Culture of Hoops

An Impromptu NBA Power Poll: Part 1

You have the post-NFL blues? Of course you do! That’s natural, but folks, there are others sports to watch and a ton of columns written by yours truly to come. So cheer up, turn that frown upside, and focus your attention on the NBA. The regular season is roughly two months from completion, and now seems like as good of a time as any for an impromptu NBA power poll.

30: Minnesota Timberwolves

Three silver linings for all 4,815 Timberwolves fans out there:
1: Having the worst record in the league and plenty of draft picks/assets to play with is actually a pretty solid position to be in.
2: At least you got to see Mo Williams score 52 points in a game this year. The odds of seeing that happen are about as good as you winning the lottery and deciding that it’s time to move from Minneapolis to somewhere with a warmer climate.
3: Andrew Wiggins is coming along quite quickly, and that is the silverest of silver linings. I know most of you guys out there on the line haven’t watched much of the Wolves this season, but since Christmas Wiggins is has scored in double-digits every game but one, is averaging 18.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, is shooting 46 percent from the field, and is the runaway Rookie of the Year winner.

29: New York Knicks
I’m all for the most prestigious franchises in any sport to be relevant. It’s good for the NFL when the 49ers, Steelers, Cowboys and Giants are competitive. I’d say that it’s good for Major League Baseball when the Yankees and Red Sox are at the top of the standings, but I can’t say I know this for sure because I haven’t watched a baseball game since 2011. The Knicks—and a couple of teams to follow the Knicks on this list—are on the short list of franchises that could make the NBA more exciting just by being relevant, however, I can’t say that I’m bummed out that the Knicks stink this year, or any year. When the Knicks are bad it just means I don’t have to see Spike Lee and his stupid outfits all that often. So stay stinky, New York. And stay out of my life, Spike. And keep counting your money, Melo. Maybe with that cash you can get yourself some courtside seats at MSG right next to Spike when your career is all wrapped up

28: Los Angeles Lakers
So Kobe Bryant is done for the year, Nick Young and Jeremy Lin are in Byron Scott’s doghouse, and the Lakers have 13 nationally televised games scheduled for the rest of the season. You know who won’t be watching any of those 13 games? This guy! By the way, the Atlanta Hawks have as many nationally televised games scheduled for the rest of this season as the Spirits of St. Louis do. Comical.

27: Philadelphia 76ers
Let’s go back to October, shall we? Let’s assume that I can see the future, and for whatever goofy reason I’m able to talk to Sam Hinkie and tell him that his Philadelphia 76ers are 11-39, good for third worst in the league. You know what he probably says to me? “Well dammit, that’s just not bad enough!” And then we most likely go have some delicious Philly Cheesesteaks.

26: Orlando Magic
Maybe Orlando’s rebuilding project is taking as long as Philadelphia’s is, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t on the track towards success. If the Magic are able to keep their core together and fight off the itch to try to make any sort of splashy move that deteriorates said core before necessary, they’ll be a consistent playoff guest within the next two to four years. In fact, after four or five drinks and a coaching change, you could probably catch me rambling about how the Orlando Magic are talented enough to be the six seed in the Eastern Conference right now. Actually, hold the drinks. Let’s just get Jacque Vaughn out of town and then we’ll talk. Seriously, get him out of there before he somehow finds a way to ruin Disney World and Universal Studios.

25: Indiana Pacers
I don’t want to go as far as saying that bringing back Paul George this season would be as bad of a decision as the Seahawks not running Marshawn Lynch from the 1-yard line with the Super Bowl in the balance, but there isn’t much upside for a PG-13 return during the 2014-15 regular season. Indiana, at best, may be able to manage the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, and that would mean they play better ball than Miami, Charlotte, Brooklyn, Detroit and Boston down the stretch. I just don’t see it happening, and if the Pacers can’t grab one of those last two playoff spots, what’s the point in rushing George back? Why risk it? Why throw the ball? And if you’re going to throw the ball, why do it in the middle of the field? Just throw up a lob if you are going to throw it, and again, why throw it? Just run the f****** ball Pete Carroll!

Sorry, I was 10-0 picking NFL Playoff games going into the Super Bowl, and as you can tell, I took Seattle. I’m bitter.

24: Boston Celtics
Why waste my breath? This is all Bostonians care about right now:


23: Utah Jazz
22: Denver Nuggets
21: Brooklyn Nets
20: Detroit Pistons
Anyone care if I skip over these four teams and I stick with the Super Bowl for a moment? Since I won’t be putting out any more NFL material until September—that’s right, I don’t concern myself with the NFL Draft, free agency, training camp, or the pre-season, so you can start the countdown to September 3rd if you’d like—I need to take this time to congratulate myself on an incredible postseason run. After starting out 10-0 picking the playoffs, I came into the Super Bowl with what many called the closest match-up in the games history.

After a great deal of careful evaluation, I went with Seattle as my pick in the Super Bowl and I stand by it. The Seahawks win that game if Marshawn Lynch gets the ball, and I go down as an immortal NFL game-picker. And just for shits and gigs, I nailed three big prop bets during the Super Bowl: Roar and Firework as Katy Perry’s first and last song’s respectively, and blue Gatorade being dumped on the winning coach. And if you don’t believe me, you can follow my cousin Pauley (@pmc0978) or my friend Dalton (@daltonbaggett) on Twitter and ask either of them. They are my witnesses.

As for those four teams, I’d say Detroit has the highest ceiling, even without Brandon Jennings the rest of the way. They have the best coach, the best pair of bigs, and one of my favorite random players in the league, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. If Charlotte or Miami fall out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, I’d expect the Pistons to be the team to fall ass-backwards into it snatch it up.

19: Sacramento Kings
I’m not sure what to make of this little nugget, but here goes: of the bottom fourteen teams in the league, Sacramento is the team with the best player (DeMarcus Cousins), the biggest odd-ball of an owner (Vivek Ranadive), the only interim head coach in the league (Tyrone Corbin), and the most exaggerated expectations and arguably the screwiest roster. I’m perplexed every time I watch them play, and I always find myself wondering if this is Boogie Cousins’ fate, or if he’s destined/lucky enough to be someone who will be saved by a change in scenery somewhere down the road.

18: Charlotte Hornets
After a tremendously disappointing 10-24 start, the Hornets are winners of 11 of their last 14 games and their defense, a strong suit of last season’s playoff team, has finally found its form after a lackluster opening third of the season. The Hornets have given up 100 points just once since the calendar page turned to 2015, and that’s the sort of effort they’ll need to consistently put forth, because let’s face it, this is a lousy offensive team. The Hornets are 29th in offensive rating and 27th in points per game, and they’ll be without starting point guard and leading scorer Kemba Walker for at least the next month. Without Walker the Hornets are likely going to be more Al Jefferson-centric than ever. Let the never-ending parade of awe-inspiring shot fakes begin!

17: Miami Heat
I just want to make something very clear; I built the Hassan Whiteside bandwagon. Everybody who is aboard right now can thank me—and Hassan—because I put it together when Whiteside was an unpolished freshman at Marshall. In fact, the Hassan Whiteside bandwagon was originally me riding around town on my Razor Scooter (actually, I has my driver’s license at this point, but the image of a big guy like me on a Razor Scooter has to make you laugh). Don’t believe me? Click here (this is where I gushed about Hassan Whiteside’s potential like I was trying to do my best Jay Bilas impression). Or click here (this is where I brought him up again, in a mocking tone, but not shying away from the fact that I built the Whiteside bandwagon). Or you can click here (where for the third time in four years I mentioned Hassan Whiteside in a column, despite the fact that at this point he had only played 111 NBA minutes). For a small sample of my Whiteside thoughts, take a look at the excerpt below on my thoughts of him pre-2010 NBA Draft. Just let this marinate until next week, when I come back with the top sixteen teams in the NBA.

Image courtesy of Sonny Giuliano

Image courtesy of Sonny Giuliano

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