January 22, 2014 by Ell and Mike Sports
NBA Midseason Part 1
T-Wolves (20-21) – PF Kevin Love has become an even more popular player this season behind his great play and has been commonly named the best PF in the game. Love continues to rack up double-doubles, along with being one of the better passing big men in the game which makes him even more dominant with his size (6’10), however he must improve on the defense end. Love has added a nice consistent 3-point stroke which has put him amongst the best as it is hard for a big man to come out of the paint to defend it consistently which could lead to other offensive options. C Nikola Pekovic has also developed into a beast on the offensive end and is he is a consistent physical presence in the paint. The addition of SG Kevin Martin has been a good one as he has provided offense on a team in need especially from outside and at the free throw line; these are both his specialties. However, Martin must stay healthy if this team wants to contend. SF Corey Brewer has shown a more well-rounded game and he is a good inside-outside defender for a team which rarely plays defense. PG Ricky Rubio continues to excel as a passer, but must find some kind of offensive game to help out when Love and/or Martin struggles as they can create their own shots. The key problem is the bench play which has been highly inconsistent and has rarely been able to generate points. It also doesn’t help that rookie SG/SF Shabazz Muhammad has been sent down to the D-league after a showing of immaturity in the offseason on a team that could really use his talents. SG Alexey Shved has been almost non-existent this season off the bench compared to last season. Can this team finally get over .500 after losing so many close ones?
Bucks (7-33) – The Bucks have really struggled under new Head Coach Larry Drew to find an identity with a lack of superior talent and poor shooting from the floor. PG Brandon Knight has been the leader of the team after a swap for Brandon Jennings and he has excelled in the role while leading the team in scoring and producing good stats. However, Knight must shoot better from outside and continue to work on his passing as he still plays like a combo guard than a pure point guard, but his defense has been decent. SG O.J. Mayo, brought over as a good scoring addition after a good year with the Mavs, has shot the ball well from outside whether starting or off the bench, but he must play better defensively and shoot better from the floor as he was supposed to be the go to scorer. PF/C John Henson continues to be a defensive beast in the paint leading the team in block per game with 2.22 while also rebounding at an efficient rate and improving his scoring despite limited offensive moves. However, he must work on his consistency which may be tied to injuries to C Larry Sanders. Sanders has missed a lot of time and gives the Bucks another interior defender to dominate next to Henson when he is healthy like he did last season making a name for himself. Veteran addition SF Caron Butler has really struggled since joining the Bucks and must work on his shooting consistencies and try to stay healthy if he hopes to be a factor. 2nd year SF/PF Khris Middleton has proven to be a solid pickup as he has shown growth with extended minutes as a solid scorer, defender, passer, and rebounder as a nice glue player for a lineup in need of quality play. Rookie SG/SF Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a good surprise as one of the most exciting players on the team with his athleticism providing solid overall play, but he must improve his shooting touch. However, he is still young (19 years old) and wasn’t expected to play in the NBA this year; he is believed to still be growing. Antetokounmpo is gaining valuable experience as both a starter and off the bench which will be essential to his long term development. PG/SG Gary Neal continues to provide solid scoring and passing like he did off the bench for the Spurs prior to this year. C Zaza Pachulia has been a solid addition coming over with Coach Drew providing solid rebounding and defensive play inside, despite being limited offensively. SF/PF Ersan Ilyasova has worked his way back into the starting lineup with his solid offensive game and good overall play, but he needs to shoot the ball better from outside. Rookie PG Nate Wolters proved to be a solid option early in the season with solid passing and defense, but he needs to work on the consistency of his scoring. The Bucks are a team full of young players who were not expected to do much, but the growth of Knight, Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Henson will be the key to this season.
Pelicans (16-25) – Injuries have slowed down what started out as a decent season for the Pelicans as PF/C Anthony Davis has taken his game to another level on both sides of the ball. Davis has averaged 20.2ppg, 10.3rpg, 1.3apg, 1.53spg, and 3bpg, which is ridiculous, with range extending out to the 3pt line now and he’s only in his 2nd year. The Pelicans loss PF Ryan Anderson to injury, he played big minutes whether in the lineup or off the bench averaging 19.8ppg and 6.5rpg knocking down 3’s consistently in a career year. SG Eric Gordon is back to being an explosive scorer and he has been efficient from everywhere on the floor. PG Jrue Holiday was very effective until he got injured shooting a good percentage from the floor, leading the team in assists, and playing good defense; losing Holiday has taken the team down a notch. SG/PG Tyreke Evans has been productive leading the 2nd unit with his all around game filling up the stat sheet, but he must show more consistency and improve his 3pt shooting. C/PF Jason Smith continues to provide quality big man minutes seeing more time thanks to injuries, but he is injured now. Starting SF/PF Al-Farouq Aminu continues to be a solid defender and rebounder with a limited offensive game as the glue player who can have an impact without the ball. Backup PG Brian Roberts is a scorer and improving passer off the bench, but he has to take on a bigger role in the starting lineup with Holiday out. SG Anthony Morrow continues to provide scoring from all over the floor at an efficient rate whether in the lineup or off the bench, especially from the 3pt line. SG/PG Austin Rivers has shown some of the improvement we saw during the summer as he only comes off the bench in limited minutes, but his time will come. Veteran PF/C Greg Steimsma has provided quality big man minutes in limited play usually off the bench. The injuries will be too much to overcome for a playoff run, but the continued growth of Davis, Gordon, Evans, Aminu, and Rivers will be the key to the season.
Knicks (15-26) – The Knicks have gotten off to a bad start thanks to injuries and ineffective play at times. SF/PF Carmelo Anthony continues to be a star on the court scoring from anywhere and he continues to improve his rebounding and passing. PF/C Andrea Bargnani appears to be a solid pickup on the offensive end, but he continues to struggle on the defensive end. However, with injuries to Tyson Chandler, Bargnani has been the main big man on the team. PF Amare Stoudemire has really played well this season as a dominant scoring force in the paint and he can still rebound at a high rate at times. SG Iman Shumpert continues to struggle on offensive most of the time, but he is the best perimeter defender on the team and a good one league wide. SG J.R. Smith continues to be a dominant scorer off the bench, but he continues to struggle with immaturity and has been benched for it. Chandler and PF/C Kenyon Martin are the best post defenders on the team, but they haven’t been able to stay healthy this season. Rookie SG Tim Hardaway Jr. has been a good surprise off the bench providing solid scoring on the 2nd unit. In a struggling Eastern Conference, what can the Knicks do this season once they’re healthy?
Thunder (32-10) – The Thunder continue to be one of top teams despite losing PG Russell Westbrook to another knee injury as Kevin Durant has been able to take over games and even scored a new career high of 54pts. Durant is averaging 30.6ppg, 5.1apg, 7.8rpg, and 1.56spg while absolutely dominating the competition with nice percentages from all over the court. Westbrook was also on fire before his injury with 21.3ppg, 7apg, 6rpg, and 1.76spg shooting well from the field. PF Serge Ibaka has continued to provide solid inside defense (2.35bpg) to along with good rebounding (9rpg) and a surprising 14.4ppg as he shoots well from the field including extended range out to the 3pt line. 3rd year PG Reggie Jackson seems to have learned well from Westbrook as he is a solid scorer, rebounder, passer, and defender whether he is starting in place of Westbrook or off the bench. 2nd year SG/SF Jeremy Lamb has been a solid scorer off the bench with the ability to score from anywhere on the court as a consistent threat for the 2nd unit. SG Thabo Sefolosha continues to provide solid perimeter defense to the lineup. PF Nick Collison continues to provide quality play and hustle off the bench. PG Derek Fisher has play extended minutes with Westbrook out and provides veteran leadership and a scoring threat. Rookie Center Steven Adams has been a solid big man off the bench playing good minutes. Starting Center Kendrick Perkins has really struggled this season even on the defensive side of the ball. Is a healthy Westbrook (w/ Jackson and Lamb off the bench) enough for this team to win the Western Conference?
Magic (11-31) – While the Magic has struggled this season, SG/SF Arron Affalo has been an absolute star making sure that he doesn’t lose his spot to rookie SG Victor Oladipo who has also played well. Affalo averages 20.9ppg, 3.9apg, and 4.6rpg while shooting good percentages from all over the floor and free throws. Oladipo continues to impress while averaging 13.5ppg, 3.8apg, 4.3rpg, 1.49spg, and 0.76bpg which also shows his defense despite coming off the bench at times. However, he needs to improve from long range and continue to improve his free throw percentages, but that should come. PF/C Glen Davis has impressed when healthy as a solid inside/outside scorer with good rebounding and defense. SF/PF Tobias Harris has played well providing good offense and rebounding, but he needs to improve his rebounding and outside shooting if he hopes to continue to play SF. C Nikola Vucevic had proven to be a steal last season, but he has grown even more this season averaging 13ppg, 11rpg, 1.9apg, 1.14spg, and 1.11bpg; however, he is currently injured. PG Jameer Nelson continues to be consistent providing solid scoring and decent passing and defense. 2nd year PF Andrew Nicholson has been a decent scorer and rebounder off the bench playing good minutes. Also, 2nd year SF Moe Harkless continues to provide a nice inside/outside scoring touch, rebounding, and solid defense whether in the lineup or off the bench; he appears a better fit off the bench for now, but he will grow. PG/SG E’twaun Moore has provided nice scoring off the bench, but he needs to improve his shot selection and passing. The Magic are a young team that wasn’t expected to do much so the growth of Oladipo, Harris, Harkless, and Vucevic will be the key for this season.
76ers (13-28) – The Sixers have surprised a lot of people with their toughness and ability to get the most out of their players under 1st year Coach Brett Brown who seems to have this young team going in the right direction. SG/SF Evan Turner has made a big jump to being the player they expected when they drafted him early out of college as he leads the team with 18.3 ppg. Turner can shoot, pass, defend, and rebound, but he must work on his outside shot. Rookie Michael Carter-Williams has been the big surprise proving to very much NBA ready in the scoring, defensive, and passing departments. Carter-Williams averages 17.5ppg, 6.7apg, 5.7rpg, and 2.5spg; which is amazing for a rookie PG, but he must stay healthy and work on his 3-pt and free throw percentages. SF/PF Thaddeus Young has been a good inside/outside player on both sides of the ball and provides solid defense and rebounding he is the type of glue guy all teams need. C Spencer Hawes continues to improve as a good shooting/scoring big man; he has been rebounding at a high rate and has also improved his defense (1.44bpg). Backup PG Tony Wroten has improved with more minutes in this system proving to be an efficient scorer, rebounder, defender, and passer whether starting or off the bench, but he must improve his outside shooting. SG James Anderson has improved his game with more minutes also proving to be an efficient scorer and defender whether starting or off the bench. Undrafted player SG/SF Hollis Thompson who has spent time in the D-league last season has been a nice bench player for the 76ers, while 2nd year PF Lavoy Allen continues to provide solid minutes off the bench as well. The Sixers were not expected to do much this season, but remain competitive as the young core continues to grow. However, they need a SG and a PF to really compete so they are a year or two away depending on the moves they can make in the offseason.
Suns (23-17) – The Suns have been the surprise of the league with their hot start to the season, but they loss trade acquisition PG Eric Bledsoe who formed a nice two-guard lineup with PG Goran Dragic. Bledsoe and Dragic both have a nice scoring touch, the ability to rebound, make plays (assists), and defend; slight edge to Bledsoe. SF P.J. Tucker has been a nice surprise bringing good perimeter defense and relentless effort on the rebounding with a nice 3-point stroke. C Miles Plumlee continues to build off his strong offseason as a solid center while averaging almost a double-double with 10ppg and 9 rebounds. SG/SF Gerald Green also acquired by trade has been a great surprise as a consistent scorer off the bench and much improved shooter. Green will join the starting lineup as Bledsoe’s replacement due to injury. The return of PF Channing Frye has really helped as he continues to stretch the floor knocking down 3’s and providing solid rebounding at times. The Morris Twins (Marcus and Markeiff) continue to impress and help the 2nd unit keep up the production while playing alongside Green. The Suns have been much improved under 1st year Coach Jeff Hornacek and have definitely set the expectations for a playoff spot as they sit in the 8th seed.
Blazers (31-11) – The Blazers have really proved to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference and the entire NBA thanks to depth and improved play from everyone in the starting lineup. PF LaMarcus Aldridge leads the way as arguably the best PF in the game averaging 24.2ppg, 11.6rpg, and 2.9 assists while his defense has also improved. PG Damian Lillard continues to improve in his 2nd season really taking over as the young leader of this team and a clutch shooter. Lillard averages 21.2ppg, 5.8apg, and 3.7rpg while his defensive continues to improve. SG Wesley Matthews has really been a big surprise this season scoring at an efficient rate and really proving to be a deadly 3pt shooter which has really given this lineup a boost. SF/PF Nicolas Batum is the glue guy who does the dirty work without the ball defending (post and periemeter), passing, rebounding, and sometimes even scoring when needed. C Robin Lopez has been a great low risk addition as he is shooting efficiently and continues to rebound and block shots with his good energy and hustle earning his spot as a starter. Veteran PG Mo Williams continues to be a leader on the 2nd unit as a good scorer and passer really giving the Blazers good depth and experience behind Lillard. PF Thomas Robinson continues to show the improvement from the summer as he has played solid minutes as a contributor off the bench. With rookie SG/PG C.J. McCollum coming back from injury he should be a scoring threat off the bench and fellow rookie SG Allen Crabbe could see more minutes as the season goes on to show off his shooting touch. C Joel Freeland continues to provide quality minutes off the bench leaving 2nd year C Meyers Leonard as a growing project. The Blazers are expected to go deep into the playoffs and have a nice core that can contend with any team. The chemistry they have definitely seems to be something special.
Kings (15-25) – Center Demarcus Cousins appears to be living up to his potential this season as he has been dominant while averaging 23.4ppg and 11.7rpg. The trade for SF Rudy Gay has proved to be a good move so far as he has been able to provide the reliable go to scorer from the perimeter or inside that they have needed on the wing. Gay has been shooting a lot better since the trade and forms a good scoring trio with Cousins, PG Isaiah Thomas, and himself. Thomas has been a good scoring guard who continues to improve his passing game, especially with Gay in the lineup as another good option when Cousins is doubled. Rookie SG Ben McClemore has struggled as most shooters do coming out of college, but he continues to improve his overall game which is a good thing. SF/PF Derrick Williams, acquired via trade with the T-Wolves, has been a good athletic addition off the wing while putting up stats in all categories with the potential to grow. PG/SG Jimmer Fredette has improved his play, but still continues to play limited minutes. Can the Kings continue to show growth and play hard every night under 1st year Coach Mike Malone?
Spurs (32-9) – Another great start for the Spurs, who continue to get great production out of the Big Three Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, as well as, the free agent additions of PF/C Jeff Pendergraph (now Jeff Ayers) and SG/SF Marco Belinelli. Belinelli has proven to be a consistent 3-point shooter starting or off the bench and he also has proven to be a great fill-in when Ginobili is injured; which is a great plus allowing the Spurs to be more versatile. The Spurs bring the same consistency and depth to the Western Conference that they have year in and year out under the great Coach Popovich and appear ready to make another run; unless a young deeper team is ready for the challenge.
Raptors (20-20) – The Raptors have struggled early as expected with the offense running through SF Rudy Gay, but a trade has really opened up the team. SG DeMar DeRozan has developed into a star after Gay was traded making him the star of the team and have shown improved ability to pass and shoot to go along with his defensive and rebounding skills. SG/SF Terrance Ross is also playing a lot better in the absence of Gay with increased production across the board and shooting accuracy while playing more minutes. PF Patrick Patterson has been a good surprise off the bench as a scorer from all over the court and a good rebounder. PF Amir Johnson continues to be a consistent player providing offense, defense, and hustle; he can always breakout. C Jonas Valanciunas continues to be a solid center, but has not been as dominant as in the offseason. PG Kyle Lowry may be having one of his best season as he is shooting and passing a lot better and has provided solid defense on the perimeter as usual. PG Greivis Vasquez has been solid behind Lowry as a solid player off the bench. The Raptors have a nice athletic group and are currently in a playoff seed; if they continue to play how they are playing now, then they should be able to keep it.
Jazz (14-29) – The Jazz struggled out of the gate as expected, but the return of rookie PG Trey Burke from injury helped this team really become competitive as he is has been the explosive playmaker they hoped for. Burke seems to be the point guard for the long term in Utah. SG/SF Gordon Hayward has really shown an improvement moving into the starting lineup this year leading the team in scoring playing a lot of minutes. Hayward also leads the team in steals per game as he his size makes him a good defender, rebounder, and passer as well at the SG position. PF/C Derrick Favors has also shown improvement now that he is a starter and is almost averaging a double-double with 13.8ppg and 9.0rebs. 3rd year SG Alec Burks has shown good improvement moving into a 6th man role making plays off the bench and providing a nice scoring touch. C Enes Kanter continues to develop on both ends of the court and has been playing significant minutes this season as a solid post player off the bench and sometimes even starting. These are the building blocks of the Jazz going forward. In addition, veteran SF Richard Jefferson has been a solid factor for this team starting all the games this season providing quality minutes on both ends of the floor while shooting efficiently. SF/PF Marvin Williams continues to provide solid all-around play whether in the lineup or off the bench. This Jazz team is building for the future and the continued progress of Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors, and Kanter will be the key as these players should form their lineup in the near future.
Wizards (20-20) – With a healthy John Wall, the Wizards are playing much improved basketball as he is finally living up to his potential and making the players around him better. SG Bradley Beal continues to play well, but needs to continue to improve his consistency and chemistry with Wall. SF Trevor Ariza has played better than the past few years as he consistently knocks down shots and provides great rebounding and perimeter defense as the surprise 2nd option. Newly acquired Center Marcin Gortat looks comfortable with the team after struggling early and he is a solid hard worker and rebounder showing to be an improvement over departed PF/C Emeka Okafor. With young talent developing, like PF Travis Booker, C Kevin Seraphin, G Glen Rice Jr., and #3 SF Otto Porter this team should continue to progress as the year begins. PF/C Nene continues to play hard whether in the lineup or off the bench and PF Jan Vesely continues to improve as a defensive player and rebounder for this team. The reliable shooting of SG Martell Webster also provides them with more depth on the wing. Could this be the year the Wizards finally return to the playoffs?