NBA 1st Quarter Report

Welcome to the Baseline Hoops NBA First Quarter Report. Here, we take a look at what has been going on through the season thus far by answering a few questions that we’ve come up with ourselves. There have been exciting moments, bad games, bad performances, and elite numbers. Overall, this season has really been a fun one so far. We don’t really know a lot about the teams and the competition that they have; what we have been able to see, though, is the fundamentals of the game of basketball factor in to the NBA more than ever. This is a season where you can really learn the nuances of basketball at its finest. With that being said, lets dig in.

Who is the best team in the NBA right now?

Mike: For me, I’d have to say the best team in the NBA right now is the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have easily been the most consistent team in the NBA, even without their star player, and reigning MVP, Derrick Rose. They have the best record in the NBA right now at 13-3 and they have earned it. They’ve had the next man up mentality all year while being faced with injuries to key players on the offensive end like Rose and Richard Hamilton. According to basketball-reference the Bulls are first in the NBA in rebounding, third in the NBA in total assists, and second in the NBA in total points. Also, this team is 8th in offensive rating and 2nd in defensive rating. The back to back games aren’t having any lasting effect on the Bulls because of their depth. According to Basketball-reference the Bulls went 6-0 in their two sessions of back to back to back games. In their 5 sessions of back to back games the Bulls are 7-3. This is a well-balanced team that shares the ball and that’s why they’ll make a run come playoff time. With another year in Coach Thibs system these guys are playing the best ball the Bulls have seen since the Jordan era.

Samar: I’m going to say the Miami Heat. They haven’t been as consistent as the Chicago Bulls or the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that could be attributed to the fact that they haven’t had the team together as a whole yet. Dwyane Wade has missed time with foot and ankle injuries, LeBron James with an ankle, Mike Miller is just now getting back to the court, as is Eddy Curry. According to Basketball-Reference the Heat are second in offensive rating and eighth in defensive rating. LeBron is playing the best basketball I’ve ever seen him play. James this season is averaging: 29.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.6 apg, 2.0 spg, 56.3% shooting, and 47.4% three-pointers. Chris Bosh has seemed a lot more comfortable in his role in the offense and his game has improved because of it: 19.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.0 bpg, 51.9% shooting, and 72.2% free throws. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has allowed his team to play at a faster pace this season allowing the Heat to get easier looks this year. The team is ranked second in offensive pace this season. Defensively this team excels at pressuring the ball handler with Mario Chambers, rookie Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Wade, or James which create turnovers that leads to fast-break opportunities. This is a top-tier team offensively and defensively that can get stops when needed and run teams out the gym. They’ll only continue to improve once they get Wade back from injury. Look for this team to play deep into the playoffs.

Who is the worst team in the NBA right now?

Mike: I’d have to say the Washington Wizards take the cake in this category. This is an easy pick; they have the worst record in the league and have absolutely played like it. From goaltended free-throw shots to facing 30-plus point deficits, this team has done it all. They are 22nd in defensive rating in the NBA and 30th in the NBA in offensive rating. They can’t stop anyone and they can easily be stopped. That’s the worst combination of attributes for a team to have. Not to mention that John Wall has been in a shooting slump for most of the season. Wall is shooting 37% on the season so far according to ESPN.com’s statistics and is currently posting a PER of 15.85 which is average. Wall is easily the best player on the Wizards so you know it doesn’t get better from there. Lately Wall has been playing well so if he keeps that up we can change this pick in the next quarterly report.

Samar: I’m going to have to agree with you here. The Wizards have been the worst team in the NBA so far. This team is a mess on the offensive end; sloppy passing, selfish play, bad decisions, and missed shots. Defensively this team can’t seem to get stops, they rotate poorly on defense, and the big’s fail to hedge on the pick-and-rolls. This isn’t a Wizards team that lacks talent, but this is a team that lacks leadership.  From the head coach to the players it seems like leadership is missing and I’m starting to worry that Flip Saunders isn’t the right coach for this young Wizards team.

Who is your MVP of the season thus far?

Mike: I’m going with LeBron James here. He’s been the most dominant player of the season so far. Even with the caveat of the playoffs in waiting, LeBron has looked like a man on a mission thus far. He’s putting up career numbers and we all know how impressive LeBron’s career has been so far; he’s a two time MVP. Right now, LeBron is averaging 29.8 points per game while shooting only 1.3 three point shots per game. His stat line bleeds efficiency; he is shooting 57% from the field which is a career-high for him. He’s also shooting a TS% of 64% which is also a career high. He’s doing all of this while averaging 7.9 rebounds per game and 7.6 assists per game. He’s been beyond dominant with the Heat this year. LeBron has a PER of 34.2 right now which is well above average; as a matter of fact if he can keep this up it may go down as one of the all-time greatest seasons in NBA history. That would shatter Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 31.84 according to Basketball-reference. If that isn’t MVP worthy then I don’t know what is. The real question here is can James keep this play up? Also, to make more of a case for LeBron, he is 5-0 with no Dwyane Wade in the lineup. Just saying.

Samar: So far this season I don’t think there is a case that could be made for anybody other than LeBron James. Mike has said it perfectly there is nothing I can add. Simply put James is playing the best basketball I have seen since Michael Jordan.

Which rookie has had the best impact in the league?

Mike: I’m going with Kyrie Irving right here. So far this season he’s averaging 17.7 points per game and 5.2 assists per game. That’s pretty good for a rookie player on a team that broke the record for losing consecutive games last season. Kyrie has the Cavaliers at 7-6 currently and that’s more than enough proof, to me, that he’s going to have a lasting impact on this franchise. He also has a PER of 21.8 according to Hoopdata.com. The Chris Paul comparisons, as of right now, are more valid than ever.

Samar: I’m going to take Ricky Rubio. This season Rubio is averaging 11 ppg, 8.3 apg, 4.6 rpg, 2.4 spg, and most surprising he’s shooting 40.6% from three. After his poor play in Spain the last few years most felt that Rubio was overhyped, but so far this season he’s showed that his game is more suited for the NBA. He has the ability to make the players around him better and has even been able to hold his own the defensive end. Rubio has this Timberwolves team playing better and for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era the future looks bright in Minnesota.

Which player has shown the most improvement this season?

Mike: Kyle Lowry has been the most improved player in the NBA and it isn’t even a close race. Per Basketball-reference, Kyle Lowry has averaged 17.3 points, 8.6 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game this season. All of those are career highs for this young, up-and-coming point guard out of Villanova. Lowry has been slowly and steadily improving every season of his NBA career. Last year he finally got moved into the starting lineup without having to look over his shoulder after Aaron Brooks was traded to the Phoenix Suns; Lowry hasn’t looked back since. He has a PER of 24.2 with only a usage rate of 23%. That’s awesome for a player who, only last year, was averaging 13 and 6 with a PER barely over 16.

Samar: James Harden, to me, has been the most improved player in the NBA. Looking at his numbers 16.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.1 apg don’t tell the story. Harden is not the starter and he only plays 29 minutes a game, his stats per 36 minutes tell a different story though; 19.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.7 apg. Hardens PER is currently 22.2 which is well above the league average of 15. Harden is a key player for the Oklahoma City Thunder he provides them with bench scoring and playmaking. Look for his role to improve with the injury to Eric Maynor.

Who is your first time all star? 

Mike: Once again I’m going to have to go with Kyle Lowry. Right now Ricky Rubio has more votes than him so hopefully I can do a little campaigning to get him in there. He has easily been the best point guard in the Western Conference. He averages more assists than Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, and Russell Westbrook and more points than Steve Nash. He obviously also brings pretty good rebounding numbers to the table with 6.6 as I said before which none of the other top point guards in the Western Conference can say. He’s been playing out of his mind and if he keeps it up I believe that he will earn himself a spot on the reserve squad behind Paul.

Samar: My first time all-star is Lamarcus Aldridge. Aldridge played well enough to make it last season and this season he is playing even better. Aldridge is posting 23.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, shooting 49.3% and a 23.57 PER. But more importantly he’s been able to keep this Portland team competitive without Brandon Roy who was forced to retire because of knee injuries and Greg Oden who’s still out with a knee injury.

What player has regressed the most thus far?

Mike: I would have to say that Joakim Noah has regressed the most. His numbers are down across the board; right now he is averaging 7 points and 8 rebounds after averaging 11 and 10 last season. Also, according to hoopdata.com Noah is shooting 49 percent after shooting almost 62 percent at the rim last year. His PER right now is totally sub par at 13; he has played only 26 minutes per game this season because of his lack of production. If he can’t get out of his slump the Chicago Bulls could be facing a major problem come playoff time. With that being said I like them to still make it to the conference finals. I think this is just a blip on the radar for Noah. Once he gets his body used to playing so many games and gets back in shape he’ll be fine.

Samar: This one is easy for me Amare Stoudemire is the pick. Amare is averaging 17.6 ppg, while shooting 41.3%. He is posting a PER of 15.1 the lowest of his career.  I do think Amare can get back on track and help the Knicks turn the season around because he is too talented to continue to struggle like this.

The Celtics have played terribly all year long. This team appears to be fools gold right now and Danny Ainge has said that he is willing to blow it up. Do you think that this would be the right move by the Celtics from office?

Mike: People are probably going to think that I’m nuts for saying this, but I don’t think that Boston should blow their team up this year. I know they’ve played way below standard together even with the Big Three together, but there is really not much that you would get out of trading them. Remove the name Kevin Garnett from the No. 5 jersey. He’s a power forward that averages 13 and 7 who is over 33 years old and an expiring contract. What value are you going to get off of him? The same things goes for Paul Pierce. The one with the most worth right now is Ray Allen and he has the opportunity to produce, because of his style of play, for years to come. I think that Boston just lets this year play out, let KG walk, keep Allen around for a year or two longer and trade Pierce. Build around Rajon Rondo through the draft and get players that can score and defend. This team will be young, but could be competitive for years to come still; especially at the rate that they are playing right now.

Samar: If I were Danny Ainge I’d have to say no. They simply don’t have the pieces anyone would want to trade for. Unless this team is willing to part ways with Rondo, who else on this Celtics team is worth trading for? Kevin Garnett is no longer the guy that can anchor a top-tier defense and Paul Pierce hasn’t shown that he’s still capable of carrying an offense. Ray Allen is a player that will have good trade value because his skill set has value to every contending team in the league, but I doubt you’d be getting back equal value. This team’s best hope is to stay the course, hope that this team can make a run come playoff time, and patiently wait for Pierce, Allen, and Garnett’s contracts to expire and the cap flexibility that comes with it.

For Mike: How do you fix the Washington Wizards?

Mike: I would have to say that it all lies within the front office. If I’m Ted Leonsis, Washington Wizards owner, I dump team president Ernie Grunfeld and see what other candidates are out there. He has been around the organization for years now and has never produced a true winner in DC. I think the fans and the organization need a new fresh face in the front office. The highlight of the Wizards in the past three years has been handing Andray Blatche a long-term deal. That’s something that speaks volumes to how the team operates. I think Blatche is a potential cancer for the Wizards young players and I get rid of him too. The Wizards need a post presence and Blatche is bad with his back to the basket. If the Wizards had a true dominant post player then they would be able to get a lot more open looks and better spacing for up-and-coming star John Wall to work.

For Samar: The Philadelphia 76ers have started this season looking like true contenders, is this team a legit contender? 

Samar: I’m going to surprise people annd say that I have no idea right now. Coming into last week the 76ers had a four-game stretch that I thought would answer a lot of the questions I had about this team, but it only added more. I now find myself questioning just how good Spencer Hawes is. He missed three of the last four games with back and achilles injuries, the team looked completely different without his rebounding and post passing. The 76ers went 1-2 without Hawes with losses coming to the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat. The lone win without Hawes during the last three games came versus a Hawks team missing there starting center Al Horford. The 76ers are fourth in offensive rating and first in defensive rating. Those numbers could prove to be misleading as the 76ers start to play the upper echelon of teams, and they start to take the 76ers more seriously. Look for those numbers to slide. Right now it’s too early to tell if the 76ers are a legit contender or not. By the next quarterly report the answer should be more clear.

Hope you all enjoyed this first quarter of basketball as well as our post. We’ll be back with more soon.

Written by Michael Sykes and Samar Gaines

Advertisements

About Michael D. Sykes, II
Hoops writer, I've come to terms with it. I love Basketball and it loves me back. Check me out at Baselinehoops.com and my own creation, "Whats Left on the Floor" at http://ballahollicsonly.wordpress.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: