The first half of the NBA season has come and gone, showing us who the top-tier teams are—the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic (although it will be tough to see if they can keep it up with the absence of Jameer Nelson), and the Denver Nuggets.
Then there are the mid-pack teams that are on the verge of going on a run and making it in, and also the teams that are on the verge of going on a severe drought for wins and falling out of the playoff picture.
Let's take a look and see which teams are rising in stock, and which are falling.
With the trade they pulled off this last week, I think this helps put players in their correct roles and also provides stability.
I even see some comparisons with this Heat team, and the '06 championship team.
They have a solid starting center with Jermaine O'Neal which allows other players to now play their natural position. Udonis Haslem, your time playing center should be coming to an end.
They also have three-point shooters that Wade and O'Neal (Jermaine this time!) can kick the ball out to. Instead of Posey and Walker the three-point combo is now a younger more versatile Daequan Cook and Yakhouba Diawara (you can also throw back-up PG Chris Quinn into the mix).
They now have a solid point guard to guide the team. Mario Chalmers is similar to Jason Williams in how they are both good shooters, but only Mario plays defense. This is actually an upgrade.
The main factor they make a run for home-court in the playoffs though, is the reason they were able to win it all in '06—Dwyane Wade.
Dallas has been looking pretty solid to me, and I like the way Rick Carlisle has got them playing.
Finally, I see some chemistry with this team in the fact that Jason Kidd now knows his place on the team which is adding stability to the line-up and getting everybody involved.
If this team stays healthy, and Dirk can win some key games for them, then Dallas can be anywhere from a four to a six seed in the west.
Chicago is a team that every team should start fearing. They've got everybody back now, and everybody is establishing their role on the team.
Chicago has figured out that Rose is their facilitator, Gordon is their scoring threat, Tyrus Thomas is their energy man, Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni are stable players at the small-forward position, Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah is their toughness and rebounding down low, and Kirk Hinrich provides a spark off the bench.
With all of this, I see Chicago being a scary team for the second half of the year.
It's a given. They're one of the most dysfunctional teams in the league at the moment. Firing their coach, trying to trade their starting front court, not sure what style they're trying to establish. We know that out of the top nine teams in the Western Conference one was going to have to miss out—well we have found out who that is.
Detroit has completely lost it's identity from their championship days. The team built on chemistry, and hard-nosed defense has been blown up into a "let's try to win with Allen Iverson as a scoring threat on our team, even though it's NEVER worked in the past on any of his former teams" team.
With all of that said, it makes me sad. I honestly believe if Detroit would have kept everything in tact—that is their coach, Flip Saunders, and Chauncey Billups—they could have a chance at getting back in the NBA Finals.
Now I see them falling to a potential seven or eight seed, worst case scenario—missing the playoffs altogether.
I'm not talking about a major collapse here.
However, I do see them falling from "top-team" status to "pretty good team" status.
I don't think that without the point guard play of Jameer Nelson they can continue their run, because they would be relying heavily on three-point shooting to win them games, which doesn't work out very well.
Dwight Howard will have to step his game up even more in the scoring department, and establish himself as a legit offensive post-man.
With all that being said, the worst I see them falling is to a number five seed in the East.
Now that we've gone through a list of teams that could fall and rise—what's all of it mean?
It means come playoff time, Los Angeles, Boston, and Cleveland will still be favorites, although they will have some exciting opponents to face which could make things interesting.
Expect, those teams under the "rising" category, to be different teams come spring and challenge some of the top-tier teams in exciting playoff match-ups.
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