Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #3

OK, OK … I’m done whining about the quality of basketball so far.  It is what it is – maybe the season will get better – but the season is unfolding in a compelling way.  How have the rankings changed since last week’s tome?  Here ya go (previous position in parentheses):

  1. (3) Heat (16-5)
  2. (1) Sixers (15-6)
  3. (2) Bulls (18-5)
  4. (4) Hawks (15-6)
  5. (6) Nuggets (14-6)
  6. (5) Thunder (16-4)
  7. (9) Mavericks (14-8)
  8. (10) Blazers (12-9)
  9. (13) Spurs (13-9)
  10. (14) Clippers (12-7)
  11. (7) Lakers (12-9)
  12. (19) Celtics (9-10)
  13. (16) Timberwolves (10-11)
  14. (17) Rockets (12-9)
  15. (15) Pacers (13-6)
  16. (8) Jazz (12-7)
  17. (11) Grizzlies (10-10)
  18. (12) Magic (12-8)
  19. (21) Bucks (9-11)
  20. (20) Hornets (4-17)
  21. (18) Suns (7-13)
  22. (22) Warriors (6-12)
  23. (24) Raptors (7-14)
  24. (23) Knicks (7-13)
  25. (25) Cavaliers (8-11)
  26. (26) Nets (7-13)
  27. (29) Wizards (4-17)
  28. (27) Kings (6-14)
  29. (28) Pistons (4-18)
  30. (30) Bobcats (3-18)

Some notes:

  1. The big mover in the right direction has been Boston.  Yeah, 9-10 is not oozing impressiveness, and the schedule has not been the most strenuous.  However, the dual wins over Orlando and spunky win over Indiana more than offset the toe stub against the Cavaliers.  Considering how few points they have scored all season, it is easy for storyline NBA writers to talk about their offensive woes and how their defense misses Kendrick Perkins.  As it turns out, their offensive woes are overrated – they are not very good offensively, but they have been this way for a while now with the snail like pace they operate at.  The Celtics, as usual, are a good TS% team – 7th in the league, but between their indifferent offensive rebounding and lousy turnover rate – the Celtics like last year still generate the fewest looks of any team in the league.  That said, the defense has risen since Paul Pierce has returned.  The defense now is 2nd in the league, the best of the non-Sixers (who have lapped the field so far in that department).  Really where the team misses Perkins perhaps and still needs to improve is its 15th ranked defensive rebounding.  However, the Celtics are back to sort of usual – they need scoring more than defense.
  2. One thing to note about Boston’s results is that it might be skewed by its results over Orlando who had sort of a worst week ever.  Aside from a good win at Indiana, the Magic have been littered with awesomely poor efforts in Boston, and hosting Boston in the 2nd half, and then at New Orleans (though the Hornets are not as bad as their record).  Yeah their offense has looked horrible lately, but they always look that way because of the number of 3s hoisted up.  The TS% is a bit worse than a year ago (12th from 9th) but the real dropoff has been defensively.  This year the Magic – though about the same defensively quantitatively a year ago – has slipped from elite to decent.  Considering that Dwight Howard is their only good defensive player – he might be the cause.  Is he checking out of the season the way Melo did?  Considering his willingness to answer questions about future destinations on the record a la Melo 2011, it is hard to say no.
  3. The Magic right now are just punching above its metric weight.  The plunge of the week though went to Utah who slipped on the basis of a 2-2 week, with a home loss to Toronto being particularly mystifying.  The Jazz have been the beneficiaries of great seasons from Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap.  The bigs have led the Jazz to the 3rd most frequent visitor to the foul line, and the league’s 2nd best offensive rebound rate.  The two guys are strong with the ball too – as the Jazz have been a very low turnover team.  Sure Devin Harris has struggled and was never a passing point guard to begin with, but the Jazz with their pounding offense – manage to take care of the ball since it does not move much.  The Jazz are near the bottom of the league from 3, so this is really a 1976 sort of strategy – but so far the quantity approach (3rd in the league in shot generation) has worked out.  Really the Jazz have had to win with offense as the defense is not very good – merely 16th in the league – and seems distinguished only by the number of fouls committed.  Some things don’t change.
  4. If the Magic are the bad of recent note, the Ugly, Pathetic, and Sad have to be the Phoenix Suns.  A mere two seasons ago we’re talking about a team that was a scant two wins from the Finals.  Obviously they chose to let Amare go for financial reasons or whatever – but all of the personnel moves since are amazing to regard in collective.  I mean, in 2010 this team averaged 108 points per average paced game.  To give a perspective, the best team in 2011 was Denver at 104.3 let alone this year’s Denver’s 100.6.  So the Suns were a full 8 points better than the elite teams of this season!  Of course the 2010 Suns were merely a sentence of one of the great paragraphs in NBA history – a six year stretch interrupted by a brief blip where the otherwise brilliant Steve Kerr thought they needed to change – some of the best, most well oiled offensive teams ever.  Indeed while Mike D’Antoni was there, the defense was actually fairly good – the lack of physicality and pace of play obscured the fact that the team did a good job defending without fouling and largely preventing high value shots.  But you look at last year – as the Suns added Josh Childress, and then Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat – and became a more conventional alignment  – the team slipped to a mortal 9th place.  Meanwhile without Stoudemire there to provide any meaningful resistance – the defense actually DID start to stink.  This year it’s just depressing how far it has fallen.  The Suns are a mere 17th in pace, and now a sick sad 23rd in offense.  A Steve Nash team 23rd in offense?  92 points per game?  SIXTEEN POINTS WORSE than 2010?  From first in true shooting to 19th.  It’s a shame – and it feels entirely self inflicted as Steve Kerr laughs maniacally from his TNT position.  I am not sure the old way would have won a title – but we know THIS way won’t, and it ends up being horrendous basketball to boot.  A team that cranks out 60 win seasons – even if you don’t think it is a particular sustainable model – is some SORT of contender?  Shouldn’t Phoenix have ridden that out?  It’s not like they were blown out in their chances to shine.  Sigh.




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