Photo courtesy of Keith Allison
February 23, 2014
1. The Golden State Warriors continue to play well, and make noise in the playoffs.
I am really impressed with the job Mark Jackson has done with this team. They are currently 32-23, and 6th in the Western Conference standings. Despite giving up 101.4 ppg, they are top 10 in the league in points pg, rebounds pg, and assists pg. Lead by Stephen Curry (21 ppg, 6.6 apg) and St. Louis native David Lee (19 ppg, 11 rpg), the Warriors are a solid, scrappy bunch. They are a matchup nightmare, and will scare a lot of teams come playoff time. Golden State is only 6 games behind the Clippers, who are in a current funk. I fully expect the Warriors to gain ground on “Lob City” and contend for the Pacific Division crown.
On Friday, Golden State picked up an impressive 107-101 OT victory over the Spurs. The Warriors surged ahead of San Antonio, outscoring them 40-22 in the 4 quarter and overtime. This was a team effort for Golden State, they got 46 points from their reserves lead by PG Jarrett Jack who scored 30 points. They also recieved a monster effort from their All Star David Lee who racked up 25 points and 22 rebounds.
One concern I do have with the Warriors is Andrew Bogut’s health. Once the postseason begins it will be imperative that Golden State has an established post presence. Injuries have derailed Bogut’s career some, but when healthy he can provide double digit rebounds, and a couple blocks per game.
2. Brad Beal will win Rookie of the Year.
Rookie Brad Beal, also a St. Louis native, had a rough start to his NBA career. He struggled with his shot, and hadn’t really found his niche with the Wizards. Since the new year however, the rookie has settled in and showed signs of promise. Last month he scored 22 points and his 1st game winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In his last 4 games he has averaged 20 ppg and 5 rpg, including an outstanding 17 & 12 performance in a win over the Denver Nuggets. The Wizards dealt away G Jordan Crawford to the Celtics, which will mean more scoring opportunities for Beal. He seems to be getting better as the season progresses, and I expect him to beat out Damian Lillard to become 2012-2013′s Rookie of the Year.
3. The Los Angeles Lakers will make the playoffs.
The Lakers are currently 27-29 with 26 games remaining on the schedule. In order to make the playoffs, I would estimate they need to go at least 20-6 the rest of the way. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for LA this year, as they have been plagued with chemistry issues, coaching changes, and injuries. The Lakers have been slow to adjust to Mike D’Antoni’s system after Mike Brown was fired 5 games into the season. Jordan Hill is out for the year, and Pau Gasol is out for at least 4 more weeks. Add in Dwight Howard’s slow recovery from back surgery, while dealing with a bum shoulder has left LA’s front court very thin. At the end of the day, despite all of the problems this team has faced, they are simply too talented to miss the postseason. Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash’s continuity will continue to grow as they adjust and adapt to one another.
The Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets currently are sitting 7th and 8th in the Western Conference standings respectively. I wouldn’t put a whole lot of faith in either team down the stretch. Expect LA to leapfrog one of these teams and get to the postseason. Once the Lakers do make the playoffs, I don’t expect a deep run in the postseason. Lack of depth and athleticism will make it very difficult to keep up with the elite teams in the West. While any season without a championship is considered a failure in Lakerland, I think getting to the 2 round is a realistic goal for this team.
4. The Los Angeles Clippers will struggle in the 2nd half, and lose in the 1st round.
Speaking of LA… the city’s other team, the Clippers got off to a hot start to begin the year. They were running teams out of the gym on a nightly basis. In the month of December, the Clippers went undefeated, reeling off 16 straight victories. The team has cooled off a bit since then, and have shown signs of venerability. Don’t get me wrong, the Clippers have a really good team. Their athleticism is scary, and top to bottom they are one of the most talented teams in the league. However, I have 2 big concerns with the Clippers:
1. Blake Griffin: Griffin along with PG Chris Paul are the cornerstones of the LA Clippers franchise. My problem with Griffin is he looks exactly like he did last year. The great players like Kobe, LeBron, and Durant add something to their game each year to evolve their skill set. Griffin still has an inconsistent jumpshot, lacks a solid post game, and his one on one post defense is suspect. The Clippers will run into the same problems they had last postseason due to Griffin’s deficiencies on offense and defense.
2. Vinny Del Negro: At times this season, the Clippers look like they are playing a pick up game. The lack of creativity in play calling out of timeouts, out of bounds plays, and last second plays is baffling. Once the postseason begins, the Clippers will get out coached by the Scott Brooks’, Mark Jackson’s, and Gregg Popovich’s of the Western Conference. If the playoffs started today, the Clippers would face the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers have struggled against the Warriors all season and are 0-4 against them. The Warriors cause the Clippers a lot of problems because they can match their athleticism and are a better rebounding team. Factor in Mark Jackson’s superior coaching ability, and you have a recipe for a 1st round upset.
5. LeBron will finish this season like the last (NBA MVP, Championship, and Finals MVP).
Just when you think LeBron is at his best, he just keeps getting better. He has followed up last year’s spectacular season, with yet another one. James is averaging 27, 7, and 8 (career highs in assists and rebounds pg). During the month of February, LBJ became the 1st player in NBA history to record 30+ points while shooting at least 60% from the field in 6 straight games. While I think Spurs PG Tony Parker should get a serious consideration for MVP, I think LeBron is the favorite to win the award. If LBJ does indeed win it for the 4th time in 5 years I think it becomes very possible he ties/surpasses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record 6 Maurice Podoloff Trophies.
LeBron’s excellence on the court has the Miami Heat on track for a repeat of last year’s title run. Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh look as good as ever, and Ray Allen is starting adapt to the Heat’s system. Miami is currently on a 10 game winning streak, and sit atop the Eastern Conference standings at 39-14. Their road to capturing another championship will be more difficult than last year, especially once the postseason begins. However, I don’t think any team has a realistic chance of beating the Heat 4 times in a series.
If you’re not a LeBron fan, you have to respect him, for we are witnessing greatness…