Article Written By: Damian Gonzalez
All-Star week is approaching and that means we are about half way through the season. There have been surprising teams and disappointing teams. Let’s see who have been the most impressive teams as I list my top-10 as the first week of 2014 comes to a close.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17)
As the Timberwolves are still fighting to reach .500, I believe they have a lot of potential with terrific players such as Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio. One of the reasons they are under .500 is they are 27th in points allowed but, 2nd in points per game, 4th in rebounding and 6th in assists. If the Wolves work on their defense and keep some teams below 100 points, I believe they will surpass the .500 mark and become a playoff team.
9. Houston Rockets (22-13)
The Rockets have a great team with good chemistry. They are 4th in scoring and 7th in rebounding. The only bad part about the Rockets is that they are 24th in assists per game and 23rd in points allowed. With the acquisition of Dwight Howard I wouldn’t expect the assists to go up but I would expect the defense to be better especially as Harden and Parsons are decent defenders. As long as the Rockets keep the scoring and chemistry up and the points allowed down they should keep their record over .500.
8. Toronto Raptors (16-16)
Toronto as everyone knows has been better since the Rudy Gay trade, in my eyes it was the best move for them. Gay was holding players like DeRozen, Valanciunas, and Lowry back. The Raptors are 18th in scoring but 7th in points allowed, since the departure of Rudy Gay the Raptors had a 5 game win streak, they have also won 7 out of the last 10 game which is very impressive. In my opinion DeRozen will become the All Star he should be and lead the Raptors to the playoffs.
7. Phoenix Suns (20-12)
The Suns are one of the teams that have surprised me so far. Not only with their record but with the play of their 2 point guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. They also have a lot key role players such as the Morris brothers and Gerald Green. The Suns have 7 players averaging double digit points which is amazing, and as a team they are 8th in the league in scoring, 15th in points allowed, and 1st in fast-break points. If the Suns keep up the intensity on the defensive and offensive end, they will stay a +.500 team and get into the playoffs.
6. Miami Heat (26-8)
The two-time defending champions are 5th in scoring, 9th in points allowed, and 4th in assists which looks real good until you look at their rebounding (30th in the league). Defense is key and Miami has great defense but if you cant rebound you could give up a lot of second chance points, which could kill you in a game. The Heat’s top rebounder is LeBron James with only 6.8 per game. If the Heat pick up their rebounding, they shouldn’t have a problem getting back to where they were last year.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (26-8)
Another amazing team that has surprised me is the Trail Blazers. They have some amazing players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and 2013 Rookie Of The Year, Damian Lillard. Although they are 1st in scoring, 2nd in rebounding, and 3rd in assists, they are 25th in points allowed which can hurt them if they are not having a good scoring day. If Portland picks it up on the defensive end, I could really see them going to the championship.
4. San Antonio Spurs (26-8)
The Spurs might be old, but they are still kicking and kicking hard. Spurs are 7th in scoring, 2nd in assists, and 4th in points allowed. Growing up I was always told “brains over brawn” and that’s what this team is. They might not be as fast or as strong as other players but they are a veteran team and I would never count a veteran team out. If they stay healthy and Danny Green steps up, they could be a great threat.
3. Golden State Warriors (23-13)
With a nine-game winning streak, the Warriors are really making a name for themselves.They are 9th in scoring, 3rd in rebounding, and 7th in assists, along with 11th in points allowed, which is better than just decent. The “should be” All Star Stephen Curry is averaging 23.0 points, 9.6 assist, and 2.0 steals a game. Another person stepping up is David Lee, averaging nearly a double-double with 19 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. In my opinion, this team could be the number two team in the playoffs, behind OKC.
2. Indiana Pacers (27-6)
Indiana is not the most explosive offensive team (ranked 20th) but they play defense and they do it well. The Pacers are ranked 1st overall in points allowed with only 88.6 points allowed/game. Pacers are also ranked 11th in rebounding and 17th in assists. As everyone knows, defense wins championships and if the Pacers keep up the defensive work, they could be looking at winning the championship over the favorable Miami Heat.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (27-7)
The Oklahoma City Thunder are playing great all around basketball. They are 3rd in scoring, 1st in rebounding, 13th in assists, and 8th in points allowed. Possible All Star Kevin Durant has been putting up great numbers, 29.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 5.0 apg, and 1.5 spg. Although they lost Russell Westbrook to an injury, Reggie Jackson has filled in nicely. Since the loss of Westbrook, they are 4-2. If the Thunder keep playing strong while Westbrook is gone, they will surely be number 1 in the Western Conference when he comes back.