In this week’s blog, Pat Strathman (PJ) and CJ Matson dish out their current top 5 teams in the NBA.CJ’s top 5 NBA teams
1) Chicago Bulls
Undoubtedly the best team in the NBA, and their record indicates that. Both Derrick Rose’s turf toe injury and Luol Deng’s torn wrist ligament are legitimate concerns for a team vying for the NBA championship. Both vital players are instrumental to the Bulls’ success. With that being said, they have incredible depth and balance, relying on as many as 11 players to play significant minutes. They are the 10th in the NBA in average points-per-game, 6th in 3-point field goal percentage, 3rdin assists, 1st in rebounds and 1st in average points allowed-per-game.
2) Oklahoma City Thunder
Arguably the best team in the Western Conference and an early favorite to advance to the NBA Finals in June. Even though the Thunder’s offense is incredibly prolific, averaging 99.2 points-per-game, they rely heavily on three players to score their points. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are the only Thunder players that have a scoring average in double figures. As good as their offense is, their defense has been superb. The Thunder’s opponents’ field goal percentage is 41.2, which is 1st in the NBA.
3) Miami Heat
No Dwayne Wade? No problem, especially for a team that has LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Wade’s ankle injury isn’t a serious concern, but for them to win the NBA championship, Wade must be on the floor. The Heat are 2nd in the NBA in points-per-game, 7th in assists-per-game, 3rdin 3-point field goal percentage, and 1st in overall field goal percentage. It’s no secret that they can score, but their defense is the key. Miami is allowing 96.8 points-per-game, which is 22nd in the NBA. What has hurt the Heat defensively is their inability to defend the 3-point shot. Opponents have a 3-point field goal percentage of 36.3 against the Heat, which is 25th in the NBA.
4) Philadelphia 76ers
Unequivocally the biggest surprise in the NBA so far this season. NBA followers probably expected the 76ers to contend for a playoff spot this season after finishing 7th in the Eastern Conference and losing to the Miami Heat in the first round playoffs last season, but nobody could have fathomed the 76ers having one of the League’s best records. Coach Doug Collins has his team playing hard and efficiently both offensively and defensively, scoring 99.9 points-per-game, which is 3rd in the NBA and allowing 88.8 points-per-game, which is 2nd. There are two big questions for the 76ers as the season progress: Can they maintain this success and who will emerge as the go-to-guy.
5) Denver Nuggets
Carmelo who? With the way the Denver Nuggets’ offense has been operating this season, Carmelo Anthony is a long, distant memory to most Nuggets fans. Offensively, the Nuggets are 1st in the NBA in points-per-game, 1st in assists-per-game, T-5th in 3-point field goals made-per-game and 2nd in field goal percentage. Two players that have bolstered the Nuggets offense immensely this season include Danilo Gallinari and Al Harrington, two players that were part of the Carmelo Anthony trade last season who have complemented Ty Lawson and Nene. Their glaring problem is their inability to stop their opponents from scoring. Opponents are averaging 100 points-per-game against the Nuggets, which is 28th in the NBA.
Pat’s top 5 NBA Teams
1) Chicago Bulls
This truly is a no brainer. The Bulls are a red hot team that is 9-1 in their last 10 contests. The only three losses were all on the road to Golden State, Atlanta and Memphis. There really is no secret to the team’s success. The Bulls play solid on both ends of the floor. They only allow 85.8 points per game, good for the best in the NBA. The Bulls also are the second best rebounding team and third best passing team with 23 assists per game. Led by former MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls continue to improve with the key addition in the offseason in Richard Hamilton. Hamilton was out with an injury, but when on the floor, he averages 14 points per contest. The Bulls have the inside and outside game to be the NBA’s best team.
2) Philadelphia 76ers
Just when I mention that the Bulls can play offense and defense, insert the surprising 76ers. No one, including myself, didn’t see a team barely over .500 last year, start with the Eastern conference’s third best record. While the Bulls have the best defense, the 76ers have the second best. One thing that the Bulls don’t have is the third best offense. The 76ers average 99.9 points per game and they execute with balance. The 76ers have seven players, yes seven, that average 10 points or more. Starter Jodie Meeks is .8 points shy, averaging 9.2 points. The leading scorer is Lou Williams and he hasn’t started a game all season. Still, he averages 15.4 points. With the balance attack, the shocking 76ers look solid early.
3) Miami Heat
The King may not be at the top of the list, but the Heat in the top five without Dwayne Wade is respectable. With D-Wade sitting because of an ankle injury, the Heat have relied on Chris Bosh and it has paid off. In the Heat’s 92-85 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bosh had 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter. He also averages 20.5 points with 8.5 rebounds this season. Then, you have LeBron James, who averages 29.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists. Solid play without Wade, but the defense still needs work. The Heat is 23rd in the league in points allowed per game at 97.5. If the defense improves, expect the Heat to rise in the rankings.
4) Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant and the Thunder are just as hot as the Bulls. They also are 9-1 in their last 10 games, but the loss was a big one to the 2-15 Washington Wizards. Still, the Thunder have a young roster loaded with talent. Yes, Kevin Durant is a beast averaging 25.7 points, but the help from two other players really improve the team. Russell Westbrook is having a great start, averaging 20.8 points, 5.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds. The spark off the bench is James Harden who averages 16.7 points, which is good for the team’s third best point average. While the Thunder have been solid lately, they still need to improve and find a fourth scorer. Serge Ibaka averages 6.6 points and that’s too low if the Thunder want to be elite.
5) Atlanta Hawks
While the 76ers are the most surprising team in the NBA, the Hawks aren’t far behind. Even though they lost Kirk Hinrich early, a surprising player increased his production, Jeff Teague, a player that usually plays as a reserve, averages 12.6 points and 5.7 assists. That’s great production for a bench player while taking over the starting point guard role. Also, Josh Smith looks different early. The biggest difference is his shot selection. Smith is no longer trying to shoot threes, resulting in a 49 percent shooting percentage. Add that with Joe Johnson’s 19.1 points and the Hawks are first in their division.
by pat strathman and cj matson