20. Cleveland (4-4)
LW: 21, +1
For some reason, everyone wants to get on us for heaping praise on our cover boy, Kyrie Irving. Well, that’s what you get when you have the Cavs chugging along at .500 after beating your biggest competition for best rookie point guard (Ricky Rubio), and scoring 21 on the best team in the West all while averaging 15 points and 5.1 assists a night. At this point, mediocrity in Cleveland (they are average in every sense of the word) is a step up.
19. Memphis (3-5)
LW: 22, +3
No team’s been more disappointing this year than Memphis. Their guys – Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph – spent all summer reassuring me they weren’t going to let the press get to their heads. Sure enough, they’ve had trouble. Of course, injuries have played a part and at times this year, I haven’t even recognized the Grizz’s lineup. But there’s no way a team with this much talent should be the fourth-worst offensive lineup in the league. That just doesn’t make sense.
18. Minnesota (3-5)
LW: 18, —
So after unleashing Rubio on the United States, the Wolves next move needs to be opening up more minutes for Derrick Williams. He’s playing like twice the player Michael Beasley is (PER – 15.7 to B-Easy’s 7.5), and yet only getting 20 minutes a game. The real person who’s being overlooked right now though is Kevin Love. Yes, we all know dude can hoop. But outside of Dwight Howard, Love is playing like the best big man in the world. 25 and 15 a night with two threes a game even has Love ready to anoint himself.
17. Phoenix (4-4)
LW: 27, +10
They’ve righted the ship after a very shaky start to the season, but I can’t get over how awful this all looks. Steve Nash should never be on a team that is in the bottom third of the NBA in pace. The Suns’ time has passed, and only the continued brilliance of Nash (who had 17 assists by the end of the third quarter yesterday) will keep them close to .500.
16. Dallas (4-5)
LW: 24, +8
The Mavs are taking more shots than Drake is these days. But can you fault anyone for going at them? They’re like a high school senior going through the motions during tryouts. Nothing interests them… they’ll let a young kid score here and there on them… they won’t run hard suicides. I mean, look at their schedule: Even though they’ve started to pick it up and are 4-2 in their last six, they’ve lost this year by 11, 22, 17 and 21.
15. Utah (5-3)
LW: 25, +10
I said their rough early start wouldn’t last, remember? They’ve won four games in a row – all close – and still remain one of the few teams that not only didn’t get blown out by Philly, but who actually beat the 76ers. The Jazz don’t have any stars, but they do have seven guys all averaging at least seven points a night.
14. Boston Celtics (4-4)
LW: 17, +3
How many more beatdowns from good teams will the Green have to take before we all sit down and say “Oh man, the Celtics really aren’t good anymore. Like, they’re not even a threat in the East.” It’s true. Boston’s four wins this year have come against Washington (twice), New Jersey and Detroit. They’ve played Miami and Indiana and gotten blown out both times. They have five good players. That’s it.
13. New York Knicks (4-4)
LW: 14, +1
True story: One of my Knick friends flipped out on me after I didn’t put Iman Shumpert on my Rookie Report of the 10 best rooks in the league right now. At the time, he was still out with an injury. His only game had been a 3-for-13 opening debut against Boston. ‘Tis the life of a Knicks fan: When there’s nothing to really feel excited about, you get to going nuts over role playing rookies as if they’re the future of their position. The Knicks are lucky I’m throwing them on this high: last week alone they lost to the Bobcats and Raptors, and also lost to Golden State in their second game of the year.
12. Orlando Magic (6-3)
LW: 7, -5
Dwight Howard had perhaps the worst game of his career yesterday against Sacramento, not scoring or grabbing a single rebound in the first half of Orlando’s win. But other than that, he’s worked through the trade rumors and been solid, as has the whole team. I just don’t believe in them. They’ve played two games against decent opponents all year. TWO! And they were smashed in both of those, losing to OKC and the Bulls. I’ll be incredibly surprised if this team does anything at all in the postseason.
11. Indiana Pacers (6-2)
LW: 9, -2
I think they’ll put a scare into whomever they play in the first round of the playoffs this year because they have the right mix of solid vets (West, Granger) and young players coming into their own (George, Collison, Hansbrough, Hibbert). Plus, Paul George has been a HUGE boost for my fantasy team so he gets extra points from me. But there’s one thing I can’t get over: In their biggest matchup of the year, Miami ate them and then s— them back out. It was that ugly.