Can you believe that the season is already half way over? With the All-Star game quickly on its way (Slam Dunk Roster Announced Today), we are approaching the home stretch of the year. This indicates a few things:
#1: The Warrior's schedule is about to get much harder.
#2: The Trade Deadline is about to (possibly?) shift power around the association.
#3: Teams are mentally preparing for the home stretch and their bids to sneak into the last remaining spots.
As we progress through the rest of the season, we have to remember that anything we think we know can change with the blink of an eye. If a team has a three or four game losing streak? It could drop them far down in the bracket. An extended winning streak for a team on the fringe? That could move you up into the top four spots. With so much parity in the middle rankings in both divisions, every game now counts more than ever. A big injury, a big trade.. anything can change your fortunes. Which teams should have an eye kept on them for a big move?
Another week.. another dominating one for the top Western Teams. The Warriors go 9-1 over their last 10 games and barely stay pace with the top three teams. The Spurs added a second loss to the Cavs after the Warriors took them out at home, leaving us with a comfortable four game lead for the time being. Remember that lead is only as good as the three remaining games these two teams still have left head-to-head. The Thunder have shown up in full force as of recent weeks, but still have a large hill to climb if they hope to overcome the Spurs for the second spot. It should be noted that their recent win streak has included three wins over the Timberwolves, two wins over Dallas, and no team in the top four of either division. They did also lose to the team formerly known as Brooklyn in Brooklyn and needed a buzzer beater to beat Orlando at home, which goes to prove that any team can lose to any other team on a given night.
Teams to keep an eye on
Portland: Did anyone notice they won eight of their last 10? They have won their last five as of today (though none of the teams were over .500). Ever since they lost to the Sixers in Philly, the team has been getting serious about defense while only allowing one opponent to score over 100 points. This is what a young can roster do - they have the talent to go on runs and focus because they have the physical talent to do it. They find themselves in the eighth spot with a one-way ticket to the Warriors in the first round. Could they overtake the Rockets, whom they trail by a game and a half? Could they make a trade at the deadline with some of their young talent and excess cap space?
Houston: The rumors this week have Houston as both buyers and sellers. Dwight Howard to the Celtics could be seen as a while flag, however the team seems ready to hand the center duties to Clint Capella and get an upgrade at the wing. They lost three of their last four, including two games against possible playoff opponents in the Spurs and the Thunder. I think its time for D Morey to have a serious talk with his front office about the truths of this year. Finishing barely over .500 just won't do anything for a franchise with high expectations.
Sacramento: It can't be fun for the Kings and their fans. Boogie scores 50, and they still lose. They blow late leads, and truly in a blink of an eye they go from playoff darling to now being 2 1/2 out of the 8th spot. Drops like this have the front office thinking about dumping Rudy Gay and retooling for better assets. They have an upcoming homestead that should swing their season before the break. Brooklyn, Boston, Cleveland and the Sixers all come to town. If they don't finish those games at least 2-2, look for Vlade Divac to work hard in Toronto with the other GMs for a big splashy move.
It is Toronto, not Cleveland, that is looking like the top team in the East. Poor David Blatt. Takes the fall for the Cavs and now Tyronn Lue has them playing slower, more methodical, but apparently having more fun. Who knows with that team, which Jeckyl and Hydes its way into a loss to the Hornets after beating the Spurs at home. Toronto looks focused, working on all cylinders and is motivated to make the push to the top seed. They only sit 2 1/2 games out of the top spot, but only get one game against the Cavs to end the season. Which team has the tougher road to end the year? I give that to the Raptors who still have games in San Antonio and home for the Thunder left on their schedule.
Teams to keep an eye on
The Knicks: Weren't they suppose to be a playoff team? They find themselves 3 1/2 out of the 8th spot after a horrible 3-7 run in their last 10. Warriors fans watched that game in NYC - they have pieces to be a contender, but they are inconsistent and have too many good players/not enough great players. Detroit, the team holding the 8th spot, doesn't look much better and is now giving way as the Hornets (fresh off beating LeBron & Co) look to move into the 8th spot.
Boston: They are starting to make their push, and behind a recent surge now find themselves tied for the third spot in the East. What does the three get you instead of the four? A series with Miami and a chance to avoid Playoff Derrick Rose before he hurts his hammy in a Game 7. The Bulls are about to get underrated Mike Dunleavy Jr. back which should make them older and smarter to go around their young talent. Boston might be a trade away but should be pushing hard to keep this momentum alive. Their season could change in a blink with the right trade. They remind me of the Knicks pre-Carmelo. They have a lot of assets, and have to be careful not to gut their core to get a superstar.
Around the League
- It feels like no big moves will get made before the All-Star break, with the layoff being a good time for teams to assess their places in the standings. I would look for one or two big moves to happen right after teams come back from Toronto, with the contenders wasting no time to get in position for the stretch.
- The Warriors face the Thunder on Saturday night. I don't expect a beat-down like we gave the Spurs at home, but I will predict a win. I think Golden State matches up better agains t the Thunder than the Spurs.. OKC has too many holes and match up problems on their roster. One-on-one ball won't beat Golden State, even though I think Russell and KD will put up big numbers
- About the KD rumors... they are fun to think about and it's nice that Golden State have come out as a front runner for his services. It would all come down to who was still on the roster as a bench, but I believe that our front office wouldn't sacrifice our stability for a big splash.