So since no one else seems to be posting anything new, I'll do a T-wah and write a second column in a row. I've been thinking about the early season and a few of the things that I've learned so far in the few games that have happened. I tend not to get too worked up about the early part of the season, but since all of these games do eventually count (unlike the preseason), we should try to take stock of what's going on every once in a while. So here are the 5 things that I've learned so far from the 2010-2011 NBA season.
1) The Lakers are the team to beat (again)
Everyone thought that the Heat were such a stacked team, but somehow forgot to look at the two-time defending champs. They have one of the best players ever (Kobe, who also happens to be one of the biggest douche bags ever, but that's another story!), the best power forward in the game (Gasol), a plethora of talented big guys, and a great bench. The additions of Matt Barnes and Steve Blake seem to be working out, and even with Kobe's numbers taking a bit of a dip (22.9 ppg, which is pretty low for him), the rest of the team is picking up the slack. After the first couple of weeks, it seems like the Lakers are going to be headed for their 4th straight Finals appearance.
2) The Celtics aren't too old yet
I figured this out after watching their beat down of the Heat on the opening night of the season. Paul Pierce is incredible (something that's taken me a long time to figure out. I can see him easily going to the Hall of Fame after his career, which is not somthing I would have thought a couple of years ago), their Big 3 are still putting up good stats, and Rondo has become arguably the league's best point guard. Add on top of that a very good supporting role (with Big Baby, the O'Neals, Robinson and Daniels) and so far it looks like we could be heading towards another Lakers-Celtics Finals, which seems great, even though I'm not a huge fan of either team.
3) The Raptors and the Timberwolves are terrible!
Sorry Grey and Miller, but your Raptors are going to have a rough year. They have no real closer, and really seem to be struggling to find some kind of identity. Most of their starters would be bench guys on other teams, which doesn't say too much for their bench guys! Yes, there is some hope for the future with DeRozen, Weems and possibly Davis, but they are far from ready to carry a team. The problem is that they have no recogonizable player, which even other terrible teams like the Nets, the Warriors and even the Timberwolves have. I'm pretty sure that unless you're a huge Raptors or NBA fan, you would have no idea who was actually on the Raptors. As for the Wolves, they've got their own problems. They have guys that are recogonizable, and even one, Love, that's pretty good, but they also don't seem to have an identity, other than sucky. I'm afraid that these are the two teams that will be fighting for last place in the league this year (which will hopefully bring them some good draft picks and turn their situations around).
4) Other than the top teams (Lakers, Celtics, Heat and Magic) and the bottom teams (Raptors, Wizards and Timberwolves), the rest of the league is pretty wide open right now.
I don't take too much stock in standings this early in the season (see the next point), as things change dramatically after 30-40 games have been played. Only then can you see real trends of who is going to be contending and fighting for the playoffs. Other than the top few teams, the rest of the top 8 who will be going to the playoffs is wide open for now, which I guess is the great thing about the early season. Pretty much every team has a chance to do well (sorry Raptors and Wolves!).
5) Don't count on the early success of the Hawks and the Hornets
I'm not sold on either of these teams yet. I'm pretty sure that the Hawks will make the playoffs, but are they among the elite of the East? I'm not so sure! And the Hornets? Yes Chris Paul is great, but the rest of their lineup is pretty thin (when David West is your second best player, I don't think you'll be competing for a championship). I find that ever year there are a few teams that start off really well, but begin to fade as the season wears on (last year it was the Kings and the Grizzlies who were in this position). I guess we'll just have to wait a few months to really see where they're at.