Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #4

With football gone, now we are getting the important stuff.  How have the rankings changed since we last did this?

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

Some notes:

  1. Back in the top spot is Chicago – they have been there before this year, they finished the regular season last year #1.  Put simply, there is something to lean on here.  That said, as the Miami playoff showed, the offense was a problem.  The Bulls won last year with a combination of the league’s best defense and an offense that was above average – much the same formula the Celtics took to the title when Tom Thibodeau was assisting Doc Rivers.  That said, unlike the Celtics – the Bulls were in 2011 one of the league’s better shot generating teams.  The Bulls were 4th in the league at offensive rebounding and while the turnover rate was below average, it was enough to give them a lot of shots at the basket.  Despite a mediocre TS team, they were able to squeeze some extra juice out of their possessions.  What is interesting this year is the turnaround their offense HAS made – and it gives some hope for them advancing further in the playoffs.  The Bulls simply put, are making more shots.  Replacing Keith Bogans’ corpse with Richard Hamilton’s corpse has helped.  Also, a shocking improvement (probably unsustainable) by CJ Watson has upped the ante too – along with Derrick Rose upping his own FG%.  The team is just shooting better, their 3 point percentage has also gone up to 7th in the league – and while they get to the line less, it is by no means a huge drop off.  The TS side of the formula has gone up – while the already excellent shot generation is even better.  The Bulls are tops in the league in offensive rebounding, and they take care of the ball much better this season … all this leads to the 2nd best shot generating team in basketball.  So the Bulls are getting more shots up, and making more shots – this bodes well.
  2. The Suns … 20th in offense, it’s inconceivable.  Let’s move on.
  3. The 6th ranked Hawks did not have a particularly good week – and they are showing some possible regression to the mean here.  Al Horford is a really good player, and it is hard to imagine them being able to truck on without him so fearlessly.  But this is a good team, and that’s still 16 games they don’t have to win again.  The pieces are there to make the playoffs and possibly win a round considering the non-Miami and Chicago flotsam in the conference.  What is remarkable is the Hawks have been a legitimately good team this year with virtually no turnover from last year – when they were a searingly mediocre one.  Obviously the first real change is in personnel where Jeff Teague has showed he can be a legitimately decent NBA point guard.  If you saw him at Wake Forest, the elite level athletic ability has not abated.  He has been very strong defensively and has run a solid offense – not the elite level they were in 2010 on that end of the floor, but a more than estimable 11th.  However, their big leap has been defensively.  A year ago, this was an area of mediocrity, while now it is a strength.  Part of it is having Teague to check point guards.  Part of it is having an elite defender like Kirk Hinrich to be able to match up with a variety of alignments.  Part of it is Marvin Williams settling into becoming a good rotation player, and Josh Smith limiting his mental vacations.  But whatever the cause, the same roster which only was 11th in TS allowed due to its ability to resist committing fouls and defend the three, the roster which was near the bottom of the league in shot prevention – is in the top ten in both.  The Hawks have defended two point shots better this year while still fouling very little.  Moreover, they have risen from 29th in forcing turnovers a year ago to a solid 14th.  If the Hawks continue to defend this well – and really Josh Smith has to be the pillar here – they will not go away.
  4. The Clippers acquisition of Kenyon Martin is a quiet gem of a move.  The team clearly has a giant pile of bupkus behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.  Everybody knows that.  But what everybody might not know is that the front court has also been quietly atrocious defensively.  Griffin has not shown an ability to be a high effort defender, and Jordan for his shot blocking clearly has not learned any of the Tim Duncan calculus on when is a good time to take a chance.  What is interesting is that despite an elite defensive backcourt – the Clippers are a pretty bad defensive team, and bad in a surprisingly across the board way.  They have issues defending the two, the three (28th), they foul too much (28th) and they aren’t especially distinguished at recovering misses when they DO happen (19th) or forcing turnovers (19th).  The offense has had to carry them and largely it has.  Martin, who has been an elite defensive big his whole life HAS to be able to help this somewhat.  Of course, part of defense is scheme and coaching and scouting, and this is still the cheap-ass CLIPPERS we are talking about.  If you think Vinnie Del Negro is an incompetent coach, the defensive level here might be something your lawyer might use in a trial.
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3 thoughts on “Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #4

    1. It is possible. Obviously the shooting is missed on a team without much outside pop. Also, he can still check 2-guards. That said, Bledsoe and Williams are not without ability. Clips have to lean on them. Also, with JR Smith coming back from China, if they want to make a run for him he could help – with the floor spacing, not the defense. One of the nice things about being a bad defensive team is that losing some defense doesn’t hurt marginally that much.

  1. So what do you think of Jeremy Lin? Is he the real deal or just a fluke. Can he sustain his level of play in the long haul?!

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