1. Knicks and Nets, are their turnarounds for real? Will either or both make the postseason?
The Knicks, yes. The Nets, no. The Knicks are figuring out who they are in a weird and extremely volatile way. They put JR Smith’s mind in a pretzel and Amare is playing very efficient basketball. I expect them in the post-season. The Nets are still old and father time has never lost. I expect Deron Williams‘ return to cause chemistry issues and periodic injuries throughout the second half to continue to plague them.
Mostly yes and yes. We all knew that that neither of these teams have shown their true identities. The Nets in particular have plenty of star power, and with the offense now focused around Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce the Nets are much more effective offensively. On the defensive end this team has recently found their identity as only 1 of their last 12 opponents have scored in triple digits. The Nets will easily make the playoffs, but they won’t beat Miami or Indy. Health is really the only concern for the Nets
The Knicks are a bit trickier. As long as Tyson Chandler is healthy the Knicks defense will lead them to the playoffs, but that’s as far as this team going. They have improved but the team is one dimensional offensively as Carmelo is, their focus. The decline of perimeter shooting this season is rearing its hurting the Knicks. For the Knicks to succeed they need a focused and efficient (haha, not likely) JR Smith. Carmelo has been great this year, especially rebounding the basketball, but he will need to be even better if he wants to win in NYC.
Both the Knicks and the Nets have playoff level talent on their team, even with their various injuries. In the awful East they are both top 8 teams. However, both teams had aspirations of contention before the season, so if that’s the criteria for a turnaround then the answer is not a chance.
2. Is Portland a legit Contender?
Yes. I don’t see how the best scoring and distributing team cannot be considered a contender. I admit that they do need to play better defensively, but the playoffs is a whole new ball game. Teams acclimate to each other and adjust to changes more effectively due to the 7 game series. They have the players/talent, they just need to buy into that philosophy.
I think they are. I have been high on Portland since last season and thought they would be one of the better teams in the west coming into this year. So far they have proved me right, and I’m sticking with them. In the West, offense is the priority over defense, and Portland has a leathal defense. I actually think Portland matches up nicely with the Elite of the West (Ex: Aldridge and Lillard are a good matchup against Duncan and Parker). The length of the team, especially at SF with Batum, allows them to matchup nicely with OKC. I expect Portland to be one of the final 4 teams, and to be competitive in any series they play in. I love the star power here. I’m a believer in the CITY OF ROSES!
Nope. It might be a cliche, but defense does in fact win championships. The Blazers are 20th in the NBA in defensive rating, which means they simply aren’t good enough on that end to get the job done. Barring a trades that will improve them defensively I think they come up short against the elite defensive teams in the NBA.
3. Will Rajon Rondo be dealt this season? If so what do you think is fair value for him?
Yes. If they can pull in an elite player/elite picks, I don’t see why not. The Celtics are bringing in a post-ACL tear point guard that is an inconsistent shooter without any of his former Hall of Fame weapons. Either way, Celtics fans are going to see a very different player. If they can turn this into a top flight stud they have to do it
Boston would be crazy to deal Rajon Rondo. Sure, he only has one year left after this season and is coming off of ACL surgery, but he is without question a top 5 player at his position. Rondo’s pass first mentality makes him attractive to play with for potential free agents. On top of that, Rondo has that rare ability to be the best player in the NBA on any given night. He battled Lebron to seven games in 2012, in case people forgot. He is also one of the better postseason and big game performers. While there is certainly some risk in keeping him, you will not be able to guarantee receiving another franchise caliber player in return if you trade him. Rondo cannot be the best scorer on a championship team but they have plenty of chances to find that player with their preponderance of picks in the next 5 years (they have 9 guaranteed firsts) There is no reason to rush off and deal Rondo when the next generation of Celtics prosperity is right around the corner. If they were to trade him three firsts or two first and young talent coming back would be correct compensation. Has the league and the fans forgot how great he is? Seriously, Rondo is a top tier talent.
Rajon Rondo will a free agent after next season, so his trade value might be higher at this trading deadline, (when a team can trade for a low cost point guard on a two year deal rather than a one year rental). If he can show he is healthy before the deadline he might be a very attractive peice for a team looking to go to the next level. If he is dealt look for the Celtics to ask for some combination of a top 7 pick this year, salary relief for Gerald Wallace‘s contract and or/future picks. If they get 2 of those three they will consider moving him. But guess what? They won’t get those assets, because few teams outside of Boston believe him to the franchise player the Celtics do.
4. Which team do you think will make the biggest turnaround from the first half of the season to the second half?
I want to say Minnesota, but I have to say the Knicks. By “turnaround” I think they will win slightly more than 50% of their remaining games. In the East that will get you from bottom of the barrel into the playoffs.
Of non playoff teams, I expect Memphis to make a strong playoff run, and I expect the currently lowly Cavaliers to turn it around. Both those teams have so much talent, I expect them to start performing to the level they are capable of. Outside of Cleveland, I think i’m the only believer…I’m already questioning myself. Of Playoff teams, Detroit and Golden State could rise in the standings as the second half of the season gets underway.
The Houston Rockets (last night’s second half meltdown notwithstanding). Every day Dwight Howard is looking more comfortable with his new surroundings. They will move Asik before the deadline, or make another move to shore up their defense. It won’t hurt that James Harden will probably try a little bit on defense once we get closer to playoff time.
5. With the Warriors on a tear are they the NBA’s hottest team?
No. Indiana and San Antonio are still the hottest teams in the league. The Spurs have the largest current win streak and, without 2nd nights of back-to-backs, the Pacers only have two losses this year and own a healthy lead over the defending champs.
They might not be the NBA’s hottest team now, but the Grizzlies are about to ignite. With the return of Marc Gasol and a red hot Courtney Lee coming off the bench, Memphis is going to get back to the defense that made them elite and jump head first into the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Um, kind of, this team is scary good, however the hottest team has to be the Spurs, who have now won 6 in a row and sit atop the west. The Spurs, for the most part, are always the hottest team in the NBA (unless the Heat are on like a 27 game winning streak or something).But seriously, watch out for the Cavs…