See this article with photos on Bleacher Report

Before the preseason, I ran down how I thought the season was going to go team by team.  I’m going to do the same every two weeks as the season goes along.  Here are my thoughts on what has happened so far, in reverse order of records.

15.  Charlotte Bobcats-  They are bad.  But at least they’re competitive.  Their only win was a two point squeaker over New Jersey, but other than opening night against Dallas, they haven’t been blown out.  New point guard D.J. Augustin is shooting a putrid 38% from the floor, but at least his assist to turnover ratio is in the top 5 in the league.  They still can’t score, they’re dead last in the league and the only team under 90 ppg.  Larry Brown is so gone.

14.  Toronto Raptors-  These guys are bad, too.  Andre Bargnani is the only guy on the team who looks like he actually deserves to play decent minutes in the league.  Everyone else is best suited as a bench reserve.  Add to that Ed Davis, who was supposed to take the place of Chris Bosh in the lineup, has yet to play a game after knee surgery.  I stick to my original point, these guys might not get to 20 wins.

13.  Washington Wizards-  John Wall’s shooting touch leaves a whole lot to be desired, but his overall game simply reeks of superstar point guard.  Al Thornton has benefited from Wall’s presence, but other than that, this team is a mess.  Gilbert Arenas is lost, Andray Blatche is barely shooting 40% and turning the ball over nearly four times a game, supposed break-out center JaVale McGee is throwing up 7 points and 7 boards a night, and everyone else is mediocre at best.  Some major roster overhaul is needed here sooner than later.

12.  Detroit Pistons-  Ben Gordon is actually playing fairly well.  Too bad no one else is.  Rip Hamilton and Tayshawn Prince must be ready to hop the first possible trade out of town.  And if we didn’t know it before, Charlie Villaneuva’s a giant softie and Rodney Stuckey is a slightly less talented Chauncey Billups.  All in all, these guys are going nowhere.

11.  New Jersey Nets-  After starting an inexplicable 2-0, they’ve lost 5 in a row.  Brook Lopez has regressed from the all-star-to-be that played last season, Devin Harris is what he is, a slightly above-average faux point guard, and Jordan Farmar looks a lot like Jordan Farmar always has, that is in no way a useful NBA player.  Derrick Favors has started well, however, and if Lopez can correct himself, they do at least have two-thirds of a pretty good NBA frontcourt to build around.

10.  Philadelphia 76ers-  Hello, Elton Brand, thanks for showing up for a change.  Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams may actually be useful guards.  Evan Turner does not look like a player anyone should have considering in the same breath with John Wall.  And not to disparage Doug Collins, but why exactly are Marreese Speights and Thaddeus Young only playing 30 minutes a night combined?  Maybe Brand’s rejuvenation will sucker someone into actually trading for him, and the quicker they rid themselves of Andre Igoudala, the better.  There sure are a lot of teams in the East going nowhere.

9.  Milwaukee Bucks- Andruw Bogut seems to be rounding into form.  Otherwise, has there been a more disappointing team in the East?  Brandon Jennings doesn’t seem to have grown from the playoff experience, Corey Maggette is a volume shooter off the bench; surprise!  And John Salmons is doing his typical first half brick-fest.  The only problem is that, since Milwaukee inked him to a five year deal, they won’t be able to trade him to some other team so he can get hot and lead them into the playoffs like he did for Milwaukee last season, and the Bulls the season before.  Maybe all of the break-out talk about this team was a bit premature.

8.  New York Knicks-  The Knicks would be in the post-season if the playoffs started today.  Well, let’s see if they can stay there.  This is clearly a team lacking major pieces to be a viable contender for anything other than an Eastern Conference whipping boy.  Amare Stoudemire isn’t producing like he did in Phoenix, and Ray Felton isn’t Steve Nash.  Maybe they should have tried harder to dump Danilo Gallinari in the effort to land Carmelo Anthony.  He’s been just awful.  Toney Douglas has been great off the bench, but Mr. Upside, Anthony Randolph, who they gave up David Lee for,  is barely playing.  Can you say mediocre?

7.  Indiana Pacers-  Danny Granger is a star, Darren Collison is still experiencing some growing pains as a point guard, Roy Hibbert looks like he could be a very good center, and the rest of the roster still needs a shakeup.  As presently constituted, the Pacers are probably no better than a .500 team, which will likely net a playoff spot in the East.

6.  Chicago Bulls-  Just wait until Carlos Boozer comes back.  Isn’t that what Utah used to say?  I’m still not sold on Boozer being a championship difference maker, although I can see them getting home court in the first round with him.  Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are certifiable All Stars, and the roster is filled with quality role players.  If Boozer does, in fact, turn out to be the post presence offensively he can be and his lazy defense doesn’t disrupt things too much, this can be one of the best teams in the league.  But Boozer has disappointed before and he may yet again.

5.  Cleveland Cavaliers-  Lebron James and the Heat are in third place in their division.  The Cavs, without him, are in first place in their’s.  Will it stay that way?  Absolutely not.  This is a guard-heavy team with solid post play from Anderson Varejao and J.J. Hickson.  Unfortunately, their guards aren’t even close to elite.  Mo Williams is a black hole for jump shots, as is Ramon Sessions.  Antawn Jamison looks suspiciously like he’s done.  This team will end up well under .500 before all is said and done, and they desperately need to find takers for Williams and Jamison if for no other reason than addition by subtraction.

4.  Miami Heat-  I still am not sold on the present makeup of the Heat.  James and Dwayne Wade are just too similar to function smoothly together.  And Chris Bosh is making me look good for my projection that his contract would end up as one of the worst of this free agent signing period.  He’s putting up numbers eerily similar to what Jermaine O’Neal  did last season in Miami.  So far, Bosh is putting up 14.8 ppg, 5.9 rpb, 1.8 apg and 1.1 bpg in 33 minutes.  Last season, O’Neal in a Heat uniform had a line of 13.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.3 apg and 1.4 bpg.  Is that kind of production really worth $110 million?  The point guard position is a nightmare, as is the center slot, and the big three still don’t look as though they may ever mesh as people envisioned.  They may yet win a title, but it won’t be this year.

3.  Atlanta Hawks-  The Hawks look pretty good so far, but their 6-0 start came at the expense of five of the worst teams in the league.  Still, they’re reasonably young, athletic and can give anyone fits on a given night.  They have a desperate need for three point shooting, and more toughness down low.  It’ll be interesting to see if, after the Joe Johnson contract, they can find the financial flexibility to at least try to address those issues.  Otherwise, it’s a four or five seed and a first round series with one of the East’s big four teams.

2.  Boston Celtics-  So far, so good for the Celtics.  Everyone is reasonably healthy, their big three still has some gas left in the tank and Rajon Rondo has become an assist machine.  If Kendrick Perkins comes back at or near 100%, they can beat anyone.  However, remember how badly they fell apart in the second half of last season.  These guys are nothing if not old, and a hot start doesn’t mean they’ll be hot, or healthy, when the playoffs roll around.  But if they are, watch out.  Nobody in the east knows more about winning big-time games than these guys.

1.  Orlando Magic-  When did Dwight Howard turn into Hakeem Olajuwon?  Has his offensive game finally caught up to his defense and athleticism?  And, if so, will anyone be able to beat them?  Well, I don’t expect Howard to keep scoring as he has so far, a ridiculous 23 ppg in only 30 minutes.  And Vince Carter has been very good out of the gate which, as we all should know by now, is fool’s gold.  They still could use a true point guard, and Rashard Lewis is looking more and more like a guy on his way out of town.  I still expect some sort of trade for this team at some point, but for now, they’re in pretty good shape.


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