NBA Christmas Special – Part 3

Welcome back to the Sports Dojo NBA X-Mas Special: Part 3. You know the drill by now so let’s just get right into it. We’ve spent the past two days looking at the “playoff teams” if the NBA postseason were to start on Christmas. It’s time to turn our attention to the teams on the outside looking in. If you’ve missed out on the first two parts, you can find them here and here.

Eastern Conference: (number reflects current playoff position)

9. Chicago Bulls (10-16): Unfortunately I don’t see this team hanging around and advancing to the playoffs. After Derrick Rose dropped out, there chances were slim to none. They average 91.8 ppg, tied with Charlotte for worst in the league. One of the best small forwards not named LeBron James or Kevin Durant is Luol Deng. Quietly averaging 19.6 ppg and 7.0 rpg, he is the reason the Bulls have won as many games as they have. Although his play has been remarkable, he’s been plagued by a nagging Achilles injury. Never count this team out at home, as they are 7-5 and surprisingly have a 9-9 record against Eastern Conference teams.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-16): Kyrie Irving has not had a lot of help so far this season. Remember when the Cavs shocked the NBA and took Anthony Bennett with the #1 overall pick? Well he’s averaging 2.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg, and 0.2 apg. Basically sums up the season for the Cavs so far as they have not performed well. Especially on the road, going 2-12.

11. Brooklyn Nets (9-17): There aren’t many bright spots to this season as the Nets recent lost Brook Lopez to injury. They’ve gone 5-11 against the East and have struggled in all areas. Definitely not the season Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce imagined when they came to Brooklyn in the offseason.

Western Conference: (number reflects current playoff position)

9. Golden State Warriors (16-13): Over the past couple of days the Warriors have slipped into the 8th seed, but because of the timeline of these posts, we’ll keep them in the 9-hole. Stephen Curry has been brilliant, posting 24.3 ppg, 9.2 apg, and 24.6 PER. He’s attempted the most 3-pointers in the league (205) and made the 3rd most (85). One area to watch is Curry’s turnovers. He has committed the most in the league (102), which is not something to boast about. This team is starting to play well with Andre Iguodola coming back from injury to help guard some of the tougher small forwards in the league.

10. Los Angeles Lakers (13-14): One of the best stories in the NBA (other than the Derrick Rose comeback) was the Kobe Bryant comeback. It was cut short when he went down with a knee injury. Simply put, the league is better with Kobe playing and every game he plays in should be cherished, knowing he’s closer and closer to the end of his career.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-15): If you’re looking for one player to watch on a given night, watch Kevin Love. He has failed to reach a double-double in just two of the 27 games he’s played this season. Just look at this monster stat line: 25.9 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, .458 FG%, .381 3P%, and 27.9 PER. He is an absolute stud. Ricky Rubio is an assist machine and gets the award for most creative passes but he needs to find that scoring touch. Although he lacks a scoring instinct, he has the most steals in the league (75) and fourth most assists (225). I expect this team in the discussion for the final two or three playoff spots in the league.

Predictions:

(East)

Chicago Bulls – 10th seed

Cleveland Cavaliers – 9th seed

Brooklyn Nets – 12th seed

(West)

Golden State Warriors – 7th seed

Los Angles Lakers – 10th seed

Minnesota Timberwolves – 8th seed

Although I promised some of the top individual shots, passes, and moves so far this season, we’re going to hold off one more day, but I can’t help myself from giving a little preview. Here are two highlights of what you can expect to see from the NBA greats.

-This guy is up there with Jamal Crawford for best one-on-one moves. He’s blossoming into one of the best 2-guards for years to come.

-This is just one of the many reasons why Ricky Rubio is a magician with the ball.

Just wait, the moves get better and the passes get more creative. As always, continue to enjoy.

Twitter: @brosephmeola

E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

NBA X-mas Special Part 2

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Welcome back to the second of a four-part mini series devoted to all things NBA. Today is a look at the mighty Western Conference. There have been some surprises and some busts so let’s jump right into it. As usual, here’s another glimpse of the comedic side of the NBA.

-For once it isn’t a Heat player, but another example of how frivolous some NBA players are. Courtesy of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Western Conference:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-4) – Through 27 games, they have  an impressive 13-1 record at home. It’s extremely difficult to slow down this team as they average 106.0 ppg. In the Eastern Conference Review, I referenced LeBron James’ impressive 30.0 PER. In the West, Kevin Durant is right there with him owning a 28.2 PER. Reggie Jackson has quietly averaged 15.2 ppg over his past five contests, relieving some of the pressure placed on Durant and Russell Westbrook.
  2. Portland Trailblazers (23-5) – If you want to watch an entertaining team, look no further than “Rip City”. Currently the leagues most explosive offense, they average 108.4 ppg. The Trailblazers have been lead by strong play from LaMarcus Aldridge (23.1 ppg + 11.0 rpg), Damian Lillard (21.5 ppg + 5.8 apg), and Nicolas Batum (14.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.3 apg). Greg brought up an extremely important point in our most recent spar when he discussed the heavy workload of the Portland and Indiana starters. These three players are also all ranked in the top 10 of total minutes played and will need rest with the playoffs on the horizon.
  3. San Antonio Spurs (21-6) – This team has different players contributing in different ways every night. They’re the second best shooting team in the league behind the Miami Heat with a .489 field goal percentage. The Spurs also are ranked second in total assists (690), meaning they love to share the ball. The Spurs are built for the post season so until then, they’re on cruise control.
  4. Los Angeles Clippers (19-9) – Another team with an explosive offense. The Clippers average 104.5 ppg and have the number one producer of assists in the league thanks to Chris Paul (304 total/11.3 apg/27.7 PER). One element of their team that can plague them in the playoffs is the amount of personal fouls they commit (618), which is ranked 3rd most in the league.
  5. Houston Rockets (18-10) – After a 5-4 start to their 2013 campaign, the Rockets have started to mesh well with the arrival of Dwight Howard, going 13-6 since that mark. A weakness of this team is their free throw shooting. As a team their FT% is .696; second worst in the league. Although they lack the ability to hit from the charity strike, they’re sandwiched in between the Trailblazers and the Thunder for most points per game (106.4). If the playoffs were to start today, they would face a matchup with the Clippers, which may be the most intriguing matchup of the first round.
  6. Phoenix Suns (16-10) – Wow, what a surprise! I must admit I didn’t think the Suns had it in them. As Christmas rolls around they are still very much in the hunt for the playoffs, but it’s difficult to trust they’re consistency. At one point they were 9-9, but out of no where they have gone 6-1 over their past seven games and have quality wins over the Mavericks, Nuggets, Warriors, and Rockets. It’s hard to pin their early success on one player but the guard play of Eric Bledsoe (19.1 ppg/6.3 apg/21.4 PER) and Goran Dragic (18.7 ppg/5.9 apg/20.2 PER) has been remarkable.
  7. Dallas Mavericks (15-12) – They have a weak record against other Western teams (8-9) and can never seem to get a string of wins together. This is another team much like the Spurs, who love to share the ball (23.3 apg as a team – 6th best in the league). A very confusing team in my opinion considering in the month of December they have two bad loses to Phoenix and Golden State but a quality win against Portland. Between Dallas and Denver, I think only one will make the playoffs. One aspect of this team that I love is their free throw shooting. As a team they are the 3rd best team in the NBA in FT% with .804, one of only three teams above the .800 level.
  8. Denver Nuggets (14-12) – The success of this team hinges on the play of Ty Lawson as he contributes in various statistical areas. Through 24 games played, he averages 17.6 ppg and 7.9 apg with a 20.4 PER. These are one of the teams I don’t expect to finish in the top eight because of they’re record against Western Conference teams (7-10) and with Golden State and Minnesota on their tails.

While the West may appear as the dominant of the two conferences, there will only be one winner. All of these teams are extremely talented but they continue to beat up on each other which is why the race for seeds 6-10 will be so interesting to watch. You thought the AFC playoff picture was interesting in the NFL? Just wait until you see the Western Conference in about three months.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a look into some of the teams on the outside looking in from each conference as well as some of the best individual shots, passes, and moves so far. Here is a preview to get you in the right mood. 

 

-Did you think Blake Griffin could do this? I sure didn’t. 

Don’t be afraid to leave comments and feedback and as always, continue to enjoy.

Twitter: @brosephmeola

E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

Sports Dojo NBA Christmas Special

Welcome back once again. Seeing as Christmas is right around the corner, it’s the perfect time for a four part; all you can read NBA mini series. There are new developments in the NBA every night, leading to great clips of buzzer beaters and draw dropping plays. We’ll start with the playoff standings as of December 21st and break down how each “playoff team” got there. The first piece will follow the Eastern Conference and the second will be devoted to the Western Conference. By the 4th article in the series, you will know everything going on across the NBA leading up to the tremendous match-ups scheduled for Christmas day. As always, let’s begin with the lighter side of the NBA.

Eventually there will be a piece devoted to the various ways James, Wade, and Bosh photo bomb each other, but for now add this one to the collection.

Eastern Conference:

  1. Indiana Pacers (21-5) — There isn’t much surprise here. They’re keeping pace with the Western Conference powerhouses and their inter conference rivals, the Heat. Between Indiana and Portland, these two teams boast the most top to bottom starting five. In addition to this, they are getting valuable minutes from Luis Scola and CJ Watson off the bench. Things only get better as Danny Granger is expected to return from injury sooner rather than later, making this lethal team even more dangerous.
  2. Miami Heat (20-6) — South Beach has been rather quiet lately, that is if you believe Dwyane Wade‘s comments on the Heat. In a sit down interview with the one and only Stephen A. Smith, Wade claimed that the Heat let their play do the talking, not their mouths. Interestingly enough Wade also hinted that he believes the Pacers are a team the Heat will have to go through to get to the Finals. Why can’t it just be May already? LeBron James leads the league in PER with an impressive 30.0 while also putting on one of the best statistical shooting seasons of his career; flirting with .601.
  3. Atlanta Hawks (15-12) – Jeff Teague is one of the best guards that no one talks about. Everyone hears about John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, and Damian Lillard but people forget about Teague’s talent. He’s helped the Hawks climb out of an early hole and 6 wins over their past 8 games. Teague also ranks 13th in free throws made (124) and 4th in total assists (217).
  4. Boston Celtics (12-15) — I don’t know if this is a pleasant surprise or not because I had high expectations for an extremely poor season. Brad Stevens is easily my favorite coach in the NBA this year and what he’s done with what he’s got is rather impressive. The emergence of Jared Sullinger as a Kevin Love 2.0 is promising with his knack for double digit rebounds and new found sweet spot beyond the 3-point line. What hurts any Celtics’ player is the rotation Stevens uses during games. Leading to up and down numbers but Sully is emerging as a solid piece for years to come.
  5. Charlotte Bobcats (13-14) — If there is one surprise from this list of teams, the Bobcats may be it. It’s baffling actually when you consider their ranked 28th in Field Goal percentage (.423), 28th in points per game (92.0), and dead last in 3-point field goal percentage (.305). Kemba Walker has been a workhorse for the Bobcats so far. Ranked 12th in the league in total minutes played (955), 20thin field goals made (179), and 17th in total steals (42).
  6. Detroit Pistons (13-15) — Through this point in the season, this team is my pick for biggest bust. Of course every team needs time to mesh so I will cut them some slack, but they’re playing in an Eastern Conference with only three teams with winning records. The collective talent level between Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Andre Drummond, and Greg Monroe seems to indicate that they’re ready to take the next step to an elite level but this team needs some time. I’ll continue to harp on these guys all season long so I apologize in advance. They do own the crown for most rebounds (1245) and that is a big reason why they were able to claim a huge victory over the Heat in Miami.
  7. Washington Wizards (11-13) — The two unsung stars of this team are Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza. A lot of credit has gone to John Wall, which is well deserved, but Wall is getting more help from his supporting cast. Beal averages 20.3 points per game which leads the team while Ariza chips in 15 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 1.9 steals per game.
  8. Toronto Raptors (10-14) – Unfortunately I don’t see this team sneaking into the playoffs, but hey, for now they’re playing the Pacers, so they got that going for them! They’ve had a stretch of 5 wins and 5 loses which doesn’t help them move up the standings but they have a chance to get into the playoffs thanks to a weak Atlantic Division. The Celtics can easily tank and lose games and open up a possible 3 or 4 seed for the winner of this division. They are not a good rebounding team. They’re ranked 27th with 1034 total rebounds.

From past articles, you can certainly notice the weakness of the Eastern conference. Eastern conference “playoff teams” have a combined record of 116-96. Which is above .500 but when you look at the Western Conference (143-65) they have a little bit of catching up to do.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a look at the Western Conference playoff picture and more NBA. As always, continue to enjoy.

Twitter: @brosephmeola

E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

Beyond the Arc – 2nd Edition

Welcome back. Let’s start with a two short clips showing the lighter side of the NBA:

Trey Burke gets pranked for one of his first games of his career after coming back from injury to start the season

LeBron mugs a fan after hitting a half-court shot to win $75,000

It’s always nice to see subtle reminders about how the NBA is about more than just basketball. For a couple seconds LeBron James wasn’t the center of attention. He made it special for everyone by his genuine reaction as a human being, not a basketball player. Now back to basketball. The NBA is in full swing and teams are starting to grind through all things good, bad, and ugly as the season unfolds. Let’s get right into it as we break down the recent trends… starting with the worst of the worst.

THE UGLY

The Injuries

You never wish to see this but I’m afraid the Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls are hurting just a little right now. Injuries to Marc Gasol (knee) and Derrick Rose (other knee) have caused the their respective teams to slow down a bit. Memphis is 1-2 since Gasol’s departure and the Bulls are equally as affected, losers of 3 of the last 4. The most impactful injury was Rose’s because it forces him out for the rest of the season (Gasol is out for 4-6 weeks). Without question, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Luol Deng have to step up the rest of the way. Fortunately because of the current state of the Eastern Conference, the Bulls can slide into the playoffs in a lower seed but regardless of their seed, don’t ever count this team out. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, were dealt a huge blow as well. They can’t afford to lose many games in the super competitive Western Conference. Seeing as they’re the 12th seed right now they have some work to due in front of them but there is no sound for alarm as long as they can get Gasol back before February.

(Note from GregAnthony Davis out 4-6 weeks… Huge loss for the Pelicans and your fantasy teams)

The Eastern Conference

I don’t know what to make of the Eastern Conference anymore. You tell me which one of these three facts is more disturbing…

There are currently only TWO teams with winning records out of a possible fifteen. I’ll let you guess which two those are…

The Toronto Raptors are 6-10 and leading the Atlantic Division by half a game to the Boston “We don’t feel like getting a top 5 pick in a loaded draft” Celtics. In other words, there could be a team with a losing record enter the playoffs as a 3 or 4 seed.

The New York Knicks ($88,249,065) and the New Jersey Nets ($102,211,009) – the two teams with the largest team salaries in the league this year – are either tied for the worst record or claim the second worst record in the Eastern Conference (along with the Milwaukee Bucks). Is it ironic that these two teams also have to pay the two highest luxury tax penalties for exceeding the salary cap? The Knicks pay $16,501,065 and the Nets pay #30,463,009…yikes.

THE BAD

The surprising amount of teams who can’t take that next step

I’m looking at three teams in particular here…

Cleveland Cavaliers

You have Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Jarrett Jack, and Andrew Bynum. I’m waiting for them to at least out together a nice string of games but when you notice that they give up 100.8 points per game, its understandable they struggle. You can’t expect Irving to bail them out with 30 to 40 points every night. It’s the little things with this team that hurts them. They allow teams to shoot 38% from behind the 3-point line, which means that they’re closer to the basket instead of being spread out on defense. Well that surely must mean they rebound the ball a lot then, right? Wrong. They’re ranked 21st in total rebounds. You can’t stress enough how important defense is to a team’s success.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Remember the Minnesota team that started the season 5-3? Well now they’re sitting at 9-10 after going 4-7 over the past 11 games. After a tough loss to OKC Sunday night, they’ll need to focus their attention as they host the Spurs and Heat in their next two games. Two quality wins at this point in the season can do wonders for a team’s momentum. If the Wolves want to make the playoffs they can’t get lazy and lose a bunch of games early because their conference is too competitive. I still love the combo play of Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, and Ricky Rubio. Speaking of Rubio, I’m very close to dedicating a section in Beyond the Arc specifically for the amazing passes throughout the league. Rubio is one of the leading contributors…more on this to follow…but here’s a little appetizer…

Detroit Pistons

They haven’t had a winning record since they were 2-1. Now they’re 7-10 and this team has even more talent than both teams above. Andre Drummond is molding into a freak center that will dominate the league for years to come. Yet for some reason the JenningsSmithMonroeDrummond combo hasn’t panned out yet. They are extremely athletic which is why I like this team in the playoffs. Luckily at 7-10, the team is technically in the playoffs because of the lack of strength from the Eastern Conference. You’ll see an example of their athleticism further down in a clip.

THE GOOD

The Fab Five

These five teams are sitting pretty at the top of their respective conferences. Each team has things they do well and some things to improve on…(in no particular order)

Portland Trailblazers

They just beat the Indiana Pacers in a thrilling game Monday night. They’re the hottest team in the NBA right now, winners of 13 of the last 14. They’re 15-3 with two loses to the Phoenix Suns. They have benefitted from playing a friendly schedule, seeing that they have yet to play the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, or Heat. Stay tuned.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to lead the way as the Thunder have won 7 in a row. A date with Portland on Dec 4th should be a nice test. Serge Ibaka needs to continue to play well and carry the load defensively while chipping in on the offensive end when given the chance. They success hinges on the production they get out of anyone not named Durant or Westbrook.

San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan contributed a 23-point – 21-rebound effort along with the game winning shot on Monday night. Proving the trust and faith the Spurs still have with him after all these years. The biggest facet of this team is what got them to the Finals last year…rest. They’re the most disciplined team in the league with only 305 personal fouls. For perspective, the league average is 362 and the high is the Los Angeles Clippers with 422.

Miami Heat

LeBron and company definitely shook off any rust they may have had from the offseason. The Heat are winners of 10 straight, currently the longest active win streak in the league. The biggest threat for them is the fact that they are ranked dead last in total rebounds (608). The league average is 741 and the leader is the Houston Rockets with 875. I’m anticipating this problem rearing its head throughout the season, but with LeBron hungry for rings sometimes the stats just don’t matter. Let the record state that as of the start of December, James has a PER of 30.3, the best in the league to date.

Indiana Pacers

A tough loss for the Pacers Monday night when they fell to the Trailblazers. Paul George is playing brilliantly right now coming off a 43-point outing. He continues to showcase himself to the league and prove to everyone why the Pacers are performing as well as they are. They’re also holding opponents to just 87.6 points per game, which is a league best.

Dojo Power Rankings – Top 10

* Not reflecting games played on Dec 3rd and after

** ( x ) – previous ranking in Top 10

  1. 16-2 Indiana Pacers (1) – Even though they faltered against the Trailblazers. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt although they may not be #1 for long. Their next four opponents are the Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, and Heat. Talk about an important stretch…
  2. 15-3 San Antonio Spurs (2) – Although tied for the #1 seed with Portland in the West, their two recent big games against the Thunder and Houston both resulted in losses.
  3. 14-3 Miami Heat (3) – The one game I’m looking forward to…the rematch of last years Eastern Conference Finals. December 10th in Indiana.
  4. 15-3 Portland Trailblazers (9) – They passed their biggest test of the year when they defeated Indiana. Up next is another test as they host the Thunder. It must be pointed out that Wesley Matthews is the only guard in the top 15 of players according to field goal percentage. His shooting accuracy thus far has been ridiculous for a guard.
  5. 12-3 Oklahoma City Thunder (4) – All things quiet on the Thunder front as Durant and Westbrook continue to light up the box score (and my fantasy team I might add).
  6. 13-6 Houston Rockets (7) – Jeremy Lin’s injury doesn’t hurt their depth as much as you think. The Rockets have two competent backup guards in Aaron Brooks and Patrick Beverley.
  7. 12-6 Los Angeles Clippers (6) – They’re ranked 3rd in the league in terms of SOS or the average winning percentage of opponents played (.551). Basically they’re doing just fine against tougher competition compared to the SOS of Indiana (.446) and Miami (.438).
  8. 10-6 Denver Nuggets (NR) – Since JaVale McGee injured himself during the 5th game of the year. The Nuggets are winners of 9 of the last 11 games, which is a pleasant surprise.
  9. 10-8 Dallas Mavericks (NR) – Surprised? Dallas has played 11 of its 18 games against teams with records above .500. They’re defense is still suspect and the offense seems like an on and off switch, after starting out 6-1.
  10. 10-8 Golden State Warriors (8) – The most entertaining team to watch in terms of their offense has only won 2 of their past 7 games. Those two wins were over the Kings and Pelicans and won by a total of 3 points. Are they worthy of the top 10? Hmm…that makes me think…

Teams Looking In

—9-10 Atlanta Hawks: After falling out of the top 10 this time, they certainly aren’t far off this list.

—9-8 Phoenix Suns: They’ve gone 4-6 over the past 10 games, washing away what looked like a nice 5-2 start to the season.

Teams Falling Out

—10-8 Golden State Warriors: Their recent struggles and close finishes against sub-par teams damage some of the faith I have in this team. Come playoff time I expect a packed yellow arena with overzealous fans but they just aren’t playing up to that level yet.

The Replay Booth

(Plays occurred between Nov 13 and Dec 3)

Best Display of Individual Skill

*Kyrie sure is sneaky*

Passes that make you think/say “How did he do that?”

THE ULTIMATE ASSIST

The award for the best pass of the season thus far…

Lance Stephenson

*It’s difficult to explain how hard it is to throw a behind-the-back pass. Let alone throw one while in mid air*

Stay tuned for more frequent articles in the coming weeks and as always, continue to enjoy.

-E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

-Twitter: @brosephmeola

Beyond the Arc – The First Edition

Welcome to the Dojo’s Beyond the Arc, a place for all things NBA, with a statistical spin. What a start to the season. As the season is two weeks deep, there are already some news worth noting. If you guessed that Russell Westbrook would miss only 2 games instead of 4-6 weeks, give yourself a pat on the back. If you guessed that the Philadelphia Sixers would take down the Heat on opening night, and Michael Carter-Williams would nearly get a QUADRUPLE-DOUBLE in his rookie debut, give yourself a day off. Historical Check: He was later named Player of the Week in the NBA, the second rookie ever to win the honors in his opening week and first since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 1992. Is it weird to start talking about Phoenix (5-2) looking more complete than Denver (2-4)? Why is Derrick Rose among the league leaders in turnovers? Regardless, here are some player and team trends so far.

Usage Percentage and Player Efficiency Rating: Derrick Rose’s turnover issues uncovered

First let’s not forget Derrick Rose hasn’t played competitive basketball in more than a year. He needs time to adjust but more on that in a minute. Here are some statistical reasons why he’s turning the ball over so much. Two big themes for future articles are Usage Percentage (USG%) and Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Simply put, USG% helps us analyze how many of a team’s total possessions a given player uses while he is in the game. PER accounts for the positive achievements (such as made field goals, made free throws, blocks, steals) and negative achievements (turnovers, missed shots, personal fouls) a player has throughout the game. The league average is 15. Take a look at an example to understand this more…

USG% Leaders (minimum of 6 games)

  1. 36.0 — DeMarcus Cousins, SAC
  2. 31.8 — Rudy Gay, TOR
  3. 31.0 — Kevin Durant, OKC
  4. 30.6 — Derrick Rose, CHI
  5. 29.9 — Ramon Sessions, CHA

The glaring fact here is that their respective teams heavily rely upon these players. To shed light on these numbers more, we use PER.

PER Leaders (minimum 6 games)

  1. 29.6 — Anthony Davis, NOP
  2. 29.2 — Kevin Love, MIN
  3. 28.8 — Kevin Durant, OKC
  4. 28.5 — Chris Paul, LAC
  5. 27.8 — DeMarcus Cousins, SAC

When you see these two numbers together, you can notice how they show overall player efficiency. Kevin Durant is the best example of this because he has a high USG%, meaning a high percentage of the Thunder’s total possessions in one game go through him. Noticing the fact that he ranks third in the league in PER, we can use these two factors as an indication of how efficient he is, given the high number of possessions he gets…having a high USG% and equally high PER means you’re very efficient. The same cannot be said for Derrick Rose, who ranks fourth in USG% (30.6). When you look at his PER though, things change. He ranks well out of the top 100, with a subpar 6.7…that’s not like the D-Rose we all know, who during his MVP season had a 23.5 PER. Turnovers are the hot topic, and per game, he averages 4.2 TO. Per 36 minutes, he averages 4.8. Using stats based off of 36 minutes will usually be higher depending on the particular category. When you reflect a player’s stats off of a closer interval, say 36 minutes, it helps to show individual’s performance and takes into account when someone is sitting on the bench and the fact that no one’s averages are based on them playing every minute. His PER is brought down because of his turnovers and his USG% tells us that the ball is going through him A LOT, inevitably leading to more turnovers. He will have to figure out how to pass more effectively but when you see those high turnover numbers it shouldn’t be that surprising anymore. After all, he carries the ball up the court almost every possession. Rose will get back into the swing of things; he is just trying to get some of the rust out. If he continues to jump and then pass in mid air to someone, the Bulls are doomed.

The Suns and the Sixers:

Well I’ll be honest I didn’t expect the Suns or the 76ers to hold the 3 and 5 spot in their respected conferences. It is early for the Suns but a nice combo of Eric Bledsoe (26.6 USG% and 25.4 PER) and Markieff Morris (21.4 USG% and 27.5 PER) has gone a long way in terms of their 5-2 start. The leagues top 5 leaders in Margin of Victory (MOV) begin with the Pacers, then Spurs, Warriors, Timberwolves, and the Heat. These all seem pretty self-explanatory but can you guess the number six holder? If it was obvious enough, the Phoenix Suns do with an MOV of 4.29. Up next, Brooklyn comes to town and then they have a back to back with the Sacramento Kings, on the horizon…November 25th, a date with the Heat in Miami. We’ll soon see what this team is made of.

Across the country, Philly is making there own noise. Michael Carter-Williams is boasting an incredible 17.4 ppg, 7.9 apg, 5.4 apg, and 2.6 spg. His shot selection can always improve, considering he is shooting 38% from the field, but he’s a rookie and there are great early signs. Evan Turner is starting to play like the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft. Turning in a nice 23.0 ppg, 63 rpg, 3.1 apg, and 20.2 PER through eight games. After winning their first 3, the 76ers have lost four of five. Hopefully, they have a little early season energy to stay competitive, but in a loaded draft next year, is winning games good? That’s a shot to the Celtics who made me extremely happy when they lost their four first games. They then succeeded to upset me by going on a four game win streak. If they get into the playoffs I’m paying anyone who e-mails me a question five bucks…this better not happen.

The Pacers are for real:

How real? Well to start their defense only allows 84.5 ppg. Then there is this quote from Roy Hibbert

“Everybody has to sacrifice something… It’s somebody different every night. I don’t expect to have 20-point nights all the time.”

When you play unselfishly and have that sort of mentality, you’re going to win games. We’ll be watching, Indiana, don’t forget you’re entering the spotlight now. By the way, Paul George’s stat line through eight games: 24.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 29.7 USG%, and 25.9 PER… a prime example of how to show up to start the season.

Dojo Power Rankings Top 10 (through 2 weeks and not reflecting any games from Nov 12th and on):

1. 8-0 Indiana Pacers (Paul George an easy favorite for best performance thus far. Roy Hibbert is dominating the defensive side as well, already with 35 blocks – 4.38 bpg)

2. 7-1 San Antonio Spurs (Classic Popovich. Working the deep bench and resting the vets…makes me like my finals pick more and more)

3. 4-3 Miami Heat (We haven’t seen the high intensity, lockdown defense for a whole game, they’ll save that for the playoffs but a lackadaisical start for LeBron’s standards. Still when they’re called upon late in games the Heat will show up to play…fun fact: the Lakers third go round to win three in a row saw them start 11-19, don’t fret Miami)

4. 5-1 Oklahoma City Thunder (It’s like the injury never happened…)

5. 5-3 Minnesota Timberwolves (Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are tearing it up…the health factor is big with this team but you can easily put them ahead of OKC or Miami right now…very scary team to face)

6. 5-3 Los Angeles Clippers (Chris Paul is the best player in Los Angeles. Yes, I said it)

7. 5-3 Houston Rockets (Hack-a-Dwight is back!!! More on this to come)

8. 4-3 Golden State Warriors (I really wish I took the under of 10 games before “Stephen Curry” and “ankle injury” was mentioned in a headline…luckily it was minor. They’re one of the fastest teams up and down the court in the league and they sure are entertaining)

9. 5-2 Portland Trailblazers (What do you make of a team that has loses to Phoenix and Houston but a big win against San Antonio?)

10. 4-3 Atlanta Hawks (My first thought wasn’t about the Hawks season, it was about how it took SEVEN Western Conference teams before we mentioned a THIRD Eastern Conference team…yikes…they’ve beaten 4 teams with a combined record of 10-19 – Toronto, Sacramento, Orlando, and Charlotte – the quality of the Eastern Conference everyone! Obviously, SAC is in the West)

Teams Looking In:

-Detroit Pistons: I’m just waiting for the Jennings-Smith-Monroe-Drummond core to click and mesh. They’ll be in this group eventually.

-Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose can’t struggle with turnovers forever…….right?

-Phoenix Suns: How long can the party last? I’m guessing another two weeks before the schedule starts to eat them up. I love being proven wrong though.

Teams Falling Out:

-Atlanta Hawks: Yes, I’m staring at you Atlanta. Their next six games, NYK, PHI, @NYK, @MIA, DET, @DET. I say they go 3-3.

-Portland Trailblazers: Remember there is only so much space in the Western Conference. Eventually teams like Detroit or Chicago will pull through in the East and one of these teams will have to fall out of the top 10.

***Best Hustle Play through 2 weeks***

Kawhi Leonard getting better with each possession. Great unselfish play.

Kawhi Leonard’s supreme hustle play

***Best Display of Fundamentals***

I’m a sucker for post moves but honesty I’m speechless. I didn’t know Andrew Bynum had it in him…especially over Noah.

Bynum’s got moves

***Hack-a-Dwight Special***

This is what happens when you foul Dwight Howard late in the game…

Stay tuned for Part II in the coming weeks and continue to enjoy.

-E-Mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

-@brosephmeola