Posts Tagged ‘Pacers’

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With the new trend of super teams making its way through the NBA, it is rare to see a team built from scratch. Despite the trend, Indiana Pacers President and Boston Celtics Legend Larry Bird decided to build his team the old fashion way. Now he is reaping the benefits of those rewards. Bird has built the best team in the league by creating a unit filled with balance, chemistry, and leadership

Lets start with balance.  This team has everything a team could dream of in their starting five; two bruisers, a facilitator, a playmaker, and an all around superstar. Roy Hibbert and David West make opposing players terrified to drive into the lane. George Hill has been great at the point, spreading the ball and averaging a healthy 13 points a game. Lance Stephenson has been a borderline All-Star this year. The 4th year player out of Cincinnati is averaging 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists a night. Night in and night out, Stephenson delivers consistent and strong play on both ends of the floor.

Then there’s Paul George. After last years coming out party in the playoffs, the 6’9 Small Forward hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal. So far this season, George is averaging 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, a game. He does all of this with a mere 2.5 turnovers a game. On the defensive end, the former Fresno State Bulldog has been unreal. On ball, George is averaging 2 steals a game. However, off the ball is where he really shines. George will allow shooters to have a little room, and then uses his wingspan to force the shooter into an uncomfortable shot. It is no wonder why shooters are only shooting 30% against him from the field.

As good as the starting five has been, the team wouldn’t be nearly as good without its bench. Luckily, Indiana has the deepest bench in the league. Danny Granger, Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, and Ian Mahimini all know their role and play them to perfection. Special credit is due to Granger. As the former face of the franchise, Granger has accepted his off the bench role as is making the most of it. Coming off knee surgery, Granger is averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds in 23 minutes a night.

All of these pieces accumulate into a comprehensive unit on the court and in the locker room. Notably, Indiana has been incredibly effective at moving the ball. All five position players seamlessly move the ball in an attempt to create the best shot opportunity. It is truly a joy to watch teams with such selflessness.

The final step in the Hall of Famers creation was bringing in a disciplinarian on the court. It is one thing to have a respectable coach (if that’s not the case you have bigger problems), but to have a respected player, who controls the locker room, is priceless.

This is where David West returns to the conversation. Bird wanted to bring in a player to control and mentor the young core that Indiana possessed. West signed a 2-year deal in 2011 and instantly the culture changed. Speaking on West, Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel said, “He does a lot of one-on-one mentoring, and does it every day. Just his presence – guys are going to think twice before they handle themselves the wrong way. Big brother is there. He’s a good observer; he knows what the right chemistry feels like. He knows when guys need hugs, when guys need a kick in the butt.”

Of all that mentoring, the biggest beneficiary of West’s help has been Center Roy Hibbert. Before West joined the team, the 7’2 Georgetown product was averaging a mere 10 points and 5 rebounds a game. He had been struggling on defense and had just been highly inconsistent overall. Since 2010, Hibbert has averaged 13 points, 9 rebounds, and over 2 blocks per game. With West keeping players like Hibbert and Lance Stephenson focused, the sky is the limit.

When you look at what Larry Bird has done, it is truly an incredible feat. This year will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Malice at the Palace. Going from clowns like Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson, to consummate professionals like Paul George and David West is no easy task. While the idea of a super teams like the Miami Heat have a shelf life, the Indiana Pacers will be around for a long time.

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At long last, Greg Oden made his season debut on Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards. When the former number one overall pick took less money to sign with the Miami Heat this offseason, it was clear Oden wanted one thing, a ring. Since being drafted in 2007, the former Ohio State big man has been disappointing to say the least. Before Wednesday, Oden hadn’t played in an NBA game since December 5th 2009. He had suffered through a career of anguish and struggle both on and off the court. Between his best friends passing in 2006 and his embarrassing photo leak in 2010, it is impressive that Oden showed the will to return all together. Based off the small sample size, that determination seems to have paid dividends. In an impressive eight minutes, Oden scored six points (including two dunks) and grabbed two rebounds.

Physically, Oden looks better than ever. He seems to have lost weight, while putting on muscle in his upper body. That combination is always a step in the right direction for big men. Mentally, he looked even better. To score his first points since 2009, Oden grabbed an offensive rebound off a Dwayne Wade miss, and put back and emphatic two hand dunk. After seeing a play like that, fans and coaches alike have to be encouraged by his performance and attitude.

Looking on the larger scale, this is exactly what the Miami Heat need. While their current three game losing streak is bad, it could just be a January slump. However, looking at the big picture, the Miami Heat will not make the Finals with this current roster. They aren’t as big or deep as the Indiana Pacers. With his natural size, Roy Hibbert is going to easily beat Chris Bosh and Chris Anderson in the paint. This then creates matchup problems all over the floor and allows Indiana to stretch the floor for their surplus of shooters. What Oden could do, on a smaller scale, is be Miami’s Roy Hibbert. At 7’0 280 lbs, Oden has the potential to be able to play Hibbert perfectly on both sides of the ball.

Bigger then anything he could do in his minutes on the court, is what having Oden means the Heat will not do. That big discontinue would be Miami’s reported interest in free agent big man Andrew Bynum. Bynum is the NBA’s second biggest cancer, losing the honor to J.R. Smith. From his lack of effort on court to his erratic  off the court behavior, Bynum needs to be avoided at all costs. The Heat don’t have enough player chemistry and Erik Spolestra is not respected enough to be able withstand the walking hurricane that is Andrew Bynum.

Now with all this being said, lets not go and put Greg Oden next to Wilt and Russel. In reality, he will only be a 10-15 minute player come April & May, but those 10-15 minutes can be the difference between a championship and not even making the finals. With his size and strength, Oden possess the ability to be that enforcer down low, who can also spread the floor for Lebron, Wade, Chalmers, and the rest of the Miami Heat.

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Despite the fact he was still rehabbing a tear in his Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant was awarded a two-year contract extension on November 18th. The terms of the contract are two years for approximately $48.5 million.

Bryant and the Lakers have faced a lot of backlash since the move, with fans and analysts calling Bryant selfish for taking so much money from a team that has plenty of other issues. Bryant took to his twitter page the next night to defend the extension. Bryant tweeted “The cap rules players have to be “selfless” on To “help” BILLIONAIRE owners R the same cap rules the owners LOCKED US out to put in #think.” He also tweeted “Don’t just learn ur sport .. Learn the sports industry #futureathletes.”

There is no denying the impact that Kobe has had in the NBA and that he has earned this money. However, Bryant may need to take some of his own advice and learn the sports industry. If nothing else is true about this industry, the one fact of the industry is loyalty means nothing. With these tweets and the situation in general, a bigger question can be raised. Should teams have to pay homage to there former stars?

To start this off lets look at some of the contracts of the biggest stars in major sports. Derek Jeter, at the age of 39, just signed a one-year contract for $12 million. This comes after he signed a three-year contract for $45 million at the age of 36. Playing in a total of 17 games last year, Jeter hit .190 with 1 HR and 7 RBI. He then injured his ankle and was done for the season.

Bryant’s and Jeter’s situations are even more similar when you look at the situations of their teams. Both the Yankees and the Lakers are in a free fall. Both teams have money tied up in bad contracts and have a general lack of talent on their respective teams. Yet, Jeter and Bryant had no issue taking these large contracts that deter their teams from fixing their issues.

The argument for Jeter and Bryant making their salaries is that they need to be paid not only for what they will do, but what they have done. It is undeniable that these two are among the best of all time in their respective games. Jeter led the Yankees to 5 World Series rings & may go down as the greatest shortstop of all time. Similarly, Kobe has 5 rings and arguments (granted to a lesser extent) have been made that he is the greatest basketball player of all time.

The question ultimately comes down to this. Do teams have pay their long tenured players more because of their past actions. The answer to this question varies. Look at Jim Irsay. He only had to pay Peyton Manning what his contract already was. Instead he released Manning and selected Andrew Luck with the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. This move was praised by some and criticized by other. However, there was one universal agreement, there is no loyalty in sports.

This example can go even further. When Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, he was bombarded with criticism for having a lack of loyalty to his players. Yet, the deal was better for the team, as a whole, in the long term as they brought in expiring contracts and future draft picks to build their team with.

The one option not many people mention is why don’t these players just take less money. That’s the situation of future Hall of Fame PF Dirk Nowitzki. Reports have surfaced that Nowitzki will want to slash his salary by more than half next season so that his team, the Dallas Mavericks, can continue to rebuild. This is an admirable situation, which, unfortunately, does not happen as often as it should in the professional sports.

So is it wrong to trade Pierce or release Manning? At the end of the day, an owner, general manager, and coach need to decide whom they have to be loyal to. Do you have to be loyal to a specific player or an entire team? Last time I checked, there are 52 players on an NFL team and 24 on and MLB team. So why must you be loyal to the minority? Yes this is a utilitarian type of thinking, but it isn’t as far fetched, as it may seem. Must there be more loyalty to Kobe Bryant then an entire team and that teams fan base? That is the ultimate question.

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With Tip-Off fast approaching here’s an in-depth look at the league, Team by Team.

Orlando Magic

Where They Have Been:

They have been to hell and back all due to one big baby (and I’m not talking about Glen Davis). Dwight Howard treated this team like that crazy girlfriend who you hated but was always afraid to dump. Well after Dwight finally dumped them, they went all the way downhill, becoming the worst team in the league last year. They will likely remain there this year.

Who They Have: Starters

They have a god awful starting five, made up of almost entirely role players. Jameer Nelson, Aaron Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, and Nikola Vucevic will be scaring no NBA team this season. Afflalo could hypothetically start on a few teams, but regardless this team is in for a world of hurt.

Who They Have: Bench

Here’s where things get interesting. The second overall pick in this year’s draft, Victor Oladiplo, seems to have true all-star potential. He has impressed everyone in the preseason and is now learning to play point guard. As far as the rest of this bench, it is slim pickings. J.J. Reddick, Mo Harkless, and Quentin Richardson (yes THAT Quentin Richardson) round out this weak teams weak bench.

What To Expect:

Expect utter futility from a team that’s tanking its season. With a mediocre starting five and an even more mediocre bench, this team is destined for a top four pick. However, that may not be the worst thing with the stacked draft that is ahead of us.

Record

20-62

 

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With Tip-Off fast approaching here’s an in-depth look at the league, Team by Team.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Where They Have Been:
They have been in the basement of the NBA. Since LeBron left for south beach, the Cavaliers have been the worst team in the NBA bar none. However, with the high risk moves the Cavs made in the offseason, the Cavs can either become a total embarrassment or a sneaky good team.

Who They Have: Starters
Since LeBron left, the Cavs have had at least one top 4 pick (including two #1s) in the NBA draft. They have used these picks to essentially build their starting five. PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters, and PF Tristian Thompson were all top 4 draft picks. Veteran SF C.J. Miles and C Anderson Varejao round out the starting five. Irving is already an established superstar, but Waiters has yet to show us anything special. Thompson and Miles are nothing better than role players on a good team, and Varejao is injury prone. This may not be the starting five as the season goes on, but if it is, the Cavs are in for a world of hurt.

Who They Have: Bench
Here is the silver lining for this Cleveland team. They signed troubled C Andrew Bynum to a 1 year deal, and have this year’s surprise first overall pick, Anthony Bennett waiting in the wings. Both are complete wildcards (especially Bynum since he hasn’t played in over a year and might not this year), but if they pan out as hoped, this Cavs team could see some daylight. Other bench payers include Tyler Zeller, Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, and Alonzo Gee. Once you add Varejao and Thompson to that bench, all of a sudden this team has depth.

What To Expect:
This team is a total wildcard in terms of predictions. On one hand, if everything pans out, this team could be as good as a 6 seed in the slim Eastern Conference. On the other hand, if Bynum doesn’t play and Bennett doesn’t work out (both literally and figuratively), Cavs fan can be looking at another top 4 pick. The way it’s looking right now, I’d have to lean towards disastrous, given Bynum’s track record and Bennett’s preaseason play. This could prove to be catastrophic as Kyrie Irving will become a free agent soon.

Record:
25-57

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With Tip-Off fast approaching here’s an in-depth look at the league, Team by Team.

Toronto Raptors

Where They Have Been:
The Raptors have been dwindling at the bottom of the Atlantic Division ever since the departure of Chris Bosh. Granted, they were never a force to begin with, but they have been abysmal as of late. Things don’t seem to be looking up for the sole Canadian team in the NBA.

Who They Have: Starters
A big start for the Raptors this offseason and their new GM Masa Ujiri, was dumping the disappointing former #1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani (and his contract) on the New York Knicks. The new starting five consists of Kyle Lowry, Demar Derozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valanciunas. While the front court of Johnson and Valanciunas is a bit weak, the Raptors do have a very strong back three in Gay, Derozan, and Lowry. Gay has yet to blossom into a superstar, but he is a star who can easily average 20 PPG, 5 RPG, and 5 APG a game. Lowry is one the more underappreciated PG in the league, partially because of his ability to move around the court so fluidly. A very good passer who can shoot the ball, they may have a floor captain in him. Derozan is a scorer who isn’t a fantastic shooter, but can get to rim and finish with explosiveness and decisiveness. He can split defenders better than many in the league and can be looking at a nice scoring season for Toronto.

Who They Have: Bench
The Raptors are fairly thin outside of their backcourt. While the addition of Tyler Hansborough and D.J. Augustin were nice, they are paper-thin otherwise on the bench. Terrence Ross hasn’t panned out the way the front office had hoped, Landry Fields hasn’t earned a dollar of the $21 million he’s making, and Steve Novak can’t doing anything besides shoot a 3 from the corner.

What To Expect
While the Raptors started playing well after the Rudy Gay trade, I wouldn’t have high hopes for this team. Other than a strong back three, they are virtually empty as far as starting talent. Tyler Hansborough could prove to be well worth his deal, but if that’s what it takes to get a Raptors fan excited that should say it all.

Record
34-48

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So you want your predictions for this weeks games? Well here they are from the pros at the fifth quarter themselves!

GAMES

CAR@TB

DAL@DET

CLE@KC

MIA@NE

BUF@NO

NYG@PHI

SF@JAX

NYJ@CIN

PIT@OAK

WAS@DEN

ATL@ARI

GB@MIN

SEA@STL

Oren’s Picks

Dallas over DET 31-27

KC over CLE 35-16

NE over Miami 31-14

NO over BUF 38-17

PHI over NYG 27-24

San Fran over JAX 24-17

PIT over OAK 27-20

DEN over WAS 42-31

ATL over ARI 24-20

GB over MIN 28-13

SEA over STL 37-13

 

 

Daniel’s Picks

DAL beats DET 28-21

KC over CLE 42-17

NE over Miami 35-10

NO over BUF 28-3

PHI over Giants 35-17

SF over JAX 28- 17

OAK over PIT 35-32

DEN over WAS 49-38

ARI over ATL 28-10

CIN over NYJ 31-28 OT

GB over MIN 28-7

SEA over STL 35-10

 

 

Jeremy’s Picks

DET over DAL 38-31

KC over CLE 21-10

MIA over NE 24-21

BUF over NO 27-24

NYG over PHI 31-24

SF over JAX 31-6

PIT over OAK 17-15

DEN over WASH 42-38

ATL over ARI 28-14

CIN over NYJ 28-20

GB over MIN 31-10

SEA over STL 35-3

 

 

Avi’s Picks

DET over DAL 24-20

SF over JAX 24-13

KC over CLE 23-14

NE over MIA 31- 21

NO over BUF 35-10

NYG over PHI 24-21

CIN over NYJ 27-17

PIT over OAK 20-17

DEN over WAS 38-30

GB over MIN 28-13

AZ over ATL 20-17

SEA over STL 24-9

 

 

Gary’s Picks

DET over DAL 27-24

SF over JAX 27-10

KC over CLE 24-6

NE over MIA 34- 21

NO over BUF 31-24

PHI over NYG 17-10

CIN over NYJ 31-10

PIT over OAK 20-17

DEN over WAS 48-38

GB over MIN 24-13

ATL over ARI 20-17

SEA over STL 34-10

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With Tip-Off fast approaching here’s an in-depth look at the league, Team by Team.
Indiana Pacers
Where they have been:
The past few seasons have seen the Pacers make the steady progression that the Oklahoma City Thunder are known for. In 2010 they made the playoffs for the first time since 2006, defeating the Top seeded Bulls. The following year they took the eventual champions, the Miami Heat to a 6 game series in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Last year, they took the eventual champions Miami Heat to a 7 game series in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Who they have:
Their starting lineup is gold. Roy Hibbert and David West are no nonsense, grind it out defenders that protect the paint, and can also score. Paul George is quickly establishing himself as one of the best two way players in the entire league. George Hill provides stability at the helm of the offense, he can score, pass, and most importantly defend. The last starting lineup spot goes to either Danny Granger or Lance Stephenson. Coach Frank Vogel can’t go wrong with either pick.
Who they have:
The Pacers have arguably one of the deepest benches in the league, capable of playing offense and defense. The focus of the offense on the bench will either be Danny Granger, or Lance Stephenson. Personally, I’m more in favor of Danny Granger coming off the bench, but that’s up to Frank Vogel. They made positive steps this offseason by signing Luis Scola, C.J Watson and Chris Copeland. Luis Scola has always been an efficient player. C.J Watson is a good defender, a decent scorer and a capable backup. Chris Copeland can provide instant offense in a pinch, play solid defense and rebound. The Pacers bench is excellent, a mixture of good defense and offense that will take the Pacers where they want to go.
What to Expect:
The Pacers are now one of the top teams in the NBA, and what do top NBA teams do? Compete for a championship. Look for the Pacers to win close to 60 games, grab a top 3 seed and play well into June

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With Tip-Off fast approaching here’s an in-depth look at the league, Team by Team.

Dallas Mavericks:

Where they have been:

After winning the NBA finals against the Miami Heat in 2010-2011, the Mavs have found themselves freefalling in the NBA. After allowing Tyson Chandler to walk (among other key pieces of their title team) the Mavs got swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Oklahoma City Thunder. The following season (2012-2013) saw the Mavs miss out on the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Hoping to pair up an aging Dirk Nowitzki with a star the Mavs took to free agency, striking out on all the big names. They recuperated by adding Monta Ellis, a borderline All-star.

Who they have: The Starting Lineup.

The Mavs starting lineup is good. Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalemebert will be able to score and while none of the players in the starting lineup are defensive wizards they will be able to play on that end of the floor as well.  Calderon, one of the more underappreciated point guards in the league, will bring stability at the point. Ellis will be able to produce his usual points. Dirk will produce, and with Ellis there to take pressure off from scoring, will be more effective (it also won’t hurt that he’ll finally be fully healthy.) Shawn Marion will defend, rebound and score when needed, so will Samuel Dalembert, just without much scoring.

Who they have: The bench:

The Mavs bench is solid, but doesn’t distinguish themselves. Their best bench player, Vince Carter, is past his prime, though still capable. Devin Harris will be solid, being able to play either behind or along Jose Calderon (or Monta Ellis.) Dejuan Blair, is an undersized forward/center, who will produce, but he won’t be able to play against players that tower over him for extended minutes. From there, the bench includes no-one distinguishable, with Wayne Ellington and Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright rounding out the back up unit. The rest of the bench will most likely see garbage time action.

What to Expect:

The Mavs aren’t winning any titles, in fact they’ll be competing with a handful of other teams for the bottom two rungs in a loaded Western Conference. They’re deep and talented enough to win anywhere between 42 and 50 games, with 45 wins around  what I’d expect from them.

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Here we go folks, the NBA season is less than a week away from Tip-Off, and that makes us VERY happy. There are so many questions to answer, but let’s just stick to the ones that are on the forefront of my mind right now.

The Questions:

1) Will Kobe Bryant come back from his torn Achilles tendon as the Mamba/Vino, or will he be just a shell of his former self? Will Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo?

2) Will the Miami Heat fail or succeed in their bid to secure a three peat, and make it to the NBA finals four years in a row? If they don’t, where do they fall, and whom do they fall too?

3) Which team, if any, in the NBA can unseat the Heat? Is that even possible after the past three years (2 championships, 3 straight trips to the finals, arguably the best 1-2 [and 3] combo in the league, the best player in the league, and a 27 game winning streak)?

4) Will the Clippers finally distinguish themselves where it matters most, in the playoffs?

5) Are both of NY’s team’s contenders, or pretenders? Which one of them has a more legitimate chance of competing for a title?

6) How serious are the Rockets?

The Answers:

1) Kobe is Kobe. There are few who can match his competitive drive, and after a whole summer’s worth of hearing people debate about how he’ll come back, he’ll do whatever it takes to come back as his old self. Derrick Rose is back, 21.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 7.9 assists through the preseason should alleviate any and all worries Bulls fans might still have. Same goes for Kevin Love who is putting up his monster double doubles, on a daily basis. Though Rondo isn’t due back for some time, there is no reason to think he still won’t be a top point guard, the only difference; he won’t have Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to pass to.

2) At first guess, the answer is, yes The Heat will succeed and LeBron will win a third title. However, personally I don’t think they will. The eastern conference has become much more competitive, with the Pacers, the Bulls, the Nets and the Knicks adding pieces to already solid rosters. Of those 4 the Pacers are the team most likely to supplant the Heat. Consider last season’s E.C.F finals where they took them all the way to game 7, and were a potentially bad substitution away from winning. They retained their core, Danny Granger is back, and Lance Stephenson has something to prove, after an encouraging season. Next they added Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and CJ Watson to shore up their bench offense. While they might not match up with the Heat in terms of pure Star power (though Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Paul George aren’t a bad star lineup), they DO match up (and win) in depth and bench production.

3) Expanding upon question #2, the Indian Pacers are the team MOST likely to unseat the Heat. The other serious contenders on this short list include the Chicago Bulls, the Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs. I can’t put the Thunder in here because this is the first season they’re playing without an established 3rd man, if someone can step up and fill that role, they’ll be back in contention.

4) I put the Clippers on question 3 for a bunch of reasons. An elite, no nonsense coach that knows what it takes to win a title is the first step toward legitimacy. The next reason is their depth. They have what it takes, from the role players (Louis Admundson, Willie Green) to the stars ( Paul, Griffin) they are a legitimate 10 deep team, with players who can (and will) take over close games. Look for the Clippers to aim for a 60 win season, a top 3 seed in the Western Conference and a berth in the W.C.F.

5) Pretenders, the Knicks more so than the Nets. The Knicks have not really upgraded over the summer, adding a shooter who can’t shoot, and a great defender who is a couple years past his prime. They’ll win and they’ll be fun to watch, but inevitably they will flame out in the 2nd round (and even the first depending on whom they match up with). The Nets are a bit different, they’ve clearly upgraded, adding Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko, to their core of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. However, they are untested as a group, their coach is brand new and they will have to compete with the Miami Heat, the Bulls (who have regained their MVP) and of course their house mates in the city, the Knicks.

6) The rockets are a wildcard in the west, talented enough to go toe to toe with any team, in any conference, but unproven. They have no Chemistry yet, and until they develop it, they won’t be able to jump over the list of Western Conference contenders that include the Clippers, the Spurs and the Thunder.