State of the Association: The Forgotten Half

22 01 2008

Who is the pick for the NBA MVP… Well, to get a bit of a picture we’ll kick off the longer submissions with the ‘report’ on the State of the NBA from DMtShooter, who’s from over at the excellent Five Tool Tool – and what a report!

The Association may be unique in the three major US team league in that no one — seemingly not even the fans of the teams — gets overly concerned about the first half of the season.

nbalogo.jpgIn the NFL, there’s always stats broken out about how rare it is for teams that go 0-2 or 0-3 to make the playoffs and/or win the Super Bowl. In MLB, the big early lead of the Red Sox over the Yankees last year was commented on at length. There is, of course, a big reason for this: the NBA’s first half runs straight into the teeth of the second half of the NFL season, when it’s tough to get a word in edgewise. (Also, of course, there’s the Q4 seasonal rush and college football to take attention.) By the time the casual fan starts to pay attention to the NBA, they’re thinking about All-Star Game rosters.

This is, of course, kind of silly… especially because it’s pretty rare for a strong team to fall off in the second half, failing a catastrophic injury. To wit, if you’re ready to call this a suspense-free league, it’s time to settle back and get comfy with Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio.

But that isn’t the case this year.The following three teams are a combined 35 games over .500: Portland, Golden State and New Orleans.

Miami, a team that I picked as finishing in the top tier in the East, is 24 games below, and has the second-worst record in the league, in front of only the T-Wolves.

If the playoffs started today, last year’s Final Four Jazz team would be on the outside looking in, as would the Rockets, who looked loaded at the start of the year.

Honestly, there’s stuff going on in the first half. It’s worth attention.

Having said that, here’s a quick five points to look for in the second half of the season, which more or less starts now…

Ray Allen - Weak link?1) Ray Allen may be the weak link in the Celtics chain.

Perhaps the quietest part of the Celtics race to an 11.5 game lead in the Atlantic, and a 32-6 record as I write this, is that Allen has been most of what he’s always been… but this is a 32-year-old shooting guard with a lot of miles on his odometer, and it’s starting to show. Best of all, his coach, Doc Rivers, is too busy eating paste to notice and limit his minutes. Check out the numbers…

November: 20.1 ppg, 39.7 mpg
December: 17.8 ppg, 36.2 mpg
January: 15.3 ppg, 38.0 mpg

Also, despite the idea that he’d see nothing but open looks from being on the floor with KG and Pierce, he’s shooting 42.5% from the floor. If he stays at that number, it’ll be the worst of his career.

The Celtics don’t need Pierce to win the Atlantic, and if they get the #1 seed in the conference at the expense of him having nothing left in the tank, and it comes back to haunt them… well, hell hath no fury like a New England fan made to suffer defeat. This is why the track record of 32-year-old jump shooters isn’t a good one… and why, if you’ve got him in your roto league, you should be moving him. Quickly.

2) The T-Wolves and their chase towards the immortality of a 9-73 record.

On the plus side, they are 5-34 now, which certainly gets them in the ballpark… but they’ve also played three more games on the road, where they are 1-20, as opposed to 4-14 in the confines of home.

On the side of getting to that magical tenth win, they also seem to have an actual rotation in place now (as opposed to earlier in the year, when it seemed like they were studying from the Larry Brown Knicks playbook)… and the nice part about knowing that you have no chance at the playoffs from the start of the year is that when you play other dog teams in March and April, you have the experience advantage in knowing that what you are doing is meaningless.

I bet they get to the 12 to 15 range, with Ryan Gomes doing what he does — big numbers when no one’s looking. Also, there’s always the chance that Marko Jaric can mesmerize opponents with his freaky cross-eyed look. He’s got issues.

3) The quietest good team in the league is your New Orleans Hornets.

The Phenomenal Chris PaulQuiet, partly because they’ve got one of the worst home-court advantages in the Association… and also because there’s no one here, besides Chris Paul, who seems that great.

David West is a few years away from being so underrated he’s overrated. Peja Stojakovic is having a bit of a bounce-back year, but he’s still under 15 points a game, and just looks more like a three-point specialist these days, rather than the big point producer of the past. Tyson Chandler’s 12 and 12 a night is nice, but he still doesn’t block enough shots for his position, and it’s touch to get too excited about a player with few offensive moves, and no hands.

And yet here they are, well on their way to 55 wins and up. He won’t win it, but you’d do fine with your MVP choice if you stayed with Paul.

4) Two teams seem to be thriving without their superstar: Houston, who have finally picked up the pace with Tracy McGrady on the shelf, and Washington, who have has rebounded from a terrible start and the loss of Gilbert Arenas.

The Great Wall of YaoWith the Rockets, it’s really been a matter of riding Yao Ming (25 and 10 in January), the continued emergence of Luis Scola (11 and 5 in January), and the resurrection of Rafer Alston (16 points and 6 assists). For the Wiz, it’s been who you’d expect — Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler — and the steady but useful production of DeShawn Stevenson.

With both teams, the trick will be to incorporate the star back into the fold… and even if they do, it’s hard to imagine that they’ve got a high enough ceiling to go past the second round of the playoffs. But considering that these are the kinds of injuries that normally stop teams from having any kind of playoff in the first place, hope still exists.

5) The Warriors are 25-17… and that’s after an 0-6 start.

That makes Stephen Jackson an MVP candidate, and also means that I can’t write anything more about the Association right now, because my head just exploded.

Happy watching!

DMtShooter for Five Tool Tool

Stay tuned all this week for more NBA MVP stuff… following on from NBA MVP – Who?

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3 responses

22 01 2008
NBA MVP - Who? (Hardwood Paroxysm) « With Malice…

[…] More submissions from other excellent writers later, but if you missed the first two installments they were NBA MVP – Who?, and State of the Association: The Forgotten Half… […]

23 01 2008
NBA MVP - Who? (20 Second Timeout) « With Malice…

[…] you missed the last few, we’ve had NBA MVP – Who? (Hardwood Paroxysm), The State of the Association: The Forgotten Half, and NBA MVP – Who? There will be […]

24 01 2008
fouledout

the new orleans is playing really good but flying low on the radar. the hornets are a low profile team and they dont get that much attention even if they are playing exceptionally well this season..

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