As the first month of 2011 comes to a close, I wouldn’t even know it if there wasn’t the constant reminder of the date and time on the bottom right hand corner of my laptop and the fact that the Super Bowl is just eight days away (I’ll get to that in a week). Every night when I sit down to watch an NBA game that starts at 7 pm, it feels like I’m watching a playoff game. This is partly because the sun is still up and it is 70 degrees out, and I will never ever complain about this. I think it’s also because I am the definition of a student of the game when it comes to the NBA. I would say I follow college football, college basketball and NFL more than the average person. When it comes to the NBA, I would put myself in the 98th percentile. To illustrate this, let me tell you that I have watched a majority of at least fifteen Minnesota Timberwolves games because of the purchase of the NBA League Pass. Why? Because watching Kevin Love is an absolute treat (I am convinced he would have been a rival to Bob Pettit if he had played in the late 1950’s) and because Michael Beasley is playing like we expected him to when he was a freshman at Kansas State. You give me any two NBA teams, I can name you a good reason to watch the game and I’ll happily hand over two and a half hours of my day. For me, the NBA League Pass is a wet dream. You’re telling me that I can watch any and every NBA game?!?! Sign me up! In fact, for three years running I have been signed up, and loved every minute of it. For most people, when College Football ends and the Super Bowl champion is decided, it’s a time of mourning. For this guy, it just allows me to dive further into the NBA, and continue to learn about the sport I enjoy the most. So, after watching countless hours of NBA action over the first half of the season, what exactly do I know? Well, I’m not sure.
THINGS I KNOW
I know: The NBA is more talented now than it has been in over 20 years. In my NBA Preview I mentioned that right now we are in a Golden Age in Point Guards. Well as a whole, the NBA is currently in a Diamond Age. That’s a fact. Want proof? Here’s proof: In an attempt to make a list of the top 25 players based strictly on this season alone to compare to the 1986-1987 season which is commonly considered the Golden Age of the NBA, my first skim through of all current rosters left me with 41 players. 41 players can make quality arguments to make the top 25. That isn’t because there is an overall lack of great players. It’s because that many players are THAT good. After some evaluation, I narrowed it down to 25 current players to compare to the top 25 players that played in 1987.
2010-2011: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Amare Stoudemire, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Monta Ellis, Eric Gordon, Lamar Odom, Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer
1986-1987: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Alex English, Patrick Ewing, Adrian Dantley, Joe Dumars, Dennis Johnson, Tom Chambers, Rolando Blackmon, Mark Aguirre, Fat Lever
The current list isn’t even including Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Kidd, Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, Ray Allen, and Vince Carter, who are all at the twilight of their careers and all future Hall of Famers (comparable to Kareem, Moses and Dr. J in the 80’s list.) Now you know why I love the NBA so damn much.
I know: I need to stay neutral when talking about the Heat. You have to understand, it’s hard for me to stay level headed when talking about Miami, especially when there was so much hype before the season. Then they were so disappointing at the beginning of the season, starting 9-8. Since then, they went on a 23 game run where they were the hottest team in the league and currently sit at 32-14. Before the season I was talking about how people were going to hate me because I loved the Heat so much. I was even planning a trip to the victory parade. One month into the season I was talking about how I wished LeBron had never left Cleveland. I even wrote an imaginary answer to him as if he was asking me “What should I do” like he did in his Nike commercial. Right now I could easily hop back on the Heat Championship Bandwagon, but I’m going to choose not to. Why? Because, even though LeBron, Wade and Bosh have looked absolutely unstoppable playing together at some points, they still have their weaknesses (lack of depth, times where they play with no chemistry, unproven point guards, offensively challenged big guys highlighted by the atrocious Erick Dampier.) To conclude, I will say this: If the Heat play as well as they have since their 9-8 start, in particular their blowout wins at Cleveland, at New York and at Los Angeles and defining close wins at Washington where they had no business winning and at Portland where LeBron went off for 44 points and looked like he was truly embracing being a villain, they could not only make the NBA Finals, but they can rip through the league like we have never seen before… Damn it, just when I was doing good not hyping them up too much I ruined it with that last statement!
I know: We shouldn’t write off the Lakers just yet. I made that mistake last year with the Celtics and I’m not going to do it again. It’s kind of like 3 years ago when I decided to throw out my Sega Genesis. I had a PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo 64. The Sega Genesis was outdated; the graphics were poor and games on the newer systems were much more advanced. It was lost in the shuffle compared to the newer, flashier game systems I had, so I let it go. About two weeks after the Sega was gone, I realized I made a HUGE mistake. I had lost old reliable. I could no longer enjoy playing Sonic the Hedgehog, WWF Royal Rumble or Shaq Fu (secretly one of the most fun video games in the history of video games.) That’s what teams like the Lakers and Celtics are. They are the Sega Genesis of the NBA. Just when you write them off for looking beat down and disinterested, just like the Celtics looked last year and the Lakers have at times this year, you remember that they play solid defense and terrific team ball, they have a great coach and they have a ton of playoff experience. I threw out my Sega and regretted it. I hoped that the Cavaliers would play Boston in the playoffs last year and I ended up regretting it. I’m not going to write off the two time defending champs. Plus they have a guy named Kobe Bryant who is an absolute assassin, and even if he is hurting he will rip your heart out and eat it in during the playoffs.
I know: There is only one legitimate title contender is Texas. Sorry Mark Cuban, go out and spend money on a player besides a Center and I’ll consider taking you seriously as a Championship contender. In all seriousness, I do like the signing of Tyson Chandler and I like the way the Mavericks started off the season, but I like San Antonio more. Obviously San Antonio has proven this year that they can sustain a good start and in years past they have proven they win in the playoffs. Wait a second, that happened last year in the first round when 7 seed San Antonio beat the 2 seed Dallas. The thing that is different about this Spurs team compared to the Spurs teams of the past three seasons is that they have a lot of guys who can make plays. I like the young faces (DeJuan Blair, George Hill and Gary Neal) that complement the Spurs big three (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili). If Duncan, Parker, and Manu can remain rested throughout the season, they will be a force in the west. 39-7 starts usually don’t lie.
THINGS I THINK I KNOW
I think I know: Blake Griffin will be considered one of the five best players in the NBA at this point next season. Originally, I planned on writing here that Blake Griffin would be a top five player in five years. That is a given, so I had to change it. In my 2010 NBA Preview, when talking about Blake Griffin I claimed “He can dominate like no power forward has.” It was a bold statement for sure and possibly… eh most likely correct. Right now Griffin is averaging a staggering 22.6 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 52% shooting. Only six rookies ever have had better numbers than Griffin (Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Walt Bellamy, Elvin Hayes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal. FYI- Those six will all be in the Hall of Fame.) Single handedly Griffin has made the Clippers a top three watchable team in the league, he somehow managed to get Baron Davis to care about playing basketball, which is a minor miracle and with the help of Eric Gordon the Clippers are surging in the Western Conference playoff picture. He already has a top ten dunks video on YouTube halfway through his rookie year (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gG4W0L41FI). The fact that his defensive effort and ability is appalling needs to mentioned, in fact it’s equally as bad as his offensive is good. But let’s not dwell on the bad. Let’s focus on the fact that I was right. Blake Griffin will most likely be a top five player next season, if not by the end of this season... And within five years Blake Griffin may be dominating the league like no power forward ever has. And to go along with this…
I think I know: If the NBA Draft Lottery was fixed (as many people suggest) and Blake Griffin would’ve ended up being drafted by Oklahoma City #1 in 2009, the Thunder would be the best team in the league. Griffin is going to end up being worth at least 20 wins by himself in Los Angeles, and Oklahoma City is already a 50 win team. The glaring absence for this Thunder team is the lack of an inside scorer/consistent rebounder (surprisingly Nick Collison and Nenad Kristic don’t give the Thunder those qualities.) Griffin supplies both of those. Plus he makes Oklahoma City easily the most athletic team in the NBA, starting at power forward with Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka. This doubles as the most exciting starting line-up in the league. In fact it almost guarantees you at least three “Holy **** I’ve never seen that in a basketball game before!” moments every game. If only the draft lottery was actually fixed.
I think I know: The Knicks are better off not acquiring Carmelo Anthony before the trade deadline. New York needs to wait for July when they can acquire Carmelo Anthony and not have to break up their nucleus, which is playing better than expected. Right now the Knicks are 24-22 and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. I understand that Carmelo Anthony could make a huge difference for this Knicks team and push them into the same category as the elite Eastern Conference teams like Boston, Orlando, Miami and Chicago. He could also screw over the Knicks season. In all likelihood, the Knicks would need to give up some combination of the following players: Wilson Chandler (Second best scoring option on the team, good rebounder at the small forward position, adamantly wants to stay in New York), Landry Fields (If it weren’t for Blake Griffin he may be the Rookie of the Year), Danilo Gallinari (Lights out shooter, a good third scoring option), Raymond Felton (Having a career year and seems to be flourishing under D’Antoni’s coaching style). Why break up a nucleus that has ignited Madison Square Garden like no Knicks team has in over a decade? Carmelo seems intent on not wanting to sign an extension with New Jersey or any other team, and I can’t really blame him. He wants to be a Knick and play with Amare Stoudemire and potentially another big name star. So Knicks fan shouldn’t be so eager to get their hands on Carmelo. Good things come to those who wait, and that’s exactly what New York should do.
I think I know: Jimmer Fredette will be a good NBA player. I know that this doesn’t really relate to the whole current NBA theme I have going on, but he needs to be mentioned because he SHOULD win the Naismith Award this year, and there is a very good chance he can lead BYU on a tournament run similar to runs players like Carmelo Anthony and Stephen Curry have led. His ball-handling skills are severely underrated, his craftiness around the basket is awesome to watch, and as of right now I don’t know where his shooting range ends, because he nails at least one insanely, borderline stupid, deep three every game. Do I think he is going to score at the rate he does now in the NBA? Not necessarily, but I do think he can give a team some really good minutes at either point guard or shooting guard. I’ll put it this way: I’d feel better with him at point guard of the Heat than I do with Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo or Eddie House.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know: Why God’s hatred for the Blazers has surpassed the Clippers. It’s quite a claim and here is the evidence that I am correct:
-Bill Walton’s inability able to stay healthy after the 1977 Championship season at a time when the NBA was weak. Portland should’ve had at least one or two more titles.
-The #2 Pick from Kentucky, Sam Bouie. The #3 Pick from North Carolina, Michael Jordan.
-Clyde Drexler being thrown to the wolves (Michael Jordan) in the 1992 NBA Finals.
-Zach Randolph, Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells and Shawn Kemp playing on the same team in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s. They most likely set the record for technical fouls, and combined children.
-The #1 Pick from Ohio State, Greg Oden. The #2 Pick from Texas, Kevin Durant.
-Greg Oden’s dong picture.
-Clippers drafting Blake Griffin.
-Finding out Brandon Roy’s ligaments and tendons in his knee are made out of tissue paper.
I don’t know: How am I going to dress for the March 10th meeting between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, a game which myself and my good friend Collin Stucko will be going to. Quickly, I must mention that Collin won our first annual confidence picks pool for the College Football Bowl Games. Here is his prize: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEw3Sd8Ll0c . Anyways, we will be in attendance for the much anticipated rematch between the Lakers and the Heat and I am not sure what I will be wearing to this spectacle. I do know that I am going all out and I expect the same from my good friend Collin. Thanks to various family members Christmas gifts, I have plenty of options to consider. I should also add that this won’t be my first Heat game of the year. Monday I will be going to the Cavaliers at Heat game. I’m just living the dream.
I don’t know: Who is going to win the NBA Title. But I do know that as of right now there are five teams that can win it. Obviously Los Angeles as the defending champions fall into this category. The Boston Celtics do as well. The remaining three teams are the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and San Antonio Spurs. A lot can and will change between now and April when the playoffs begin. By the way, just mentioning the playoffs gives me a fuzzy feeling inside, because they could easily end up the best playoffs of the decade. Here is how one could break down each of these five teams.
Here is how these teams break down:
1-Best/5- Worst ranking each category based on Playoffs alone.
Point Guard- 1: Boston, 2: San Antonio, 3: Los Angeles, 4: Orlando, 5: Miami
Shooting Guard-1: Los Angeles, 2: Miami, 3: San Antonio, 4: Boston, 5: Orlando
Small Forward- 1: Miami, 2: Boston, 3: Orlando, 4: Los Angeles, 5: San Antonio
Power Forward- 1: Boston, 2: Los Angeles, 3: Miami, 4: Orlando, 5: San Antonio
Center- 1: Orlando, 2: San Antonio, 3: Los Angeles, 4: Boston, 5: Miami
Bench- 1: Los Angeles, 2: Boston, 3: Orlando, 4: Miami, 5: San Antonio
Coaching- 1: Los Angeles, T2: Boston, T2: San Antonio, 4: Orlando, 5: Miami
Star Power- 1: Miami, 2: Los Angeles, 3: Boston, 4: San Antonio, 5: Orlando
Boston- 19, San Antonio- 28, Los Angeles- 17, Miami- 26, Orlando- 29
I don’t know: How many times I need to bring it up before someone does something about it… Please bring it back!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UooitEU6AtE