The division’s red-headed stepchild, the team no one gave a shot too, even the team I think I watched less than any other over the past few years, is now dominating. For some reason, watching Philly, especially at home, always had me reaching for the clicker. But now that they’re playing lineups like this one (Lou Williams, Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand), I am finding myself mildly interested.
The Knicks may be struggling right now with just a plus-1.1 point differential and a 5-4 record, but they have the talent to beat anyone, win a division and send perhaps a few players to the Olympics. At least, that’s what Knick fans tell me, in-between calling Iman Shumpert the future, Landry Fields the best defender and Josh Harrellson the strongest player in the league. As for the rest of the division, Toronto and New Jersey look like appetizers for the group’s three playoff-bound teams: They’ll be devoured rather quickly. The Raptors gave their fans some hope to start the season, but they’re only 1-4 against teams at or above .500, and they were just blown out by Washington last night.
You know what you’re getting from Miami (a chip), from Atlanta (a disappointing playoff exit) and even Orlando (Dwight Howard going crazy at some point when he realizes Ryan Anderson is his second-best player). You also know Charlotte will struggle to win even 20 games and that Washington might be the worst team in the whole league.
But if we put together a starting five from this division, is anyone touching them? Let’s see:
I’d roll out a group from here with LeBron and D-Wade in the backcourt, with Josh Smith and Al Horford manning the forward spots. The middle would belong to Dwight Howard. Who’s stopping that lineup? If you want to get technical, move James down to the three and put John Wall in at point with instructions to do nothing but run. Could any other division beat them?
Atlantic: Rondo, Pierce, Anthony, Stoudemire and Garnett
Central: Rose, Jackson, Deng, West and Bogut
Northwest: Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Aldridge and Love
Pacific: Paul, Nash, Bryant, Griffin and Bynum
Southwest: Lowry, Ginobili, Gay, Nowitzki and Gasol
I’m taking the Southeast every time.
They have probably the two best teams in the West in Portland and Oklahoma City, who are a combined 16-4. Denver has the perfect recipe for success this year: a water bug point guard who never stops, a rotation that can go 11 or 12 deep playing in an environment that brings nearly every visitor to their knees, and a schedule that can be as murderous at times as that crazy dude from No Country For Old Men.
With Utah playing surprisingly well – they’ve won five straight, are sitting at 6-3 and no one even cares that the Monstars stole Devin Harris’ talent because their frontcourt is so deadly – there’s a chance four of the teams from this division make the playoffs. Minnesota won’t, but they’re probably the most exciting 3-7 team I’ve ever seen. Already this year, they’ve lost to OKC by only four, Miami by two, beaten Dallas and San Antonio on back-to-back nights and played Chicago tough. Once Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love get a season together, look out.
What do you think? Did I get it right?
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