankings will be presented in tier format, to further delineate the quality of the teams.

Here are the first power rankings of the season, ready for opening night. 

Tier 1
1. Los Angeles Lakers: Defending champs are back with an improved team. Bynum out at least a month.
2. Boston Celtics: Tough team. You know they feel disrespected. Interested to see O'Neal's.

Tier 2
3. Miami Heat: Time to finally see "The Big Three" in action. Can they meet ridiculous expectations? Early injury concerns.
4. Orlando Magic: Team very few are talking about. For good reason?
5. Dallas Mavericks: Steady, veteran group.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder: The bandwagon is overflowing. Target on their back.

Tier 3
7. Utah Jazz: Interested to see Deron Williams/Al Jefferson combo. Waiting on Okur.
8. San Antonio Spurs: See Mavericks, Dallas.
9. Portland Trail Blazers: May start slow with Oden/Pryzbilla out.
10. Houston Rockets: GM Daryl Morey feels disrespected by pundits' predictions. He should.
11. Atlanta Hawks: Orlando sweep hangover or new coach, new mentality? 

Tier 4
12. Chicago Bulls: Party will have to wait for Boozer.
13. Denver Nuggets: Tons of question marks. How will they respond?
14. Milwaukee Bucks: Jennings improved? Bogut healthy? Skiles not tuned out?
15. Phoenix Suns: What's the rotation for their small forward laden roster?

Tier 5
16. Memphis Grizzlies: How do they respond to unexpectedly good season?
17. New York Knicks: Can Amare be a #1 all around player and lead a team?
18. New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul, Chris Paul, Chris Paul.
19. Los Angeles Clippers: Talented, but they wear that jersey.

Tier 6
20. Philadelphia 76ers: Elton Brand's health and production vital. Evan Turner may be an issue.
21. Indiana Pacers: My sleeper team. Lookout for Hibbert.
22. Washington Wizards: The John Wall Era begins. Arenas still lurking.
23. Charlotte Bobcats: Need to start out decently or things will unravel. D.J. Augustin at the point.
24. Sacramento Kings: Evans-Cousins duo will be lethal.

Tier 7
25. Golden State Warriors: Curry-Lee combo interesting. Where's the defense?
26. New Jersey Nets: Brought in several moderate talents over one or two big ones. Watch Brook Lopez.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers: How do they respond post-LeBron?
28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Young team, trying to figure itself out.

Tier 8
29. Detroit Pistons: Poorly constructed.
30. Toronto Raptors: Team full of mid-tier "role" players and marginal potential.

What do you think?

Monday, October 25, 2010

NBA Power Rankings Announcement

One more thing for today. I plan on posting NBA Power Rankings each week, most likely on Monday. However, the first rankings will be posted tomorrow, the first day of the NBA season.

Due to time constraints, comments/justification for the rankings may appear on a bi-weekly basis.