Musings on the first third of the 16-17 season

Musings on every team for the first third of the 2016-17 NBA season.

Merry Christmas and happy 2/3 of the NBA season left! I’ve been able to watch a little bit of every team and to celebrate the holidays, I’ll be going through each one and giving my take on they stand. Team records are before games on 12/19.

Atlanta Hawks (13-14): These guys are pretty much the same as last year, and the before that, and the year before that. Mediocre. Maybe will slip into playoffs only to lose before the second round. There is no worse place to be in the NBA – right in the middle. You won’t go far in the playoffs, and you won’t be bad enough to get a good lottery pick. I expected more out of Dennis Schroder this season.

Boston Celtics (15-12): The Celtics are better than their record because they missed Al Horford and Jae Crowder for large chunks of the season so far. They were actually one of the worst defensive teams early on in the season, but since have crept up to 13th in defensive rating.

Brooklyn Nets (7-19): Brooklyn’s most exciting off-season addition has only played sporadically this season due to injury and extreme caution from the coaching staff. They are loaded with ex D-leaguers and they often play like it (tunnel vision, dumb decisions, but scrappy).

Charlotte Hornets (15-13): Expected more from Charlotte and Kemba Walker this season. The whistles have not been favorable to him so far, but he also needs his teammates to just knock down shots. Their stretch 4s (Kaminsky, Hawes, Williams) are extremely streaky and aren’t nearly consistent enough to stop teams from loading up against Kemba.

Chicago Bulls (13-13): What was the over/under on Rondo getting his first suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team?” They look like a team struggling to determine everyone’s roles, which is exactly what they are. The effort and energy problems from last season are still there this year, which is just disappointing.

Cleveland Cavaliers (19-6): Nothing to see here, just the Cavs leading the East while resting their guys once a week. Full coast mode for the Cavs.

Dallas Mavericks (7-20): Honestly, the crazy amount of injuries the Mavs have suffered through this season might be a blessing in disguise. If they were healthy, Rick Carslile would have probably gotten them to 12-15 or something, which is just good enough to fight for the playoffs, end up with the 15th pick, and end up nowhere (like the Suns a few years back). At 7-20, they can embrace full tank mode now.

Denver Nuggets (11-16): The Nuggets are still deciding if they want to play big or small. Started off the season starting Jokic and Jurkic, then went with only Faried for a bit, now starting to feature Jokic more. Maybe they should trade one of their many Guards (Barton, Harris, Murray) for one of the 76ers many forwards.

Detroit Pistons (14-15): The return of Reggie Jackson has done nothing for the Pistons so far. I think he has a tendency to hold the ball for one pass too long and already we are hearing grumblings from the rest of the team.

Golden State Warriors (24-4): See Cavs.

Houston Rockets (21-7): Hiring Mike D’Antoni. Signing Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. Letting Dwight walk. Daryl Morey has to be a front runner for GM of the year and Harden for MVP.

Indiana Pacers (14-14): Really in the same boat as the Hawks. Good enough maybe to sneak into the playoffs, but that’s about it. If I could say one thing to Myles Turner – Set solid screens!! So many times he barely touches the defender when setting a screen.

Los Angeles Clippers (20-8): Another good start for the Clippers. Yes, Blake Griffin is out for a while, but remember how good they were when that happened a while back? DeAndre Jordan about to average 20 rebounds a game.

Los Angeles Lakers (11-19): The Lakers were 10-10 at one point and all smiles. They are hitting their first real patch of adversity this season and they haven’t responded well. Their offense is basically “let the guards take turns pick and rolling the other team to death.”

Memphis Grizzlies (18-11): David Fizzdale dark horse candidate for Coach of the Year. The Grizzlies were starting Marc Gasol + 4 randoms for a stretch and they are still 6th in the West. Bet they wish they regret that Chandler Parsons signing now.

Miami Heat (9-19): Unlucky year for the Heat injury wise, but other teams have had it worse and done better. They need more shooting on the wings and decide exactly what they want to do with Hassan. Sometimes they give it to him, sometimes the guards ignore him and jack up bricks.

Milwaukee Bucks (13-12): These guys have lost a lot of winnable games this year. Easy to forget that they are missing their best 3PT shooter until March.

Minnesota Timberwolves (7-19): The Timberwolves — 2 years away from being 2 years away. Sucking for a good pick is great and all, but at some point you need to actually win games. Perpetually being in the lottery is not a long-term strategy. At this point, they are starting two 1st overall picks but still are one loss away from being the worst in the league. At what point do they stop playing for the lottery and start playing for wins?

New Orleans Pelicans (9-20): I wonder what Alvin Gentry would do without Anthony Davis. So much of his offense seems to be “give the ball to Davis. That’s it”. Not only is the offense horrible to watch, but he rides Davis for no reason sometimes. That one game against the Hawks where Anthony Davis left in the 1st half with an injury, only to come back in the 3rd when the Pelicans were up 40 stands out.

New York Knicks (14-13): This is the year Carmelo begins his slow decline into irrelevancy. He has had some really, really bad games this year. Porzingis is amaaazing, but the rest of the Knicks are what you would expect. Good enough to be mildly entertaining, but no serious threat.

Oklahoma City Thunder (16-11): It must be frustrating being Victor Oladipo. He doesn’t get the ball a lot because Westbrook is always hogging it, Westbrook doesn’t play defense in return, and all anyone talks about are triple doubles. Maybe this is how Durant felt.

Orlando Magic (12-17): A mismatch of awkwardness on this roster. First, why sign Biyombo when you already have Vucevic? Is Aaron Gordon a PF or a SF? Why get Serge Ibaka an Jeff Green and Mario Hezonja? What is your plan at PG? Their roster is filled with good players who share each others positions. Sounds like the team below.

Philadelphia 76ers (7-20): A 5th pick PF, a 3rd pick Center, a 3rd pick center, a 1st overall PF, a 12th pick PF. I get the whole “draft for talent, not position thing”, but at some point you had to see this coming. At 7-20, looks like they are headed for another top lottery pick. Again, at what point do you start playing for wins instead of picks?

Phoenix Suns (8-19): I feel like the Suns should win more games than they should, but they also have a ton of guys who are just bad and lazy on defense (looking at you Bledsoe). They could definitely use a good stretch 4.

Portland Trail Blazers (13-16): I remember last year the Blazers always seemed to make big shots in the right moments to win. Not so much this year. Their offense is letting Damian Lillard do some PnR, then letting CJ do some. Also, Miles Plumlee is too busy nodding at people to cut to play defense.

Sacramento Kings (10-17): Demarcus Cousins has been with the kings for 6+ years now and not once have they made the playoffs. Can you imagine if Lebron did the same thing? At some point, it’s not about the players around him anymore. He really needs to stop jogging back on defense when he doesn’t get calls.

San Antonio Spurs (22-5): No Tim Duncan, no problem. Just a casual 22-5 records and only 1.5 games behind the loaded Warriors. In classic Spurs fashion, nobody is talking about them.

Toronto Raptors (19-8): The question for the Raptors is this: How are you going to beat Lebron? They have pretty much the same roster as last year, minus Biyombo. If it didn’t work last year, why will it work this year? So far, they don’t look much different to me.

Utah Jazz (18-10): Sleeper team of the year right here. They are 18-10 despite not having George Hill and Derrick Favors for most of the season. Their offense is ugly, but their defense is elite thanks to Gobert and team effort. They will definitely be a team to watch out for once all their guys get healthy.

Washington Wizards (12-14): The Wizards had one good stretch where they made the playoffs twice and even got to the second round. That’s about it. How does this guy still have his job?

 

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Author: Jasper Wu

Jasper is a consultant in New York City and founder of BallAndOne.com and Wu Advisory. He graduated from Cornell University.