2011 NBA Power Rankings – Week 19

Our first rankings update after absorbing some real trade deadline results.  Obviously, the “SMALL SAMPLE SIZE” alert flashes in neon, but it is interesting to see if teams have gotten out of things what they wanted.  First, the total body of work – the methodology is here:

Rank Team W L Off Def Road SOS Rating
1 Spurs 51 12 103.965 (2) 96.639 (7) 1.722 1.865 (10) 10.913
2 Lakers 45 19 103.536 (3) 96.647 (8) 1.859 1.446 (28) 10.195
3 Heat 43 20 103.155 (4) 96.263 (6) 1.833 1.45 (27) 10.175
4 Celtics 46 15 100.253 (13) 93.382 (2) 1.664 1.49 (26) 10.025
5 Bulls 44 18 98.899 (17) 92.653 (1) 1.75 1.737 (20) 9.733
6 Magic 40 24 101.229 (10) 95.455 (4) 1.586 1.773 (16) 9.133
7 Mavericks 46 17 102.903 (7) 98.482 (13) 1.722 1.84 (11) 7.983
8 Nuggets 37 27 104.282 (1) 101.333 (20) 1.695 1.896 (9) 6.541
9 Thunder 39 23 103.125 (5) 100.734 (16) 1.75 2.333 (2) 6.475
10 Hornets 37 29 98.479 (20) 95.843 (5) 1.909 1.835 (12) 6.38
11 Sixers 32 30 99.674 (15) 97.211 (9) 1.75 1.192 (29) 5.404
12 Knicks 33 29 103.005 (6) 101.314 (19) 1.75 1.545 (25) 4.987
13 Rockets 33 32 102.857 (8) 101.614 (22) 1.885 1.757 (17) 4.884
14 Grizzlies 36 29 99.031 (16) 97.996 (10) 1.831 1.995 (6) 4.861
15 Blazers 36 27 99.716 (14) 99.205 (15) 1.778 1.745 (19) 4.035
16 Suns 32 29 102.585 (9) 102.121 (24) 1.779 1.785 (15) 4.027
17 Hawks 37 26 98.749 (18) 98.46 (11) 1.889 1.03 (30) 3.207
18 Jazz 33 31 100.368 (11) 101.23 (18) 1.695 1.736 (21) 2.568
19 Bucks 23 38 93.737 (30) 95.306 (3) 1.721 1.955 (7) 2.108
20 Pacers 27 35 96.974 (23) 98.468 (12) 1.75 1.553 (24) 1.809
21 Warriors 27 35 100.366 (12) 102.91 (27) 1.694 2.13 (5) 1.279
22 Bobcats 26 37 95.799 (25) 98.713 (14) 1.778 1.68 (23) 0.543
23 Clippers 24 40 97.3 (22) 101.538 (21) 1.695 2.197 (3) -0.346
24 Pistons 23 41 98.701 (19) 103.049 (28) 1.695 1.729 (22) -0.924
25 Timberwolves 15 50 96.762 (24) 102.301 (25) 1.723 1.809 (13) -2.007
26 Kings 15 46 95.542 (26) 101.227 (17) 1.664 1.747 (18) -2.274
27 Raptors 17 46 98.426 (21) 104.423 (29) 1.722 1.914 (8) -2.36
28 Nets 19 43 95.522 (27) 101.716 (23) 1.75 1.799 (14) -2.645
29 Wizards 16 46 94.707 (29) 102.436 (26) 1.694 2.166 (4) -3.869
30 Cavaliers 12 50 94.757 (28) 105.123 (30) 1.75 2.362 (1) -6.254

Sure, life is good now that the Heat are losing, right? Certainly their miserable week has been expounded on plenty.  But what else has been trending?

  • Curiously, the Nuggets since dealing Carmelo, are your #2 ranked team in the past week.  Most notable has been their defense.  Entering the deadline, they were allowing 101.8 points per pace adjusted game, 21st in the league.  In the small time since the new guys have come in – Denver has dropped to 90.5 points allowed.  Whether this is sustainable or not is anyone’s guess – but with Billups and Melo gone, the team is more athletic – and perhaps the sort of team Karl has been more successful with anyway.
  • The Bobcats, after dealing Nazr Mohammed and Gerald Wallace, basically are without players I have heard of (ok, that’s a lie – but only because I have no life).  One presumes they want to rebuild – and with their dead last performance since the deal, they might have gotten the non-playoffs they are looking for.
  • A team that notably didn’t deal, the Lakers, have not lost since the break.  Since the trade deadline, they are #1 in defense and #1 in margin in general.  Is this a quirk of playing Charlotte in addition to their nationally televised beatdown of San Antonio – or are they actually “rounding into form”.  Seeing Andrew Bynum healthy and rebounding is a scary site to the rest of the West.  The question is if the Lakers have given away too many seeding positions.
  • The Knicks?  They have seen the fruits of adding Melo on the offensive end for sure, jumping from 9th to 6th in that area.  In particular, they have been 2nd in efficiency since the deadline.  The defense is still not a virtue, and the trade has not addressed that.  The Knicks will have to outscore teams – but it seems like they might have some ability to.

2011 NBA Power Rankings – Week 18

It’s Tuesday, so it must mean new rankings are here – and this represents a break of sorts with the trade deadline occurring last Thursday.  As usual, the methodology is here.

Rank Team W L Off Def Road SOS Rating
1 Heat 44 17 103.619 (4) 95.452 (4) 1.836 1.195 (29) 11.198
2 Spurs 49 10 103.89 (2) 96.184 (7) 1.72 1.703 (18) 11.129
3 Celtics 43 15 99.955 (13) 93.129 (2) 1.69 1.595 (23) 10.11
4 Lakers 42 19 103.701 (3) 97.135 (9) 1.836 1.403 (27) 9.804
5 Bulls 41 17 99.317 (16) 92.857 (1) 1.69 1.445 (26) 9.594
6 Magic 37 22 101.053 (10) 95.469 (5) 1.661 1.502 (25) 8.747
7 Mavericks 43 16 102.568 (7) 98.254 (13) 1.72 1.9 (12) 7.935
8 Hornets 35 26 98.711 (18) 95.736 (6) 1.779 1.947 (11) 6.701
9 Nuggets 35 26 104.295 (1) 101.81 (21) 1.664 1.981 (10) 6.131
10 Thunder 36 22 102.701 (5) 100.767 (16) 1.75 2.353 (2) 6.037
11 Sixers 30 29 99.496 (15) 97.106 (8) 1.839 1.28 (28) 5.509
12 Knicks 30 27 102.414 (9) 101.167 (19) 1.781 1.631 (22) 4.659
13 Grizzlies 33 28 98.472 (20) 97.662 (10) 1.893 1.646 (19) 4.35
14 Rockets 30 31 102.551 (8) 102.018 (23) 1.836 1.838 (13) 4.207
15 Suns 31 27 102.652 (6) 102.028 (24) 1.69 1.639 (21) 3.952
16 Blazers 33 26 99.629 (14) 99.293 (15) 1.78 1.716 (16) 3.832
17 Hawks 36 24 99.07 (17) 98.221 (12) 1.983 0.868 (30) 3.7
18 Jazz 32 29 100.36 (12) 100.961 (18) 1.721 1.744 (15) 2.864
19 Pacers 26 32 97.267 (22) 98.03 (11) 1.69 1.547 (24) 2.474
20 Bucks 22 36 93.83 (30) 95.273 (3) 1.81 1.995 (9) 2.363
21 Bobcats 26 33 96.627 (25) 98.485 (14) 1.72 1.645 (20) 1.507
22 Warriors 26 32 100.396 (11) 103.067 (28) 1.569 2.178 (6) 1.076
23 Clippers 21 40 97.247 (23) 101.845 (22) 1.721 2.196 (4) -0.68
24 Pistons 22 39 98.534 (19) 103.013 (27) 1.721 2.045 (8) -0.712
25 Kings 15 43 95.451 (26) 100.954 (17) 1.69 1.704 (17) -2.11
26 Timberwolves 14 46 96.697 (24) 102.305 (25) 1.692 1.744 (14) -2.172
27 Raptors 16 44 98.065 (21) 104.281 (29) 1.692 2.178 (5) -2.346
28 Nets 17 43 94.859 (27) 101.574 (20) 1.808 2.08 (7) -2.827
29 Wizards 15 44 94.599 (28) 102.513 (26) 1.72 2.507 (1) -3.687
30 Cavaliers 11 48 94.45 (29) 104.904 (30) 1.78 2.228 (3) -6.446

This week’s observations revolve around the context of some of the big deals and what to look at going forward. In particular:

  • The Celtics moving Perkins would seem to reduce their effectiveness defending the inside.  Meanwhile Green gives them some different skills, and Troy Murphy gives them some offensive firepower.  Will their 13th ranked offense compensate for the perceived defensive dropoff?
  • The Thunder by adding Perk and Mohammed, got bigger and tougher inside.  Also moving Serge Ibaka into the starting lineup should improve their defense.  Will their mediocre 16th ranked defense improve significantly?
  • The Hawks added Kirk Hinrich because they did not want a human traffic cone to be their point guard.  Will their 12th ranked defense improve enough to really make them more than just a no-man’s land team in the East?
  • The Knicks made the highest profile moves of anybody.  The Knicks have been 9th in offense, 19th in defense.  One suspects Melo will add little value to the latter – but can the team’s offense rise up to REALLY make them interesting?

Dare to be Stupid – The Melo Deal

After much anticipation, we have unofficial word of Carmelo Anthony being dealt to the New York Knicks.  Honestly, I was hoping the deal would be made at halftime of the NBA All Star Game so he could switch uniforms at halftime.  Alas, no such luck.  However, the three team deal that made this happen – assuming this is the trade – is very interesting.

The Timberwolves get Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph from the Knicks.

The Knicks get Corey Brewer from the Timberwolves.  The Knicks get Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman from the Nuggets.

The Nuggets get Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton, a 2014 first round pick and 2012 and 2013 second rounders that belonged to the Warriors.

For the Timberwolves, this deal is pretty basic.  They get Eddy Curry’s salary cap space and Anthony Randolph’s otherworldly but as yet untapped talent in exchange for Corey Brewer – who is a nice player, but not somebody who will be a core player on the next good Timberwolves team.  Actually I like this for the Timberwolves, and if you look carefully David Kahn has done a good job accumulating talent – granted talent without any real fit, but talent.

For the Nuggets, they obviously are a loser.  When you give up the best player in the deal – it’s a loss.  However, if you accept that Carmelo was gone – then Denver did fairly well.  They got four starters from the Knicks, all up-tempo and can fit into the system Denver already runs.  Mozgov is a bit of a wildcard – he has been awful most of the year, but has delivered a couple of encouraging performances.  The starting caliber players do not make up for Anthony and Billups, but it gets them younger and cleans up their payroll.  The draft pick bounty is not as good as what New Jersey offered – that is the surprise about Denver taking this deal.  I guess your grade for Denver is directly related to how seriously you took Melo’s position.  Denver could have called his bluff and moved him to the Nets who seemed to be offering some sort of mini Herschel Walker package.  In making this move, they seemed spooked about Anthony’s willingness to facilitate a move to the better deal.  Whether that is true or not, we’ll never know.

The Knicks pretty clearly got the best players here.  That said, one questions the Knicks dealmaking – giving up so much in this sort of move when you had so much implied leverage, it was as if the Knicks were either A) being run by Isiah Thomas (maybe they ARE) or B) channeling Barack Obama in a room full of Republicans.  The Knicks got two elite starters in Anthony and Billups.  Going with Stoudemire, this is an exciting team.  However, especially with a new labor agreement coming, I do not know if there is cap room for the Knicks to add more.  If Anthony signs, this is their team for the foreseeable future – unless they think they can move Billups for a younger point guard.  This team looks like they will be better, and maybe even a dangerous floater in the East tournament.  However, did this deal make the Knicks a serious near term threat against Boston, Miami, Chicago or Orlando?  Is Carmelo Anthony that kind of player?  He is a good rebounder and great scorer – but is he a franchise changer?  I don’t know.  The Knicks won this deal by getting one of those sorts of players who are just serially hard to find.  However, I don’t know how far this will actually get them in the brutally difficult top heavy East.

2010 NFL Power Rankings – Final

Well, one week of the playoffs is already in the can … that said, for posterity’s sake, here are the final numbers:

Rank Team W L T Margin Sched Rtg SOS Rank Last Wk
1 Patriots 14 2 0 17.09 3.481 2 1
2 Packers 10 6 0 13.324 2.745 6 3
3 Steelers 12 4 0 12.965 2.653 9 4
4 Falcons 13 3 0 10.79 1.353 22 5
5 Chargers 9 7 0 9.833 0.833 24 2
6 Ravens 12 4 0 8.99 1.803 16 7
7 Jets 11 5 0 8.251 2.329 11 8
8 Eagles 10 6 0 7.571 2.164 12 6
9 Saints 11 5 0 6.634 0.29 28 9
10 Colts 10 6 0 6.559 1.872 14 10
11 Bears 11 5 0 6.182 1.666 20 13
12 Raiders 8 8 0 4.792 1.495 21 15
13 Giants 10 6 0 4.647 0.475 25 11
14 Titans 6 10 0 4.588 1.854 15 12
15 Lions 6 10 0 3.851 2.851 5 16
16 Chiefs 10 6 0 3.771 -0.479 30 14
17 Bucs 10 6 0 3.59 0.403 27 21
18 Texans 6 10 0 1.895 2.458 10 19
19 Dolphins 7 9 0 1.302 3.302 3 17
20 Cowboys 6 10 0 1.125 1.797 17 20
21 Browns 5 11 0 0.733 2.671 7 18
22 Bengals 4 12 0 0.317 3.755 1 27
23 Vikings 6 10 0 0.218 2.656 8 24
24 49ers 6 10 0 -0.447 0.459 26 28
25 Redskins 6 10 0 -0.87 1.974 13 26
26 Rams 7 9 0 -1.355 -0.871 31 25
27 Jaguars 8 8 0 -1.423 0.952 23 22
28 Bills 4 12 0 -3.284 3.231 4 23
29 Seahawks 7 9 0 -3.974 0.151 29 29
30 Broncos 4 12 0 -4.008 1.773 18 30
31 Cardinals 5 11 0 -8.242 -0.945 32 31
32 Panthers 2 14 0 -9.675 1.732 19 32

If we used the raw numbers from this thing for the wild card round, we would have had (without adjusting for home field):

Saints by 10.6 over the Seahawks, Jets by 1.8 over the Colts, Ravens by 5.2 over the Chiefs, Packers by 5.7 over the Eagles.  Pat on the back for me, even if my picks did not make the mark!

For the record, incorporating the Week 18 results, the raw numbers for this weekends matchups (the delta in “margin”):

Steelers by 2.8 over the Ravens, Packers by 2.6 over the Falcons, Patriots by 8.7 over the Jets, Bears by 9.3 over the Seahawks … picks to come later in the week

 

2010 NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Round

Wow, it HAS been a while, hasn’t it? Anyhoo, Happy New Year to this teeny tiny following here, and I hope that your holidays have been good. Writing from India, obviously great blogging time has been intermittent. (Thus the dearth of power rankings) Of course, there will be posts covering that adventure forthcoming.

However, there is the business at hand, the wild card round and the four matches. With time a wastin before my flight tonight, time to get some wrong picks out there. This way if I am wrong, I have to be accountable – I did not attend Tom Coughlin’s school of blame shifting.

New Orleans Saints (-10.5) at Seattle Seahawks: It is hard for this to not offend my sensibility. The Seahawks of Pete Carroll, by virtue of their location in the truly execrable NFC West, rode a 7-9 record to a home game against the Saints. The Saints are considerable still, though lacking the creds of last year, in particular a decimated running back corps. The defense has been less turnover strong than a year ago. But come on! Even with home field, the Seabags were one of the league’s worst most of the season, and they were debating QBs for the game. The only question is if the Saints cover. Saints 34, Seahawks 17

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5): Rematch of last year’s AFC title game. The Jets are better, the Colts are worse. Now, the Jets have issues running consistently, while Mark Sanchez is beat up at quarterback. The defense is strong though. However the blitz heavy defense is made to order for Peyton Manning if his line can block. And they’ll have to with their injuries at skill positions and their near total inability to run. Peyton can make any prognosticator look bad, but the Jets have to be smarter in their defense this season, especially with a stronger cornerback tandem. Few points but Jets 20, Colts 14

Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5): Rematch of week 1, but this might as well not be. That Eagle team thought Kevin Kolb would be starting. Instead we have the force of nature that is Mike Vick back in the playoffs for the first time in 6 seasons. The Eagles are the most dynamic offense in the league with unmatched big play ability from both passing and running avenues. The Packers have a big play defense and their own force of nature in Aaron Rodgers quarterbacking, but a line that gives him little help, and a total inability to run the football. The Eagles defense makes plays but gives points up, while their return and kicking game require no explanation. Anyway, this is clearly the best game of the weekend. The Eagles do just enough. Eagles 31, Packers 28

Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Kansas City Chiefs: The playoffs are back in Kansas City, which is neat. And this team is in line with what the 90s Martyball teams would love – running hard, passing smart, strong defense. Baltimore clearly is an elite team, especially when they keep the offense focused around Ray Rice like they did in their win over the Saints in Week 15. The defense gets the ink, but they have given up big ground games to opponents much of the year. In a lot of ways this is an offense driven Raven team between Flacco, Rice and their depth at receiver. Baltimore scares me as a Patriots fan but they have to advance first, and the Chiefs might be the wrong matchup. This is no fun without calling a surprise. Chiefs 23, Ravens 20

2011 NBA Preview: Teams 18-13

Before we get to the meat, a side note:

  • I only managed to catch the final two fights on UFC 121.  I am normally not a huge MMA guy, but when the top needle mover in the sport is going, I am up for it.  Brock Lesnar since coming over from fake sports (I knew him from WWE) has been a force of nature unlike anything MMA has seen before.  However, Cain Velasquez was the first guy he faced who was legitimately faster than him.  Lesnar came out hot but Velasquez was ready for it and after the initial rush Velasquez beat the living crap out of Lesnar.  What a performance!  Lesnar needs to figure out how to defend himself when he gets sent down – this almost killed him against Carwin.  Also, sadly, Jake Shields sucked – gave me no reason to think that John Fitch does not deserve to UFC’s #1 contender for GSP – as horrible as that sounds.
  • Wow is Lesnar’s chin awful or what?

Now, back to basketball.

As we rise up the rankings, we have passed bad teams, interesting but unripe teams, uninteresting but skilled teams … now we start getting into fringy playoff sides.

18. Indiana Pacers (21st overall in 2010, 26th offense, 14th defense)

Really the Charlotte Bobcats forecast in our previous entry and the next two entries might qualify for the least interesting teams in the league for this season.  They aren’t bad in any sort of customary way, they might even make the playoffs to be a punching bag for a really good side – but I don’t see much sizzle here.  Danny Granger is a terrific player, but clearly more of a #2 than a #1.  Darren Collison is an excellent point guard prospect, and unlike TJ Ford seems to know that passing is a good idea.  Still, is he going to be on the Rose-Rondo-Deron-CP3 sort of future short list?  But then: Brandon Rush, Tyler Hansbrough, Dontae Jones, Roy Hibbert, Mike Dunleavy.  There are a lot of decent players here, but decent is it.  To his credit, Larry Bird recognized the stasis and went for some high ceiling low probability guys in Paul George and Lance Stephenson in the draft.  If some of that works, maybe this is a playoff team and attractive to a free agent with the cap room they have.  But I don’t know.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Paul George reaches his ceiling and Darren Collison is a lot better than I think (and I respect him a lot), while Granger remains a high efficiency scorer.  Really, they might have to join the NBDL too.  This is a potential playoff team, but I don’t see what that potential means.

17. New Orleans Hornets (19th overall in 2010, 16th offense, 22nd defense)

Much drama was had regarding Chris Paul’s flailing about and tacit demanding of a trade.  Really it was part of a very eventful offseason.  Jeff Bower, the GM and interim coach left, the Hornets got someone from the Spurs (always a decent idea) and hired Monte Williams as coach, a lauded assistant I know nothing about.  They traded for Trevor Ariza to give some athleticism and drafted Quincy Pondexter for even more.  The team has some talent, but really they are the West’s Washington Wizards, who placed a lot of high value bets on decent players who did not deserve such faith.  One man’s Caron Butler, put simply, is another’s Peja Stojakovic.  Fortunately for the Hornets, they have some cap room next year, but will they fulfill Chris Paul’s wishes to have a chance to win without him making a pinkie swear promise with somebody?

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: NBA teams are only allowed to play one point guard on the floor with no other players.

16. Phoenix Suns (3rd overall in 2010, 1st offense, 19th defense)

So THIS is the fallout from one of the most joyous seasons in Suns history.  Sure they lost a tough series to the Lakers, but the season was such found money that it is hard to argue the season was nothing but a screaming success.  So they celebrated by losing Amare Stoudemire to the Knicks, bungling the situation so they could not get a giant cap exception.  They then signed Hakim Warrick, traded for Josh Childress and traded for Hedo Turkoglu, one of the ghastliest contracts in the NBA.   Louis Amundsen, their energy big man off their remarkable bench left for Golden State.  The end result is Steve Nash is surrounded by a bevy of small forwards, and a couple of VERY soft big men.  Also gone is the shooting prowess of Leandro Barbosa.  Honestly, I am not sure besides Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Channing Frye, where the firepower is coming from outside.  Can they play the breakneck pace they always do and shoot well?  Sure.  But their defense, not a strength a year ago (and it actually WAS a strength under D’Antoni) could be earth shatteringly bad.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: They somehow match last year’s true shooting percentage and offensive efficiency while Robin Lopez turns into Marcus Camby.  They need to defend marginally well and rebound.  They could majorly overachieve again, but I don’t expect any team that scares away a guy like Steve Kerr to be achieving much of anything.

15. New York Knicks

In a fun coincidence, we follow Mike D’Antoni’s old team with his current one.  On the bad side, the Knicks plan to get LeBron James as a colossal failure.  They had no way of knowing about the pinky swear promise, and as such they built up their fans’ hopes for nothing.  Some have called the offseason an unmitigated disaster.  I am inclined to empathize, but given this – their offseason was actually pretty good.  They signed Amare Stoudemire.  Sure he has no partner in crime, but by not splurging otherwise, there is some possibility to get that guy.  They fleeced Golden State trading David Lee’s one dimensional ass for Anthony Randolph who has Shawn Marion sort of ability dripping off of him.  They signed Raymond Felton to one of the smartest deals of the offseason – while that might not be a perfect fit on the court, he was a great value.  There is not the three point gunning in this lineup to satisfy D’Antoni, but there are the athletes to run, run, run.  The Knicks have the talent to get back into the playoffs at least.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: If the 2005 Suns magic strikes again and these guys all DO become great 3 point gunners.  There are a lot of 129-122 results in this team’s future.  There is no real title hope here, but the entertainment value will be there.

14. Atlanta Hawks (8th overall in 2010, 4th offense, 15th defense)

What is interesting about the Hawks offense is that they basically succeeded by not passing.  Their noted isolation heavy attack relied on shooting a lot and rebounding misses.  They led the league in lowest turnover rate because guys just shot it when they had it.  Their 4th ranked offensive rebounding stat shows how they were efficient.  They did a great job at making sure stuff was heading to the basket, such a great job that they had some slack when the ball did not go in.  That said, this team had great health and a great season off the bench for Jamal Crawford, and Josh Smith is one of the covert best players in the NBA.  Really this is the most predictable outfit in the league.  They are good and durable and playoff caliber.  But they just aren’t good enough to beat top teams in the postseason.  This has shown the last two years with their drubbings in the second round – their isolation offense gets exposed and they have no plan B.  If individual talent fails, what to do?  Allegedly new coach Larry Drew is trying to add some motion, but it’s hard to see them changing much.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: The United States east of Atlanta crumbles and falls into the sea.

13. Denver Nuggets (10th overall in 2010, 6th offense, 16th defense)

Denver is in a weird place in their development.  10th a year ago, some of that can be attributed to George Karl’s bout with cancer.  Really, this side is not significantly different from the team that outplayed the Lakers for five games in 2009 – and is the best foul drawing team in recent history.  However, health, status all of that is in flux.  Does Carmelo Anthony want out?  He has been heard making noises about a pinkie swear promise with Chris Paul, or Meg Ryan or Amy Adams, I don’t know.  But there is some evidence of unrest.  Their desperately thin frontcourt is in even more peril as Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen have significant knee issues.  While Al Harrington (a good pickup) gives them some floor spacing, he hurts their already meh defense.  The team can shoot though, especially if JR Smith can stay more consistent than he has been, and Ty Lawson has all the makings of a star just waiting to escape the cage his coaches have put him in.  Denver could win the title – the talent is there, but this is very much like what a football preview writer might have said about the Minnesota Vikings.  This could REALLY go in any direction.

CAN WIN THE TITLE IF: Carmelo Anthony stops making doe eyes at the East Coast and plays the basketball he is capable of, their thin big rotation stays healthy and Ty Lawson and JR Smith give them a true energizer dream backcourt to supplement what the old hand of Chauncey Billups can offer.  Denver could win 55 games, they could win 35 … I am totally flummoxed.

 

League Championship Series Previews

Let’s cut to the chase … two potentially great LCS matchups on the table … all four teams have good short series winning ballclubs.

Yankees vs Rangers:

Your ALCS matchup.  The key to the series is the secondary starting pitching, especially now that Texas had to use Cliff Lee to win Game 5 against Tampa.  That said, the Friday ALCS start is of great help as Lee will be ready on full rest for Game 3, setting up a Game 3/7 possibility.  Game 1 becomes a big key with the Yankees running Sabbathia against CJ Wilson presumably for Texas.  The Yankees almost HAVE to claim CC’s starts as he is far and away their most reliable starter to pick off good hitting, which the Rangers are not lacking.  The Yankees are the best baserunner generating team in the league, and can mash any sort of mediocre pitching.  The Rangers back end starters are in trouble here – which makes CJ Wilson’s work all the more important.  Cliff Lee cannot be used more than twice, and the Rangers have to force the second time to occur – this makes it an uphill battle for them.  So in the battle of the team of Nixon vs the team of George Bush Jr, Yankees in 6 is the pick.

Phillies vs Giants

Look at all that starting pitching!  Halladay vs Lincecum, Oswalt vs Cain, Hamels vs Sanchez.  All of these matchups are really restaurant quality – and Halladay is so pitch efficient that the Phillies might be able to bypass their #4 starter, which is not a strength.  Runs will be hard to come by, and so we are left with focusing on offenses.  On that front, there is no comparison.  The Phillies offense lacks the greatness of the last couple of years, but their depth is much better than the Giants, whose best hitter pre-Buster Posey this season was a journeyman fungible corner like Aubrey Huff.  Howard might not have had a great season, but he is a threat.  Utley is terrific, Werth has had a strong season.  It is hard to see how the Giants score enough.  Phillies in 5