By: Jack Parodi
For this week’s NBA column, I will go into depth about each and every team in the NBA and how they have been performing so far this year as well as an outlook for the rest of the season.
Atlanta Hawks (6-2)
This offseason, the Hawks made one of the more interesting moves by trading all star point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. That was a statement the Hawks organization made to state that 23 year-old Dennis Schroder will be their point guard of the future. So far, Schroder is playing pretty well, averaging 16.9 ppg, 6.4 apg, and shooting 37% from 3pt-range. Another big storyline for Atlanta this offseason was the acquisition of Dwight Howard, replacing long-time Hawks center Al Horford, who left Atlanta for greener pastures (literally). So far, Howard has been playing pretty well. Nothing that reminds us of when we considered him the best center in the league; but still, well above average for a center in the league. He’s averaging 15.6 ppg, 13 rpg, and 2.1 bpg. The Hawks so far are looking really solid this season. Atlanta’s defense is one of the better ones in the league, anchored by Thabo Sefolosha, Dwight Howard and Kent Bazemore. They could be a top 3 team in the east and could maybe give the Cavs a run for their money considering Atlanta just handed them their first loss of the season Tuesday night.
Boston Celtics (3-4)
The Celtics were one of the more hyped teams coming into this season with their addition of Al Horford to their talented, young core. He has been disappointing thus far though, averaging 12 ppg and only 5.3 rpg. This team is led by all-star hopeful point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is averaging 26.2 ppg, 5.7 apg, and shooting an astounding 49.5% from the field. As a guard, that’s incredible. Starting off below .500 clearly isn’t ideal for a team with as much hype as Boston, but that’s sure to change. If Thomas still can’t get any support later on in the season though, expect an underwhelming season from the Celtics.
Brooklyn Nets (3-5)
Let’s be honest here: the Nets are overperforming. They have been playing hard lately and that’s why they’re winning games here early on, but with the talent (or lack thereof) that the Nets have, there’s no way they’ll keep this up. This team is led by Brook Lopez (20.8 ppg) and Sean Kilpatrick (16.6 ppg, 38.7% 3pt). After them, a few no-names such as Bojan Bogdanovic (14.6 ppg) have been stepping up to help out the offense, but that is sure to slow down any day now. When a team plays defense as awful as Brooklyn does and has a roster that depleted of talent, they’re bound to lose a bunch of games. But I guess you never really know what can happen in this league.
Charlotte Hornets (6-1)
The Hornets are overperforming and honestly, it’s not that surprising. Kemba Walker is playing absurdly well, averaging 24.3 ppg and 48.7% from 3pt. After Kemba, it’s a very balanced scoring attack. Around eight players can step up for this Hornets team. When you have one star surrounded by a lot of really consistently productive players, that spells for success. So far, Charlotte hasn’t lost a game on the road and has held its opponents to an average of 96.7 ppg. Expect them to maybe make a run later on this season and be a top-4 playoff seed in the East.
Chicago Bulls (4-4)
The Bulls brought Dwyane Wade back home this offseason. Wade doesn’t seem to be as dominant as we remember him for, but that’s expected. He’s got more of an “old man game” now, consisting of more outside shooting and team play. Wade is averaging 16.9 ppg and shooting 43.5% beyond the arc. Chicago also added Rajon Rondo in the offseason to facilitate the offense. Everyone knows he can’t really score, but Rondo seems to know how to give the Bulls a balanced scoring attack. One of the reasons this team isn’t above .500 yet is Jimmy Butler’s subpar performance from what we’re used to seeing. The X-factor for this team is how it’s young talent plays. I’m sure Jimmy Buckets can pick it up, some young guys will step up, and the Bulls can end up being a playoff team.
Cleveland Cavaliers (6-1)
The reigning champs are picking up right where they left off, dominating teams left, right and everywhere between. The best player in the world is playing like it, Kyrie is playing out of his mind, and Kevin Love is looking somewhat like the Minnesota Timberwolf version of himself. This is the only team in the NBA that can take down the Warriors in a 7-game series and if they keep playing the way they are, a repeat could very well be in store.
Dallas Mavericks (2-6)
The Mavs picked up the Warriors scraps and Steph’s little brother this offseason, adding Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Seth Curry. The starting five for Dallas seems like it should be producing more wins than it has. With an old, washed up point guard in Deron Williams facilitating the offense and Dirk regressing, it may be a tough year for the Mavs. Harrison Barnes has lived up to his top-10 draft pick status, though. Being a primary scorer for Dallas, Barnes so far has averaged over 22 ppg, looking like the scorer everyone thought he would be. I see a low-seed playoff berth at best for the Mavs this season.
Denver Nuggets (3-5)
In this league, it’s hard to win games if you don’t have a star leading your team. The Nuggets don’t have someone remotely close to that level. On the positive side though, Emmanuel Mudiay seems to be coming into his own as a scorer in the NBA (17 ppg). Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari have proved they can still put up some points, but the focus of this team is molding young talent with Mudiay, Jarnell Stokes and rookie Gary Harris. I don’t see a playoff appearance here, but I think the young talent will get a lot of in-game experience which is very valuable for the future.
Detroit Pistons (4-4)
While all-star center Andre Drummond is playing very well so far this season (14 ppg, 14 rpg), the rest of the Pistons team is underperforming besides Marcus Morris (16.7 ppg). Reggie Jackson is playing just about where he was last year, but not making the progress he should be making right now. If the Pistons can get some more help around Drummond and Morris, then they should be find to make the playoffs in the East this year.
Golden State Warriors (7-2)
So, the team with the best record ever picked up Kevin Durant in the offseason… Wow. Sure a few players had to leave, but adding Durant, David West, Zaza Pachulia and Patrick McCaw isn’t anything Warriors fans are too mad about, let me assure you that. After dropping the first game to the Spurs by a large margin, the Dubs have looked very solid and like the team we thought they’d be. Durant (28.8 ppg) and Curry (26.1 ppg) have already learned how to coexist with each other. The only player that’s seeing a decrease in points is Draymond Green, but he’s still averaging a double-double. The starting lineup is deadly, the bench is deep, and they’re gelling faster than any superteam ever has before. Barring some injuries, the Golden State Warriors will be your 2017 NBA champions.
Houston Rockets (5-3)
The Rockets let Dwight Howard walk this offseason and seem to be doing perfectly fine without him. Point Harden is working out fantastically; Harden seems to thrive playing the point. He’s averaging 30.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 13 apg. Those are MVP numbers right there. When your team is led by someone doing something like James Harden is doing, you should be a-ok. I’m sure he won’t keep it up for the entire season, but I still expect the Rockets to be a four or five seed in the West this season.
Indiana Pacers (4-4)
After picking up Al Jefferson and Jeff Teague this offseason, I thought the Pacers would be the team that could take down the Cavs in the East this year. The starting 5 of Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson with Myles Turner coming off the bench is scary, but they haven’t translated it into wins yet. I’m sure they’ll pick it on the defensive end up and be a 2 or 3-seed in the East for the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers (7-1)
The Clippers had a very solid, deep roster before this offseason and added Brandon Bass and Marreese Speights into the mix to create arguably the deepest roster in the league. It’s translated into wins early on and should keep doing so throughout the rest of the season. I expect the Clippers to be the 2-seed in the West and make Golden State sweat a little bit in the Western Conference Finals.
Los Angeles Lakers (5-4)
Luke Walton led the Warriors to 22 straight wins to start off the regular season last year and have the Lakers looking on top of their games as well. Without Kobe Bryant there to call for touches, D’Angelo Russell (15.4 ppg), Jordan Clarkson (15.1 ppg), Brandon Ingram (20.4 mpg) and Julius Randle (14.5 ppg) can shine and really grow as solid, young talent. I feel like they’ll cool down and come back to earth, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Lakers made the playoffs as an 8-seed this year.
Memphis Grizzlies (4-4)
The Grizzlies added Chandler Parsons to basically the same roster from last season, which should be an upgrade. But he’s playing absolutely terribly so far. Zach Randolph is playing decently and Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are playing well. I could see the Grizzlies making the playoffs if they end up gelling, but I just don’t think the talent is there to make a real run at it.
Miami Heat (2-5)
After losing your franchise player, you can’t expect to do too well. Not to mention Chris Bosh isn’t medically cleared to play yet. Hassan Whiteside is playing out of his mind averaging 17.5 ppg, 13.8 rpb, and 2 bpg, but with basically no talent around him, you can’t expect the Heat to win games. If Bosh comes back, maybe the Heat will make the playoffs but right now, I doubt it.
Milwaukee Bucks (4-4)
The Bucks are one of the more hyped-up teams coming into this season. No major changes were made besides the trade of Michael Carter-Williams to the Bulls for Tony Snell. Giannis Antetokounmpo is thriving in the point guard role, averaging 21.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg, and 6 apg. Greg Monroe is starting to play a little bit better as well and Jabari Parker is coming into his own, averaging 17.6 ppg and 6.1 rpg. Khris Middleton can flat out score also, averaging 18.2 ppg. I really like this team for this season and if the bench can start playing a little better, I can possibly see the Bucks as a top-4 seed in the East.
Minnesota Timberwolves (2-5)
While the Timberwolves have a plethora of young talent, it is young. Too young to win a lot of games yet. Andrew Wiggins is having a huge season so far (24 ppg) as well as Karl-Anthony Towns (21.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg). Rookie point guard Kris Dunn looks like he can be the point guard of the future without a doubt. But still, this team is so young that Timberwolves fans can’t expect to win a lot of games- not yet. They won’t make the playoffs, but the young stars in the making will make great progress.
New Orleans Pelicans (1-8)
The Pelicans have absolutely zero help for Anthony Davis. Zero, zilch, none, nada. Davis is putting up ridiculous numbers (30.9 ppg, 11.4 rpg, and 3 bpg), but without any help around him, one guy can only do so much. Tyreke Evans hasn’t been the same since his rookie season in which he beat out Stephen Curry for rookie of the year, but he’s having somewhat of a revitalized season, averaging 15.2 ppg. Buddy Hield is seeing more minutes, and for a team that lacks offense, that’s a good sign. I don’t think the Pelicans will come close to making the playoffs this year and the front office should make the draft, trade deadline and free agency a priority coming up.
New York Knicks (3-4)
Even though Derek Rose called this the next “super team”, I could see a below .500 record happening. Derek Rose isn’t the MVP we knew, Carmelo Anthony keeps getting older and Joakim Noah is old and washed up. Porzingis is making nice strides, averaging 19.1 ppg and 6.7 rpg, which is nice for Knicks fans to see. Game by game, Rose is looking better and better. So if he keeps improving and this offense can gel, then I can see the Knicks sneaking in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder (6-2)
No KD, no problem I guess. The Thunder aren’t quite as electric on offense as last year, but everyone could see that coming. Russell Westbrook is thriving as expected (31.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 9.5 apg) and the Victor Oladipo pickup is working well too (16 ppg). It’s a pretty solid roster with no real weak links in it, when you’re lead by a superstar like Russ, you can make a deep playoff run. I don’t think they can beat the Warriors, but being a 3 or 4-seed is very possible for this Thunder team.
Orlando Magic (3-5)
Seeing how Aaron Gordon can transition from the 4 to the 3 will be the x-factor of the Magic’s season. It’ll either space the floor perfectly, or create absolutely no room for anybody to score. So far, it has been an average transition. Serge Ibaka was a solid pickup for the Magic and Nikola Vucevic has been averaging a double-double so far. There is a lot of young talent in the core of this Magic team and they have a bright future if the front office plays their cards right. But this season is in the books.
Philadelphia 76ers (0-7)
Joel Embiid is the real deal. The man is an absolute animal and will be a force to reckon with in this league for years to come. It’s a shame Ben Simmons is injured right now, but this team’s core is young and promising. The front court is solid, and if the Sixers can get some solid backcourt talent, they could be solid. But for this season, Philly is going to witness another awful basketball team.
Phoenix Suns (3-6)
The Suns can flat out score, but they also can’t stop any NBA offense to save their life. I like their solid five and the young prospects they have, but defense wins games and they sure don’t have one. The Suns probably won’t make the playoffs this season unless they somehow figure out a defensive scheme. If they do that though, watch out.
Portland Trail Blazers (5-4)
Damian Lillard said at the beginning of the season that he’s trying to be the MVP this year. Well, it’s sure looking like that’s a possibility. He’s averaging 30 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 4 apg. C.J. McCollum rounds out one of the best backcourt duos in the NBA, averaging 21.2 ppg. The achilles heel of Portland this year is their defense. With no presence in the paint, anybody can drive against them, and once that starts happening, defenders sag in and it leaves room for the outside shot. It’s hard to beat teams like the Warriors, Clippers and Thunder without a strong defense. I still expect the Blazers to clinch a 5-seed or so in the West this year, though.
Sacramento Kings (4-6)
In my opinion, this is the worst run franchise in all of basketball. Demarcus Cousins is one of the premier talents in the NBA and Sacramento is just wasting his prime years. He’s having another very solid year, but I doubt they’ll make the playoffs this year. Who knows, though. Rudy Gay seems to be having a revitalized season, averaging 22.4 ppg while shooting 49.2% from the field and 45.8% from 3pt range. I could see the Kings having a solid offense with the in-and-out game of Cousins and Gay, but they’re simply not deep enough to make push to make the playoffs this year.
San Antonio Spurs (5-3)
With Gregg Popovich, anything is possible. He very well could be the best coach of all time (after Phil Jackson of course). Kawhi Leonard could very well be the MVP this season, as his all around game is one of the best talents in the league. Although the Spurs beat the Warriors on opening night, this season so far has been a bit rocky. Lamarcus Aldridge isn’t playing all that well and Pau Gasol is playing awful. But, I have faith that Pop will rally up the troops and make this team a top-3 seed in the West.
Toronto Raptors (5-2)
The Raptors are a very, very solid team. Demar Derozan is having the season of his life so far, averaging 34.7 ppg. Kyle Lowry has dipped down a bit, and not shooting very well, but they’re still winning games and that’s sure to improve later. Even with Lowry’s drop off this season, the Raptors are still in great shape and I think they’ll definitely be a top-4 seed in the East this season.
Utah Jazz (5-4)
I really like what the Jazz did this offseason adding Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson to add a little veteran leadership to a young team. Gordon Hayward might be the most underrated player in basketball. He’s averaging 25.7 ppg this season and has a real all-around game. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are making strides this season, helping to solidify a young front court. Rodney Hood is also making big strides looking like the secondary scorer for Utah, averaging 17.9 ppg. I really like the balance in this roster and how they play together. I expect a playoff appearance for the Jazz this season.
Washington Wizards (2-5)
Bradley Beal made great strides last year and solidified himself as one of the premier shooting guards in the league. This year so far, he’s cooled off a lot, shooting 36.6% from the field. John Wall is playing okay, averaging 21 ppg. Otto Porter so far is a bright spot, averaging 16.9 ppg and 8.3 rpg. The only reason this team is 2-5 is because their stars are just in a slump right now. That is sure to end and Washington should end up making the playoffs this season.