Guest Post: Ranking The NBA Contenders

Paolo is back again, applying the criteria he set forth in his earlier post today to the various contenders around the NBA.

1)  Orlando Magic 17-6
Key Contributors & Roster Depth:
Carter, Howard, Lewis, Ryan Anderson, Pietrus, Reddick, Bass, Jason Williams, Barnes
Injury And Organisational Risk Assessment:
Jameer Nelson is out 4-6 weeks with surgery on his left knee.  The gap for his backup at point guard, Jason Williams, to fill looms quite large for most of the regular season, so having Nelson 100% after physical rehab after normally such a critical injury by April is key for a high chance of endured playoff success.  Trade before the deadline for a superior point guard?
Unique Positive Playoff Relevant Stat(s)
1st in NBA for 3-pointers made and attempted
This is the deepest, most well-rounded team in the league so far.  Barring the unforeseen other key injuries, getting at least to the conference finals is Orlando’s to botch at this point.
2)  DRAW:  Boston Celtics 19-4 & Atlanta Hawks 17-6
Key Contributors & Roster Depth:
Boston:  Pierce, Allen, Garnett, Perkins, Rondo, Wallace
Atlanta:  Joe Johnson, Crawford, Josh Smith, Horford, Marvin Williams, Bibby
Injury And Organisational Risk Assessment:
None of material significance observed or known.
Unique Positive Playoff Relevant Stat(s)
1st FG% (49.4%)
2nd Steals
3rd Assists
4th Blocked Shots
5th Average Points Per Game (104.7)
Neither team is as deep as Orlando on the roster and that is my only reason for ranking them next.
Either squad is healthy and strong enough not only to go the distance of seven games again against each other in the playoffs but also to do the same in a battle with Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals.
4)  DRAW:  Phoenix Suns 16-8 & Cleveland Cavaliers 17-7
Key Contributors & Roster Depth:
Stoudemire, Nash, Richardson, Hill, Frye, Barbosa, Dudley
James, Mo Williams, O’Neal, Hickson, Anthony Parker, Ilgauskas, Gibson Varejao, West
Injury And Organisational Risk Assessment:

None of material significance observed or known.
O’Neal is the key risk due to his medical past with the miles on that massive Diesel that already has hindered his participation in minutes before he even arrived, and Ilgauskas just won’t replace O’Neal’s dominating presence for the sake of the playoffs.  O’Neal will be ready little doubt when they make the playoffs, but will he make it to the end of the season in his best playing condition for the twilight of his career to be the required playoff success factor beyond any lowered status as an effective lane cactus?
Unique Positive Playoff Relevant Stat(s)
1st 3pt% (42.8%)
2nd FG%, Assists, Pts/Game (108.4)
2nd 3pt% (41.8%)
5th FG%
Many will debate or some might think, as do I for the latter, why these teams are not ranked higher on this list?  The answer is mediocre or sloppy results on the road, at 8-8 and 8-5 respectively, though both sizzling hot at home.
In their defense, the Suns have the distinction of having an undefeated record at home with only eight home games so far yet the most away games so far of any team in the league at 16.
The bottom line is that in order to leap Boston or Atlanta on this list, these teams will have to match those teams with solid performance at home and exceed their performances on the road, and already this is an uphill battle for each of these teams.
Otherwise mediocre or bad road teams consistently make for playoff disappointments.
6)  Dallas Mavericks 17-7
Key Contributors & Roster Depth:
Nowitzki, Terry, Howard, Marion, Barea, Kidd, Gooden, Dampier
Injury And Organisational Risk Assessment:
Dallas has the highest vulnerability on this list in my opinion due to Howard’s and Marion’s long-term ankle injuries, with both still able to play in pain, that won’t go away this season for Howard and likely not either for Marion.  Transaction time now for some insurance for when one of is likely to go down?  Don’t get me wrong I don’t wish them or any player medical harm, but would you take the the under on a sinister imaginary bet that at least one of them goes down before the playoffs even if you would not take the over?
Unique Positive Playoff Relevant Stat(s)
1st Blocked Shots
2nd Rebounds
3rd FT% and Assists
With no transaction to provide insurance or support for Howard or Marion, I do not see how Dallas will be able to perform in the playoffs better than they have so far this season by the time the 82-game regular season has ended.
7)  Los Angeles Lakers 18-4
Key Contributors & Roster Depth:
Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, Artest, Odom
Injury And Organisational Risk Assessment:
The Lakers were a sizzling 10-0 since Gasol returned from injury in their now ended win streak of 11, and that in itself says an awful lot no doubt but not enough.  Bryant has one serious nagging “pinky injury, but we ought not wonder even after some confusing reports about past pinky injuries that it shall be okay well before the playoffs.
Has the bench support for the LA Lakers ever been this bad this decade?  When you look at individual contributions to the hot start so far, it is definitely it’s time for at least two transactions to shore up this roster for playoff time.
Unique Positive Playoff Relevant Stat(s)
5th Assists
My oh my it appears the battle for defense of the NBA championship trophy is greater now with this lack of roster depth than it was the first time around this decade.  And fat chance making it all the way I say without a solid bench overhaul for that matter.
These Lakers are a classic example why one ought to go well beyond mere win-loss records or streaks.
The Lakers have the opposite situation of the Phoenix Suns as stated above.  The Lakers have played the most home games of any NBA team at 17 and have had the lowest number of away games at only 5!
8)  Denver Nuggets 17-7
Key Contributors & Roster Depth:
Anthony, Billups, JR Smith, Nene`, Kenyon Martin, Lawson, Affalo
Injury And Organisational Risk Assessment:
Nothing worth mentioning for long-term risk even with now Kenyon Martin day-to-day with apparently one nasty dislocated left pinky finger.
Unique Positive Playoff Relevant Stat(s)
2nd FT% (80.8%)
1st Pts/Game (108.5)
Hot at home yet mediocre on the road at 7-6.  See the analysis for Phoenix and Cleveland above in that regard.  Furthermore, despite having an equal record so far as many teams above, Denver has some catching up to round themselves out up to the level of superior teamwork possessed by every other team on this list.
9) Utah Jazz 14-9
The Jazz are mentioned only because they beat the Lakers over the weekend to end the Lakers’ win streak of 11 games and go over 600.  Further analysis is of little merit now with their 3-6 record on the road.  Get outta here with any frequent homer-type talk of meaningful playoff potential, beyond perhaps the first round at this point, with that sort of bad performance on the road.


Filed under Guest Post, NBA

6 responses to “Guest Post: Ranking The NBA Contenders

  1. Wait, what?

    The Lakers are 7th? I can’t get behind that at all. If anyone lacks depth, it’s the Magic… and the Cavs… and the Suns. Their starters play like 85%+ of the minutes.

    Shannon Brown has proven great off the bench and Lamar Odom is your 6th man? C’mon… Vujacic is garbage but the Lakers bench is just fine.

  2. younglefty

    I enjoyed this. Good post. I think a lot of people have been poo pooing the Hawks thus far, but I see them having a legitimate shot to get to the Eastern Conference Finals.

  3. Maver1ck

    I enjoyed this post, but I don’t agree with putting the Cavs in a draw for 4th, and the Lakers in 7th. Lakers have looked a lot better than the Cavs thus far.

  4. Billy Buckner

    This is awesome.

  5. bbryan

    I’d have the Lakers swap places with the Magic and the Nugs swap places with the Suns.

    /takes bong rip in honor of Paolo

  6. Paolo X

    For lacking depth, you could make a sound argument for the Suns or Cavs but not for the Magic. The Suns and Cavs look better than the Lakers now due to all-around better team performance in the stat categories and the Lakers shallow roster beyond the five mentioned. The Lakers have hardly been tested on the road at only five games so far, but they play again on the road tonight at Chicago and through January now. We’ll see how they stand at the All-Star break like all the others.
    Furthermore, should the Lakers make it to the playoffs with those contributing five really healthy and in form, guarantee you no team would want to face them as they will be scary game for all teams. However, with only five solid contributors, I doubt they would go the distance for sure. Transactions are needed — as in NOW damnit!
    If only it were as easy as going out to Watts, Long Beach, Compton, South Central, et cetera to a pickup game to find some supporting game that was not hindered by drugs or probation or criminal activity? It would be great to hear from a Laker fan in SoCal on this matter.

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