We're through a week of the season, but already strengths, weaknesses, and major problems are being exposed. This year is going to be a fun one to follow (Records included up to 11/4/09).
The Celtics are the Celtics, the Cavaliers finally have a real inside presence on offense, the Magic are for real, the Heat might be for real, the Hawks are still the same old Hawks and the Bulls are the most fun team to watch in the East (I love Derrick Rose, I admit it).
As a Cavaliers fan (I also admit that), watching the race to see who gets the best lottery pick to run alongside him is really interesting. He's going to New York—I'm calling it that the Knicks are ranked as the 5th best team in the East for the 2011 preseason rankings. The Nets are so awful its tough to watch (remember watching the Nationals all summer, and the Browns and Rams all fall...here we go Nets, here we go).
The Cavaliers finally won a meaningful game against a still Jamison-less (and still an underrated when healthy) Wizards. Which, by the way, is the best rivalry in the East since every member of both organizations truly hold animosity for the other.
Three quick questions—when are the Bobcats going to add that final piece, what happens in Milwaukee when Redd leaves and Jennings is a star, and what were the Pacers thinking in the draft?
It's nice to see 10 Eastern conference teams with a real good chance at playoff basketball. Three of those are true championship contenders, four more have young talent up and down the roster, three more are iffy, and five are just terrible...you know who you are. Sorry for the brutal honesty.
But, it is only week one.
Boston opened up with an impressive win over Cleveland in the season opener, and hasn't looked back. Wallace fits seamlessly into their offensive system, and the only possible distraction (Rondo's contract struggle) was solved early in the week. Now if Big Baby could just grow up...
Two nice wins over Toronto and Philadelphia without Rashard Lewis looks awfully nice on their resume. I still don't think Vince Carter fits into their system as well as Turkaglu, but the Magic boast the league's deepest team. Ryan Anderson looks fantastic, and Orlando has stifled the loss of Courtney Lee (not that Lee was an all-star, but he was quite nice off the bench).
Everyone settle down—the chaos that followed the Cavs two opening losses (to two playoff bound teams, no less) was not garnered. Coach Brown has openly stated he's going to play with his rotations for weeks (probably months), Delonte West just returned to add a much needed combo guard off the bench (Gibson is struggling), and Mo Williams and Anthony Parker have shot the ball much better in the Cavs last three games. An impressive win over Washington still shows the top three teams in the east are on their own level.
2-2 with losses against Cleveland and Atlanta. The absence of Jamison is being felt inside, but Gibson-Miller-Butler on the same floor is still dangerous inside. If the big-three ever stay healthy together, with sharp-shooter Mike Miller, Brendan Haywood, and Randy Foye as pawns, the Wizards may be the only team with any real shot at beating one of the top three teams.
3-1, with a notable win against Chicago. Jermaine O'neal looks fantastic early on (17 points, 10 rebounds). If (if, if, if) he stays healthy and playing at this level, Miami becomes a very dangerous team come playoff time. Maybe not quite on the level of the top three, but close.
Only loss is to the Lakers, with wins at Portland and against Washington. Same old boring pretty-good-but-not-great Hawks. If Josh Smith can continue to expand his game, the Hawks can be great. Until then, their ceiling is rather low.
Beat the Spurs then lost to Boston and Miami. Rose is struggling to find his game, but Luol Deng seems to have returned, averaging 17 points a game. How far they go depends on how Noah, Miller and Thomas play together inside. Is there a player more fun to watch than Derrick Rose? A win over Cleveland on the Nov. 5 would be a nice statement.
After bringing down Cleveland, Toronto dropped their next two games. As Bargnani goes, they go. After the top seven, the Raptors have a higher ceiling than Detroit or Philly.
The new-look Pistons were nothing special until handing the Magic their first defeat. Ben Wallace looks like the Wallace of old. The jury is still out in Motown.
Philly has gotten blown out against Boston and Orlando, but beat the Bucks and Knicks—not impressed. They need Andre Miller back, badly.
Jennings took on the challenge of Derrick Rose, and won. Averaging 22 points and five assists? Not bad either. His team didn't, but he did. The Bucks have played Philly, Detroit and Chicago. Just one win, but their the only team with a consistently tough schedule, even without facing a top-six team.
The Bobcats are at .500! They played two bad teams and won, and played two good teams and lost...at least their out of the cellar.
The Knicks stay this high because they at least have a win. Harrington looks very good, Gallinari seems to have found a niche, and Larry Hughes reached 20 points in a game again? Only in New York.
Things were starting to look up for the Pacers--Granger is a stud, Murphy isn't too shabby and Roy Hibbert can average 2.5 blocks a game. Then Indiana drafted Tyler Hansbrough, and it's gone south since then.
The nets are 0-4 with losses to Charlotte and the Timberwolves. Even if LeBron comes to the Nets, they still might not be a title contender. At least the Knicks have some nice pieces around him. Devin Harris and LeBron aren't enough.