Tuesday, 23 January 2007

NBA Rundown

With the NFL playoffs, college football bowls, and everything else, I haven't written about the NBA very much this year. Which is a shame. So to rectify that, let's take a brief look at how each division race is going so far this year:

Atlantic Division
For a short while when the Nets were 20-20 the division leader was at least .500, which was nice for a change. They lost now to drop to 20-21, but they hold the slim division lead. I thought the Celtics would be able to challenge for the division crown, but the injury of Paul Pierce ended that. They've gone 2-14 with him out the lineup, and believe it or not, that's not good enough to win the Atlantic. Elsewhere, Philly is awful and the Knicks are the Knicks, so it's looks like this race is between the Nets and Raptors... don't sound so excited.

Central Division
Hey, a division in the East with more than 2 teams over .500! Washington is obviously playing well, but I think there's an extremely good chance that the 3 best teams in the East reside in the Central division. The Pistons are up top and they are the best offensive team in the division, the Cavs are in 2nd, and they have this guy named LeBron James on their team, which helps (though the key is the supporting cast). The Bulls are in 3rd, but they have the best defense in the division. Put it all together, any of them can win the division and I would bet that the Eastern Conference winner will be among these three teams. Unless DWade pulls off a miracle like last year, I don't see what other team will beat them in the playoffs.

Southeast Division
The Wizards are playing well, but they have the same problems they've had in the past. They're not getting any inside scoring and they can't play any defense whatsoever. That's generally a bad combination in the playoffs. The other competitors are Miami and Orlando... Orlando started strong but has cooled off, and Miami is being carried by Dwyane Wade. Seriously, without Shaq and Wade this would be the WORST team in the NBA... so it's vital that Shaq can come back and give them something. Anything.

Northwest Division
Utah has the 5 game division lead over Denver right now, but with AI and Carmelo playing together, I think the Nuggets could have a few tricks up their sleeve, especially if Camby can stay healthy for once. After 2 games together things seem to be going just fine with those two, though the defense could stand to be a little better.The TWolves are in 3rd place and .500 right now, but they just fired their coach. I thought that was a pretty awful move, but I'll just quote John Hollinger, because he explained my thoughts pretty clearly today:

Can anyone remember the last time a coach took a team that was expected to be lottery-bound, had them at .500 and in line for a playoff spot at the halfway point of the season in a very tough conference, and got fired anyway?

...From the lofty contract extensions they've handed out to even their most mediocre players, to the way they've axed both Flip Saunders (in February 2005) and now Casey rather than admitting the serial imperfections of the roster, to their current refusal to trade Garnett before his value declines, Minnesota's front office has existed in an alternate state of reality for some time now.

Pacific Division
This is the Suns division and no one has any real chance of winning it besides them. The Suns are 33-8, scoring 112 PPG, playing really solid defense, and [ohbytheway] have won 14 straight games. I try not to get into too much hyperbole, but they have a chance to be one of the best teams ever. Their talent is that good, their coaching is that good, and they play that well together. They started the year 1-5 and have gone 32-3 since. They have 30 of their last 32 games. They own this division and there's no need to discuss anyone else.

Southwest Division
Once again the best division in the NBA and it features [in my opinion] 3 of the 5 best teams in the Conference. Dallas might even be better than Phoenix, the Spurs are still an excellent team, and Houston with a healthy McGrady and Yao can beat anyone in the NBA in a short series. All 3 teams are real good, and along with the Suns, Lakers, and Jazz are the reason that I am really, really looking forward to this year's playoffs.

So who's the best team in the NBA? Mavs or Suns?