I watch a lot of basketball now. Please talk to me about it all the time.
The Bucks are top 4 in the East, and with Giannis Antetokounmpo on your side there isn’t really much to worry about. The defending champs and Finals MVP will certainly still have a lot of trouble running it back-to-back–especially without PJ Tucker (left for Miami) and Brook Lopez (back injury)–but there’s still a lot working right.
Giannis is averaging 28.9 points a game, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists (just shy of basically being able to say he’s averaging a triple-double every game). Bobby Portis has also stepped up as the team’s starting center tremendously this last week, and the team still has both Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. They weren’t initial finals contenders last year before taking the championship and they still shouldn’t be underestimated again.
The Bulls arguably had the best off-season moves. Joining Zach LaVine, Chicago acquired 6′ 10″ center Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and without a doubt one of the top 10 players in the league: DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan and LaVine are both averaging 25 points a game, and the team currently sits at No. 1 in East. Though they’ve had some losses recently to big teams like the Nets and the Warriors, they previously came off a nine-game winning streak. Would not be surprised to see them play extra hard come post-season, granted Ball (knee) and Caruso (wrist) recover from minor surgeries this month.
Cleveland has been one of the most surprising successes of 2022 so far. Despite two players with season ending injuries this season (Colin Sexton and Ricky Rubio), Darius Garland has turned into an exceptional point guard. He has major chemistry with Jarrett Allen, and Cleveland has become one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Evan Mobley, the Cav’s 6′ 11″ rookie, has also been playing out of his mind for a 2021 draft pick. Backed by Kevin Love, Lauri Markkanen, and Isaac Okoro, the team has pushed through losses (and mostly avoided the COVID-19 outbreak) to make it 27-18. This past Monday, the Cav’s beat a Durant-less Nets 114-107.
Last time I said the Celtics should be winning more games, and maybe they’ve started to listen. For a team with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to be out of playoff contention right now is just bizarre, especially when Tatum and Brown are averaging roughly 50 points a game together.
Not to mention, they’re backed by Dennis Schroder, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Payton Pritchard. Critics keep telling me this week that Tatum and Brown should be split up to enhance the team come the trade deadline on Feb. 10, but to me they’re maybe the only thing that should definitely not be touched.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers could potentially be post-season stunners when Kawhi Leonard (torn ACL) and Paul George (torn elbow ligament) eventually come back, but they might have some trouble getting there with such season-hampering injuries.
Though Kawhi has yet to play a single game, Paul George has really been holding the team down until his latest injury. We’ll have to see how players like Reggie Jackson may be able to step up even more in the meantime. Right now they’re 8th in the West, meaning that if they don’t fall too much they may be able to enter the play-in with Kawhi and Paul George ready to play.
- UPDATE: The Clippers acquired Norman Powell from the Trail Blazers on Friday, Feb. 4, in a trade that sent Eric Bledsoe, two other players, and a 2025 second-round draft pick to Portland. This could potentially be an amazing move for LA. Norman Powell, averaging 18 points a game, could bolster the struggling Clippers through the post-season and learn how to play with his new teammates before he’s added to the triple-threat alongside Leonard and George. That is all to say that Leonard and George return for the playoffs healthy this year, but if anything it proves the Clippers could be dangerous next season.
Before Dillon Brooks sprained his ankle, Ja Morant and the Grizzlies won 11 games in a row. The 36-18 team is now the 3rd best team in the West thanks to elevated performances from Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., and rookie Ziaire Williams.
An offensive powerhouse, the Grizzlies have yet to score under 100 points in 2022. Morant also came above 30 points four games in a row and secured a starting spot in the All-Star Game. The loss of Brooks for 3-5 weeks will certainly complicate their rise, but we’ll see how Memphis faces the test. Right now, they’re one of the most fun teams to watch.
Trae Young is averaging 27.6 points a game and Clint Capela is averaging 13 rebounds. The dark horse playoff team stunned in 2020’s Eastern Conference Finals, but now they’re 25-26. How? Trae Young scored 56 points against the Trail Blazers on Jan. 3 and the Hawks still lost. Then, on Feb. 3, he drops 43 points to win against the best-team-in-the-league Phoenix Suns.
Last month, they traded Cam Reddish, a pretty decent shooter, to the Knicks for Kevin Knox and a draft pick. Despite the loss (which seemed like a bad move on their part at the time), they’ve gone 8-2 in their last 10 games.
The Heat were unstoppable before everyone got Covid-19. That’s not to say they’re not still one of the best teams in the East, but going without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo for so long probably kept them from dominating entirely. I had Miami in my top 3 early in the season and they’re probably still there once Jimmy and Bam comes back in full force.
Miami also has rising point guard Tyler Herro, championship defender P.J. Tucker, guard Duncan Robinson, and former-Raptor Kyle Lowry. I still have Herro as my 6th Man of the Year as well. He recently scored 33 points off the bench against the Suns on Jan. 8 to win 123-100.
They did it! The Hornets figured out how to win some damn games, and it’s all thanks to 23-year-old Miles Bridges who put up an impressive 38 points against the Knicks on MLK Day.
Charlotte also has 2021 Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball and an exciting roster featuring Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Mason Plumlee. The Hornets now have a 28-24 record, including recent back-to-back wins over the Bucs. At 8th in the East, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team win the play-in tournament to get into the post-game.
The Utah Jazz were a big potential threat in last year’s playoffs thanks to Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, and they’ll likely find themselves there again in 2022. Mitchell is averaging 25.5 points a game, and Gobert is leading the pack as the potential Defensive Player of the Year.
Evident once Covid-19 hit however, was that except for Bogan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, and back-up center Hassan Whiteside, there isn’t much waiting in the wings in Utah. The Jazz were No. 1 in the West but lost in the second round of the playoffs last year to the Clippers.
The Kings are still a conundrum. At 19-35, they’re one of the worst five worst teams in the league, but that’s not because they don’t have talent. They’ve got De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Tyrese Haliburton, and Buddy Hield, but they just can’t secure the win.
When they do however, it’s seemingly at random. They beat a slumping Nets 112-101 on Feb. 2. They beat a .500 Lakers 125-116 on Jan. 12. As I said before, I don’t have any sort of grasp over what’s happening over there. They were reportedly seeking a deal for Ben Simmons but the 76ers wouldn’t budge. Simmons would have been great for the Kings, but tough shit I guess. Trade deadline is in six days, good luck.
New York Knicks
Remember when we were all excited for the Knicks? When we thought Julius Randle was in the same conversation as Joel Embiid? When we thought Fournier and Walker wouldn’t get benched for nearly two weeks as the team tried to figure out why they were losing so hard? Remember Bing Bong?
At 24-28, the Knicks likely will not make the playoffs the year unless they can turn this around. It’s looking like it’s them or the Hawks for the 10th seed, and my money’s on Trae Young. We may see some trade deadline decisions, but possibly not. They made some of the most moves out of any team in the league during the off-season, and sadly it has just not paid off. One shining beacon of hope: rookie RJ Barrett is now the best player on the team.
Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James is still one of the greatest players in the league. The Lakers are not. They’re 25-28, and absolutely struggling to make the playoffs. They’re 9th in the West right now which means they’ll likely find themselves in the play-in tournament for the second year in a row.
The off-season acquisitions–Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Trent Ariza–are barely helping out LeBron and AD (who has also been injured most of the season). Even with such heavy hitters, Malik Monk is one of their best shooters. Westbrook found himself benched and even admitted he had to play better. Ouch.
As bbad as it may be for the other guys, no one knows pain like the Magic. The Orlando squad is 12-41 without a single player averaging over 20 points a game. Rookies Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs are carrying a team desperate for some more talent.
The only problem is that I don’t really know who they have to offer. Mo Bamba? I don’t know who would want him. Cole Anthony? He’s one of their better players. I don’t know what’s left other than hoping for that No. 1 pick come next draft season.
Outside of the surging Grizzlies, the Mavericks have a pretty easy time staying up fellow-division-mates Pelicans, Spurs, and Rockets, all yet to win over 20 games this season. At 5th in the West, the Luka Doncic-led squad still packs Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Dallas is sure to make the playoffs this year, especially is Jalen Brunson can keep up his shooting streak, but on-and-off injuries and Covid-19 cases have really hampered the team over the course of the season. Luka didn’t even make All-Star starter this year.
The triple-threat of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden have once again barely played together at all. Kyrie can only play road games since he refuses to get vaccinated. Kevin Durant is out until March with a knee injury. James Harden has yet to fully recover from his 2021 finals hamstring issues.
On top of that, 3-point-wizard Joe Harris had to get knee-surgery. LaMarcus Aldridge, who retired and then came back, is one of our best shooters with the sorest of knees. 6’11” center Nic Claxton keeps sitting out due to an unspecified “illness.” Paul Millsap is refusing to play for some reason.
Patty Mills, a guy in his 13th year in the NBA, is currently one of the Nets’ best shooters, and rookies Cam Thomas and Kessler Edwards have stepped up tremendously, but the team just lost five games in a row to slump down to 6th in the East. No fears that they won’t make the playoffs, but the championship chasers have a lot working against them.
The Nuggets got destroyed by injuries this season. Michael Porter Jr., one of their best 3-point-shooters, is out for the season and Jamal Murray is still recovering from a torn ACL. Will Barton is shooting okay again, as is Aaron Gordon, but this team owes everything to Nikola Jokic. The basketball pro is basically triple-doubling every night and I have no reservations saying that he’s the sole reason Denver currently sits at 6th in the West.
Recent acquisition Bryn Forbes from the Spurs has also provided some much needed sharp-shooting outside the rim for the Nuggets, who just beat the Bucks 136-100 on Jan. 30. If Jokic stays healthy then they are playoff bound for sure.
They’re not the worst team in the East, but they’re pretty close. Even with 6’11” center Domantas Sabonis, the team just can’t convert wins and Indiana may even trade him this week.
As Warriors’ Draymond Green put it, “the Pacers stink this year.” Miraculously Indiana earned one of their dismal 17 wins this season against them scoring 121-117 without any of their starters taking the floor.
New Orleans Pelicans
We all knew that the Pelicans were doomed before the season even started. Zion Williamson still has yet to make his season debut after foot surgery, and they traded away Lonzo Ball to the Bulls for practically nothing.
New Orleans is 19-32 and they’ve just lost five games in a row. Zion returning right now probably couldn’t even save them, and he should be looking to get out of Louisiana ASAP.
Despite getting No. 1 overall draft pick Cade Cunningham, the Pistons are still one of the worst teams in the league. His 15.8-point average just isn’t cutting it for Detroit, and he doesn’t have much help around him either.
The team is currently a horrifying 12-39, even with Jerami Grant averaging 20 points a game. Are you allowed to get the No. 1 pick two years in a row?
The Raptors are getting better every week. Currently 7th in the East, the 27-23 squad are pretty exciting to watch, and their starters–Fred VanVleet, Paul Siakam, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., are finally gelling together nicely.
There’s a lot of potential up in Toronto, and even though the team has historically had trades blow up in their face after players refused to show up in freezing Canada, smart deadline moves could make them even better. No. 4 draft pick Scottie Barnes has been averaging around 14 points (decent for a rookie), and recent wins over the Bulls and the Heat have stunned viewers.
The Rockets did okay with their numerous draft picks this year, and No. 2 pick Jalen Green is one of their top performers. Christian Wood leads Houston with 17 points per game and 10 rebounds, but the Houston unit is still the worst team in West, since reeling from losing all their best guys.
It’s hard to believe that just two seasons ago, the Rockets had James Harden, Russell Westbrook, P.J. Tucker, Jeff Green, and Clint Capela. The 2020 offseason may be up there for worst decisions made consecutively by an NBA franchise. They also didn’t have any draft picks that year and they’re still paying for it.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have zero stars and a 19-34 record. I get more East Coast games in New York than I would if I live on the West, but I am really struggling to name someone on that team outside of Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker… especially since they just traded away Bryn Forbes for a dude named Bol Bol.
San Antonio is probably kicking themselves for losing DeRozan right as hits his prime with the Bulls. That being said, they turned it on against Chicago to beat him 131-122 on Jan. 28, even on a night when DeRozan dropped 32 points.
With a 41-10 record, the Suns are far-and-away the best team in the league, with only Golden State coming close to such a dominating record. Since ending the 2021 NBA Finals as the runner-up’s, the lineup has only remained relatively unchanged but also gotten even better.
The starting five of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Jae Crowder still work so well together, and they’re accompanied by Cameron Payne, Cam Johnson, JaVale McGee, Landry Shamet, and Bismack Biyombo. If they can rout the Warriors and make it back to the Finals, look out whoever’s on the East.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is heading this shabby team single-handedly right now, and it’s obvious when you compare his numbers to their 16-34 record.
They are far from making the playoffs this year and are in dire straits. Do you trade Shai? Risky. Do you look to build around him? Is he good enough to build around? Rumors are that the Cavs are interested but I really don’t know what the move is here.
I really like watching the Timberwolves play, but I would like it even more if they were really winning. The two Anthony’s–Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards–do amazing numbers in Minnesota, but 7th in the West and a 27-25 record doesn’t have anyone jumping for joy as the post-season approaches.
They beat a Curry-less Warriors 119-99 back in mid-January, and a Durant-less Nets 136-125, but do they have what it takes to compete at this level when the stars are here?
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers have imploded. A 21-31 record is not good and losing both Damian Lillard to injury and Norman Powell to a trade for Eric Bledsoe doesn’t feel good either.
CJ McCollum is still averaging 20 points, but the Trail Blazers just lost 4 of their last 5 games. 22-year-old Anfernee Simmons is getting all the love, and he’s
a beacon of hope for a team clawing at play-in game potential.
Joel Embiid is looking like one of the greatest players in the game right now and the only thing stopping Philly from complete domination in the East is that their star point-guard refuses to play. Not only that, but GM’s in Philly turned the Kings down and decided that they won’t trade Ben Simmons before the Feb. 10 deadline in hopes that they can get a better deal in the offseason. After he hasn’t played a whole season?
That’s not to say that the 3rd in the East 76ers don’t still play great, however, and a decent roster of Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, and Tyrese Maxey round out an absolutely stellar Embiid. Let’s seem ’em come playoffs.
Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry became the all-time 3-point leader this year and it’s on the backs of a 40-13 record Golden State Warriors with two All-Star starters. Andrew Wiggins was absolutely elated to get the votes, and a returned Klay Thompson must have that city salivating for trophies again.
They could do it easy, especially with Jordan Poole, Draymond Green, Kevin Looney, and Otto Porter Jr. They could even pass the Suns to become the best team in the league any day now. They’re only 2 wins behind and Steph’s “shooting slump,” or whatever the media wants to grab onto to pretend like it’s not cut and dry this Western Conference Final, is really nothing.
Dropping Russell Westbrook (though controversial at the time), was probably the greatest move the Wizards ever made. Bradley Beal went sicko mode with the extended ball time, and if he didn’t injure his wrist to take him out of the game for a week, they might have had a better chance to rise up out of a 24-27 record. In exchange for Westbrook, the Wizards got Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, all three of which became starters for Washington.
They also picked up Spencer Dinwiddie from the Nets reserve, who would probably be playing better if it wasn’t reported that the team “doesn’t want him there.” The 13-point average guard allegedly tried to become a “leader” behind the scenes, but butting egos on the Wizards felt like he didn’t have the numbers to prove it. The Wizards have lost four of their last five games, and Dinwiddie scoring has been abysmal.
It’s almost like every team has just forgotten that the trade deadline is in six days.
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.