Not that power rankings are goofy or meaningless or anything like that, but the rest of the internet has that base covered. For me, talking about where everyone is at the precise moment might be cool, but I’m more about the big picture. Where these teams are headed, how long they’ll be playing and that kind of stuff. Just more interesting to me that way.
Since we’re almost at the halfway point of the season, this felt like a good time to write something in this vein.
FUCK THE POWER RANKINGS, HERE’S THE CURRENT STATE OF EVERY NBA FRANCHISE, IN A SENTENCE OR TWO
The Atlanta Hawks (21-15) are ahead of schedule, even if they are slumping a bit now. The off-season is gonna be interesting for them though, in a make-or-break sort of way. In the meanwhile, they are winning as much as they did when Joe Johnson was still here, only now they have a ton of cap space and a chance to really improve themselves this summer, thanks to Danny Ferry’s shrewd moves.
The Boston Celtics (19-17) are starting to get it together. Worrying about their slow starts is pointless. This team is like an old car, and has been for years. Turn it on, wait awhile. She’ll warm up. Five wins in a row and a box of Honey Nut Cheerios and everything is fine.
The Brooklyn Nets (22-15) might have found themselves a coach. Running an NBA team is more about managing personalities than anything else, and maybe P.J. Carliesimo has learned something about that in the last 15 years. Hey, and 8-1 start is pretty damn good. Whatever Avery Johnson was doing, it didn’t work. Letting these guys play a bit freer might be the way to go.
The Charlotte Bobcats (9-27) are like a mouthful of sores. And you know what? A mouthful of sores ain’t no fun.
What was crazier, the fact that this group won 7 of their first 12 games or that they lost 22 of the next 24? I’d say the former. What a brutal bunch of players they’ve got there. Of course, the only way to get better is keep losing, and they’ve got that shit covered.
The Chicago Bulls (20-15) are probably the second best team in the eastern Conference. Rather, it looks like they will be by April. While I’m not the biggest fan of rushing Derrick Rose back from such a major injury, it’s hard to argue with the logic. Nobody else in the East is really that good, and Miami looks about as vulnerable as they can get.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (9-29) can’t catch a break. Ok, bad choice of words. Maybe it’s just as well that they are on pace to win 20 games, since it means they’ll get a third high lottery pick to team with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Still, losing this much can never be considered that good a thing, especially when Anderson Varejao’s sky-high trade value took a dive when he got hurt.
The Dallas Mavericks (15-23) are a crappy team, and really, when’s the last time that happened? Twelve straight winning seasons, but it looks like they won’t see 13. The future is an open question here, with Dirk Nowitzki pushing 35 and playing even older than that. Cuban swears he won’t trade him, and I believe him. Loyal to a fault, perhaps?
The Denver Nuggets (22-16) are better than you think they are. They are sitting 6th in the West despite having played 23 of their first 38 on the road. Wait ’til the schedule balances out. Wouldn’t surprised to see them push past Golden St. and maybe even Memphis. This team’s gonna win 50 games, easy.
The Detroit Pistons (14-23) are just good enough to be bad and not bad enough to be shitty. Bad place to be in this league. Blame Joe Dumars for hiring Lawrence Frank, a damn fine coach. At this rate, they’ll win 35 games and get another pick in the #8-10 range. Hard to rebuild like that, even if Monroe, Knight and Drummond is a nice young core.
The Golden State Warriors (23-12) are your prototypical “fun to watch but won’t win in the playoffs” bunch. Still, if there is any fan base in the entire league that deserves a winner, it’s this one. The Warriors are exciting. The Warriors could shoot holes in the moon. The Warriors are also terribly light in the ass, and that won’t fly in April.
The Houston Rockets (21-17) are sitting awfully pretty. Daryl Morey says you can never pay too much for a superstar, and fuck was he right on that one, at least in the case of James Harden. The Rockets are young, fun to watch, winning more than they should be and best of all, they’ve got money to spend in the off-season. As good as it feels to be a Rocket fan right now, it’s gonna get better.
The Indiana Pacers (23-15) are gonna be just fine. After starting 10-11 and watching Roy Hibbert play like a guy who got a big ass contract he knew he didn’t deserve, the Pacers have won 13 out of 17 and Paul George is starting to look more like a future star every day. If and when they get Danny Granger back, they’ll be in the mix come playoff time.
The Los Angeles Clippers (28-9) are 28-9.
Yeah, that’s never not gonna sound weird.
Get used to it, though. This is the deepest team and the best bench in the league, and as long as they get Chris Pual to re-sign, they’ll be an elite team for years to come. And yes, it will still be weird five years from now.
The Los Angeles Lakers (15-21) are up shit’s creek without a paddle. Simply put, they have to win 2/3 of their remaining games just to get to 45 wins and a shot at making the playoffs. Still trying to wrap my head around that shit.
As crazy as it’s been, there’s still time to get this thing turned around, but it’s all about everyone getting on the same page, and that just doesn’t seem likely at this juncture.
So, so sad.
The Memphis Grizzlies (24-11) are standing on the verge of getting it on. They looked like an elite team out of the box but have struggled a bit since. This team is built for the postseason, but is woefully lacking in perimeter shooting. With trade rumors flying, it’s looking like who they trade (and what they get) could determine their post-season fate. Stay tuned.
The Miami Heat (24-11) have the defending champion blues. Lucky for them the East is sorely lacking in dangerous teams. All Miami has to do is survive the weak opposition in their conference and hope whoever survives the insane West bracket is too exhausted to beat them four times.
The Milwaukee Bucks (19-17) are a Talking Heads song. Take your pick, actually.It’s either “Road to Nowhere” or “Once in a Lifetime” (same as it ever was!). Scott Skiles is gone, Brandon Jennings is probably right behind him and this team is destined to be average forever and ever. The Bucks are the poster child for mediocrity, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
The Minnesota Timberwolves (16-18) have suffered nine separate misfortunes. You know, like that old “Simpsons” Softball episode? There is enough talent on this roster to win even when everyone and their mother keeps getting hurt, but the guys they are counting on the most are either out for the year or not at full strength.
The New Orleans Hornets (11-26) are way better than their record. They’ve actually got something with this bunch, but injuries have stunted them this year. Anthony Davis has missed half the season and Erick Gordon has missed almost all of it. Now that everyone is back, they should put together a strong second half of the season, and they could be a playoff team next year.
The New York Knicks (24-13) are on their way back to earth. Their 18-5 start was a surprise. The fact that they are 6-8 since is less so when you consider almost half their roster is either very old or very brittle. Where they finish the year will be all about how healthy they can stay, and seeing as how half their rotation is over 38, it ain’t looking good.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (29-8) haven’t skipped a beat. Hard to do better than best record in the league. Of course, the final verdict on the James Harden trade won’t be rendered until the postseason, when we see how Westbrook and Durant respond to the absence of Harden’s playmaking abilities. Anyway, so far, so good.
The Orlando Magic (13-24) are nothing if not scrappy. Shit, they were 12-13 as of four weeks ago. They’ll be in alot of games because rookie coach Jacque Vaughan has them fighting, but they’ll lose alot of close ones without a crunchtime scorer. Still, it could be alot worse.
The Philadelphia 76ers (16-22) are waiting in vain. Gotta sting, losing 16 of their last 22 while waiting for Andrew Bynum to save the day. They appear to be built to contend, if only their new star player could get on the court. The hope is he’ll be right by the All-star break. It’s finger-crossing time, in other words.
Oh, and Spencer Hawes cut his mullet. It’s gone, and way too soon.
The Phoenix Suns (13-26) resemble a looted store. Steve Nash was the last one out the door, and with him went what was left of the glory years. Now, they’ve got a roster full of spare parts and not much hope. Blame owner Robert Sarver for penny pinching his way into irrelevance.
There’s always the lottery, but otherwise this team is pretty much screwed.
The Portland Trailblazers (20-17) are pretending last year never happened. That was a quick rebuild, huh? Drafting Damien Lillard was a genius decision, and this team could get real good real fast if they can get some actual live bodies on their bench. The starting line-up is pretty great. The bench features nobody averaging even 5 points a game. All things considered, they’ve gotta feel good about where they’re at.
The Sacramento Kings (13-24) are this close to being Seattle’s problem. Still, the loyal Sacramento fans deserve a better fate than this.
Then again, so did the Sonic fans. The consolation, if there is one, is that the team they are losing can just barely be considered an NBA franchise.
The San Antonio Spurs (29-11) aren’t going away. Ever. Sure feels that way, no? They finished just two wins shy of the NBA Finals last year, and they’re still as good as ever. At this point, I fully expect Tim Duncan to play til he’s 50. No, I’m not kidding.
Still think the big three are too old to beat the elite teams in a seven game series, but hey, who knows?
The Toronto Raptors (14-23) aren’t so shitty after all. They’ve got 10 wins in the last 14 games after being left for dead. They’ve actually got some depth on this roster, which means they are one good or bad trade away from either being really good or really bad.
The Utah Jazz (20-19) are where you don’t want to be. Average is the kiss of death ’round these parts. That said, don’t be surprised to see this roster get blown up at the deadline, considering their top three scorers are all free-agents after this year. Whatever happens, don’t be shocked them to be average again next year. And the next, and the next…
The Washington Wizards could have been a contender. Say what you will about the contracts they took on last summer, but this team should have been good enough to hover around .500, if only they didn’t get put to sleep by the injury bug. The silver lining here is that they’ll end up being bad enough to get another high lottery pick to team with John Wall, Bradley beal and the vets. I’m telling you, this team has a future.
It just ain’t now.