NBA Power Rankings: One Week into the 2011-2012 Season
After waiting out an arduous lockout situation, watching greed and vitriol reign supreme, fans and players are finally back to lives including NBA basketball.
A shortened 66-game season started with a quadruple-header of games on Christmas Day. We learned that the Miami Heat are back with a vengeance, the Los Angeles Lakers are sputtering without Lamar Odom and the Oklahoma City Thunder seem poised to take over the top spot in the Western Conference with last year's champions, the Dallas Mavericks, struggling to regain their form.
After the first week of the 2011-2012 season, it's certainly too early to predict the 16 teams that will make the playoffs. But here are my power rankings of every team in the NBA based upon a mixture of their win/loss records, potential and each team's early strength of schedule, over the course of week one.
1: Miami Heat (5-0)
Wins against: Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats (twice), Minnesota Timberwolves
A Christmas Day drubbing of the defending champion Mavericks set the tone for the Heat entering the season. Everything seems to be clicking on offense for the Heat who are also playing terrific team defense.
The emergence of rookie Norris Cole has been another tremendous bright spot for the Heat, who received the majority of criticism last season for not having enough talent surrounding their Big Three. Cole had a 14-point fourth-quarter performance against the Celtics, and appears to be emerging as a steady role player for the Heat.
Meanwhile, James has been well on his way to garnering another MVP award. So far this season he's been on a tear, averaging 30 points, 7.5 rebounds and seven assists per game through the first week.
Now that the majority of fan attention has left LeBron’s decision and focused upon teams that have made offseason acquisitions (namely the Los Angeles Clippers trading for Chris Paul and the New York Knicks adding Tyson Chandler), it may be time for the Heat to avoid the scrutiny and play the way everyone thought they would when they added James and Bosh.
2: Oklahoma City Thunder (5-0)
Wins against: Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Company are right back to where they left off last season. Durant and Westbrook have been scoring machines so far this season for the Thunder, and James Harden will likely be one of the leading candidates to win the sixth man award with his scoring prowess off the bench.
Early on, OKC has easily been the strongest team in the Western Conference.
Some concerns have arisen again this season about the amount of shots Westbrook takes in relation to Durant, but so far that hasn’t translated to any losses. Thunder fans have to cross their fingers in hopes that it won’t hurt team chemistry moving forward, because this team has a real shot at winning a title.
3: Chicago Bulls (4-1)
Wins against: Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies.
Loss against: Golden State Warriors.
The Bulls started off the season on Christmas Day with a huge come-from-behind win against the Lakers, forcing a turnover by Kobe Bryant in the closing seconds of the game, leading to a game-winning floater by Derrick Rose.
Luol Deng clinched the opening-day win by blocking Bryant when he drove to the basket and shot despite being guarded by three Bulls players.
A loss the following day to the Golden State Warriors is certainly defensible given they won a hard-fought battle the day before, but the loss still stings given that the Bulls could have finished their first week undefeated.
Overall I think the addition of Richard “Rip” Hamilton is going to be huge for this Bulls team. He brings championship experience, a defensive mindset and the ability to knock down mid-range shots for a team that relied primarily upon Keith Bogans for offensive production out of the shooting guard position a season ago. More than likely, the Bulls will be a top-three seed in the East when the playoff picture rolls around.
4: San Antonio Spurs (3-1)
Wins against: Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz.
Loss against: Houston Rockets.
With all the hubbub surrounding teams like the Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks, everyone seemed to forget about one of the greatest dynasties of the past decade, the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs dismantled the Memphis Grizzlies in their first game of the season, a team that seemed well on its way to becoming elite after their improbable playoff run last season (in which they ousted the Spurs in the first round of the postseason). The Spurs also smacked the Los Angeles Clippers, showing the up-and-coming club who still reigns supreme in the West.
The last time the NBA had a lockout-shortened season, the Spurs (led by finals MVP Tim Duncan) won the championship. I would not be surprised to see history repeat itself. The Spurs are without a doubt still one of the powerhouses of the NBA, despite their aging roster.
5: Orlando Magic (4-1)
Wins against: Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors.
Loss against: Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Dwight Howard saga is probably destined to overshadow anything the Magic set out to accomplish early on this season. It’s been reported that Howard’s opinions about whether or not to stay in Orlando change almost daily, making the situation all the more difficult for Otis Smith and Magic management.
Should they keep Howard and make another run at a title against the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and the rest of the Eastern Conference? Or do they trade Howard and avoid the risk of losing him for nothing in free agency?
Drama or not, Howard has continued to perform like an absolute beast, averaging 17 points, 17.5 rebounds and three blocks per game.
It’s a difficult scenario for the Magic to say the least, but one thing is for certain: As long as Howard is in a Magic uniform, Orlando will be a contending team.
6: Portland Trail Blazers (3-1)
Wins against: Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets.
Loss against: Los Angeles Clippers.
Talented young players, veteran leadership, bench depth—the Blazers are a very solid basketball team in all respects.
As unfortunate as it was to see Brandon Roy retire at the age of 27 due to degenerative knees, the Blazers still have a collection of talent to compete in this league.
Raymond Felton seems to be a great fit as the starting point guard for the Blazers, and LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the best power forwards in the league ready to lead the charge. Look for the Blazers to have a solid season after an impressive start.
7: Los Angeles Lakers (3-3)
Wins against: Utah Jazz, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets.
Losses against: Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets.
The Lakers wanted Chris Paul. They really wanted Chris Paul. But after David Stern vetoed the trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers in exchange for Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, everything seemed to fall apart for the Lakers.
Odom was so dejected that his team tried to trade him, he asked for a trade after the initial one fell through. Instead of trying to bury the hatchet with Odom, they shipped him off to the defending champion Mavericks for nothing in return—a very odd change of events that I’m sure every fan of the Lakers is still shaking their head at.
The negatives kept rolling early for the Lakers who lost their opener against the Bulls and again to a very inexperienced Kings team. However, they went on to win three straight, and getting Andrew Bynum back from his suspension seemed like it was going to keep the Lakers on a winning track.
Bynum lifted the Lakers to a close three-point win against an extremely underrated Nuggets team, scoring 29 points and adding 13 rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Lakers followed up this win with yet another loss to the same Nuggets team. A rough start to the season will likely get better after getting Bynum back, but head coach Mike Brown has to be a bit concerned with such an average first week. At least the Lakers have been competitive in the majority of their games and it would be silly to overlook them despite a sluggish start.
8: Denver Nuggets (3-2)
Wins against: Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers.
Losses against: Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Lakers.
The inspiration for my fantasy basketball team name: “Trapped in China.” The fact that a considerable amount of the Nuggets roster is trapped under contract in China has not hurt them to start the season. One would think that losing J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler to a league overseas would hurt the Nuggets' chances…the opposite seems to have happened.
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets to a huge win against the Mavericks in Dallas (the Mavs' second embarrassing defeat in as many games) scoring 27 points and adding three steals in the contest.
The Nuggets are a scrappy team with a balanced attack on offense, and Lawson is quickly blooming into a star. Things appear to be mile-high so far in Denver, given the circumstances.
9: Los Angeles Clippers (2-2)
Wins against: Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers.
Losses against: San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls.
After winning both preseason games against their rival Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers seemed poised to storm out of the gate this season led by new addition Chris Paul alongside young star Blake Griffin and defensive-minded DeAndre Jordan.
Although the Clippers got off to a sluggish start against the Warriors, they ended up winning by a 19-point margin.
But they have seem to have a lot to learn about being a power in the West, losing games to the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls after their game on Christmas Day.
They've faced a tough early season schedule, and weathered the storm at 2-2, but so much more was expected from this team. It's clear they just need more time to gel on the court.
Perhaps the Clippers’ biggest strength is their backcourt depth. With Paul, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Eric Bledsoe, they have a lot of players that can come in off the bench to handle and pass the basketball.
Don’t be surprised if the Clippers move some of their backcourt talent in a trade to add frontcourt depth at some point this season.
It would be foolish to count out the Los Angeles Lakers, but it appears that the Clippers may be the team to compete with them over the top spot in the Pacific Division, but they have some tinkering to do.
10: Golden State Warriors (2-2)
Wins against: Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks.
Losses against: Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers.
I was skeptical to say the least when first-time head coach Mark Jackson came in preaching defense to a team with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, two of the most inept guards on the defensive end in the NBA. However, the Warriors have played very well early on, beating the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.
Bounce-back wins against a fatigued Bulls team and a much-hyped Knicks squad after a big loss on Christmas Day to the Clippers are certainly steps in the right direction for Coach Jackson.
Once Curry’s injured ankle gets back to 100 percent, the Warriors will have less to worry about. But even despite the injury the Warriors have been streaky, and teams that overlook them will almost certainly receive a loss on their schedule.
11: New York Knicks (2-2)
Wins against: Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings.
Losses against: Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers.
The New York Knicks are going to score a lot of points, and with the addition of Tyson Chandler…well, they’re still going to give up a lot of points…
Unfortunately for Spike Lee and all other Knicks fans, after the first week of the season the Knicks are giving up more points than they are scoring. A very bad sign for a team that was hyped to be better defensively by adding Chandler. But nonetheless, the Knicks will be a better team in the long run with Chandler added to the roster.
At times I feel like the offense relies too heavily on Carmelo Anthony creating his own shot, which might become a negative, as it makes their offense very one-dimensional. Nevertheless, 'Melo is one of the most proficient scorers in the league and will help the Knicks win a lot of close games.
The win against Boston should be taken with a grain of salt, because the Celts were without one of their best players in Paul Pierce. Also, referee Joey Crawford did the Knicks a huge favor by calling a foul on Marquis Daniels of the Celtics on what appeared to be a clean steal from Anthony in the closing seconds. Instead Anthony sunk both free throws, leading the Knicks to victory.
I'm excited to see the Knicks' uptempo offense once they get Baron Davis back from his back injury. For a player who feeds off of crowd noise, Davis is a perfect fit in New York.
12: Houston Rockets (2-2)
Wins against: San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks.
Losses against: Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies.
If I’m a Rockets fan, I’m thrilled that David Stern vetoed the initial Chris Paul trade that would have left the roster without Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a first-round draft pick, while adding only an aging Pau Gasol.
With those three players and the draft pick intact, the Rockets are much more balanced squad that can score with a number of different options. Scola had very similar stats to Gasol just a season ago, and the team still has Martin as a great scoring option. It’s also important to mention the young point guard in Dragic, who will provide Kyle Lowry with some rest coming off the bench.
Is this a championship team? No. Is this team going to make the playoffs this season? It will be a struggle, but adding Gasol for a package of Scola, Martin, Dragic and a first-rounder? In my opinion, Rockets fans should be glad that trade didn’t go through.
13: Atlanta Hawks (3-1)
Wins against: New Jersey Nets (twice), Washington Wizards.
Loss against: Houston Rockets.
A 36-point thrashing of the Nets to start the season is certainly a promising start for the Hawks. In the blowout win, nine players on the Hawks roster logged more than 20 minutes played. Of those nine players, six scored in double figures. That’s just about the definition of a balanced attack on offense.
When Vladimir Radmanovic is scoring 17 points for you off the bench, you know you’re doing something right.
However, the Hawks have only beat really bad teams early on, which hurt them in the rankings.
Maybe additions like Radmanovic, Tracy McGrady and Jannero Pargo will help the Hawks get further in the playoffs this season. But it will be difficult in the East competing with the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.
14: Philadelphia 76ers (2-2)
Wins against: Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors.
Losses against: Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz.
I really like the way the Sixers play; they are a well-rounded, unselfish team that is not afraid to make the extra pass.
With that said, their two wins have come against a very bad Suns team and a Warriors team without Monta Ellis, which shows us very little about how good they will be this season. They also lost to a struggling Jazz team with Al Jefferson out due to injury, another bad sign.
In any case, here are some statistics to put the team play into perspective for the Sixers right now via leading scorers:
Allen Iverson: 31.1 points per game
Theo Ratliff: 12.4 points per game
Dikembe Mutombo: 11.7 points per game
Lou Williams: 20.3 points per game
Andre Iguodala: 16.8 points per game
Jrue Holiday: 15.5 points per game
Thaddeus Young: 13 points per game
Spencer Hawes: 12 points per game
The funny thing about those numbers is that the Sixers made the NBA Finals back in 2001 on the back of Allen Iverson. Is this year’s team good enough to make the finals with a much more balanced, unselfish club? I highly doubt it, especially given their shaky start.
Nevertheless, head coach Doug Collins deserves a good deal of credit for their solid all-around play.
15: Boston Celtics (2-3)
Wins against: Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards.
Losses against: New York Knicks, Miami Heat, New Orleans Hornets.
An injured Paul Pierce, an aging Celtics squad, the loss of Jeff Green for the season, a tough early season schedule—these are all viable reasons as to why the once-powerhouse Celtics started the season with three straight losses.
Despite being without Pierce and Green, the Celtics were able to weather the early season storm by winning the games they should win (against Detroit and Washington).
The trade of Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green seems to be hurting the Celtics even more this season. Obviously nobody could have predicted the life-threatening heart condition that Green faces, but even without this fact, some fans would say that the Celtics made a mistake trading away their defensive inside presence.
It will be interesting to see how the Celtics bounce back from a rough first week of the season, but don’t count them out if they manage to muster a decent seed in the playoffs; they have too much championship experience and pride to simply fade away.
16: Indiana Pacers (3-1)
Wins against: Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Loss against: Detroit Pistons.
The Pacers sport one of the strongest frontcourts in the league after the acquisition of power forward David West. West joins Roy Hibbert, and the forward tandem of Danny Granger and Paul George, creating a very balanced attack.
One of the better rebounding teams in the league, the Pacers benefitted from having a laughably weak early season schedule (facing Detroit twice, Cleveland and Toronto).
Despite their easy schedule, the Pacers managed to lose to the Pistons—no small feat; they should have cruised to an undefeated record.
17: Memphis Grizzlies (1-3)
Win against: Houston Rockets.
Losses against: San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls.
This is another case of a good team facing a brutal early season schedule.
Memphis faced two of the best teams in the West in San Antonio and OKC and lost two games to start the season as a result.
A tough schedule is one thing, but losing by 40 points to the Bulls while only scoring 64 points? That’s ugly.
Bad loss aside, I’d be shocked if the Grizzlies missed the playoffs. Adding Rudy Gay to their already-solid frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will only help this team in the long run.
This team really won me over last season in the playoffs performing so well as a No. 8 seed, but now they have a target on their backs. Other teams know that they have to take the Grizzlies seriously.
18: Milwaukee Bucks (2-1)
Wins against: Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards.
Loss against: Charlotte Bobcats.
Lacking a true star, one of the big knocks against the Bucks would have to be their shot selection. In their first game against the Bobcats, point guard Brandon Jennings shot just 8-of-21 from the field.
In their win against Minnesota, Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson both went 7-of-20 shooting. This could be attributed to rust coming from a lengthy offseason, but those paltry shooting numbers won’t help the Bucks rack up many wins over the course of the season.
If they keep shooting the ball the way they have been, they could be on the outside looking in come playoff time. A bad early season loss to the Bobcats doesn’t help either. In addition, their two wins came against the Timberwolves and Wizards (two easy teams to beat).
19: Sacramento Kings (2-3)
Wins against: Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets.
Losses against: Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks.
Key stat: 63.6 percent. The Kings failed to shoot over that percentage from the free-throw line for their first four games, including a pathetic 60 percent as a team in a win against the Lakers. How can a team win a game while shooting just 60 percent from the charity stripe? It’s mind-boggling.
The Kings will really have to change that aspect of their game if they are going to compete with the elite teams. In their win against New Orleans on Sunday they raised their percentage to 85.7 percent, but only got to the line 21 total times.
The Kings are an up-and-coming team with loads of young talent, but I think at this stage they are just too young and inexperienced to make a playoff push. I’m sure Kings fans are anxiously awaiting when their young guards, like Jimmer Fredette, will blossom into solid players, but their free-throw shooting this season has been atrocious.
20: New Orleans Hornets (2-2)
Wins against: Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics.
Losses against: Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings.
Maybe David Stern was onto something vetoing the three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. Personally I thought the Hornets made out like thieves in the original trade (they would have potentially added Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick).
Instead Paul was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers for budding star Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, center Chris Kaman and Minnesota’s unprotected first-round pick.
In an ugly first game of the season against the Phoenix Suns, Gordon hit a game-winning jump shot with four seconds remaining in the game to beat the Suns 85-84 on the road.
The Hornets followed this up by dismantling the Boston Celtics, dooming them to their third straight loss to start the season (they did this without Gordon, who missed the game with a bruised right knee). Winning without their best player Gordon did not last long, as they lost their early season rematch with the Suns and again to the Sacramento Kings.
Unlikely as it may seem to start the season, the Hornets are playing great basketball with a stifling team defense. The early injury to Gordon hurt, but they still managed to gut out a gritty win against the Celtics without him. Given that the franchise lost Paul this offseason, Hornets fans should be thrilled in the early going by the team’s results.
21: Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2)
Wins against: Detroit Pistons, New Jersey Nets.
Losses against: Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers.
No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving had a pretty ugly debut for the Cavs. Scoring just six points on 2-of-12 shooting (1-of-5 behind the three-point line), although he did tally seven assists.
The value of point guards in this league is astronomical, but I personally wondered if the Cavs made a mistake passing on Derrick Williams out of the University of Arizona.
However, Irving had a solid bounce-back game in a win against Detroit, with 14 points and seven assists. Irving played better still in an overtime game against the Indiana Pacers, scoring 20 points.
The Cavaliers are still very likely to be trapped in the NBA cellar, but ending the first week at 2-2 is an accomplishment, even without playing any really talented teams. At least Cavs fans can enjoy watching their new point guard develop over the course of the season.
22: Dallas Mavericks (1-4)
Win against: Toronto Raptors.
Losses against: Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves.
If there’s such a thing as a championship hangover, the Mavericks must have celebrated with way too much tequila.
Without a doubt the Mavericks have faced some tough opponents (Miami, the best team in the East, the resilient Denver Nuggets and the best in the West in Oklahoma City), but where did the champions go? Did losing Tyson Chandler take this much of a toll on their team? They were able to attain a great addition in Lamar Odom from the L.A. Lakers, but that has failed to translate into continued success.
Overall a very rough start to the season for the defending champs. Hopefully for Mavs fans, it isn’t due to a lack of motivation.
23: Minnesota Timberwolves (1-3)
Win against: Dallas Mavericks.
Losses against: Oklahoma City Thunder, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat.
One of the teams in the West gaining steam as a possible contender, they haven’t lived up to that hype so far.
Adding Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea and Derrick Williams to a roster that already has one of the big superstars in the game in Kevin Love and another stud in Michael Beasley hasn’t translated into winning many games.
With the plethora of good teams in the West, the T-Wolves will need young players to step up if they want to make the playoffs this season.
I certainly think they’re capable of doing so, but they need to turn things around. A win against the defending champion Mavericks is a start, but the Mavs have looked pretty uninspired thus far.
24: Utah Jazz (1-3)
Win against: Philadelphia 76ers.
Losses against: Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs.
The Jazz have looked positively anemic on offense this season. They have a lot of talented players (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Devin Harris and Derrick Favors), but just haven’t put a good effort in at the start of the season.
They lost to the Lakers in their first game by 25 points while only scoring 71 points total, then followed up by losing to the Nuggets by 17.
Not only are the Jazz losing, but they’re losing by big margins. The Jazz managed to get their first win on Friday without Al Jefferson against a decent Sixers team, but maybe the Jazz should worry about being consistently competitive with teams before thinking playoffs, because they’ve been a hard team to watch early on this season.
They need Jerry Sloan to make a comeback as coach.
25: Charlotte Bobcats (1-3)
Wins against: Milwaukee Bucks.
Losses against: Miami Heat (twice), Orlando Magic.
With a one-point win against the Bucks and a one-point loss against the Heat, the Bobcats were a bit of an enigma through the first two games of the season. Squeaking out the win against the Heat really would have turned some heads, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
Getting Tyrus Thomas back should help the Bobcats (and my pitiful fantasy team), but at the same time, they aren’t going to be competing for a championship anytime soon, unless Michael Jordan comes out of retirement…again…
26: New Jersey Nets (1-4)
Win against: Washington Wizards.
Losses against: Atlanta Hawks (twice), Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Unfortunately for Nets fans, the injury to Brook Lopez and their inability to trade for Dwight Howard in the offseason is probably not going to entice Deron Williams to stay in a Nets uniform. However, if over the course of the season they manage to trade for Howard, they become an instant title contender.
Only time will tell with the Nets. Will they be a championship contender, or a team struggling to make the playoffs? As for right now, most of the newsworthiness coming out of New Jersey is how much fans hate Kris Humphries.
I truly don’t understand where all that hate is coming from (I’m pretty indifferent towards athletes' personal lives unless they commit a crime), but Nets fans shouldn’t let that bother them. Humphries would prove to be a great third option behind Williams and Howard.
Nets fans have to be thinking trade sooner rather than later though…the Magic stand at 4-1 with D12, and the Nets are the opposite at 1-4.
27: Toronto Raptors (1-3)
Win against: Cleveland Cavaliers.
Losses against: Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic.
Toronto is another young team with some talented players that is going to go through growing pains. They’ll rely on veteran leadership from Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon to win games.
Don’t expect them to be contenders in the East this season.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Raptors fans though…at least the team has a kickass logo!
28: Phoenix Suns (1-3)
Win against: New Orleans Hornets.
Losses against: New Orleans Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder.
And now we get to my favorite team, the lowly Phoenix Suns. I apologize in advance for being a bit long-winded, but I find there is a lot to discuss.
Welcome back to the cellar Suns fans—remember being here? Yeah, I tried to erase it from my memory also.
The Suns have been nothing short of pathetic on both defense and offense this season. Not only that, but even more unfortunately, as a fan, I have lost some faith in head coach Alvin Gentry.
It’s truly sad to say because Gentry has such an uninspired team to work with, but some of the decisions he’s made over the first few games have delivered head-scratching responses.
Gentry decided not to play Hakim Warrick in the season opener, despite Warrick leading the team in scoring during the preseason.
Instead, he’s been starting Channing Frye at power forward, whose shot has seemed to be lost in space for over a year now. Off the bench for Frye, Gentry turned to rookie Markieff Morris in the opener, who played surprisingly well in his rookie debut.
However, in crunch time of the season opener, when the Suns were down by one point to the New Orleans Hornets with four seconds left after Eric Gordon drained the eventual game-winning jumper, Gentry decided to stick with the inexperienced Morris. Morris caught the inbound pass on the final Suns’ possession, and promptly forced a pass to Steve Nash that simply wasn’t there, throwing the ball into the first row, dooming the Suns.
In game two of the season against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Suns were blown out in their own building, down at one juncture by the hair-raising score of 70-38. It was like watching your son or daughter in a YMCA game get smashed by a much more talented, more experienced team and having to cringe through the whole experience.
Gentry mixed up the rotation in this game, not only allowing Warrick to see court time, but 32 minutes of court time (scoring 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting). In the Suns' first win against the Hornets, Warrick led the team in scoring with 18 points. These performances came after Warrick failed to see a second of court time in game one. I thought this peculiar to say the least. Why didn’t Warrick play in game one?
It has been nothing short of perplexing to try and figure out players’ roles on this team. (Warrick doesn’t play at all in game one, and has 32 minutes in game two. Josh Childress played 18 minutes in the opener, and just six minutes in game two.)
It’s hard to blame Gentry for trying to figure out a rotation that will help this team compete, but everyone is at fault for just how bad this team has looked.
Bottom line: It’s time to trade Steve Nash (and possibly Grant Hill) to a contender.
It would be in their best interests in the short-term, and the team’s best interest in the long-term. What better time than a lockout-shortened season to tank and try to get a good draft pick? It’s less time the fans will have to endure watching a shoddy team, while gaining the positive of attaining a lottery pick.
Nash and Hill deserve better than playing on a bottom-of-the-barrel club in the NBA at the end of their careers.
In my opinion, it’s time for the Suns to rebuild, and has been ever since Amar’e Stoudemire left.
Only there’s one huge negative blocking this plan. The Suns decided to sign injury-prone shooting guard Michael Redd on Thursday, conceivably in an attempt to remain “competitive.” What a mess; the Suns are in so much denial about the state of their team at this point, it’s just plain sad. It bothers me that management could be this naïve.
All in all, this is a terrible sign for Suns fans who want the team to move in a different direction and accept that they are no longer a championship-caliber team, or even a playoff team.
It has been very depressing to watch this team early on in the season, but if they trade Nash to a contending team, the Suns have a very strong chance of “competing” for the No. 1 overall draft pick.
29: Detroit Pistons (1-3)
Win against: Indiana Pacers.
Losses against: Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics.
Losing by 16 points to the Cavs should tell you all you need to know about this Pistons team. When ranking the teams I’d like to see this season when attending Suns’ games, I ranked the Pistons dead last. No offense to Pistons fans, but there just isn’t a player on their roster that I want to see play.
At least rookie Brandon Knight has delivered a silver lining with his play early on, but I don’t see the logic of the Pistons re-signing Rodney Stuckey after drafting Knight.
Stuckey and Ben Gordon will get the bulk of the minutes at the guard spots, so where does Knight fit in? Pistons fans can take solace in the fact that they will once again have a high draft pick at season’s end, but watching this team won’t be easy, even for just 66 games.
30: Washington Wizards (0-4)
Losses against: New Jersey Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics.
We've reached the end. Kudos to you if you stuck around to the bitter end to see the only team that failed to get a win in week one, the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards are a very young team, one of the youngest in the league, so like other teams in the league, there will be some growing pains. Alright, I guess “growing pains” is a bit of an understatement for the team with the worst offense in the league, averaging just 83.5 points per game.
Nonetheless, John Wall is developing into a very solid point guard in this league, but will need to cut down on some poor shot selection and turnovers if the Wizards want to end the season with a respectable record.
Other teams will likely take advantage of their inexperience to beat them (and have been with an 0-4 start). Don’t expect the Wizards to make the playoffs this season, but at least having Wall is a bright spot in an otherwise abysmal first week.