NBA Power Rankings (24 Style) Part 3

Andrew GiffordCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2010

NEW YORK - JANUARY 22:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a three pointer against the New York Knicks during their game at Madison Square Garden on January 22, 2010 in New York, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

“A year and a half ago I was warned my life was in danger. I was told the only way to survive was to create the illusion that I was dead. I had to deceive people I cared about. My daughter will never forgive me. Now that I see the depth of your corruption there is no doubt that source of danger was you. David Palmer was a great man and a great president, but he was also my friend. He tried to warn me about you and now he is dead. Other people tried to help me and they are dead. So Mr. Logan, I really have nothing left to lose.”

- Jack Bauer, talking to President Logan while holding him at gunpoint in season 5

I couldn’t think of a proper introduction to start Part 3 off with, so I searched for Jack Bauer quotes, since that is the final division to discuss. I stumbled upon this at the IMDB website, and loved every word of it. So…without further adieu.

Jack Bauer Division- The main character of 24. Every season starts and ends with Jack Bauer. He is the reason why people tune in and watch the show. I believe that the following teams are the main characters of the 09-10 NBA season, and the NBA finals conversations start and end with them.

Atlanta Hawks (29-14)- This might be a surprise pick for most of you, but here’s why the Hawks made the cut. If you have three wins against an NBA title contender (Boston) and have around the same record as them, you’re in. None of their wins against Boston have been squeakers either; all of them have been very convincing. In addition, I think Atlanta has the potential of taking the entire conference in the playoffs. I understand that they haven’t faired very well against Cleveland in the past, but I think they’ve got a shot. I’ll explain later why I think they have a shot against Cleveland, but first, why I love this team. Starting off, guard Joe Johnson is a stud. I always thought Johnson had potential when he was with Boston and Phoenix, but now he’s really showing the type of player he can be. He proved it in the Boston playoff series two years ago, and in the Miami series last May, that when the bright lights are on, he produces, period. He’s not putting up the point totals like a LeBron, Kobe, or Melo, but I think that Joe Johnson is in the category with those guys as best closers in the game. The acquisition that moved this team from dangerous to explosive, in my opinion, is when the Hawks acquired Jamal Crawford. This guy coming off the bench is Amy Winehouse in your bed freaky. There’s no bench guy in the league that can guard Crawford straight up, and if you let him get his rhythm early, you could be looking at 50 in the box score once the game is over. Crawford, Johnson, combined with a maturing Josh Smith (averaging 15 and 8 a ball game), and “The Enforcer” Al Horford (not afraid to knock anybody on their ass) is a pretty scary lineup to contend with. In addition to all that, Mike Bibby, to his credit, has taken a relative back seat and showed all of the young Hawks how to win. Now, why I believe they have a shot to beat Cleveland. Cleveland has trouble with athletic teams, as they showed last year when they got simply outclassed by an athletic Orlando team. Atlanta has a lot of the same characteristics that Orlando had last year. They have young, athletic guys on the low block (Smith and Horford), and plenty of weapons from long range (Bibby, Johnson, Crawford). Now Bibby, Johnson, and Crawford might not be the quality of shooters as Orlando’s Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu from last year, but they can put the types of streaks together that Lewis and Turkoglu did. In addition, Smith and Horford have pretty decent range for big men, which will draw Cleveland’s big men (O’ Neal and Big Z) out on them and that’s advantage Atlanta. This team should definitely put a scare into the Eastern conference, and might make it all the way to the finals.

Boston Celtics (29-13)- If you have Kevin Garnett (hobbled or not), Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen on your team, you’re always going to be in contention. Plus, Rajon Rondo is starting to develop as an all-around point guard and Kendrick Perkins is turning into a legitimate low-post threat. The problem for the Celtics so far has been the injury list; it’s been way too full. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Glen Davis (Big Baby for those of you who don’t know his real name), and Marquis Daniels have been on, or are still on, the injured list. Free agent signing Rasheed Wallace has given them a little bit of a boost coming off the bench, even though all he does now is shoot threes and came into camp with more rolls than a Pillsbury factory. I still believe his best game is inside out, not outside, farther back, farther back. He’s at his best when he starts off with a couple of twelve foot turn around jumpers, then brings his man outside, either giving himself wide open threes or opening up the middle of the lane for Rondo, Pierce, and KG. However, even with all of the injuries and lack of chemistry, the Celtics still have the number 2 seed in the East as of today. This team will be very scary once they are all healthy. However, I’m concerned that a power struggle will continue with the starting five. Early in the season, there were reports that Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins were becoming tiresome of the consistent criticism that they were receiving from the Big 3, especially Kevin Garnett. Rondo and Perkins felt as though they didn’t have to be yelled at quite as much because they felt they had proven themselves to be intricate pieces of the team. Now, you’re obviously not going to turn down the volume on KG, but Rondo and Perkins are your future. It will be interesting to see how Doc Rivers handles this ongoing situation as the season progresses. No matter what the chemistry is, expect this team to be in the thick of things come May and June.

Cleveland Cavaliers (35-11)- I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, and if it’s not it should be, to start off any Cleveland Cavaliers discussion without talking about LeBron James. No adjective can describe how good this guy is, so I’m going to make one up…scrumtrulescent. What’s that, it’s been used!? Damn…uh, well, th..this is awkward. Let’s keep going. Pure and simply, this team goes as LeBron goes. He’s having one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen; 29.9 points per game, 7.8 assists per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, 1.5 steals per game, shooting 50.6% from the field (with a guy who takes as many shots as him, that’s astounding), and he’s even shooing a respectable 36% from 3 point land. Amazing. Now, I hate to bring the mood down, but let’s talk about his fellow teammates. Guard Mo Williams is averaging a point less per game than he did last year (17.7 last year to 16.8 this year) and in the games I’ve watched him he’s looked a little tentative. He needs to look for his shots and be aggressive for defenses not to put all of their attention on LeBron. Also, it seems as though coach Mike Brown is still not sure on how to handle the center situation. I really didn’t like the Shaq signing from the start, because I thought it was going to do just this, mess up things with the 5 spot. They already had Big Z and Andy Varejao, now add Shaq to the rotation. I still believe the best lineup they could put out there is Varejao at the 5, J.J. Hickson at the 4, LeBron at the 3, Anthony Parker at the 2, and Mo Williams at the 1. That lineup would be scary; Hickson would be the banger/enforcer at the 4, Andy Varejao would give you tough defense and energy at the 5, a deep threat with Parker at the 2, and all around skill guys with Williams and LeBron at the 1 and 3 respectively. That’s one thing that I don’t like about this Cavs team, no creativity whatsoever. I understand that most teams cannot stop the “LeBron One Against Five And Everybody Else Get The F&(k Out Of The Way” set, but imagine if Mike Brown showed any kind of creativity with his personnel. The Cavs would be even more dangerous. Let’s be honest, the Cavs are going to be in the thick of things in the East, along with Boston, Orlando, and Atlanta. In my opinion, if they want to advance to the Finals out of that group, Mo Williams and Anthony Parker need to step up and be 2nd and 3rd options for LeBron, Mike Brown needs to get creative, and Shaq needs to be a defensive presence in the middle, and that’s it.

Los Angeles Lakers (33-11)- The Lakers are going to have to advance through the playoffs like everybody else in order to get to the Finals again, however, it’s going to take a super human effort to impede their progress. They have as close to a complete team as anybody in the NBA, superstar player (Kobe Bryant), size (Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum), hall of fame coach (Phil Jackson), and most importantly, experience. They’ve been to the NBA Finals in consecutive years and no exactly what’s it’s going to take to get there again. However, they’re not a complete team entirely because they are not strong at the point guard position; Derek Fisher smells like a dead corpse and Jordan Farmar is hit or miss, all the time. There are a couple of things that Lakers fans should be worried about however. The first thing Lakers fans should be worried about is Kobe Bryant. I know he’s been hitting game winning jumpers and being the dominate Kobe of old, but his health could be a concern. He already has a broken finger and I believe he’s on borrowed time as far as the rest of his body. It’s not logical to think that he’s going to be relatively healthy for his entire career. It’s the game of basketball; an injury has to happen at some point. Believe me, as a Lake-Show representative I hope it doesn’t happen either, but it’s hard not to think about. Another thing to be concerned about is center Andrew Bynum’s erratic play as of late. When Pau Gasol was out with injury, Bynum was playing like a franchise center should. However, when Pau got back, he dropped off the face of the earth. In years past, the quality of his play has been determined by how happy he is. Let’s just hope that Bynum can get over this quickly because him and Gasol at the 4 and 5 is a match up nightmare for anybody. In the Western conference, it’s the Lakers, and everybody else. Something catastrophic has to happen for this team not to make the finals.