The Thunderblog’s basketball corner gives three quick hits about both the Association and the Road to March, aka NBA & NCAAB. Just enough to get you through your next basketball-related conversation this week.
National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball
As the season trudges along the one undeniable fact is that no team appears to be a dominate force like Kentucky, Duke, and others have been over the past decade. Instead parody reigns king. Quick shootout to my hometown Villanova Wildcats though for reaching #1 in the rankings for the FIRST time in school history.
At 20-3, the Wildcats are riding their defense which is 7th in the nation at 61 points allowed per game. Their biggest issue, an inconsistent offense that can live and die by the three. But man it is cool to see them take their turn at the top. This could end though as they take on Butler then visit #5 Xavier in two weeks.
National Basketball Association
So the Warriors keep on winning, the Spurs are right on their heels, and the Cavaliers are even better under new head coach Tyronn Lue. Its both exciting and kinda boring. I mean one of three teams is going to win the NBA title. Where is the excitement in that? Forget the West for now. Let’s focus on who can challenge Cleveland in the East.
At first I thought it would be the Atlanta Hawks but I don’t like their moxie this year with both Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver trending the wrong way. I’d love to route for a resurgent Celtics team as I love coach Brand Stevens and the cold-blooded Isaiah Thomas but they are a year or two and a piece or two (Al Horford anyone?) away from being serious contenders.
So I see two major contenders remaining, the Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat. Toronto has two All-Star guards that drive their team. With Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors aren’t out of any game but can they stop LeBron without DeMarre Carroll? His injury plus a limited range offense could spell disaster. The Heat need Goran Dragic back but with a starting lineup of Dragic, Wade, Deng, Bosh, and Whiteside, this team can compete with anyone. Great names don’t mean great health though. All starters have experienced injuries this year and lack of depth will cost this team.
So my pick is actually a wildcard in the equation, the Chicago Bulls. When fully healthy, the Bulls offer a tough test for the Cavaliers. Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol are still good players who can flash greatness. If Joakim Noah can return healthy he is one of the best scrappers in the game who can play point-center. But most importantly, Jimmy Butler is a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard who can take over games. So they are my pick to upset the Cavs early in the playoffs, leaving the door wide-open for the Warriors or Spurs.
In other news, head coach Derick Fisher of the New York Knicks was fired. Good. What a terrible trend, hiring former players a year after they retire as HEAD COACHES. It’s nothing against Fischer, Jason Kidd, and others but coaching and playing are very different. These guys need time as assistants or in college to learn. The example front offices and owners should look to is Tryonn Lue. He spents a few years coaching before being given the nod and now he looks like a great promotion for Cleveland. Just shows you that coaching is just as hard as playing.