DRIVE & DISH:
Alright it’s time for Roundup #2 of my roster, and while I was pretty bullish on where a few of my teams sat last time – one of them in particular has come crashing back to earth with a thud. Let’s go with a driving theme and dish out who’s turning heads, who’s stuck in limbo and who’s in need of a full restoration.
THE ROLLS ROYCES – The head turner
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – Current Record (22-4) / Since Last Time (13-2)
Up until the dud in Memphis, Golden State are in the process of becoming who we all feared. We’ve had our jokes at their expense guys…they’re for real now. With KD operating more efficiently than at any point in his career and the Splash Bros going bonkers (looking at you Klay…wow…), it’s no surprise that the Warriors now have the NBA’s best record. While they were 24-1 at this point last season, the Dubs lead the NBA in points differential (+12) and their offence is among the best in NBA History (118 per game). That’s a recipe for success.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – Current Record (18-6) / Since Last Time (9-4)
Since my last report, the Cavs have been pretty hit and miss – but at 18 wins and 6 losses, they look like the undisputed Eastern Conference champs to be. Really, it’s not even that close. The Cavs took care of their ECF rivals Toronto in pretty comfortable fashion, and despite a 3 game losing streak to minnows Milwaukee and Chicago (and fellow contender the Clips) – Cleveland remains outright first in the conference. LeBron looks ageless, and despite the fact he is averaging his lowest points per game since his rookie year – he’s distributing more than ever and still dominating games like always. He has been making a steady climb up the All-Time rankings, and at just 31 (almost 32) years old…he has plenty of time to add to them.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS – Current Record (20-5) / Since Last Time (11-2)
The Spurs are the quiet achiever of this bunch, reeling off wins with little fanfare or commotion. At 20-5 with one of the stingiest defences in the NBA (lead by the ptaerodactyl that is Kawhi Leonard, or are they?), the Spurs seem locked in to a Western Conference Finals match up with the Dubs that would be some series. Of slight concern is the play of Aldridge (16.7ppg, 6.7rpg and 47%fg), who looks a far cry from the guy who dominated so much at Portland and even in the playoffs last season. If they are to truly test these Warriors, LMA needs to go HAM.
THE MAZDA’S – The vanilla family wagons
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS – Current Record (19-7) / Since Last Time (9-5)
The middle tier of my team rankings include one of the more polarising teams in the league. Yep, I was on board the Clips wagon just a few short weeks ago – but as is the Clipper way – they came back to reality pretty quick. Just 5-5 over their past 10 games, the Clips lost to the Pistons, Pacers twice, Brooklyn and the Dubs over that stretch. Those are some pretty gross losses. While 19-7 is great and nothing to sneeze at, there’s a feeling of “same old same old” with these Clippers and I can’t help but feel their ability to win the West is shot. They’re too inconsistent to beat the Dubs or Spurs in a 7 game series.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS – Current Record (11-12) / Since Last Time (6-6)
The Bucks looked to have turned the corner. Their resounding thumping of the defending champs was a shock, and they reeled off 4 straight wins with a looooooooong lineup including Henson, Parker and the Alphabet all playing at possibly career peak. However, as is the Bucks way, they’ve fallen back to the .500 pack with 3 straight losses to fellow Eastern Conference teams (Hawks, Wizards and Raptors). The Bucks problem is that they have precious little offensive firepower outside of their young stars, with their next highest scorer being the seldom used Moose Monroe at 9.3 per game. That’s a huge problem, and they need to find offence from somebody to stick with teams and push for a playoff spot. Time to unleash SuperCoolBeas!
UTAH JAZZ – Current Record (16-10) / Since Last Time (9-4)
The Jazz have weathered the injury storm – having been without key players for large chunks of the season to date. George Hill, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors have all missed significant amounts of time, and despite this, Utah is sitting pretty at 16-10 and winners of 8 of their past 10 games. They deliberately play the slowest pace in the league and try to choke teams out of games – which helps when you have a guy who is close to eleventyfootmassive just hanging at the rim for maximum deterrence. A surprise over the past couple weeks has been the play of Joe Ingles. Having largely been a bit part player over his career to date, Jingles is shooting a lights out 48% from downtown (how’s this for a XMas shot chart) – which currently leads the entire NBA. He has stepped up big time in the absence of Hood and Hill. If Utah can get all their Mormons back in the Church, they’ll be looking to solidify a top 4 spot in the playoffs this season.
THE DATSUNS 120Y’S – Restore or cube it
BOSTON CELTICS – Current Record (13-12) / Since Last Time (7-7)
Alright, so I maaaaay be being a little harsh on Boston here again. They’ve had Horford, Crowder and Thomas all miss significant time – but when compared to how Utah have managed without their key players – the Celts are far below expectations right now. Adding a big like Al Horford was supposed to offer a true offensive threat at the 5 – while keeping the defence at an elite level. Unfortunately, something just isn’t clicking with this group right now. Maybe it’s a tough schedule, with recent losses to OKC, Toronto, Houston and the Spurs all fairly understandable…but then they drop games to the Pistons…and for a team that I had pegged as the true challenger to Cleveland this season, you can’t help but be disappointed at this point through the season. I hope Danny Ainge has something in his December 15 Christmas stocking, as Boston look like they could use a shake up.
MIAMI HEAT – Current Record (9-17) / Since Last Time (6-9)
While some may say that the tank engine sirens began screaming when DWade took his talents to the Windy City, at 9-17, it’s Miami’s turn to shut off the engine and just Thelma and Louise this bitch. The Heat have had starting SF Justise Winslow miss the past 16 games due to a sprained wrist (although he just returned vs Pacers), starting SG Dion Waiters go missing once he started to find a groove, and journeymen James Johnson and Luke Babbitt also miss time. The Heat played with 8 available players against Cleveland the other night in a blowout loss. One bright spot has been the play of Goran Dragic, who has been doing a stellar job of bumping up that trade value. If you lived through the horror show that was the 2007 Miami Heat (hey Blake Ahearn and Kasib Powell!), you know what’s coming next. All aboard the tank express.
DALLAS MAVERICKS – Current Record (6-19) / Since Last Time (4-11)
Dallas are 4-6 over their past 10, which is actually surprisingly decent considering they are 6-19 on the season. How Rick Carlisle has remained sane coaching a team featuring Dorian Finney-Smith and Salah Mejri in its starting lineup is beyond me. The bench depth is painfully thin, and the only way Dallas can stay in games is if Harrison Barnes is going beast mode, or Wes Matthews is on fire. Luckily, Wes Matthews has recently been very much on fire. Over his past 5 games – Wes is averaging 20 points on 44% shooting, with 4.2 made threes per game. EN. FUEGO. While he is still only at 39% fg for the season given his cold start – Wes looks to be building back towards his best basketball, which can only be a positive for Mavs fans given the heavy investment made on him. The Mavs badly need an injection of young talent, which luckily for them, looks to be on the way in the 2017 NBA Draft.
As a side note, Here’s hoping we see Dirk Diggler back on the court soon – would hate to see him waste away with an achilles injury and limp to the finish line like a certain former Laker…