Part 2 of Bmick’s NBA Power Rankings. For Part 1 click here.
Now we can actually talk about teams heading in the right direction. There are still some pretenders among these contenders, who are “faking it til they make it.” Most teams in this next tier could actually make some noise with the right moves.
Some are only an impact player away from being legit contenders, while others are straight “busters” getting by with smoke and mirrors. As you’ll come to find out though, right now there are really only 3 teams whose current rosters warrant serious consideration for NBA Finals. The rest of the teams need a lot of help, or a lot of luck.
The Esteem Group- Confident, achieving, respected by other teams in the league.
Celtics, Raptors, Hawks, Heat, Bulls, Grizzlies, Clippers, Thunder, Pacers, Cavaliers
The Boston Celtics are two games over .500 and Danny Ainge has tons of bargaining chips in the form of draft picks. Yet…..nothing moves for the Celtics. They have tons of decent players, a really good player in Isiah Thomas, and no superstars. If you ask most Celtics fans, they’ll probably just be happy with a first round knockout, as long as they don’t get embarrassed. I feel like C’s fans are in the same boat as those perverts who marked their calendars for when the Olson twins were turning 18. They be like “any day now……..we’ll make our move…..”
Toronto is a good squad. They almost beat the Warriors twice during their winning streak. They remind me a little of those Rick Adelman coached Rockets teams. Competitive lineups that are good enough to qualify for the playoffs, but still without the pieces to make a deep postseason push.
The Pacers may secretly be the second best team in the East. Frank Vogel is one of the best 5 coaches in the league. Without Vogel, this team would be in the next bottom tier. They compete, and if they can finally get some players there (through draft or free agency), they can be the Butler Bulldogs of the NBA.
The Atlanta Hawks remind me of some of the really nice girls that I dated in college, but ultimately left because it was unfair to stay with them. They are a good team with good players, and they are fundamentally sound. But then you look across the league and see there are teams playing a more exciting brand of ball.
Deep down you know that you would much rather be watching the Warriors or Spurs play than a hum-drum Atlanta vs. Charlotte game. But its always nice to start a Wednesday evening out with 6:00 Hawks game, then switch to something that you know you won’t have you looking down at your phone every minute and thirty seconds.
The Heat may very well give the Cavaliers their best run in the East. The Heat are a legit backup point guard away from scaring some people. Hassan Whiteside is an All-Star in my book, and Dwyane Wade is putting the team on his back when he needs to. We’ll see how they hold up as the season progresses, they are kind of an old team. They will need a lot of luck to be healthy during the stretch run.
The Bulls have problems, and I think the best solution is to shake up the locker room. I think it is time for Derrick Rose to get a fresh start. Where do chronically injured players go to get fresh starts? Ummmm Phoenix????? Yup. I think Mr. Rose needs to let go all of the pressures, and distractions that playing at home has inflicted upon him. Part of me wonders if his injuries aren’t psychosomatic related.
Based on salaries of both teams, I found a package that could possibly work for both teams, P.J. Tucker, Eric Bledsoe, and Markieff Morris, for Mike Dunleavy, Aaron Brooks, and Derrick Rose. Now I’m not sure if I would take this if I’m Phoenix, but if I’m Chicago and I find a way to hustle some team out of players or draft picks (ahem Danny Ainge), then I do so. Bulls need something to jumpstart this team back to its role as a menacing challenger; otherwise this season (and possibly their championship window) is over.
Speaking of championship windows slamming shut, its over for Memphis. They sit at 16-14 in the West, but no one is afraid to face Memphis anymore. They used to be the team that if they didn’t beat you, then they would just beat you up. Now they aren’t doing much of either–well maybe Matt Barnes, but Derek Fisher isn’t the first person I would look to help me in a bar brawl.
You talk about a team born in the wrong era, too bad they didn’t have this roster in the mid 90’s. If there were a time period made for them, that was it. Can you imagine Jeff Van Gundy desperately hanging onto Zach Randolph’s leg in the middle of a melee? Pure insanity.
Speaking of insanity…….let’s talk about this Clippers team. Actually let’s not. All I need to say is I can’t take your team seriously if Austin Rivers is your backup point guard.
Man. It is disappointing to say this, but Cleveland and Oklahoma City have second tier teams. Their matchup against each other last week had the makings of a “Good Ass Game.” For the most part it was entertaining, but only when the starters were playing. Their benches are suspect at best. Cleveland has some depth issues because of injuries, but even with Irving and SHumpert back at full strength, they are still giving heavy minutes to J. R. “You even listening to me?” Smith. Richard Jefferson is a broke man’s Vince Carter, and “Don’t shoot that shot no” Mo Williams can’t be logging heavy minutes for your squad if you trying to get a chip.
Something is slightly off in Oklahoma City, and part of the problem rhymes with the word “peon” as in a poor man’s Nick Young. You remember how multiple All Star selection, Chris Bosh took a lesser role (and less money) with the Miami Heat, but still consistently put up numbers when they needed him to? Well that is the opposite of what James Harden did.
The Thunder haven’t been able to find a consistent third scorer since he left. Dion is not that dude. I think they believed Serge would be that guy, but he is pretty ineffective if a shot isn’t created for him. I don’t know if David Lee would be the answer, but the dude can get buckets. Who is going to score other than KD and Russ?
The Self-Actualization Tier: Morality, Creativity, Spontaneity, Problem solving, Lack of prejudice, Acceptance of facts
It is no coincidence that the two organizations known for being the most creative, and accepting of all nationalitites, cultures, and genders, are the two teams in the top tier.
In life, people only reach this tier after navigating the bottom tiers of everyday existence. When a person is in survival mode, it is difficult for them to deal with the more existential problems that plague man. When a person is worried about their safety, where they will sleep, or where their next meal is going to appear, they cannot waste their energy on the abstract.
It is only when a person feels safe, and then comfortable, and socially and mentally secure, that this other aspect of life appears in abundance. What you are seeing with the Spurs and the Warriors is not an accident. These two organizations are in the midst of revolutionizing the game of basketball.
The reasons that these two teams play such spirited basketball are because they are healthy organizations from top to bottom. They are the epitome of functionality. Everyone getting a paycheck feels invested, and everyone knows their roles. This is teamwork at its highest level. It is amazing how well you can perform your job when you feel secure.
Watching the Warriors is fun, because winnign at this level is so new, and pure. They are young and having fun; experiencing it all as it occurs. They are owning the moment (much like those early 2000 A’s teams except they actually win).
The Spurs are a different kind of beast. They are a veteran squad that expects to win because everyone does their jobs. They methodically take away a team’s strength and beat you with fundamentals (with a little creativity and razzle-dazzle sprinkled in). They are so god at what they do that they make the ordinary plays look extraordinary.
The Spurs of course are the model franchise for all of sports, and it was no surprise that a dude like David West, and a player like Lamarcus Aldridge would want to eschew larger markets (and more money) to play in San Antonio. It almost seems unfair how deep the Spurs are right now. They never let up, not even during garbage time.
Kawhi Leonard is playing out of his mind. He held Paul George to 1/14 shooting the other night while scoring 24 points on 10/19 shooting. Every game I watch of his justifies why he is my favorite player in the NBA. The dude is unreal.
Here is something that will scare the fans of other teams: the Spurs haven’t even come close to reaching their peak.Danny Green hasn’t really shot like we’re used to seeing him play, and the Spurs don’t miss a beat.
Lamarcus is playing excellent defense, but he still isn’t quite in sync with the offense. He isn’t getting the ball in the places he likes to shoot, and he seems to be out of rhythm half the time he shoots it–usually because he is getting the ball about half a second later than he is used to.
For all the health concerns dogging other teams in the league, the Warriors have dealt with their own. Harrison Barnes will not be available for the Christmas game against Cleveland. That really bums me out. Barnes will play at a moderate tempo the whole game, and then during a key stretch can take over on both ends of the floor. I love watching him play.
The Warriors have not even begun to play their best ball yet either. They have been turnover prone, and sloppy. This Friday will be the first real test for the Cavaliers. You’ll see just how far apart the teams are on Christmas Day. The Cavs bench will let them down again, and they will show replays of the Lebron looking down at his sneakers during the final minutes of the game.
I’m not a particularly religious man, but I’m praying for a Western Conference Finals between the Warriors and Spurs. #highlevelbasketball