Now that the NBA 2010-11 season is around halfway towards completion, teams are beginning to show what they’re capable of. This stage also removes a degree of speculation as to who will make the playoffs (not Cleveland…), and more importantly, who will go all the way.
To my mind, these are the Eastern contenders for the One Ring.
While we haven’t seen much of the full-strength Celtics, and with a bit of luck – they’re looking good to go deep into the playoffs.
- Rajon Rondo continues to pull all the right strings. It’s not just his number of assists that should worry everyone else, it’s how good they are. He sets up plays beautifully and remains a mean scorer.
- Now that KG and Shaq Attaq have returned, they’ve resumed dominating the front court and enforcing Lord Rajon’s will. Even Dwight Howard seemed to have a hard time against them.
- Defensively, they’ve been excellent. When Garnett and O’Neal are off the court, they suffer a bit, but otherwise they’ve made the opposition work to get shots off.
- The bad news for Doc Rivers (‘news’ being loosely applied) is that his side isn’t getting any younger. Shaq’s getting 21 minutes a game lest he suffer a cardiac arrest, and several other keyplayers are looking more injury prone than they used to be.
- In terms of big guys, their depth is somewhat lacking. Injuries or early fouls could get dire.
After a poor start, the NBA’s big story is finally beginning to catch fire and torch their opposition.
- LBJ, D-Wade, and Bosh are finally beginning to click. As far as star power goes, the Heat are at a massive advantage.
- They’re getting better at clutch situations. They have a range of final plays, are decent at OT, andtheir man-on defence can step up and make it hard for the other side to score.
- How will they cope in the finals series? At this stage, none of their Big 3 really have outstandingcredentials when it comes to playoff pressure.
- Is their point guard good enough? Their Assists count is low, and organising a team of superstars on the court is not easy, from where I sit.
- Do they have enough depth? Honestly, their bench is pants. It really is. So their success dependson the superstars. Come playoffs, they’ll need minutes, and can’t afford to foul cheaply or choke. Ifthat fails, can the rest of the team do something useful?
After their trades, the struggling Magic have gone from strength to strength, and are beginning to cast a spell over opponents.
- Their big advantage is size (ha!). Dwight Howard is their main man with his impossibly large shoulders, but guys like Turkoglu, Bass, and Anderson support him nicely.
- Perimeter offence is another one. They attack a lot from the perimeter and they do it well.
- I’ve also been impressed with the way Orlando have managed to move the ball around. They’re comfortable getting it both around the perimeter and into the paint.
- In clutch situations, they have a few players they can get the ball to, and expect decent results. In the playoffs, that’s a big thing.
- As with Boston, depth up front is a huge weakness. If Dwight fouls early, he gets relegated to the bench, with no real replacement. That’s the problem when your star player’s a centre.
- Currently their perimeter shooting is good, but a perhaps worrying figure is that their accuracy is behind San Antonio, Boston, and Miami. As they almost rely on treis for the big points, that does seem like something that needs tightening up.
- Finally, while Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas are good, they don’t seem to have the control of the game that maestros like Rondo do. While this could improve as the season ages, it could also be a concern come the playoffs.
Looking at the West after the weekend…
Inqui is a new guest at With Malice, you can read more of his stuff at his own site: Inqui’s Input