January 26, 2014 by Ell and Mike Sports
Hawks (23-20) – The Hawks have proven to be a lot better than people thought as they continue to get a well-rounded team effort from their rotation and great coaching by 1st year Coach Mike Budenholzer. PG Jeff Teague continues to be a solid scorer and smart passer as the leader of the team. SG/SF Kyle Korver continues to impress with his streak of 3-point shots made and always appear ready to make plays while earning his new deal. SF DeMarre Carroll continues to impress with his smart play and good perimeter defense. Free Agent pickup PF Paul Milsap has been a great pickup with his inside-outside game proving to be a perfect replacement for departed PF/SF Josh Smith. Milsap has made smart plays with the ball and has been able to be a good scoring option from all over the court. C Al Horford was having a good season leading the team in scoring until he got injured, but rookie C Pero Antic has played well in Horford’s absence really making a name for himself because it is hard to find a talented big man. The bench has played solid when on the court led by combo guard Lou Williams, PF/C Elton Brand who has provided quality minutes, 2nd year PG Shelvin Mack who has shown good improvement, and rookie PF Mike Scott who has shown a good inside/outside game. This team appears headed for another playoff spot and has been able to play well through good chemistry and a strong team effort. How dangerous will this team be once they are in the playoffs is the question.
Celtics (15-30) – SF Jeff Green has really stepped up as the leader of this team and the go to scorer now that Paul Pierce has left. Green has improved his shot and continues to play an all-around game putting up good stats. PG/SG Avery Bradley has also improved his shot and continues to provide solid defense. Bradley also gives them solid point guard play in the absence of PG Rajon Rondo. Rondo has returned playing 6th man minutes and continues to be an elite passer, but he must get back to playing form. 2nd year player PF/C Jared Sullinger has came a long way and looks good returning from injury as he has put up some amazing stats mostly from the center position as he continues to grow including a night with 25pts and 20rebs. PF Brandon Bass has continued to shoot well from the field and has really stepped up his rebounding this season. PF Kris Humphries has proved to be a solid addition providing solid rebounding and even some scoring earning more minutes. However, SF/PF Gerald Wallace has not played well since the trade and the Celtics would love to move him. Rookie PF/C Kelly Olynyk has not played as well as he did during the summer, but he is a solid contributor off the bench for now playing good minutes. Newly acquired veteran PG Jerryd Bayless gives them an experienced guard to play behind Rondo now that Bradley slides back to the SG spot. However, SG/PG Jordan Crawford was playing lights out basketball before the trade with efficient shooting and improved passing which was the difference. Can the Celtics jump into the playoff race with Rondo back from injury?
Nets (19-22) – Everybody believed that with a team full of All-Stars the Nets would run over teams in the Eastern Conference, but thanks to injuries, chemistry issues, and a 1st year Head Coach Jason Kidd they have struggled. Center Brook Lopez was the leading scorer at 20.7ppg before suffering what may be a season ending injury. SG Joe Johnson has really stepped up as a leader of this team and clutch shooter while shooting efficiently from all over the floor. PG Deron Williams has struggled with injuries and was supposed to be the star of this team, but he has struggled at times; they really need him to be healthy to contend. SF Paul Pierce has been inconsistent at times due to injuries, but he is starting to come into his groove offensively as he has even spent time coming off the bench. PF Aundray Blatche continues to be a quality 6th man off the bench or starting as a nice scoring and rebounding threat. SF/SG Alan Anderson has provided a nice spark of offense whether coming off the bench or starting. PG Shaun Livingston have provided nice all around play especially starting in the absence of ‘Williams. Livingston seems to be fully recovered from his leg injuries and has shown good explosiveness. PF/C Kevin Garnett has really struggled this season and is definitely not the same player. Free agent additions SF/PF Andre Kirilenko and SG Jason Terry have both struggled with injuries as well. PF Reggie Evans the team’s top rebounder has also struggled with injuries in an area where they are really suffering. Free agent addition SF/PF Mirza Teletovic has really shown a nice scoring touch from inside and outside and he should continue to see more minutes. Rookie PF/C Mason Plumlee has provided some quality minutes off the bench. Can this team stay in the playoff hunt long enough to gain chemistry and get healthy?
Bobcats (19-27) – The Bobcats have really played well thanks to the addition of veteran PF/C Al Jefferson who has really given the team an interior presence and 1st year Head Coach Steve Clifford who has turned this team into a nice defensive unit. Jefferson has averaged a double-double this season 18.2ppg, 10.4rpg, and 2.1apg and has really been on fire lately as a nice sidekick to PG Kemba Walker. Walker leads the team in scoring with 18.7ppg and he can really space the floor this year with Jefferson drawing double teams inside giving him the ability to make more plays as the leader of this team. However, he did just suffer an injury that will keep him sidelined for a while. SG Gerald Henderson continues to provide solid scoring and athleticism, but he needs to continue to work on his consistency and his jumper from long range. Despite suffering an injury missing an extended period of time, SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has proven to be an important defender and an athletic slasher for this team who bring good energy and hustle. With his return, this team should be even better defensively going forward, but he must continue to work on his shooting especially from 3-pt range where he has been horrible. PF Josh McRoberts who is usually a nice role player, has been a solid starter as a glue player who can do a little bit of everything whether scoring, rebounding, defending, or passing. PG Ramon Sessions has been a great addition as a 6th man who has been able to provide starter like numbers from the bench and really takeover the 2nd unit as an experienced player. Sessions will be even more important with Walker out as he will now start and play extended minutes. Rookie PF/C Cody Zeller has not played as well as he has over the summer, but he continues to provide them solid minutes off the bench behind McRoberts. Veteran SG Ben Gordon has struggled to find his stroke this year despite being a solid go to scorer off the bench last season. 2nd year player SG/SF Jeff Taylor has shown flashes of the scoring potential we saw over the summer, but he continues to struggle with inconsistency. Veteran SF/PF Anthony Tolliver continues to provide solids scoring and hustle as a glue guy off the bench and has really been productive earning his minutes with quality play. While still not living up to his potential, PF/C Bismack Biyombo has proven to be a solid defender off the bench and scorer efficiently despite a limited offensive game he has really helped imporved the defense going forward. SG/SF Chris Douglas- Roberts has proven to be a solid scorer and defender from the wing while helping to space the floor with his good outside shooting touch. Are the Bobcats ready to finally make a playoff run this year thanks to their depth and defense?
Bulls (22-21) – PG Derrick Rose has suffered another injury leaving the team in a strange place going forward, but the Coach Thibodeau still has this team competitive and playing good defense in a weak Eastern Conference. The Bulls also traded SF Luol Deng which leaves them without one of their best perimeter defenders, a good inside defender, a good scorer, and a hard working player like him. However, a solid team effort led by veteran PF Carlos Boozer who continues to provide a good inside to midrange scoring game leading the team with 14.9ppg. C Joakim Noah continues to be one of the best centers in the game averaging 11.7ppg, 11.4rpg, 3.4apg, 1.2spg, and 1.3bpg continuing to be an absolute beast on the defensive end. 2nd year SG Jimmy Butler has struggled with injuries this year, but will work his way back into form as he is a good athletic scorer with good perimeter defense. Free agent pickup PG D.J. Augustin has been the perfect fit for this offense with 13ppg, 6.1apg, 2.3rebs, and 1.24spg mostly off the bench as a nice replacement for rose with a good inside/outside game playing with toughness, defense, and good passing. PF Taj Gibson continues to be the key to the 2nd unit as he averages 12.1ppg and 6.5rpg providing good scoring and defense. Free agent pickup SF Mike Dunleavy has come in and done a nice job scoring whether starting or off the bench especially from long range while shooting a nice percentage. PG Kirk Hinrich has mostly been the starter with Rose out and has struggled with his shot, but he has been passing the ball well and continues to provide toughness and defense. Rookie SG Tony Snell has played well for a rookie, but he will continue to grow. Without Rose and Deng is this team ready to go deep into the playoffs?
Cavs (16-27) – The Cavs have been a disappointment so far this season under returning Head Coach Mike Brown after getting fired by the Lakers. PG Kyrie Irving has been a nice scorer this season with 21.6ppg, 6.1 assists, 2.9rebs, and 1.24spg as the leader of this team, but he still needs better help. SG Dion Waiters has mostly come off the bench this season while being the subject of trade rumors early in the season. Waiters has scored the ball well, but needs to improve his consistency and his attitude. SG/SF C.J. Miles has started in his place providing a nice scoring touch, but only has big night here and there. The Andrew Bynum experiment failed and ultimately dug this team in a hole, but SF Luol Deng has been a nice 2nd option adding 18.7ppg while bring a veteran presence and defense to this team as they hope to keep him long term where SF has been an issue. PF Tristan Thompson continues to improve nearly averaging a double-double with 12.3ppg and 9.8rpg as a good young player on this team with a nice inside scoring touch. C Anderson Varejao has gotten back to his high energy form rebounding at an astounding rate consistently in the double digits while adding a few points offensively, providing nice passing, and playing defense. Varejao has always been a nice glue guy on this team. Free agent pickup PG Jarrett Jack has been a decent backup providing good all around play, but his has been inconsistent at times and has not shown the same explosiveness from last season with the Warriors. Another free agent, SF/PF Earl Clark, has also struggled in the Cavs system as a starter and has been average off the bench despite having a good year with the Lakers last season. PG/SG Matthew Dellavedova out of Australia has been a nice addition off the bench providing solid offense and energy/hustle to the team; a favorite of Mike Brown this year. C Tyler Zeller continues to provide solid minutes at the 5 as he continues to develop. SF Alonzo Gee continues to improve providing solid 2-way play, but he needs to shoot better from long range. Rookie #1 pick SF/PF Anthony Bennett has struggled horribly with his shooting and overall play while transitioning to SF in limited minutes; his development will be watched. It may be too late for Deng and Irving to pull this team into the playoffs, but the continued development of Irving, Thompson, Dellavedova, Zeller, and Bennett will be the key while also keeping an eye on Waiters.
Mavs (25-20) – The Mavericks have been a lot better than people expected thanks to free agent pickups SG Monta Ellis, C Samuel Dalembert, and PG Jose Calderon. Ellis has been on fire adding a solid inside-outside scoring touch which getting to the free throw line as a good 2nd scoring option. Calderon continues to take care of the basketball making smart plays which is the opposite of the Mavs last season. Dalembert continues to provide solid rebounding and post defense as a good complement to Nowitzki’s outside game. PF Dirk Nowitzki is healthy this season and he is back to leading the Mavs on the offensive end with his new help taking some of the workload off his back. SF Shawn Marion continues to produce and play a physical game while playing in the paint grabbing rebounds. The bench has played well led by SG/SF Vince Carter who seems to have found the fountain of youth and has been lighting up the scoreboard off the bench as a consistent 6th man. Another free agent pickup C Dejaun Blair has been a nice complement to the skills of Dalembert. SF Jae Crowder continues to bring hustle, athleticism, and good all-around play off the bench as he can now be groomed off the bench to eventually take over for Marion. The Mavs went from a team most people believed to be scrapped together, to a team that plays hard and competes every night while finding ways to win games. Rookie PG Shane Larkin has returned from injury and has provided a spark off the bench until, PG/SG Devin Harris can return which should improve the 2nd unit even more. Can the Mavs survive the tough Western Conference and stay in the playoff hunt?
Nuggets (21-21) – PG Ty Lawson has really stepped up his game this season averaging 18ppg and 8.8apg under 1st year Coach Brian Shaw. Lawson has been the leader of this team and even leads the team in steal per game. SF Wilson Chandler continues to provide good perimeter defense, good rebounding, and he can score from anywhere n the floor at an efficient rate. C J.J. Hickson continues to impress at the 5 while almost averaging a double-double with 11.4ppg and 9.1rpg. PF Kenneth Faried continues to impress with his toughness, defense/hustle, and good rebounding. C Timofey Mozgov has proven to be a solid big man off the bench in place of the injured JaVale McGee. SG Randy Foye has provided a nice scoring touch for a team in need dire need of a SG. 3rd year SF Jordan Hamilton has been non-existent until last summer, but he has been a solid contributor off the bench this season. 2nd year SG Evan Fournier has been a solid 3-pt shooter off the bench, but need to earn more minutes. SF/PF Anthony Randolph gives the team another athletic player off the bench who can provide good defense. Veteran backup PG Andre Miller has been upset about his role in this system, but no trade has been made. Does this team have enough talent to make the playoffs in the West?
Pistons (17-26) – The Pistons are now a tough team to beat inside as expected with the addition of SF Josh Smith, but the guard play has been extremely inconsistent. Smith is 2nd on the team in scoring and bringing in 7rebs a game with good passing ability. New PG Brandon Jennings must improve his play, although he leads the team in scoring at 16.6ppg and is passing at an efficient rate; however he is shooting horrible percentage from the field. Jennings will be the key for how far this team can go. Rookie SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has also struggled also which sets up a very inconsistent guard tandem, but like most shooters his time is coming. PG/SG Rodney Stuckey has been a nice 6th man when healthy this season. PF/C Greg Monroe nearly averages a double-double with 14.8ppg and 9rebs dominating inside. However, the growth of C Andre Drummond in his 2nd year has been amazing averaging 12.7ppg and 12.7rebs while also leading the team in blocks. Backup PG Will Bynum continues to provide solid play and 2nd year SF Kyle Singler has been a good contributor off the bench after being taken out of the lineup for Smith. PG/SG Chauncey Billups has been injured most of the year, but he is mostly there to mentor the young guards so they are getting the time they need now. Can the Pistons gain the chemistry to really give teams problems in the playoffs?
Warriors (26-18) – The Warriors continue to be one of the most entertaining teams in the league with a team full of scorers and two of the best shooters in the league in PG Stephen Curry and SG/SF Klay Thompson known as the “Splash Brothers”. Curry has averaged 23.8ppg, 9.3apg, 4.5rpg, and 1.85spg as he continues to grow as an all-around PG while proving to be a clutch shooter with ice in his veins. Thompson is averaging 19.1ppg while shooting a great percentage despite taking a lot of shots (especially from 3) and playing a lot of minutes. PF David Lee has taken his game to another level averaging 19.3ppg, 9.8rpg, and 2.3apg while shooting a nice percentage from the floor and free throw as the hustle/physical player on the team. Free agent addition SF/SG Andre Iguodala continues to provide nice perimeter defense while shooting a nice percentage from the floor and continuing to play well without the ball in his hands. Iggy has also proven to be a clutch shooter this season which makes him even more valuable. SF/PF Harrison Barnes has brought solid offense and defense off the bench or sometimes in the starting lineup as he continues to grow. C Andrew Bogut continues to play well providing nice rebounding and passing from a big man, but the important thing is that he has stayed healthy. PF/C Jermaine O’Neal provided quality big man minutes off the bench until getting injured for the season. 2nd year SF/PF Draymond Green continues to play well in limited minutes with good scoring and rebounding and ditto for veteran big man PF/C Marreese Speights. The Warriors have acquired SG/PG Jordan Crawford and SG Marshon Brooks for little used PG/SG Toney Douglas and Crawford had been having one of his best seasons with the Celtics this year. Crawford will take over the backup PG duties behind Curry and Brooks gives the team another young experienced shooter. With the addition of Iggy and a deep bench with a nice mix of youth and experience can the Warriors compete for a championship?
Rockets (29-17) – The Rockets have played well this season with the addition of C Dwight Howard, but they have had injury problems mostly in the guard position. SF James Harden continues to be the star of this team while averaging 23.7ppg continuing to give a solid all-around game consistently each night. Howard has averaged 18ppg and 12.5rpg so far this season as he looks a lot healthier this season and he complements Harden well. SF Chandler Parsons has stepped up his game as well as Dwight draws double teams inside he has taken advantage of spacing the floor from the 3pt line; he is also shooting a nice percentage from the field. PG Jeremy Lin has struggled with injuries this season, but continues to be a nice scorer and crafty passer. PF Terrance Jones has really stepped up in his 2nd year mostly starting this year next to Howard as he averages 11.5ppg and 7.5rpg showing a lot of growth and potential going forward. PG Patrick Beverley has also struggled with injuries despite earning the starting job he has a nice all-around game. SF Omri Casspi has been a nice scorer off the bench while having one of his best seasons since earlier in his career. PG Aaron Brooks has been a very nice luxury with the injuries since he can step in and make plays which he has shown this season. SF/SG Francisco Garcia has been a solid veteran wing man off the bench. After wanting to be traded earlier in the season, C Omer Asik has suffered an injury which has kept him out of the lineup. 2nd year PF/C Donatas Motiejunas has been working his way back into the lineup this season. Can the Rockets go deep in the playoffs with an improving starting lineup featuring Howard?
Clippers (31-15) – The Clippers have really shown growth under Coach Doc Rivers as he tries to get the team to play his way in his 1st season in LA. Star PG Chris Paul was having one of his best seasons before injuring his shoulder as he averaged 19.6ppg, 11.2apg, 4.6rpg, and 2.44spg; he was putting up stats that haven’t been done since Magic Johnson. However, his return should provide a big boost as they continue to play well. In Paul’s absence, PF Blake Griffin has really stepped up proving to be more than a dunker with 22.8ppg, 9.9rpg, 3.5apg, and 1.13spg. When the critics got louder, Blake really stepped his game up and he shouldn’t be done yet. SG/PG Jamal Crawford has been the perfect veteran season and has really taken over with Paul out as a reliable scorer and passer; he looks like the young Jamal Crawford. SG J.J. Reddick has returned from injury and has really given this team a boost in the starting 2 spot, where they really needed help early in the season, as he can scorer from anywhere. PG Darren Collison has been a solid backup for Paul this season, like in his rookie season, but he has really stepped up as the starter with Paul out with solid defense and passing with some efficient scoring. C DeAndre Jordan has really been a solid inside presence this season cleaning up on the boards and defending the paint while trying to improve his offensive game. Jordan averages 9.5ppg, 13.8rpg, and 2.41bpg. SF Jared Dudley has been an efficient scorer in the starting lineup, but seemed to be a better fit for the bench and will thanks to the return of SF Matt Barnes. Barnes continues to provide a solid all-around game especially with toughness and physical play. SG Willie Green, PF Antawn Jamison, and newly signed free agent SF/PF Hedo Turkoglu have all struggled as veteran on the roster who they thought would provide help. Rookie SF Reggie Bullock has struggled with injury and hasn’t played much. How far can the Clippers go with Rivers and CP3 leading the way when they get healthy?
Lakers (16-28) – The Lakers seemed to look like a solid .500 team before Kobe came back from injury, but his return was a struggle as he was a shell of himself. However, after reinjuring himself the Lakers look to regain their former chemistry and they hope to get a playoff spot. Injuries have been the theme of this team with PGs Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, and Steve Blake along with Bryant. SG/SF Xavier Henry has been a good surprise on the team really improving his shooting and continuing to show his athleticism in D’Antoni’s system. SG/SF Nick Young has proved to be a solid pickup and has been solid off the bench or starting as a go to scorer. PF Pau Gasol continues to show that he has gas in the tank and has put up good stats as the leader of the team and vet on the team. PF/C Jordan Hill has been solid starting and off the bench on the team as a good post player and rebounder. PG Kendall Marshall has proved to be a solid pickup late in the season and has provided the passing that the Lakers have needed from the point guard position that they thought Nash would provide. SG Wes Johnson usually starts and has provided some scoring with good athleticism while racking up rebounds. C Chris Kaman has been poorly utilized so far. 2nd year PF Ryan Kelly is really starting to become a big part of the team as a player who really fits D’Antoni system as a tall player who can score from anywhere as well as give an interior presence. The Lakers have a long road ahead and they hope that when they are healthy they can make a playoff run which seems highly doubtful.
Grizzles (22-20) – PG Mike Conley continues to excel as the Grizzles’ leader showing good scoring, passing, and defense as he averages 18.1ppg, 6.3apg, 2.6rpg and 1.55spg. PF Zach Randolph continues to play well averaging a double-double with 17.1ppg, 10.6rpg, and 2.7spg as an absolute beast in the paint offensively. C Marc Gasol has struggled with injuries this season, but he continues to be a good inside scorer and defender while playing with good toughness. SG Courtney Lee has played well since being traded to the Grizzles as a nice scoring threat with an all-around game and he has been hot from long range. SG Tony Allen has struggled with injuries, but he continues to provide good perimeter defense and toughness. Reserve F Jon Leuer has played well with shooting a good percentage from the floor even the 3-pt line. PF/C Ed Davis continues to play quality minutes on both ends of the floor off the bench, but mostly the defensive end is where he stands out. C Kosta Koufos has played well as a nice interior presence on both sides of the floor whether he starts for Gasol or off the bench. SF Tayshaun Prince has really struggled this season and has not been that good at defense either. SG/SF Mike Miller has shot the ball well off the bench as a good veteran presence. Free agent pickup SF/PF James Johnson has played well on both ends of the floor especially bringing good inside/outside defense off the bench which is more than they could have asked for. Do the Grizzles have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference?
Heat (31-12) – The Heat continue to dominate the competition behind their Big Three Lebron, D-Wade, and Bosh, but Dwayne Wade has missed too many games due to injury, hopefully this does not continue to be the trend into a playoffs. Lebron James continues to show a MVP caliber game with 26.2ppg, 6.5apg, and 6.9rpg while playing good defense inside and outside. Chris Bosh continues to play solid defense inside and outside, while scoring at an efficient rate with range out to the 3-pt line making him tough to defend. Wade has been hot when he has played this season providing scoring from all over the floor and good perimeter defense with 18.9ppg, 4.7apg, and 4.8rpg. Veteran SG Ray Allen has played well whether in the starting lineup for Wade or off the bench shooting, defending, passing, and even rebounding well when someone needed to step up. PG Mario Chalmers has missed a couple games to injury, but he continues to shoot well from all over the floor, pass the ball well, and provide good perimeter defense. Backup PG Norris Cole has played well whether off the bench or starting for Chalmers as a nice all-around player who has proven that he can do more than score. SF/PF Michael Beasley has played well when given a chance to play and his playing time should increase. PF/C Chris “Birdman” Andersen continues to play well providing quality minutes off the bench. SF/PF Shane Battier has struggled this season, but he seems to be getting back into form as a defensive stopper and good shooter from long range. Veteran SF/PF Rashard Lewis continues to play quality minutes off the bench. C Greg Oden has played in a few games this season and his playing time is being closely monitored his minutes should increase going towards the playoffs. Will the additions of Beasley and Oden help the Heat win another championship?