Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From Here To Eternity (But More Specifically June): Part I

Now that the NBA trade deadline has come and gone, we can get a pretty good outlook at what teams have coming down the home stretch. All but a few teams have taken the approach of making a run for it or tearing up their teams with a chainsaw to clear cap room for the upcoming off season. The ones in the middle either are improving but too young or injured to seriously compete for a title (OK City, Houston) or just crappy and still trying to figure out how to get their heads above water.

I liken it to the scenario of going out to your car and finding a rabid raccoon tearing up the seats, and your decision is basically decided by what you're driving.

Your options:
1) 2010 Cadillac: You've got to get that damn raccoon out of the back seat before the foam stains the leather. There's the high risk/high reward option of shooting the raccoon inside the car repeatedly (Cleveland trading for a good but aging and expensive Jamison) or the conservative route that might not work, like opening the window and hoping like hell the raccoon just leaves before he finds the stereo (Boston trading for Nate Robinson).

2) 2001 Nissan: You can still get around in this ride OK, but it's fair to say you're not going to turn many heads. The best option now is probably to let the raccoon wear himself out and then try to get the insurance money to seriously upgrade everything when the sale comes this summer (Chicago dumping Thomas for 50 cents on the dollar and the Clips sending Camby to Portland).

3) 1986 Hyundai: This is a complete piece of shit and everyone knows it. The best option is set the car on fire (don't worry about the raccoon, he'll make a run for it) and start from scratch. Just do it. That raccoon's rabid, remember? You had nothing before, and you're walking for awhile, but at least you can put all the insurance money into the new car. Of course, there are only about 3 cars that can drive you anywhere exciting, so nothing's guaranteed. This, my friends, is the NY Knicks and Sacramento.

So who really can contend moving forward?
(Note: I'll do the East in a Separate Post)

Western Conference:

Lakers: 40% Chance of winning West
The Lakers do look tough, but I think they're a step down from last year and the rest of the Western elite have improved. Kobe is banged up but still elite, and Gasol remains a big time threat. But otherwise, it's not the same Lakers. Artest is always up and down, and Bynum goes back and forth between looking like an elite interior presence and a foul-prone journeyman. The key player here is Odom. When he's on, he creates enormous matchup problems and creates for the other guys. If he's ineffective, teams can pack it in low and force Kobe to beat them with jumpers. He'll get a few of them, but not enough to consistently beat elite teams. Derek Fisher is absolutely killing them right now because he's about 120 years old and still 6'1''. And for whatever reason, they suddenly have started clanging free throws like a PAL team. But as always, the Mamba makes you dangerous as all hell in the clutch, an element you can't escape.

Denver: 40% Chance of winning West
These guys look substantially better than last year and appear ready to get it done. They have everything you'd want in a contender, although they might be a little shallow in terms of paint scoring. Fortunately, Carmelo creates enough mismatches that he can get the easy buckets to ensure offensive flow. I love their backcourt depth with Lawson and JR Smith giving them totally different looks from the starters. They're hungry, deep, and talented, and I would take them in a matchup with the Lakers right now, with Billups and Lawson both having big series. I'd be a little nervous about the potential for front court injuries, since their big guys have been a little injury prone over the years, but overall they've held up well so far this season.

Dallas: 15% Chance of winning West
People are sleeping on this team and it's a mistake. I love their starting 5 and they have solid backcourt depth with Terry in the rotation. Nowitzki's playing extremely well and they seem to have solid balance throughout the lineup. The trade with the Wizards was a total steal for this year and the guys they brought in are playing well. My biggest concern is the frontcourt depth. They have Haywood at the 5, but the only other size they have is Nowitzki at the 4 (not exactly on the Barkley/Oakley level of physicality, you could say) and the rickety corpse of Erick Dampier. This could be a major problem against LA, but likely less so against Denver. Matchups are the key here.

The Rest: 5% Chance of Winning the West.
I'm sorry, but Utah, Portland, OK City, and the others aren't going to win the conference. They might challenge in a series and even pull an upset, but they nobody's going to go through all of the first teams listed on the road and do it 3 times. Probably OK City is the most dangerous team, because Durant could go for 45 any night of the series, but it's unlikely he'll do this enough to go further than round 2.

Note: We'll finish this and talk about the East in another post coming soon.

1 comment:

  1. In my experience, killing a rabid raccoon is much like killing a vampire. You can't wrestle it because ultimately it will give you rabies/make you into a vampire. Studies have shown that the best way to deal with the problem when either a rabid raccoon or vampire is in your car is to put a tv on the hood with the YES Network on. Force the creature to watch a Nets game from start to finish. The pure horror of watching this team will make the creature attempt to flee your car. A few bad jump shots from Yi or a wild shot from Harris will undoubtedly make the creature go for the doors.

    In the case of a vampire, when it rushes out of your car, you must give it a DDT onto the pavement (don't forget to put your off hand in the air while you do it to get the crowd into it). In the case of the raccoon, just let the little guy go, a little frothing never hurt anyone.