Some People's Kids: Things that Don't Suck... Volume 1

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Things that Don't Suck... Volume 1

Its that time again. With all the talk(and rightfully so) about the NCAA Tournament and all the excitement and intriguing story lines it brings us every year, one might not realize that the NBA playoffs are on the horizon. Now, usually this would bring a yawn to most of you, and it would usually have the same effect on me as well. Usually, no matter how much we all don't want it to happen, San Antonio meets some boring overmatched Eastern Conference team in the Finals and we all know how that ends up. This year, however is m
uch different. I haven't been this excited to watch the NBA playoffs since Number 23 was breaking Byron Russell's ankles in Salt Lake. In case you have lived under a rock these last couple months, you have probably heard that the Western Conference is the most competitive it has ever been. How the Top 8 seeds can be so good and separated by 6 games this late in the season is something to behold. Seeds routinely change every day, preventing us from really knowing who's playing who in the first round up until probably the last day of the season. The East is better too, but other than the top three teams, Boston, Detriot, and Cleveland, it will be irrelevant once the playoffs start. Since its impossible to know match ups yet, I felt that I would just take time breaking down some of the goings on in the West. All the excitement really started after the All Star Break, when a bevy of monster trades happened. First it was Pau Gasol going to the Lakers, then Shaq to the Suns, and finally Jason Kidd to the Mavericks. Usually you see one big trade every year around that time, but not three and especially not three with such big implications. After that, the Yao-Less Rockets went on an unbelievable 22 game winning streak to vault from out of the playoffs to the #1 seed. And now, with about three weeks left before the playoffs begin, the unlikely of unlikely has happened as now the New Orleans Hornets, fresh off a five game winning streak which included the likes of Houston, Boston, and on the road at Cleveland and an improving Indiana Pacer team, sit atop the West Standings. If anyone says they called that one when the season began, they lie worse than Pete Rose does.

The New Orleans Hornets
The feel good story of the NBA. A team that seemingly went from homeless to one of the most exciting teams in the NBA overnight. It all started when Chris Paul fell into their laps with the fourth pick in the 2005 draft. There were two "can't miss" point guards in that draft, Deron Williams and Chris Paul. How BOTH of these two got pass Point Guard-less Atlanta at the Number 2 pick boggles my mind. I guess that's why the Hawks are the Hawks. They are getting better now, but think of a combination of Chris Paul, Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith.. Eek.
But alas, the Hornets got a gift handed to them, and haven't looked back since. Building around Paul, and combining David West with new arrivals Tyson Chandl
er and a fresh off back surgery Peja Stojakovic, they created a young nucleus that has blossomed into one of the more exciting teams in the league. The can beat you any way you like it: Fast breaking, drive and kick, or pick and roll. Not a lot of people remember that David West was the AP player of the year at Xavier in 2003. How he fell to the 18th pick in that years draft is yet another mystery. I think it was a case of NBA teams being on a Euro Craze and not noticing that hey, there are still good players left in this country. West took a couple years to become the player he is now, but like everyone else on this team, is coming of age at the right time. I get the pleasure of seeing these Hornets at the Target Center in a couple weeks, so I will get to see in person what I think that I already know... This team is for real and any team sleeping on them will be met with an early exit.

Golden State Warriors /Denver Nuggets

I chose to group these two teams together because they are essentially the same team. They both have sometimes amazing offenses, capable of running you off the court. They both, however, have atrocious defenses, which usually spells disaster for teams in the playoffs. The Warriors have been one of my favorite teams since last year when they made their run at the end of the regular season and into the Western playoffs. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows thats no secret. But what has changed t
his year is that they are better than last years team. The roster has changed that much, if at all(minus the failed Chris Webber experiment) but what has changed is that they are a year older and a year better. Last year, Monta Ellis barely had a place in the playoff rotation. This year, there's times that he literally doesn't seem to miss, and his place on the team is no longer in question. Baron Davis has been the healthiest he has ever been in his career in being one of the most valuable players in the league. Everyone on this team can shoot, excluding Andris Beidrens, who doesn't need to. They come at you with numerous three point bombs and they throw athlete after athlete at you. That can be a scary combination when used the right way. This coupled with the fact that they have the best homecourt advantage in the league. Not the best record, but the best advantage. If you have seen that place, you know its the loudest arena in the league. If I can make that conclusion from watching a game on TV, how do you think it feels to be an opponent there?

The Nuggets have more of a collection of superstar players, but its the same story. When they are on, they are really on. I don't know if enough was made of them scoring 168 points a couple weeks back against the Sonics. This wasn't some crazy triple overtime game. It was a regular 4 quarter tilt. They scored 48 points in the first quarter! That's more than about 85% of the league averages in a half. They can score from many different ways also. Any team with Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson better be able to score. They can hit the three too, which can be a great equalizer. Their major drawback, however, is their
wretched defense. In that same game against the Sonics, they gave up 116 points. To the Sonics! They had a stretch in which they gave up 135 points to the offensively-inept Chicago Bulls and 136 to the slow-it-down, half court Detroit Pistons. They may get to the playoffs, but because they just can't stop anybody ever, they will be an early exit.

Utah Jazz

This isn't your older brother's Utah Jazz. This team is actually fun to watch at times. This coming from a guy who grew up loathing the site of the Jazz and Jerry Sloan. This team doesn't have boring John Stockton leading the way. Instead, they have Deron Williams, who's quickly becoming one of the best points in the league. Boring Karl Malone is replaced with Carlos Boozer, who, say what you will about him, has become a pretty damn good player. You throw in role players, Ronnie Brewer, Mhemet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko
, and sharp shooter Kyle Korver, and they are going to be a tough out, especially at home where they hold one of the league's best records.

The Rest

I figure you probably know mostly about the Other Western Conference contenders. The Suns are still really good, and that Shaq-Fu thing seems to be working out alot better than most people thought it would. The Mavericks might not even make the playoffs now without Galloping German, Dirk Nowitzki, who is out for the next couple weeks with a nasty ankle/knee injury. The Lakers can beat anybody if they would just stay healthy for an extended period of time. Oh yeah, and they have that Kobe guy, which is always nice too. It was a nice run for Houston, and we're happy for 'em, but they aren't going anywhere. And the Spurs are the Spurs and nobody cares.

I'm really glad that TNT has wall to wall coverage of this season's playoffs because I will be tuning in for as much as I can take. And while the NCAA tournament will give us plenty to talk about over the next couple weeks, don't forget about the millionaires. With all these great teams and possibly great scenarios, the NBA could have it's own "one shining moment" before its all said and done. Lord knows they have needed one.

1 comment:

The Inevitable Muck-up said...

I know this post was about the West, but saying only three teams have a chance in the east is unfair. Don't sleep on the Magic... they're 5 and a half games up on Cleveland as of right now.

Good show, can't wait for volume 2 and any others that follow.